The largest of the Dodecanese, Rhodes (or Rodos) has become an
important regional Center, thanks to its location, climate and
It is known as the isle of the Sun. Pindar mentions in one of
his Odes that it was born of the union of Helios the sun god and
the nymph Rhoda. In antiquity it also bore the names Aithraia,
Ophiousa and Telchinis.
It was first inhabited in the Neolithic era. A major milestone
in the islandís history, which affected the fate of the other
Dodecanese as well, was the founding in 700 B.C. of the Dorian
Hexapolis, a union of its three cities with Knidos,
Halikarnassos and Kos. Its economy and culture continued to
flourish until the 3rd century B.C., when it was the predominant
power in the Aegean. When, a thousand years later in 1309, it
fell into the hands of the Knights of St. John, it became again
the Center of power, symbolized by its magnificent mediaeval
town and the imposing castle and palace of the Grand Masters.
The islandís terrain is in large part fertile with a great
variety of vegetation; its highest mountain is Atavyros (1,215
m. asl) in the southwest.
The capital, also called Rhodes, occupies the northernmost tip
of the island. There are actually three cities on this site Ė
modern, ancient and mediaeval. The modern town has a
cosmopolitan character, many late 20th century buildings and
hotels. The ancient town, which was founded in 408 B.C.
according to plans by Hippodamos of Milesios (the first town
planner), started from Monte Smith hill where the acropolis
stood and extended as far as what is now the mediaeval city. All
that is left of it today is the ruins of the temples of Zeus,
Athena Poliados and Apollo, the Stadium, Gymnasium and the
Theatre, which has been restored.
The mediaeval city is still surrounded by the high walls erected
by the Knights. It is divided by an inner wall into two unequal
parts, the smaller Collachio and the larger Burgo or Hora.
Collachio is further split by the Street of the Knights, both of
whose sides are lined with the sombre stone facades of the Inns
of the Tongues or nationalities that belonged to the order of
the Knights Hospitalers of St. John. At the end of the street
stands the palace of the Grand Masters, which today houses a
collection of 16th and 17th century furniture and Roman mosaic
floors from Kos. The Hospital of the Knights, another of the
townís most magnificent buildings, has been converted to the
Archaeological Museum. Burgo / Hora lies to the south of
Collachio; its walls once enclosed the humbler residences, the
marketplace, the Synagogue and Jewish quarter, Orthodox and
Catholic churches, public buildings and army barracks.
The island abounds in lovely and interesting places to visit,
such as the Valley of the Butterflies; the village of Trianda
near the site of ancient lalyssos (Ialissos) on the top of
Filerimos hill, where the 15th century monastery of the same
name also stands, along with the ruined temples of Athena and
Zeus Poliea in the ancient acropolis; Kameiros (Kamiros) and the
ruins of the Dorian city; Kalithea with its thermal baths;
Koskinou, AfandOu, Faliraki and Rodini.
But above all donít miss Lindos. The contrast between the
brilliant white houses and winding lanes of the more recent
village built around two crescent beaches and the ancient
acropolis towering above it from its austere pinnacle makes for
one of the most stunning views in Greece. The temple of Athena
lindia (4th century B.C.) coming gradually into view as you
ascend the stairs is a sight never to be forgotten.
Finally, there are splendid beaches allover the island, some of
which are equipped with fcilities for bathers and equipment for