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RHODES (including Ialysos, Kameiros, Lindos, Vroulia, the city of Rhodes, Mt. Atabyrion) Dodecanese, Greece.

The island of Rhodes emerged from the sea, according to Pindar (01. 7.54-76), to be the portion of the sun god, whose cult continued throughout antiquity more prominent there than elsewhere. Three grandsons of Helios and the nymph Rhodos, daughter of Aphrodite, were the eponymous heroes of the three ancient cities, Ialysos and Kameiros on the W coast and Lindos on the E. Its size, 80 km N to S and about half as much E to W, and its situation, “near the headland of broad Asia” (01. 7.18), with Crete about 140 km away to the SW, have always given Rhodes a peculiar importance among the islands. The many legends, supported by the archaeological finds, mainly from the cemeteries, suggest that in prehistoric times it was both a stepping-stone and in itself an important center, having connections with Minoan Crete, the Argolid and the Greek mainland, Phoenicia and Egypt. The Telchines, fabulous craftsmen, came from Crete by way of Cyprus; Kadmos stopped at Rhodes on his way from Phoenicia to Thebes, Danaos on his way from Egypt to Argos; Thepolemos son of Herakles came from Argos, and led the Rhodian contingent of nine ships to Troy.

For Homer Rhodes was already old in story (Il. 2.653-670), with three notable cities, “Lindos, Ielyssos and shining Kameiros” (the epithet is arginoeis in our text, but one wonders whether in fact Homer said argiloeis, with reference to the clay used for pottery). As Hope-Simpson and Lazenby convincingly show, the Homeric Catalogue of Ships has reference to the late Mycenaean period, and there is no good reason to make an exception of the lines on Rhodes. The sites of all three cities were occupied in Mycenaean times; though in each case the acropolis has been obliterated, the cemeteries below, with their tombs containing pottery and jewelry, have provided evidence. The major site seems to be Ialysos, where the chamber tombs are very numerous. Lindos was relatively modest.

In course of time the Dorians arrived in large numbers, and took over the island and its neighbors; after a comparatively obscure period, Lindos, Kameiros, and Ialysos attained cultural and commercial prosperity, and a renown for seamanship embodied in the saying, “Ten Rhodians, ten ships.” The Rhodians founded important and widespread colonies, notably Gela in Sicily (in cooperation with Cretans) early in the 7th c. (Thuc. 6.4.3-4, who says that the part of the city first fortified is called Lindioi). Together with Kos, Knidos, and Hahikarnassos, the three cities formed a confederation called the Dorian Hexapolis (Hdt. 1.144).

The archaic culture of Rhodes is best represented by the plentiful pottery. The island produced fine work in the Geometric style (particularly in the later phase, i.e., in the 8th c.), found notably at Ialysos, Kameiros, and a cemetery at an inland site called Exochi. Certain E Greek fabrics of the 7th c. in orientalizing style have commonly been called Rhodian, or “Camiran”—vases of the “Wild Goat Style,” so called from the friezes which run round them, and flat plates with animal figures and occasionally human scenes, such as the plate in the British Museum, on which Hektor and Menelaos fight over the body of Euphorbos. The lively Fikellura style, which followed in the 6th c., is named after a place in Rhodes, though it is spread over the S part of the E Greek area. Recent authorities are more cautious about the indiscriminate use of the name “Rhodian” (Samos must have been equally important), but undoubtedly Rhodes played a major part in the production and distribution of archaic E Greek pottery, besides importing Corinthian and other contemporary wares. A group of 6th c. cups which do indeed seem to belong to Rhodes in particular are known as Vroulian from their principal place of discovery. As the 6th c. proceeded, local wares at Rhodes as elsewhere succumbed to Attic competition.

