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(Nisos Rodhos)

The largest island of the Dodecanese, Rhodes lies at the southern end of the chain of islands stretching down the west coast of Asiatic Turkey. Its name is of uncertain origin but possibly comes from the Greek word for the rock-rose which grows all over the island. In antiquity it had many names: Stadia, referring to its ellipsoid shape; Ophioussa, from the many snakes on the island; Poeissia, referring to its fertility; Olyessa, because it is earthquake prone; and Makaria, calling it simply the blessed isle.

As the ancient name, Stadia, states, the island is roughly ellipsoid or diamond-shaped. A mountain range runs from N to S with the highest peak, Mt Ataviros (1,215m, 4009ft), situated in the middle of the west coast. Unlike many of the other islands of the group, Rhodes is fertile not only in the valleys and on the plains but also on the high hills. Pine, olive, orange and lemon, fig and pear trees grow well. Maquis and wild flowers (including the rock-rose) grow in the countryside, while hibiscus, bougainvillea and jasmine run riot over village houses. Butterflies seem to be everywhere - so much so that Rhodes has been called the butterfly island. In addition to butterflies, the fauna is said to include deer, foxes, hares, badgers, partridges, vultures, jackdaws, jays and the Rhodes dragon - a lizard growing as long as 50cm (14in) - though you are unlikely to find any of these around the crowded north end of the island.

This garden island with its dry hot summers and mild winters (the climate resembles that of Sicily) has been popular throughout history: smiled upon by the sun-god Helios; extravagantly praised by Strabo; beloved by Tiberius who deserted Capri for a time, bringing his entire retinue with him; the Knights of St John were reluctant to leave their castle even when surrounded by hostile neighbours; and the Italians, who occupied Rhodes in 1912 intent on creating another Capri. Today Rhodes is without doubt the most popular tourist island in Greece. Hotels stretch along the east and west coasts from Rhodes city where sun and sandy beaches create an irresistible lure for sun-starved northerners.

The significant history of Rhodes is neatly compacted into two periods: the story-book times of ancient Greece and the violent period of the Knights of St John. Moreover, such has been the influence of Rhodes on the surrounding islands that its history can to a large extent be read as the history of most of the Dodecanese.

The island has always been important as a trading centre between Asia and Africa and Greece and Italy. Homer mentions three cities on Rhodes: Lindos, with its natural harbour on the east; Ialysos, in the northwest;  and Kamiros, about 20 miles

cities on Rhodes: Lindos, with its natural harbour on the east; Ialysos, in the northwest;  and Kamiros, about 20 miles






down the west coast from Ak Milon (Zonari). Rhodes, along with Kös, Knidos and Halicarnassus, monopolised trade in this southwest corner of the Aegean.

In 408 BC the three cities mentioned by Homer decided to pool their resources and found the city of Rhodeson its present site. Hippodamus of Miletus designed the new city and built a series of harbours on the eastern side of the low-lying peninsula on which the city was built. The new city and its splendid harbour complex swiftly eclipsed the other three cities to become the most important city and trading centre in the southwestern Aegean. The Rhodians built up their own fleet of merchant vessels to become a major sea power. And they managed all this without upsetting the major warring powers around them - in effect a little Switzerlandgrowing ever more prosperous.

The Rhodians managed successfully to evade being caught up in the international politics of the time until the death of Alexander the Great, when the Mediterranean was plunged into chaos. Rhodes refused to help Antigonus invade Egypt (which was, after all, its major trading partner). Demetrius Polioketes, a would-be Alexander, enters the history books at this point. To teach the Rhodians a sharp lesson he assembled a large force and also the gargantuan siege machine for which he is famous -the Helepolis. The contraption was estimated to be

nine storeys high, weighed perhaps 125 tons and rolled up to the city walls on giant oak wheels. It sprouted huge catapults, drawbridges which could be dropped down to release troops, a nest on top for archers, and was shielded against enemy arrows.

