The Dodecanese – twelve islands between East and West, bathed by
the sun and sea. Homer sung their praises and both gods and men
loved them. They rose out of the sea in some long ago age and
dominated the Aegean with their fast ships and their excellent
sailors. Rhodes is the largest of these islands. Its citizens
worshipped the sun and in its honor made an enormous bronze
statue, the Colossus of Rhodes. It was one of the seven wonders
of the world and the flame held in its hands lit up the harbor
of Rhodes at night.
A crossroads of peoples and civilizations, beautiful, wealthy
Rhodes ruled the Aegean. Everyone sought to claim her. Kings
from the East, Romans, Saracens, Crusaders, Turks. It was
conquered countless times and freed as many more. Neighbouring
Kos experienced the same fate. But no foreign force could alter
its serene beauty. Some thirty-five centuries ago, the city of
Kos was founded next to the sacred spring of Vourina, and its
sacred plane tree, the oldest tree in Europe, is still standing
today on the square, reminding us of the days when Hippocrates
sat in its shade and wrote the first books on medicine.
Up to then, medicine was a simple art based on suggestion and
superstition. Hippocrates, with his studies, experiments and
writings, laid the foundations for the modern science. His work
was a real revelation. Five and a half centuries later on Patmos,
another of the Dodecanese, St. John wrote his own Book of
Revelations, full of awe and visions.
So much history, so much life on twelve small islands – as
ancient as the twelve gods of Olympos, as different as the
twelve months of the year, as eternal as the sun.