the colourful past of RhodesIn Rhodes every corner of the town, every
stone on the island hides a small part of its 2400-year history.
The ancient city of Rhodes, the construction
of which began in408-407 BC, was
designed using the grid system of city planning devised by the greatest city
planner of antiquity, Hippodamus of Miletus. It was considered one of the most
beautiful and best-organized cities of antiquity, of which we know the exact
placing of streets, squares and buildings.
At that time Rhodes developed into
one of the most important maritime and commercial centers in the Eastern
Mediterranean. Apart from its great achievements in commerce and shipping,
Rhodes also enjoyed prominence in the arts, letters and philosophy. As a province
in the Roman Empire which followed, Rhodes never lost its strategic importance
for the culture and economy of the region, but was not the great and powerful
city it had been in Hellenistic times.
By the 4th century AD, the Hellenistic town
had shrunk to the size that it remained throughout the Byzantine period. Under
the continuous threat of Arab raids, which began in the 7th century, the town
of Rhodes was fortified by the Byzantines, who divided it into two sections: the
Acropolis (later the Grand Masters’ Palace), and the Polis (lower town).
In 1309 AD the Order of the Hospitaller
Knights of St John of Jerusalem settled on the island, using it as their
headquarters for Europe, as well as one of the basic intermediary stations for
the pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land. The Hospitallers fortified the capital
of the island, incorporating the Byzantine fortifications, enclosing an area
larger than the Byzantine town by two-fifths and smaller than the Hellenistic
city by one-fourth. An interior wall running east to west divided the city into
The northern quarter, the Collachium, was the administrative centre
and contained among other buildings, the Palace of the Grand Master and the
Hospital. The larger, southern quarter, called the Burgum, was the heart of the
town, inhabited by a blend of races - Westerners, Jews and mainly, Christian
In 1522 AD Rhodes was conquered by the
Ottoman Turks. During the Ottoman occupation, new buildings were erected within
the Old Town, mainly mosques and baths.
In 1912 Rhodes was occupied by Italian
In 1929 the medieval walls and the cemeteries around the moat were
declared historic landmarks. The walls were cleared of the additions made by
the Ottomans and were restored.
The Palace of the Grand Master was rebuilt and
the Street of the Knights was reconstructed aiming to achieve a European
In 1948, the Dodecanese Islands were
reunited with the rest of Greece. After 1960, when the town was declared a
monument of cultural heritage by the Greek Ministry of Culture, restorations in
the medieval town began to be undertaken by the Ministry of Culture through the
Archaeological Service. Since 1985 the Municipality of Rhodes participates in
the restoration work in collaboration with the Archaeological Service and the
Archaeological Receipts Fund.
In 1988 the Medieval City of Rhodes was
inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in acknowledgment of the uniqueness
of the trans-cultural architectural wealth it is known to represent. Moreover,
the City of Rhodes has been a member of the Organization of World Heritage
Cities, since the Organization was founded in 1993, under the auspices of
In 2003 Rhodes hosted with great success the 7th World Congress of the
OWHC, with the participation of nearly 1000 representatives of Historic Cities
- Mayors and experts - from all over the world.