Among archaic sites, Vroulia at the S end of the island is of peculiar interest. The name is modern, and the ancient name is unknown. A wall about 300 m long with a stone sole slightly over one m thick, no doubt originally surmounted by an upper structure of unbaked brick, encloses a coastal strip of land to the SW. Except for a section at the W end, the wall is perfectly straight, and against its inner face was built a continuous row of simple houses, consisting at most of a couple of rooms with a little court in front. At a distance of about 25 m was a second row of houses running parallel. The main gate was probably at the point where the wall changes direction; and nearby is a walled area containing two altars, and an adjacent enclosure which may be an agora. Pottery dates all these structures not much later than 700 B.C. Vroulia was only a little town, no doubt subordinate to one of the major cities, presumably Lindos, but its rectilinear planning represents the first tentative steps, taken at a remarkably early date, which were to lead to the sophisticated methods of Hippodamos, notably in Rhodes itself.

To proceed to times for which we have more solid historical evidence, in the latter part of the 6th c. and the early years of the 5th Rhodes was subject to the Persians. After that the three cities were members of the Delian League, until finally they broke with Athens (Thuc. 8.44), resumed their Dorian connection, and combined in 408 B.C. to found a federal city at the N tip of the island, calling it simply Rhodos. Lindos, Ialysos, and Kameiros were inevitably reduced and subordinate, but by no means derelict. In the 4th c. and the Hellenistic period Rhodes became one of the great cities of the ancient world, preeminent in commerce and culture, in spite of vicissitudes consequent upon its choice of alliances in the great conflicts of the age. It triumphantly withstood a furious attack by Demetrios the Besieger in 305 B.C., vividly described by Diodoros (20.81-88, 91-100), and quickly rose again, with assistance from many sympathetic cities and kings, after the most disastrous of several earthquakes in 227 B.C. For a time it held control of an extensive area on the mainland opposite, the so-called Rhodian Peraea. In the middle of the 2d c. it incurred the displeasure of Rome, which, by developing Delos as a major commercial center, struck a severe blow at Rhodian trade. But though its commerce and naval power were much curtailed, Rhodes continued to be a main center of art and literature, philosophy and rhetorical training (Cicero and many other distinguished Romans studied there). In the Civil War after Caesar's death, the island was ravaged and the city thoroughly pillaged by Cassius; but Strabo still found it a city of unparalleled beauty (14.2.5, 652). The island suffered disastrous earthquakes again in A.D. 345 and 515, and the great city was reduced to the comparatively small mediaeval town which was eventually taken over by the Knights of St. John, and won fresh glory by its heroic resistance to the Turks.

The new capital was built on a new site, roughly triangular with the apex at the extreme N tip of the island, measuring about 3,000 m N to S and a little less E to W. The harbors were on the E side—the main harbor in the middle, a smaller one to the N, and a more open roadstead to the SE. The moles which protect the natural bays are ancient in origin. There was also a small harbor, now silted up, on the W coast towards the N. From the region of the E harbors the ground rises theater-like SW towards a plateau about 90 m high. This was the acropolis or upper town of ancient Rhodes, though it was never a fortified citadel.

The city walls were famous for their strength and beauty. Very little has survived—the Knights no doubt used the material to build the tremendous fortifications of their much smaller town; but sections of the foundation or socle here and there, mostly Hellenistic, are enough to determine the general course. The wall followed the coast on two sides of the triangle; on the base, to the S, it took an irregular line in search of defensible contours.

According to Strabo (14.2.9, 654), “the city was founded by the same architect who founded Peiraeus,” i.e., Hippodamos of Miletos. The famous town-planner must have been very old by 408 B.C., but that is not a sufficient reason for denying him the credit. The plan of Rhodes as we know it is precisely what one has come to recognize as Hippodamian. Its general scheme has been drawn by Kondis, Bradford, and Konstantinopoulos. Excavation has necessarily been sporadic and largely fortuitous, since the mediaeval and modern city covers much of the area; but many sections of streets with their adjoining buildings have been uncovered at diverse points, revealing that the basic plan was a rectangular grid orientated very nearly N to S and E to W. Remains of underground drains and water-channels of various types have been found, and many of these fit into the same pattern. Once the grid had been determined, it became clear that some of the streets of the mediaeval town, including the famous Street of the Knights, follow the course of ancient predecessors; and that important stretches of the great walls built by Grand Masters Pierre d'Aubusson and Éméry d'Amboise are based upon the lines of ancient streets. In addition, air photography has revealed features which one would hardly notice at ground level, especially in the SW region of the acropolis. We are told by the rhetorician Aristeides (43.6) that this part of the town was laid out in a spacious park-like manner; it is now largely rural in aspect, but the air photographs show that terraces, field boundaries, and lanes follow a rectilinear scheme which conforms with the ancient grid.