Around Rhodes today, piled in heaps or lying about the castle walls, you can see the heavy stone balls believed to be the missiles Demetrius flung at the city. He did a lot of damage, but at the end of a year he had still not beaten the stubborn Rhodians. He signed a treaty with them and ordered all his siege machinery to be sold and the money donated to the Rhodians for a statue to commemorate the great siege. Thus the statue of the sun-god Helios was born. Chares began the statue in 302 BC and twelve years later the Colossus of Rhodes was complete. Perhaps it did stand astride Mandrâki harbour, as commentators say, and perhaps not. Wherever the precise site of the 35 metre high statue was, it became a landmark for all ships nearing the island until it was toppled by the earthquake of 227 BC.

Rhodesendured as an important economic and sea power until 43 BC when Cassius sacked the city


and destroyed it. Rhodian marine law was universally admired, parts were absorbed into the Venetian sea code and its spirit is with us today. For centuries the city attracted artisans and artists. In Roman times Caesar, Brutus, Anthony, Cicero and Tiberius all studied in Rhodes. Pliny counted over 2,000 statues when he was there and yet today a mere handful remain, so complete was Cassius' sacking of the city.


Until 1309 Rhodes drifted with the mainstream of history: ruled by Byzantium; sacked by the Saracens; ruled by the Venetians and later by the Genoese who in 1306 gave shelter to the Knights of St John. In 1309 the refugees became the masters of Rhodes. They built the huge fortified castle that dominates the town today and acquired a fleet of fast galleys which harried Turkish merchant vessels up and down the coast. They expanded from Rhodes to Khâlki and Alimia, Simi and Tilos, Kös and Kalimnos, and the adjacent coast of Asia Minor. In all of these places the castles or the remains of castles built by the Knights can be seen today.

The huge fortifications of Rhodes withstood two great sieges - in 1444 from Egypt and in 1480 from the Turks. In 1522 Suleiman I assembled a force reckoned to number over 100,000 men against 650 Knights and 1,200 supporters. The defence of the Knights against such a force is one of history's great battles. They held out for five months before the Grand Master, Villiers de l'lsle Adam, capitulated on honorable terms. It is said that Suleiman, watching the Grand Master leave, remarked, 'It is not without some regret that I oblige this old Christian to leave his home.'


36°27'.0N    28°14'.3E


Rhodesremained under Ottoman rule until the Italians occupied it in 1912. Intent on recreating the glory of Rhodes, they set about restoring and tidying up the castle and the town. They have been much criticized for their restoration work, but I do not think it is overdone, and most of it gives a good feeling of what medieval fortifications were like. For the student of military warfare, Rhodes has probably the best preserved medieval fortifications in Greece. During the Second World War the island was occupied by the Germans and in 1947 it became Greek along with the rest of the Dodecanese.



BA 1532 Imray-Tetra G3, G35


Conspicuous From the W and N the city of Rhodes on a low-lying spit of land can be identified from a long way off. Large hotels line the beach on the W. From the S and E a chimney S of the town and the E mole of Ormos Akandia are conspicuous. The large ferries in Limin Emborikös also show up well. Mandrâki basin, where a yacht should make for, is easily identified by the small fort with the lighthouse (Âyios Nikölaos), a cupola, the belfry, the market and the three windmills on the mole forming the E side of Mandrâki. On either side of the entrance to


Mandrâki there is a tower with a bronze deer on top. By night Use the light on Ak Milon Fl.WR.4s6/4M (red sector covers Ifalos Kolona over 286°-314°), Ây Nikölaos Fl(2)12sllM, the W breakwater head Fl.G.2s4M, Limin Emborikös Fl.R.2s4M, and the lights at the entrance to Mandrâki Q.RG.3M, F.R and F.G.2M. Some of the lights are difficult to identify against the loom of the city lights. Approaching from the W the light at Rhodes airport (A1F1.WG) some 10 miles S of the city is easily picked up. Dangers 1. Keep well off Âk Milon (Zonâri) and the shoal

Mandrâki looking into the entrance with Ây Nikölaos on the left of picture