Rhodes ( ῾Ρόδος, rosy), an island in the Mediterranean, near the coast of Asia Minor, celebrated from the remotest antiquity as the seat of commerce, navigation, literature and the arts, but now reduced to a state of abject poverty by the devastations of war and the tyranny and rapacity of its Turkish rulers.
I. Scriptural Notices. — The Sept. translators place the Rhodians among the children of Javan (Ge 10:4), and in this they are followed by Eusebius, Jerome, and Isidore; but Bochart maintains that the Rhodians are too modern to have been planted there by any immediate son of Javan, and considers that Moses rather intended the Gauls on the Mediterranean towards the mouth of the Rhone, near Marseilles, where there was a district called Rhodanusia, and a city of the same name. They also render Eze 27:15, "children of the Rhodians," instead of, as in the Hebrew, "children of Dedan" Calmet considers it probable that here they read "children of Redan, or Rodan," but that in Ge 10:4 they read "Dedan," as in the Hebrew. In the time of the consolidation of the Roman power in the Levant we have a notice of Jewish residents in Rhodes (1 Macc. 15:23). Paul touched there on his return voyage to Syria from the third missionary journey (Ac 21:1). It does not appear that he landed from the ship. The day before he had been at Cos, an island to the northwest; and from Rhodes he proceeded eastwards to Patara, in Lycia. It seems, from all the circumstances of the narrative, that the wind was blowing from the northwest, as it very often does in that part of the Levant. Two incidents in the life of Herod the Great connected with Rhodes are well worthy of mention here. When he went to Italy, about the close of the last republican struggle, he found that the city had suffered much from Cassius, and gave liberal sums to restore it (Josephus, Ant. 14, 4, 3). Here, also, after the battle of Actium, he met Augustus and secured his favor (ibid. 15, 6, 6).
II. History. — Rhodes was an ancient Dorian settlement made, probably, soon after the conquest of Peloponnesus; but in process of time the different races became fused together and were distinguished for commercial enterprise. They built the superb city of Rhodes at the northern extremity of the island, and thus took advantage of the magnificent harbor which the earlier settlers had overlooked. After this it prospered greatly and passed through various fortunes in a political respect, becoming for a time connected with the Carian dynasty, then with the Persian empire, and at a later period it became famous for a memorable siege it sustained against the arms of Demetrius Poliorcetes, from whom it obtained honorable terms of peace. The citizens now set themselves to clear the Aegean Sea of pirates, an enterprise in which they completely succeeded; and it was to their exertions that merchants owed the safety of their ships and the possibility of extending their commerce. The mercantile tastes and honorable character of this people procured them the goodwill of all the civilized world. They possessed in perfection those virtues in which the rest of the Greeks were so lamentably deficient. They were upright, conscientious, and prudent. While they cultivated trade they did not neglect science, literature, and art; and, though the time of their prosperity was subsequent to the decline of the intellectual supremacy of Greece, the Rhodian era was a long and a happy one. The people formed an alliance with Rome, and maintained throughout the Roman period their independence; and, while they faithfully kept every article of their treaties, they avoided anything like servility. In the time of Antoninus Pius Rhodes was not only free itself, but extended the advantages of its free constitution to many of the surrounding islands and a considerable district in Caria on the opposite coast. Nor was Rhodes by any means despicable in literary reputation. Cleobulus, reckoned among the seven sages, was a Rhodian; Callimachus and Apollonius were eminent as poets; and eloquence was understood and cherished in Rhodes when it was all but extinct in every other part of Greece. Cicero went to study here, and the young Roman nobles made Rhodes their university as they had formerly done with Athens.
Under Constantine it was the metropolis of the "Province of the Islands." It was the last place where the Christians of the East held out against the advancing Saracens; and subsequently it was once more famous as the home and fortress of the Knights of St. John. The most prominent remains of the city and harbor are memorials of those knights.
In modern times Rhodes has been chiefly celebrated as one of the last retreats of this military order, under whom it obtained great celebrity by its heroic resistance to the Turks; but in the time of Soliman the Great a capitulation was agreed upon and the island was finally surrendered to the Turks, under whom it has since continued. It is now governed by a Turkish pasha, who exercises despotic sway, seizes upon the property of the people at his pleasure, and from whose vigilant rapacity scarcely anything can be concealed. Under this iron rule the inhabitants are ground to poverty and the island is becoming rapidly depopulated.
III. Description and Remains. — Rhodes is immediately opposite the high Carian and Lycian headlands at the southwest extremity of the peninsula of Asia Minor. It is of a triangular form, about forty-four leagues in circumference, twenty leagues long from north to south, and about six broad. In the center is a lofty mountain named Artemira, which commands a view of the whole island; of the elevated coast of Carmania, on the north; the archipelago, studded with numerous islands, on the northwest; Mount Ida, veiled in clouds, on the southwest; and the wide expanse of waters that wash the shores of Africa on the south and southeast. It was famed in ancient times and is still celebrated for its delightful climate and the fertility of its soil. The gardens are filled with delicious fruit, every gale is scented with the most powerful fragrance wafted from the groves of orange and citron trees, and the numberless aromatic herbs exhale such a profusion of the richest odors that the whole atmosphere seems impregnated with spicy perfume. It is well watered by the river Candura and numerous smaller streams and rivulets that spring from the shady sides of Mount Artemira. It contains two cities — Rhodes, the capital, inhabited chiefly by Turks and a small number of Jews; and the ancient Lindus, now reduced to a hamlet, peopled by Greeks who are almost all engaged in commerce. Besides these there are five villages occupied by Turks and a small number of Jews, and five towns and forty-one villages inhabited by Greeks. The whole population was estimated by Savary at 36,500; but Turner, a later traveler, estimates them only at 20,000, of whom 14,000 were Greeks and 6000 Turks, with a small mixture of Jews residing chiefly in the capital.
The city of Rhodes is famous for its huge brazen statue of Apollo, called Colossus, which stood at the mouth of the harbor, and was so high that ships passed in full sail between its legs. It was the work of Chares of Lindus, the disciple of Lysippus; its height was one hundred and twenty-six feet, and twelve years were occupied in its construction. It was thrown down by an earthquake in the reign of Ptolemy III, Euergetes, king of Egypt, after having stood fifty-six years. The brass of which it was composed was a load for nine hundred camels. Its extremities were sustained by sixty pillars of marble, and a winding staircase led up to the top, whence a view might be obtained of Syria and the ships proceeding to Egypt in a large looking glass suspended to the neck of the statue. There is not a single vestige of this celebrated work of art now remaining. The present antiquities of Rhodes reach no further back than the residence of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. The remains of their fine old fortress, of great size and strength, are still to be seen. The cells of the Knights are entire, but the sanctuary has been converted by the Turks into a magazine for military stores. The early coins of Rhodes bear the conventional rose flower, with the name of the island, on one side, and the head of Apollo, radiated like the sun, on the other. It was a proverb that the sun shone every day in Rhodes.
See Meursius, De Rhodo (Amst. 1675); Coronelli, Isola di Rodi (Ven. 1702); Paulsen, Descriptio Rhodi (Gott. 1818); Rost, Rhodus (Alton. 1823); Menge, Vorgeschichte von Rhodus (Cologne, 1827); and especially Rottier, Les Monuments de Rhodes (Brussels, 1828); Ross, Reisen nach Rhodos (Halle, 1852); Berg, Die Insel Rhodus (Brunswick, 1861).