It is fair to assume that this master plan is the one conceived by Hippodamos in 408 B.C. There is no trace of any which is earlier and divergent. Admittedly the remains are mostly Hellenistic; but here and there they take us back to the 1st c. of the city. We can imagine that the Hippodamian method of nemesis or careful allocation of sites was applied from the beginning; but the process of building was a long one, punctuated by destruction, by siege and earthquake.

Some of the most important elements in the plan cannot now be securely placed. The agora, according to Bradford, probably extended W from the great harbor. A street which has been discovered, lined with colonnades in the Roman period, may have led into it from the S. The theater was somewhere near the wall on the inland side (cf. Diod. Sic. 20.98.6, 8).

The Colossus, a huge bronze statue of Helios, set up to commemorate the successful resistance to Demetrios, did not of course bestride the harbor mouth; and Maryon has shown that it could hardly have been constructed at the end of a mole, and more probably stood in the city center.

The most visible ancient monument in the lower city is the foundation of a Temple of Aphrodite, built in the 3d c. B.C. just W of the great harbor; of the superstructure only a few fragments survive. A little to the W are slight remains of a Shrine of Dionysos, incorporated in the foundations of a chapel (Clara Rhodos I 46; cf. Lucian Amores 8). To the N, in the neighborhood of the smaller (N) harbor, remains of ship-sheds have recently been further investigated.

The ancient buildings most worth seeing are away to the SW, finely placed on the E brow of the acropolis. Towards the N end are the foundations of the Temple of Zeus and Athena. Some distance farther S is the Temenos of Pythian Apollo, a rectangular enclosure, with a massive retaining wall on the E, where a broad flight of steps gives access. Within the enclosure is a Doric temple, built of limestone, in the 2d c. B.C.; several of the columns on the E facade have been reerected. Just below this point to the E is the N end of the great stadium, built into the hillside and extending over 183 m to its semicircular S end. Adjoining the stadium on the N is a small theater, which has been reconstructed, and to the E are remains which may belong to a gymnasium.

Beyond the S cross wall lie the extensive cemeteries. Southeast of the city are remains of an ancient (probably late Hellenistic) bridge, crossing a ravine. Not far from the park of Rodini is the most impressive of a number of rock-cut tombs, fancifully known as the Tomb of the Ptolemies, with a main chamber and an antechamber and a facade of half-columns.

When one reflects on the glories of the ancient city, the extant remains seem meager and disappointing, all the more so in comparison with the splendid medieaval walls and houses. Even the known temples are not particularly grand. Apparently it was the general harmonious effect which impressed ancient writers. Aristeides (43.6) says that with all its varied splendors—walls, temples, works of sculpture, and painting—the city was like a single great house: Lucian (Amores 8) compares its beauty to that of Helios himself.

