The city of Rhodes
- Published: Thursday, 26 June 2014 08:37
The history of city: The unique city of Rhodes is situated in the north-east tip of the island and forms a triangle, like spearhead from north to south. It is the smallest municipality of the island in terms of land area and the largest in population. It borders the Aegean Sea to the north, the east and the west and with the municipalities of Ialyssos and Kallithea in the south.
Rhodes is the principal city and a former municipality on the island of Rhodes. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Rhodes, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. The extended municipality has nowadays about 120,000 citizens. Rhodes has been famous since antiquity as the site of Colossus of Rhodes. The statue has been used in many poems, the most famous being Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. The fortress of Rhodes, built by the Hospitalliers Knights, is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe, which in 1988 was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city of Rhodes was formed by the cities of Ialyssos, Kamiros and Lindos in 408 BC, and prospered for three centuries during its Golden Age, while sea traders, skilled shipbuilders, and open-minded politicians of the city kept it prosperous until Roman times. In 164 BC, Rhodes came under Roman control. It was able to keep its beauty and develop into a leading center of learning for arts and science. The Romans took from the Rhodians their maritime law and applied it to their shipping. Many traces of the Roman period still exist throughout the city and give an insight into the level of civilization at the time. According to Acts 21:1, the Apostle Paul stopped at Rhodes near the end of his third missionary journey.
In medieval times, Rhodes was an important Byzantine trading post, as also a crossroads for ships sailing between Constantinople and Alexandria. In the early years of the divided Roman Empire, the Isaurians, a mountain tribe from Cilicia, invaded the island and burned the city. In the 7th century AD it was captured by the Arabs. The latter were the ones who removed the scattered pieces of the Colossus from the port and moved them to Syria where they destroyed them to make coins.
After the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the fourth crusade in 1204, the native noble Leo Gabalas took control of the island, but after his death and succession by his brother John, the island was briefly occupied by the Genoese before being returned to the Emperor of Nicaea, though ushering in a new, but short-lived, Byzantine period.
The Knights Hospitallers captured and established their headquarters on Rhodes when they left Cyprus after the persecution of the Knights Templar in 1307. Pope Clement V confirmed the Hospitallers possession of the Island in 1309. The Knights remained on the Island for the next two centuries.
In 1444, the Mamluk fleet of Egypt laid a siege to Rhodes, but the Knights aided by the Burgundian naval commander Geoffroy de Thoisy beat off the Muslim attack. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 the Ottoman Empire began a rapid expansion and in 1480 Sultan Mehmet launched an invasion of Rhodes commanded by Mesic Pasha. The defenders repelled Turkish attacks from both landward and seaward sides and the invaders left the Island in defeat. The defeat halted a concurrent invasion of the Italian peninsula by Ottoman forces and prevented possible Muslim incursion and control of Western Europe.
After the Ottoman defeat in 1480 the Knights Grand Master, Pierre d'Aubusson, oversaw the strengthening of the cities over the next few decades. By the time of his death in 1521 Rhodes possessed the strongest fortifications of any Christian bastion in the World. The continued naval attack launched from Rhodes on Muslim merchants until 1522 the newly enthroned Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent led a second Siege of Rhodes (1522).
The vastly outnumbered Knights made a spirited defense of the city and inflicted heavy casualties upon the Ottoman besiegers. In December 1522 the Knights and Suleiman came to terms and the Knights were allowed to leave the city with all the wealth they could carry, in return there would be no retribution upon the inhabitants of the city and they would be allowed to continue to freely practice Christianity. On January 1, 1523 the Knights departed from the island, leaving it to Ottoman control.
In the Ottoman era, new buildings were constructed: mosques, public baths and mansions for the new patrons. The Greeks were forced to abandon the fortified city and move to new suburbs outside its walls. The city maintained its main economic function as a market for the agricultural products of the interior of the island and the surrounding small islands.
After the establishment of their sovereignty on the island, the Ottoman Turks converted most of the churches into mosques and transformed the major houses into private mansions or public buildings. This transformation was a long-term process that aimed to adapt the buildings to the Ottoman way of living. The Knights period façades with their sculptured decorations, the arched gates and hewn stone walls were enriched with the random character of the Ottoman architecture adapted to the local climate and culture. In this process most of the architectural features of the existing buildings were preserved.
