so, back into rhodes. let’s do the history, in brief:
|turkey is that close. this matters for history.|
- the island was settled in prehistoric times but didn’t start to develop major cities until after the trojan war1.
- it became part of the roman empire and then, after the division of the empire, part of byzantium.
- in a.d. 620, it was captured by the persians, but then the arabs invaded 33 years later. the byzantines didn’t reassert control until a.d. 718.
- the crusaders moved in and took control in the 13th century2 and then turned the island over to the knights of the order of st. john in the 14th century (the knights hospitaller of jerusalem3).
- the knights built rhodes into the medieval town one sees today, and ruled until 1522, when the ottomans completed a six-month siege of the city (after having failed to take the city in 1480). the knights were allowed to leave, and they went to malta.
- the ottomans kept possession of the island until 1912, when it passed to the italians after world war i. finally, the greeks took over in 1948.4
the old town was surrounded by concentric walls, so there is a deep ditch around the city, and the ground is littered with these enormous stone balls. according to our guide, these were the missiles that the ottomans fired using a primitive form of crossbow-cannon: tubes were fitted at the end with a band woven from a combination of horsehair and women’s hair, in which the attackers could load one of these balls, pull the “string” back, aim the cannon, and then let it go. our guide further explained that after the ottomans had gone through their supply of cannon balls, they asked to buy them back so they could continue their siege. the knights refused.5 another website attributes the stone balls to the siege machine of the persians, while wikipedia simply makes reference to 260 kilogram cannon balls shot with an actual cannon.
now we go on to the knights’ castle. very imposing from the outside:
and some detail from the inside:
many rooms had mosaics, some of which were taken from ancient homes. the architects would put down some kind of resin on the tiles and cover it with a cloth; they then peeled the entire mosaic up from the floor, rolled them up like a carpet, and rolled them back out in the new settings. the upstairs rooms, we were told, had magnificent painted tile floors, but during world war ii, the castle was used as troop headquarters first by the italians and then by the british, and their boots caused a lot of damage, so this part of the castle was off limits.6
going back into town, i began wandering the back alleys to enjoy the light and shapes.
the afternoon light in the mediterranean is amazing; i’ll probably do a blog posting just dedicated to the light that hits from 3-6 pm.
finally, we climbed the clock tower to enjoy the view:
next: live at the apollo (part 2)
once again, with apologies to will cuppy:
1. according to http://www.rhodesguide.com. i guess that before the trojan war, it was too early.↩
2. isn’t that just like them?↩
3. some of the people in the city even may be descended from the knights hospitaller; nonetheless, three of the people in our party never got their entrées at dinner friday night.↩
4. the bus system is great, but avoid the casino.↩
6. whereas our dog bypasses the tile floors to throw up on our expensive turkish carpets, but he still has run of the house. some people are just too sensitive.↩