Outside the capital the most spectacular development took place at Lindos, in the famous Shrine of Athena Lindia. The acropolis of Lindos falls in precipitous cliffs, undercut in places, to the sea on the E. Towards the N is the main harbor; to the S is the inlet where St. Paul is said to have landed. The Shrine of Athena on the summit of the acropolis was founded by Danaos, according to legend. The extant temple had at least two shadowy predecessors; the tyrant-sage Kleoboulos is said to have built a temple in the 6th c. B.C., and a rock-cut stairway probably belongs to this phase. The great architectural development of the site took place in the 4th c. B.C., though some elements may be later; precise dating is disputed. The 4th c. temple, built after a disastrous fire which is recorded in the inscription known as the “Lindian temple-chronicle,” is modest in size and appearance compared with its setting, both natural and architectural. It is a rather narrow building, nearly 22 x 8 m, orientated NE and SW, with its SE side close to the cliff edge. It had a porch of four Doric columns at either end, and like the other buildings of the shrine, it was constructed of a local limestone. Some of the terracottas found on the site may give an idea of the cult statue. Not far from the NW corner of the temple have been found traces of what may be an altar; Athena Lindia was traditionally worshiped with fireless sacrifices. According to the scholia in Pindar, Gorgon, historian of Rhodes, said that the magnificent ode (Ol. 7) in honor of Diagoras, greatest of boxers, was inscribed in letters of gold in the Temple of Lindian Athena, but one might expect this monument to be set up rather at Diagoras' native town Ialysos. The temple-chronicle gives a list of notable offerings in the shrine.

The so-called propylaia are in fact a complex consisting of colonnades bordering three sides of the court in front of the temple, with rooms on the NW side (another small colonnade was added later on the SW side adjoining the temple); and an outer colonnade facing down the hill to the NE, with projecting temple-like wings at either end. A broad stair leads on down to another stoa, of great length (about 87 m) similarly facing outwards and downwards, and making a short return at either end. This was the latest element in the grand scheme. Portions of stoa, propylaia, and temple have been not very effectively or securely restored.

The great stoa opened onto a spacious terrace, reached from below by a stairway in the middle. In late Hellenistic times the terrace was extended to about double its original width, by means of vaulted substructures, and the stair was rebuilt in narrower form. Lower down the slope, to the NE, was a temple of Roman date, built on a podium, about 9 x 16 m, with a porch of four columns facing back up the hill. The shrine is assigned by some to a hero called Psithyros (Whisperer), known from an inscription, but by Dyggve to a deified emperor, possibly Diocletian.

Remains of the ancient wall of the acropolis are slight, Hellenistic in date, and mainly on the N. The whole site was eventually enclosed within the great fortifications of the Knights. At the foot of the stairway which leads up to the entrance on the N is a large Hellenistic rock-cut relief representing the elegant up-curving prow of a ship; a projecting platform carried a statue of one Agesandros, dedicated by himself.

A small theater, about 28 m in diameter, holding about 2,000, was built into the SW slope of the hill; the middle section of the seats, cut into the rock, is best preserved. Nearby are remains of a rectangular court with Doric colonnades, possibly associated with the cult of Dionysos.

A fine model made under the direction of Dyggve and installed in the National Museum at Copenhagen gives a vivid impression of the appearance of the acropolis in Hellenistic times.

The city of Lindos stretched inland and W, a good deal farther than the present town. Of the scanty remains outside the acropolis the most remarkable are the monumental tombs. One of these, situated to the W of the town on Mt. Krana, is the family mausoleum of Archokrates (late 2d c. B.C.), a chamber cut into the rock with a two storied facade whose lower element is adorned with Doric columns. On the N, on the farther side of the main harbor, is a circular structure 9 m in diameter, popularly known, without any good reason, as the Tomb of Kleoboulos. It has not yet been fully studied, and while Dyggve places it in the 2d c. B.C., Kondis thinks it may prove to be a good deal earlier. In the Middle Ages it was used as a church.

At Ialysos in the NW, in contrast with the extensive and highly productive cemeteries on the lower ground towards Trianda, structural remains of the city are scanty. On the summit plateau of the hill of Phileremos, the ancient acropolis, adjacent to the church of the monastery, are the foundations and column fragments of the Temple of Athena and Zeus Polieus, a Doric structure of the 4th c. B.C.; vestiges of a 6th c. temple and an older shrine have been found. The most impressive ancient monument on the site is a late 4th c. fountain-house built into the hillside lower down the slope to the S, one of the best examples of its type. A facade of Doric columns in limestone, now partly reconstructed, stood in front of a parapet consisting of two courses of slabs set between rectangular pilasters, behind which was the water basin.

