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History of Rhodes

The island of Rhodes is found at the crossroad of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. It is also found on the marine routes which connected West with Orient, since the early antiquity. Being such a meeting point, the island attracted various populations and was influenced by several cultures during its long history. Every people who arrived at Rhodes, peacefully or after winning a war, in mass or in small groups, have left their traces on the beautiful island. The result of this diversity has always ended up to this interesting blend that has proved very persistent and still exists today. Rhodes had always been and still is a place rich both in natural and in human resources.

Archaeological surveys have shown that the island was inhabited as early as the Neolithic period. The mythological and ancient sources, but also the scientific research, state that the first residents of the island were the Carians, the Phoenicians and the Minoans, who came from Crete. Those latter were settled at the area of Ialyssos during the 15 th century b.C. and led the island to an outstanding cultural and economic flourishing. Following the destiny of Crete, Rhodes surrendered to the Mycenaean power and under the Achaeans continued to be prosperous for more than 350 years. In 1100 b.C. the Dorians, who succeeded the Mycenaeans, founded the three great and famous cities of Lindos, Kameiros and Ialyssos. The evolution of these three cities went along with that of the cities of the coast across (Southwestern Asia Minor), with which they became allies, a fact that pushed forward wealth and prosperity.

It is the period of the great personalities of the island, as the tyrant of Lindos Cleobulus, one of the Seven Sages of the ancient world and Diagoras, winner of the Olympic Games several times. In 408 b.C., the three cities decide to establish a new capital city of the island; thus the city of Rhodes is founded, a town that still exists and flourishes.

Rhodes has followed the destiny of the rest of Greece and was involved in the disputes and wars with the Persians.

During the period of Macedonians and in the Hellenistic period Rhodes was under the power of Macedonians and afterwards of Ptolemy of Egypt. This period is the peak -period of glory and prosperity for the island. It was so powerful, that it achieved to defeat the famous the Macedonian general Demetrius Poliorkitis ("the besieger"), in 305 b.C. It is in memory of this glorious victory that it was erected the most famous statue of antiquity, the so-called Colossus of Rhodes, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

During the Roman expansion, Rhodes became an ally of the Romans. However, in this period the town and the whole island suffered damages, due to the civil wars of the Roman generals. Rhodes is one of the first places in Greece where people adopted Christianity; it was Paul who preached Christianity on the island in 57 A.D.

During the Byzantine times, the island has periods of prosperity and flourishing. Due to its wealth and its geographical position, Rhodes attracts many invaders, who often attack and pillage it. Finally, in 1306, the island, along with the neighboring islands of Kos and Leros are sold to the Knights of the Order of St. John. Under the domination of the Knights Rhodes becomes commercial, economic, military and cultural center of the Eastern Mediterranean. The fruit of this period of glory, wealth and prosperity is the medieval town, this wonderful complex that still exists and gives to the town of Rhodes its unique character and atmosphere. It is in this period of flourishing that are formed the particular features of the collective consciousness and the character of the people of the island, that still survive, up to nowadays. In 1522, after a siege that lasted six months, the town and the whole island, surrendered to the Ottomans of the sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

The island continued to be under the Ottoman domination until 1912, when it passed to the Italians. At the beginning, the population of the island received them as liberators, but soon enough they realized that the Italian domination was only a new domination which did not bring the freedom expected. However, the Italians added a lot to the infrastructures of the island and constructed several interesting buildings, which helped the island to recover soon from the damages it suffered during the World War II, both by the Nazis and by the bombings of the allies. After the end of the war, Rhodes was occupied by the British army, who kept it until March 1948, when it was incorporated to Greece, along with the rest of the Dodecanese.

Ever since, the history of Rhodes goes along with the history of Greece. Today this beautiful island with the fascinating natural environment, the glorious history, the cultural treasures and the friendly people has been developed in a first choice tourist destination. Tourism has contributed a lot to the actual wealth and prosperity of the island.

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