1902 Encyclopedia > Rhodes


RHODES, an island in the Aegean Sea, belonging to the Turkish empire, lying off the south-west coast of Asia Minor, between 35° 52' and 36° 28' N lat. and 27° 40' and 28° 15' E. long., about 10 miles south of Cape Alepo. Its length is about 45 miles from north-east to south-west, its greatest breadth 22 miles, and its area nearly 424 square miles.

The island is diversified in its surface, and is traversed from north to south by an elevated mountain range, the highest point of which, named in ancient times Atabyris or Atabyrium, and still called Atairo, rises to an elevation of 4560 feet. It commands a view of the elevated coast of Asia Minor towards the north, and of the Archipelago, studded with its numerous islands, on the north-west; while on the south-west is seen Mount Ida in Crete, often veiled in clouds, and on the south and south-east the vast expanse of waters which wash the African shore. The rest of the island is occupied in great part by ranges of moderately elevated hills, on which are found extensive woods of ancient pines, planted by the hand of nature. These forests were formerly very thick, but they are now greatly thinned by the Turks, who cut them down and take no care to plant others in their place. Beneath these hills the surface of the island falls lower, and several hills in the form of amphitheatres extend their bases as far as the sea.

Rhodes was famed in ancient times for its delightful climate, and it still maintains its former reputation. The air is pure and salubrious, and it is said that there is hardly a day throughout the year in which the sun is not visible. The winds are liable to little variation; they blow from the west, often with great violence, for nine months in the year, and at other times from the north; and they moderate the summer heats, which are chiefly felt during the months of July and August, when the hot winds blow from the coast of Anatolia.

Rhodes, in addition to its fine climate, is blessed, with a fertile soil, and produces a variety of the finest fruits and vegetables. Numerous streams and rivulets, which take their rise in the central range, water the surround-ing plains and valleys of the island. The inhabitants have a great taste for gardens; and around the villages are extensive cultivated fields and orchards, containing fig, pomegranate, and orange trees. On the sloping hills carob-trees, and others both useful and agreeable, still grow abundantly; the vine also holds its place, and produces a species of wine which was highly valued by the ancients, though it seems to have degenerated greatly in modern times. The valleys afford rich pastures, and the plains produce every species of grain; the wheat is of an excel-lent quality; and, but for the extortions of its barbarian rulers, the island might be the seat of agriculture as well as commerce, and might export large quantities of corn.

The commerce of the island has been of late years in-creasing at a rapid rate. Many British manufactures are imported by indirect routes, through Smyrna, Constantinople, Beyrout, and other places. Cotton stuffs, calicoes, and grey linen are among the goods most in demand. It is not so much, however, the peasantry of the island who use these British goods, for they prefer their own home-made stuffs; but they are exported to the neighbouring coast of Anatolia, between Budrum and Adalia, and thence conveyed into the interior. The expansion of the trade has been very much owing to the establishment of steam navigation direct to the island, which is now visited regu-larly by French and Austrian steamers, as well as by some from England to Smyrna.

The only town of any importance in the island is the capital, Rhodes, which stands at the north-east extremity. It rises in an imposing manner from the sea, on a gentle slope in the form of an amphitheatre. It is surrounded with walls and towers, and defended by a large moated castle of great strength. These fortifications are all the work of the Knights of St John. Above them rise the domes and minarets of the mosques, and the tufted stems of the palm trees, which adorn this like most other Oriental towns. The interior of the city does not correspond to its outward appearance. No trace exists of the splendour of the ancient city, with its regular streets, well-ordered plan, and numerous public buildings. The modern city of Rhodes is in general the work of the Knights of St John, and has altogether a mediaeval aspect, the streets being for the most part narrow and winding, though the houses, as well as the public edifices, are in general solidly built of stone, and present at almost every step some memorial of the past in the escutcheons and coats of arms with which they are adorned. The picturesque fortifications also by which the city is surrounded remain almost unaltered as they were in the 15th century, and it has been remarked by numerous travellers that scarcely any city of western Europe has preserved its mediaeval aspect so unchanged as this last refuge of European civilization in the East. The principal buildings which remain are the church of St John, which is become the principal mosque; the hospital, whence the charity of the knights was liberally dispensed to the faithful from all quarters of the world, and which has been transformed into public granaries; the palace of the grand master, now the resi-dence of the pasha; and the senate-house, which still contains some marbles and ancient columns. Of the streets, the best and widest is a long street which is still called the Street of the Knights. It is perfectly straight, and formed of old houses, on which remain the armorial bearings of the members of the order. On some of these buildings are still seen the arms of the popes and of some of the royal and noble houses of Europe.