Several km down the coast to the SW, towards the border of the territory of Kameiros, was a deme of Ialysos named Kastanioi. Here, near a place now called Tholos (a corruption of Theologos), are the ruins of the Temple of Apollo Erethimios, a Doric structure with two columns in antis, and of a theater nearby. The shrine is identified by inscriptions, and the title is derived from the placename Erethima. The temple was probably built at the end of the 5th c., but the cult existed much earlier and continued into Roman times.

At Kameiros are more extensive and imposing remains, which show evidence of impressive planning in the Hellenistic period. Here again we have a theater-like site, with the ground rising to E and W; to the S the hill forms an acropolis or upper town, which does not seem to have been fortified as a citadel. In the middle of the lower town is a large open area partially bordered by colonnades, which may have been an agora, or perhaps a sacred temenos; on the W side are the remains of a Doric temple, of which some columns have been reerected. On the E is a retaining wall, behind which at a higher level runs a principal street. To the N of this area is a large semicircular exedra, and to the E of this a broad low flight of steps leading up to a smaller enclosure containing a number of altars, obviously an important sacrificial area, from which the same street could be reached by another flight of steps at the S end of its E side. The main street ran S in the direction of the acropolis, with cross-streets joining it, and the blocks thus formed were occupied by houses, some of which had colonnaded courts. Along the N brow of the acropolis hill a Doric colonnade of great length was built in the 3d c. B.C., forming an impressive background to the town as seen from the N. The excavators reerected a few of the columns to show the effect, only to have them flattened again by a storm. Behind the stoa, to the S, are the ruins of a Temple of Athena, an archaic shrine rebuilt in Hellenistic times. The city also has notable remains of cisterns, aqueducts, and drains. To the S stretch the principal cemeteries from which the treasures of the earlier periods have been retrieved.

Looking in this direction one sees the peak of Mt. Atabyrion, the highest point on the island (1,233 m), where as on many summits Zeus was worshiped. Parts of a walled precinct have survived, but it is not clear whether or not the confused remains within prove the existence of an ancient temple. Many dedications to the god have been found, including small bronze bulls. The name of the mountain seems to be of Semitic origin, being the Greek form of the Palestinian Tabor. The cult of Zeus Atabyrios was of immemorial antiquity, founded, according to the story told by Apollodoros (Bibl. 3.2) and Diodoros (5.59), by Althaimenes, who, fleeing from Crete to avoid parricide, landed in Rhodes at a place which he named Kretinia. He established the shrine on the neighboring mountain top, from which he could survey the islands and see in the distance his native land. Polybios reports (9.27.7) that on the summit of the acropolis of Akragas (which was founded by Gela), “was established a Shrine of Athena and of Zeus Atabyrios, as among the Rhodians”; this suggests but does not prove that Athena too had a cult on the mountain. Appian (12.26) shows that in Hellenistic times Zeus Atabyrios had a more accessible shrine near the city wall; but the dedications prove that even then some devotees still climbed where Althaimenes stood.

The Archaeological Museum at Rhodes, now in process of reorganization, houses finds from the various sites on the island, as well as some from neighboring islands, though some of the material from the earlier excavations went to the British and other museums, and some sculpture from Lindos is at Istanbul and Copenhagen. The exhibits include archaic kouroi, fine funerary reliefs, a head of Zeus from Atabyrion, a head of Helios, the “Aphrodite of Rhodes” (a crouching figure less than life size) and another Hellenistic Aphrodite; Mycenaean jewelry; pottery ranging from Mycenaean through Geometric and orientalizing (notably the “Rhodian” fabrics, of course) to Attic black-figure and red-figure; mosaics (more can be seen in the restored Palace of the Grand Masters); and missiles used in the great sieges. Situated at the corner of Museum Square and the Street of the Knights, the museum itself is a “museum piece,” since it is one of the finest and most interesting mediaeval buildings of Rhodes, the hospital in which the Order of St. John performed its original humane and merciful task.


