Rhodes is the principal city of the Greek island of Rhodes. It has been famous since antiquity as the site of Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The citadel of Rhodes, built by the Hospitalliers, is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe which in 1988 was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The island of Rhodes is at a crossroads between Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. This has given the city and the island many different identities, cultures, architectures, and languages over its long history. Its position in major sea routes has given Rhodes a very rich history. The island has been inhabitated since about 4000 BC (Neolithic Period).
The city of Rhodes was formed in 408 BC, by the cities of Ialyssos, Kamiros and Lindos. Following its founding the city prospered for three centuries during its Golden Age. This was when sea trade, skilled shipbuilders, and open-minded politicians of the city kept it prosperous until Roman times. Between 304 and 293 BC the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was built by the Lyndian sculptor Hares. The construction took 12 years and was completed in 282 BC. The statue represented their sun god Helios, which stood at the harbour entrance. The ancient city had a well-constructed sewage system as well as a water supply network as designed by Hippodamus. A strong earthquake hit Rhodes about 226 BC, badly damaging the city and toppling the Colossus. For the next eight centuries it lay in ruins until it was sold to a Jewish merchant, reputed to require 900 camels to haul it away.
In 164 BC, Rhodes became a province of the Roman Empire.It was able to keep its beauty and develop into a leading center of learning for arts and science. Many traces of the Roman period still exist throughout the city and give us 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 1912 Italian troops took the island over with the rest of the Dodecanese Islands, and established an Italian colony known as Isole Italiane del Egeo 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.