The only relics of classical antiquity are the numerous inscribed altars and bases of statues, as well as architectural fragments, which are found scattered in the courtyards and gardens of the houses in the extensive suburbs which now surround the town, the whole of which were comprised within the limits of the ancient city. The foundations also of the moles that separate the harbours are of Hellenic work, though the existing moles were erected by the Knights of St John.

Rhodes has at present two harbours. The least of these lies towards the east, and its entrance is obstructed by a barrier of rocks, so as to admit the entrance of but one ship at a time. It is sufficiently sheltered, but by the negligence of the Turks the sand has been suffered to accumulate until it has been gradually almost choked up. The other harbour is larger, and also in a bad condition ; here frigates of thirty guns may anchor, and are sheltered from the west winds, though they are exposed to the north and north-east winds. The two harbours are separated by a mole which runs obliquely into the sea. At the eastern entrance is the fort of St Elmo, with a lighthouse; but the light is very feeble, and visible only a few miles.

History.—The numerous poetical legends current among the Greeks with respect to Rhodes bear testimony to the importance which it attained in very early times. Of these the most familiar is that celebrated by Pindar in one of the most beautiful of his odes (01. vii.), according to which the island was raised from the depths of the sea by Helios, the god of the sun, who always con-tinued to be its tutelary deity, and whose image is found upon all its coins. The poet as usual derives its name from a nymph Rhoda, but there is no doubt that it was really derived from f>6h~ov, a rose, the symbol that invariably accompanies the head of Helios on its coins. Another set of legends connected it with the Telchines, a mythical people celebrated for their skill as workers in bronze and other metals, while another version of the same tale represented these Telchines as themselves expelled by the Heliada;, who became the first introducers of civilization. It is not improbable that both traditions had some reference to the Phoenicians, who may well have been the first to establish settle-ments in an island that lay so directly on their way to the iEgean. But the first record that can claim anything like an historical character is that of the occupation of the island by a body of Doric emigrants from the Peloponnesus, who founded the three cities of Lindus, Ialysus, and Camirus, which long continued to divide the island among them, and together with those of Cos, Cnidus, and Halicarnassus formed the Doric Hexapolis or league of six cities. These cities, like the more important Ionic confederacy, had a common sanctuary on the Triopian Promontory near Cnidus, but they do not appear to have formed a political union, though the distinct predominance in them all of the Doric element would naturally lead to a community of interest as well as of feeling. Nothing is known of their history for several centuries, during which they appear to have developed a remarkable amount of mari-time power and enterprise, and became the founders of numerous colonies in distant parts of the Mediterranean, including Gela in Sicily, as well as Rhoda on the coast of Spain, and Salapia on the Adriatic coast of Italy. Towards the east also they were the recog-nized founders of Corydalla and Phaselis in Lycia and Soli in Cilicia.

Notwithstanding these evidences of early prosperity and power, we meet with very scanty notices of the Rhodian cities in the first period of Greek history. After the Persian War they appear to have passed into the condition of tributaries to Athens, and were compelled as such to join in the Athenian expedition to Sicily, but in 412 B.C. they deserted the Athenian cause and joined that of the Peloponnesians. It was shortly after this (in 408) that they adopted a resolution which became the foundation of their future greatness, the inhabitants of the three cities having agreed to abandon their homes and found a new city on the site which has ever since con-tinued to be the capital of the island.

