Rhodes Town

Rhodes town, established 450 B.C. it was the result of the unification of the three major cities that preceded it; Lindos, Ialyssos and Kamiros. It flourished and it came to its acme during the last 4 centuries BC. This was the time that Rhodes gave us the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World!

The Ancient Myths

The origin of Rhodes is connected with a beautiful myth which Pindar and other ancient writers liked to tell in their works. According to this myth, when Zeus defeated the Giants and became master of the earth, he decided to divide it among the gods of Mount Olympus. Helios, the Sun-god, was absent during the casting of lots, and, so the legend goes, “…no one remembered to include him in the draw”. When Helios returned from his duties, he complained to Zeus about the injustice done to him.

The father of the gods then told him he would cast lots again, but the radiant god did not let him. He only asked Zeus and the other gods to promise that the land which was to rise out of the sea could be his. As he spoke, there slowly emerged from the bottom of the blue sea a beautiful island, profuse with flowers. It was Rhodes, which until then had lain hidden beneath the sea.

Brimming with happiness, Helios bathed the island with his own radiance and made it the most beautiful in the Aegean Sea.

Another myth attributes the beginnings of Rhodes to the love of Helios for the nymph Rhodes, the daughter of the god of the sea, Poseidon. When Helios saw Rhodes, so the myth goes, he was so taken by her astounding beauty that he made her his wife. They had seven sons and one daughter, Alectrona, who died young. Kerkaphos, one of the sons of Helios and Rhodes, had three children: Kamiros, Ialysos and Lindos. They built a city each in Rhodes, and divided the island among themselves.

Some say that the famed island derives its name from the nymph Rhodes. Others maintain that Rhodes was named after the rose, and this either because the island was abundant in these beautiful flowers or because the ancient inhabitants likened its beauty to that of a rose.

However, Rhodes was known in ancient times by several other names, among them, Ophioussa, for the many snakes that lived there; Elaphousa, because the Rhodians brought dears to kill the snakes that were there (the dears killed the snakes by running over them); Asteria, for its clear blue and starry sky; Makaria, for its arresting beauty; Telchinia, because its first inhabitants were said to be the Telchines; and Attavyria, after its highest mountain, Attavyros.

Prehistory

The history of Rhodes, like that of the rest of Greece, has its beginnings in the dim realms of mythology. In those distant, mythological years the island was inhabited by the Telchines, a strange race of men said to have been endowed with magical powers. The Telchines, said by many to be demons, were also gifted metal workers. It was they who forged Poseidon’s trident and Kronos’ fearful sickle-shaped sword, the “harpi”. Legend also has it that it was the Telchines who cast the first bronze statues of the gods of Olympus. The Telchines were later banished from Rhodes by the Heliads, the children of Helios and the nymph Rhodes. Historically, the first inhabitants of the island are said to have been the Carians, a tribe which came from Asia Minor. The Carians were followed by the Phoenicians, who made Rhodes an important commercial center. Cadmus founded the first Phoenician colony there and also introduced the first alphabet.

History

Rhodes appears in the recorded history of the Eastern Mediterranean from the time when the island was settled by colonists from Minoan Crete. These Minoans lived peacefully on the island for many centuries, until another tribe came to settle in Rhodes. These newcomers were Greek Achaians from Mycenae, Tiryns, Argos and Attica.

After they had settled in their new home, some time around 1400 BC, they founded a powerful state which very soon extended its influence over the neighboring islands, and a large part of the nearby coast of Asia Minor. Mycenaean settlements have been discovered at Ialysos and Kamiros.

The Achaians were, in turn, followed some centuries later by the warlike Dorians, who overran Rhodes, after taking possession of the Peloponnese, several Aegean islands, and the southern coast of Asia Minor. In Rhodes they developed Lindos, Ialysos and Kamiros – three cities which, in time, grew immensely in power and wealth. Proof of this greatness lies in the discoveries made in all three cities. The Rhodians, led by Trepolemos, the brave son of Hercules, took part in the Trojan War with nine ships. However, the leader of the “proud Rhodians”, as they were then known, died in battle together with Sarpidon, before the walls of Troy.

By settling in Rhodes, and other Aegean islands, the Greeks placed themselves near the East and consequently became acquainted with Eastern civilization. Architectural monuments, statues, gold and silver items, and the life of luxury led by the rich leaders of the East had a profound influence on them. Yet these gifted Greeks from southern Greece based their cultural and social patterns on entirely new foundations.

Not only did Rhodes constitute a significant cultural center, but it also developed unprecedented commercial and colonial activities. The fast ships of the Rhodians sailed to almost all parts of the Mediterranean bringing riches and glory back to the mother island. At the same time, the three greatest cities in the island, Kamiros, Ialysos, and Lindos in particular, founded many colonies along the West coast of Asia Minor, Sicily, France, and Spain, from 1000-600 B.C.

The most famous of these were Gages, Phasele and Korydala in Lykia; Soloi in Kilikia; Gela and Agraga in Sicily; Parthenope (today’s Naples) and Elpiae in Italy; Rhodi (to- day’s Rosa) in Spain, and Gymnesiae in the Balearic islands.


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