The History and Mythology of Rhodes Town

Rhodes Town is soaked in mythological wonder and historical significance, maybe more so than any other city in the world. It’s impossible to avoid the layers of architectural history, ancient ruins and medieval relics that meet you at every turn.

The city’s Old Town lies in its very heart, and is a preserved medieval time capsule with seven gates leading you back to a classical, medieval, Ottoman and Italian historical wonderland. The Old Town is where this city comes to life and is the best place to start your cultural and mythological education.

The Old Town of Rhodes

In the centre of Rhodes Town stands one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

It’s a cobblestone maze of the empires that created it, from the Byzantine, Ottoman, Italian, and Greek. This bustling neighbourhood now holds several art galleries, archaeological museums of the Church of our Lady of the Castle.

The city is divided into two parts, the northern section holding the internal fortress of the Knights, also called the Castello, and the southern Chora section where the Greeks and Jews lived.

The medieval walls that encircle the city were meant to protect it and to keep its citizens safe. But today they are a sight-seers dream come true, and holidaymakers can walk along them, taking in the city’s architecture from impressive heights.

Colossus of Rhodes

One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Colossus of Rhodes was a Greek statue built in 280 BCE to celebrate Rhodes’ victory over Cyprus’ attack on the city. This impressive creation depicted the Greek god of sun, Helios, and was approximately the same height at the Statue of Liberty.

The Colossus of Rhodes would have been the tallest statue of the ancient world. In 226 BCE it was destroyed by an earthquake. The people of Rhodes were afraid they had offended the sun god and decided not to rebuild.

Recently there have been talks to build a new Colossus in Rhodes, but construction hasn’t yet begun.

Olympic stadium and Apollo's temple

The Acropolis of Rhodes sits on the western edge of the city on top of the hill of Ayios Stefanos. Looking out over the water this landmark holds some fascinating Greek history and ruins, and today consist of sanctuaries, public buildings, temples and an Olympic stadium.

The list of archaeological sites here will make any history buff weak at the knees, especially since so many of them are easily accessible.

The two hillside temples include Temple of Pythian Apollo and Temple of Athena Polias and Zeues Polieus. The latter temple is where Rhodians kept the treaties they had made with other states.

The Olympic stadium is by far the biggest crowd pleaser. This 600-foot long stadium was used for athletic competitions in the Haleion Games. Haleion refers to the god of Sun Helios, the same god the Colossus of Rhodes was built for.

The Street of the Knights

The most important street in the whole of Rhodes Town is the street of Knights. This completely preserved street is lined by ancient buildings where holy warriors, knights of the Order of St. John, lodged. This cobbled stone street leads from the Acropolis of Rhodes to the port.

The knights hold an important historical significance in Rhodes Town as they helped restore 30 castles and served as soldiers, nurses and clerics. During their time defending the city the Ottoman Turks made several attempts to capture the island and ultimately they lost their fight and were granted safe passage in 1522.

The knights were made up of all the major European Catholic countries and helped to secure Christianity in Rhodes. Today the Saint John’s Ambulance Brigade continues the knight’s tradition and brings help to sick and ailing people around the world.

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