Rhodes

Time has mercifully left many places untouched, including the Mediterranean island of Rhodes, which seems virtually unchanged from the days when it was a medieval cultural center. A center of commerce in the centuries before Christ, Rhodes once housed one of the seven wonders of the world, the magnificent Colossus, which fell in an earthquake in the third century B.C.

In the Middle Ages, Rhodes served as a stopping point for European Crusaders, until it was taken from the Byzantine Empire in 1309 by the Christian Knights of St. John, who needed a new base after their ignominious rout from Jerusalem. The Knights refortified the island, building a huge bastion on the site of the Colossus, and withstood sieges by the Egyptians and Turks, finally surrendering in 1522 to a vastly larger Ottoman Turkish force.

Rhodes remained an Ottoman stronghold for centuries, but the winds of fortune and war refuse to allow anyone to possess the island permanently. Today it is part of Greece, but that, too, may change. Rhodes is situated on the Turkish coast, and in the event of war between Turkey and Greece, unfortunately a likely possibility, it will be a prime target for the Turks along with Cyprus, the real focus of the dispute.

Man-made and natural disasters, including many wars and a host of devastating earthquakes, have made Rhodes a unique architectural showcase. Among the ruins are examples of many different styles and periods, and the influences of European, Muslim, and ancient Greek cultures blend together in a timeless harmony. The remains of a Greek temple on the Acropolis of Lindos tower over the city, facing out towards Turkey. Far below, the white houses of Lindos stand in sharp contrast to the stark hills.

The people of Rhodes seem unaffected by their historical promimence or the ever-present threat of war. In the city of Rhodes, life continues as it has for centuries: a tradesman prepares his foodstuffs for market, a group of scholars pause to talk on a medieval street.

A peaceful backwater in the modern world, Rhodes is fortunate enough to have avoided the ravages of progress, standing in silent testimony to the events of days long past.