How did Rhodes survive many invasions and occupations by different empires and nations throughout history?

Rhodes is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, famous for its ancient history, medieval architecture and natural beauty. It is also known as the island of the Knights, because of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, a military and religious order that ruled Rhodes for over two centuries. But how did Rhodes manage to survive many invasions and occupations by different empires and nations throughout history? What were the main challenges and achievements of the people of Rhodes in defending their homeland and preserving their identity? In this blog post, we will explore some of the most remarkable episodes of Rhodes’ history, from ancient times to modern days.

Ancient Rhodes

Rhodes was inhabited since the Neolithic period, and became a center of culture and commerce in the ancient world. It was famous for its Colossus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, a giant statue of the sun god Helios that stood at the entrance of the harbor. Rhodes was also renowned for its schools of philosophy, rhetoric, sculpture and astronomy. It was an ally of Rome and enjoyed a period of prosperity and peace under the Roman Empire.

However, Rhodes also faced many threats and attacks from its neighbors and rivals. In the 4th century BC, it was besieged by the Macedonian king Demetrius Poliorcetes, who brought a huge siege tower and a fleet of warships. The Rhodians resisted bravely and managed to repel the invaders. They also used the abandoned siege engines to build the Colossus with the help of donations from other Greek cities. In the 2nd century BC, Rhodes was attacked by the Seleucid king Antiochus III, who wanted to control the eastern Mediterranean. The Rhodians again defended their island with courage and skill, and received help from their Roman allies. They also maintained their independence and autonomy during the Mithridatic Wars, when the king of Pontus tried to overthrow Roman rule in Asia Minor.

Medieval Rhodes

In 395 AD, the Roman Empire was divided into two parts: the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire (also known as Byzantium). Rhodes became part of Byzantium and remained under its influence for several centuries. During this time, Rhodes was exposed to raids and invasions by various enemies, such as Arabs, Normans, Crusaders and Turks. The Byzantines built fortifications and walls around the city of Rhodes to protect it from attacks.

In 1309, Rhodes was conquered by the Knights Hospitaller, a military and religious order that originated in Jerusalem during the Crusades. The Knights Hospitaller had lost their last stronghold in Palestine, Acre, in 1291, and were looking for a new base in the eastern Mediterranean. They transformed Rhodes into a fortified city-state, with a palace, a hospital, churches and inns. They also established a feudal system on the island, with knights ruling over villages and peasants. The Knights Hospitaller were also known as the Knights of St John or the Knights of Rhodes.

The Knights of Rhodes faced many challenges and dangers from their enemies, especially from the Ottoman Empire, which was expanding its power in Asia Minor and Europe. The Ottomans tried to capture Rhodes several times, but were always repelled by the knights and their allies. The most famous sieges of Rhodes were those of 1444 by Sultan Murad II, 1480 by Sultan Mehmed II (the conqueror of Constantinople) and 1522 by Sultan Suleiman I (the magnificent). The last siege lasted for six months and involved more than 100,000 Ottoman soldiers and 400 ships against 7,000 knights and 6,000 local defenders. The knights fought valiantly but were outnumbered and outgunned by the Ottomans. They eventually surrendered on honorable terms and were allowed to leave Rhodes with their belongings and weapons.

Modern Rhodes

After 1523, Rhodes became part of the Ottoman Empire and remained so until 1912. During this period, many changes occurred on the island: mosques, baths and houses were built; churches were converted into Islamic places of worship; Turkish became the official language; taxes were imposed on non-Muslims; some Rhodians converted to Islam while others emigrated or rebelled against Ottoman rule.

In 1912, during the First Balkan War, Rhodes was occupied by Italy, which wanted to expand its colonial empire in the Mediterranean. The Italians modernized the island, building roads, schools, hospitals and ports. They also restored and preserved the medieval monuments of the Knights of Rhodes, which became a tourist attraction. However, the Italians also imposed their culture and language on the Rhodians, and suppressed any nationalist or communist movements.

In 1943, during World War II, Rhodes was invaded by Nazi Germany, which had allied with Italy but then turned against it after the armistice of Cassibile. The Germans occupied Rhodes until 1945, when they surrendered to the British forces. The British administered Rhodes until 1947, when it was returned to Greece, along with the rest of the Dodecanese islands. Rhodes became part of the Greek state and enjoyed a period of democracy and development.

Today, Rhodes is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece and Europe, attracting millions of visitors every year. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized for its outstanding cultural and historical value. Rhodes is a living testimony of the rich and diverse history of the Aegean Sea, where civilizations and cultures have met and clashed for millennia.