The most characteristic additions were the baths (usually in the back of the buildings) and the enclosed wooden balconies on the façades over the narrow streets. In this way most of the buildings of the Hospitaliers' period in the Medieval Town were well preserved. The result was a mixture of oriental architecture with imposing western architectural remains and more recent buildings, which were characteristic of the local architecture of the time.
An interesting example of the Ottoman architecture is the building of the Hafiz Ahmed Agha Library. On the 19th century, the city was the capital of the Eyalet of the Archipelago, but the decline of the Ottoman Empire resulted in the general neglect of the town and its buildings, which further deteriorated due to the strong earthquakes that often plague the area.
In 1912, Italian troops took over the island with the rest of the Dodecanese Islands, and established an Italian colony known as Italian Islands of the Aegean in 1923. The Italians would later demolish the houses that were built on and around the city walls during the Ottoman era. They also turned the Jewish and Ottoman cemeteries into a green zone surrounding the Medieval Town.
The Italians preserved what was left from the Knights' period, and destroyed all Ottoman buildings. They also reconstructed the Grand Master's Palace. Furthermore, an Institute for the study of the history and culture of the region was established, and major infrastructure work was done to modernize Rhodes, both the city and its very important harbor. The British bombs that fell on the medieval city of Rhodes in 1944 claimed human lives and destroyed a great number of buildings, leaving large gaps in the urban tissue. One of the first Decrees of the Greek administration designated those areas as reserved for future excavations and a number of edifices as safeguarded buildings.
In 1957, a new city plan was approved by a Decree and in 1960 the entire medieval town was designated as a protected monument by the Ministry of Culture. In 1961 and 1963 new Decrees were issued concerning the new city plan. They provided for the widening of existing streets and the opening of new ones. These were not implemented in the old city due to the resistance of the archaeological service. In 1988, the old town of Rhodes was designated as a World Heritage City by UNESCO.
Rhodes is the capital of the island of Rhodes and of the Rhodes regional unit. It was the capital of the former Dodecanese prefecture. The city also holds an office of the south Aegean region. The city is home to numerous landmarks. Some of them date back to antiquity and most of the others remain from the Knights' Period. Both city and island population continue to grow contrary to national levels; the city has an official permanent population of 49,541 in 2011 census. The city’s heart, downtown, is full of life throughout the day and night, most of the year.
Some of the educational facilities, by category, available in the city are, the 52 primary schools, the 20 high schools and 15 lyceums, and finally some departments of the Aegean University, higher and lower tourism Schools and some private institutes. Recently two private schools were also established and offer education ranging within all levels. The Music School of Rhodes (Greece) is located just outside of Rhodes near Afantou.
The city's public transit system consists of a bus network which also connects the city to outlying resort areas during tourism season. Ferries connect the island's commercial passenger port with several nearby islands within the Dodecanese Islands, as well as with the Cycladic Islands, the Greek mainland, and Bodrum in Turkey.
The city is also a popular port of call for cruise itineraries, especially in the summer months. Both the city and the island of Rhodes are served by Diagoras International Airport, situated 14 km (9 mi) south west of the city. It is connected to all other major Greek airports and to Cyprus throughout the year. During tourism season, international flights connect the island with several European cities and with Israel.
Most major nation-wide television stations broadcast in the city. There are also five local television stations and a number of local and national radio stations. There are three daily newspapers issued that deal with both the city and the whole region. Moreover two are issued every monday and there are few others with specific themes. The city has two major football teams; Diagoras GS and AS Rodos after a long period are back in national level and compete in Greek National Second Division (Football League) while the rest of the city based teams compete in the local Amateur Divisions.
The last 15 years basketball is represented in national level by Kolossos Rodou BC which currently won promotion to national A1 League just one year after being relegated. Other notable teams are AS Diagoras Rhodes which just gained promotion in national third division and AS Dodekanisos, the pride of the Aegean that competes and stars in the national basketball league for handicapped people. A variety of other sports is also available and in development in the city like for example volleyball, rugby, water polo, tennis, table tennis, cycling and and track and field athletics. Finally ziu zitsu, karate, tae-kwon-do and other Eastern oriented sports are also available. The city has three major sports venues; the Rhodes Municipal Stadium and the Kallipateira National Athletic Center serve all outdoor activities while the Municipal Indoor Hall of "Venetokleio" serves indoor sports. The city of Rhodes is also home to many foreign consulates. A few of them are, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom, etc.