Legends: see esp. Pind. Olymp. 7; Apollod. Bibl. 3.2; Diod. Sic. 5.55-59; Strab. 14.2.6-8 (653-54); Ath. 8.360d-61c.

General: E. Billiotti & A. Cottret, L'Île de Rhodes (1881); C. Torr, Rhodes in Ancient Times (1885); S. G. Zervos, Rhodes, Capitale du Dodecaèse (1920)I; Clara Rhodos, Studi e materiali publicati a cura dell'lnstituto Storico Archaeologico di Rodi I-X (1928-41); F. Hiller von Gaertringen, “Rhodos,” RE Suppl. V (1931) 731-840 (historical and epigraphical bibliography 818-19)M; R. Matton, Rhodes (1949)I; J. Currie, Rhodes and the Dodecanese (1970); R. U. Inglieri, Carta archeologica dell'isola di Rodi (1936)M.

Early Periods: H. F. Kinch, Fouilles de Vroulia (1914)PI; R. M. Cook, Greek Painted Pottery (1960) 116ff, 132ff, 140ff, bibliography 345-47; H. Drerup, Griechische Baukunst in Geometrische Zeit (1961) 51-52; Chrysoula Kardara, Ῥοδιακὴ Ἀγγειογραφία (1963)I; V. Desborough, The Last Myceneans (1964) 152-58; J. N. Coldstream, Greek Geometric Pottery (1968) 274-87I; R. Hope Simpson & J. F. Lazenby, The Catalogue of the Ships in Homer's Iliad (1970) 117-20; id. & id., “Notes from the Dodecanese,” BSA 68 (1973) 127-79M.

City of Rhodes: J. D. Kondis, Συμβολὴ εἐς τὴν μελέτην τῆς π̔υμοτομίας (1954); J. Bradford, “Aerial Discoveries in Attica and Rhodes,” AntJ 36 (1956) 57-69PI; R. Martin, L'Urbanisme dans le Grèce antique (1956) 148-49; H. Maryon, “The Colossus of Rhodes,” JHS 76 (1956) 68-86I; J. Bradford, Ancient Landscapes (1957) 227-86PI; J. D. Kondis, “Zum antiken Stadtbauplan von Rhodos,” AthMitt 73 (1958) 146-58P; R. E. Wycherley, “Hippodamus and Rhodes,” Historia 13 (1964) 135-39; G. Constantinopoulos, “Rhodes, New Finds and Old Problems” (trans. by J. W. Graham), Archaeology 21 (1968) 115-23PI; see further annual reports in Deltion, Ergon, and AAA; for ship-sheds see forthcoming report by D. Blackman in BSA.

Lindos: C. Blinkenberg, Die Lindische Tempelchronik (1915); Blinkenberg, K. F. Kinch, & E. Dyggve, Lindos, fouilles et recherches, I (1931); II (1941); and esp. III (1960) Le sanctuaire d'Athana Lindia et l'architecture lindienne, by Dyggve, with a catalogue of sculpture by Vagn PoulsenMPI; note Kondis's detailed critique of this volume in Gnomon 35 (1963) 392-404; C. Konstantinopoulos (see “City of Rhodes” above; photo of model).

Ialysos: Clara Rhodos (1928) I 72ff (acropolis, temple of Athens, fountain-house)PI; B. Dunkley, “Greek Fountain Buildings,” BSA 36 (1935-36); id., Ialysos 184ff; id., RE Suppl. v 748-49.

Kameiros: Clara Rhodos (1932) VI-VII 222-65 (acropolis); Clara Rhodos (1928) I 88ff.

Zeus Atabyrios: A. B. Cook, Zeus (1914) I 117; (1925) II 922-25.


hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.144
    • Strabo, Geography, 14.2.6
    • Thucydides, Histories, 8.44
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.4.3-4
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 5.55
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 20.98.6
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