The architect was Hippodamus of Miletus, who had planned and embellished the Piraeus at Athens ; and the new city soon became one of the most splendid in the world, adorned with magnificent buildings and exquisite works of art. When Conon and his fleet restored the Athenian power by his victory off Cnidus (394 B.C.), Rhodes again embraced the victorious cause ; but her fidelity during the subsequent contests was not very great. Sparta afterwards received the allegiance of the island; and in the Social War (357-5) it joined the alliance against Athens, and, with the assistance of the Carian monarch Mausolus, succeeded in achieving independ-ence. But, finding the power of that king dangerous to their liberties, the Rhodians once more sued for the Athenian protection, which they obtained through the eloquence of Demosthenes. But neither they nor the rest of Greece could resist the overwhelming power of Macedonia, though Meinnon, a Rhodian, was one of the ablest generals under the last Persian king, and attempted to check the career of Alexander. Rhodes received a Macedonian garrison ; but it was expelled after the death of Alexander, and a resolute resistance was begun to the Macedonian power. This formed one of the most illustrious periods in the history of the island. The capital was besieged in 304 B.C. by Demetrius Poliorcetes, with a large army and a complete train of the artillery of that age. Although a breach was effected in the walls, the desperate valour of the defenders foiled all the attempts to carry it by assault, and cost the besiegers the lives of some of their generals and a great number of their soldiers. This heroic resistance obtained for the Rhodians great renown ; and the period which followed was one of the most brilliant in the history of the city. They enjoyed the friendship of Rome, and obtained possession of some of the adjacent islands and coasts, including a considerable district on the main-land which was known as the Rhodian Persea. For arts as well as arms the island was then renowned ; the Rhodian laws, especially on maritime affairs, were reckoned the best in antiquity, and many of them adopted into the Roman code. iEschines, who had! contended in eloquence with the greatest of orators, opened a, school of rhetoric here, which became the parent of a new school of oratory, regarded by the ancients as possessing a Grteco-Asiatie character. Protogenes embellished the city with his paintings, and Chares of Lindu3 with the celebrated colossal statue. The Colossus, erroneously supposed to have occupied a position striding over the entrance to the harbour, stood for fifty-six years, till an earthquake prostrated it in 224 B.C. Its enormous fragments con-tinued to excite wonder in the time of Pliny, and were not removed till 656 A.D., when Rhodes was conquered by the Saracens, wdio sold the remains for old metal to a dealer who employed nine hundred camels to carry them away. Besides this not less than three thousand statues are said to have adorned the city, wdiich was said by Strabo to surpass all others in beauty and ornamental character. Being the sovereigns of the seas, the Rhodians by their fleets ren-dered good service to Rome, with whom they were in alliance, and retained their independence for a long time. The severest blow they suffered was from Cassius in 42 B.C., who plundered tbe island even to the bare temple Avails in the nominal cause of liberty, for it had embraced the side of Ca;sar. Under the empire the liberty of Rhodes was repeatedly permitted and withdrawn according to the caprice of the sovereign ; but ultimately it became a part of the Roman empire, and, after its partition, of the Eastern, till 616 A.D. , when Chosroes the Persian obtained possession of it for a, short time. It was subsequently conquered by Moawiyah, one of Othman's generals ; but, recovered by the Byzantine empire, it. proved the last of their Asiatic possessions that succumbed to the infidel. In 1308 it was granted by the emperor Emmanuel to the Knights of St John, who soon after resisted a siege by the sultan Othman. They strengthened the natural advantages of the place by skilful fortifications, and by discipline and equipments made themselves nearly a match for the superior numbers of the Turks. Nor did the knights restrict their efforts to self-defence ; they conquered Smyrna, and established an outpost there in 1344, and at a later period formed a league against the common enemy of Christendom. But in 1401 Smyrna was taken by Timur ; in 1480 Mohammed II. besieged Rhodes with a vast train of artillery;, and, though then averted by the courage of its few defenders, the downfall of the place could not long be delayed. The last and most famous siege of Bhodes took place in 1522, when, after a desperate resistance for four months to the overwhelming numbers of the Ottomans, the knights, being left unassisted by all the. European powers, capitulated on honourable terms, and evacuated the island. On the first day of 1523 Villiers de Lisle Adam, the-grandmaster, embarked the last of the small band, carrying away all the property of the order, and leaving the ruins of their city to the enemy. The knights subsequently settled in Malta, wdiere they also gained great renown. Rhodes has since been in the possession of the Turks, and is now the residence of the pasha of the Archipelago. The sites of Lindus, Ialysus, and Camirus, which in the most ancient times were the principal towns of the island, are clearly marked, and the first of the three is still occupied by a small town with a mediaeval castle, both of them dating from the time of the knights, though the castle occupies the site of the ancient acropolis, of the Avails of which considerable remains are^ still visible. There are no ruins of any importance on the site of either Ialysus or Camirus, but excavations at the latter place have produced valuable and interesting results in the way of ancient vases and other antiquities, wdiich are now in the British Museum.

The population of the island is estimated at about 27,000, of whom 6000 are Turks, 3000 Jews, and the remainder Greeks. Of these nearly 20.000 are contained in the city and its suburbs ;. the rest of the island is very thinly peopled, though numerous small villages are scattered over its whole extent.

A large mass of matter relating to the ancient history and institutions of Rhodes- are collected by Meursius in his dissertation (Opera, vol. Hi.); the present con- dition of the island, and the objects of interest still visible there, are fully described by Ross (Reisen auf den Griechischen Inseln, vol. hi., Stuttgart, 1840) and Newton (Travels and Discoveries in the Levant, vol. i., London, 1865). The- inscriptions that have been discovered there, which arc very numerous, have un- fortunately been published in a very irregular manner, and are scattered through a number of works, many of them not easy of access. By far the most com- plete collection of all that relates to the ancient condition of the island, as well as its history and antiquities, will be found in a treatise by Mr C. Torr, entitled Rhodes in Ancient Times, which is passing through the Cambridge University Press while this article has been in preparation. (E. H. B.)

The above article was written by: E. H. Bunbury.

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