Brief History

The Romans besiege and finally seize Rhodos, capture its flee and loot most of its famous treasures of art, in order to bring them to Latium to decorate the palaces and villas of the noble. Although Rhodos managed to sustain most of its cultural status, the beginning of the decline was apparent, leading eventually to the island’s becoming a mere province of the Roman, and subsequently its successor – Byzantine Empire. As a result of this decline, as well as natural disasters and enemy raids, the glorious ancient town finally found itself limited to the size of what we now call the Medieval City. It did not stop being a highly strategic naval base and a main commercial station, but the days of its glory were nothing more than memories.

From the Romans and all through the Byzantine period, Rhodos changed one master after the other, until 1309, when the island falls to the hands of the multi-national military / religious Order of the Knights of St John, who – forced by the Muslims to leave the Holy Lands – are seeking a new land to settle. In these years, Rhodos becomes an ethnological conglomerate, getting in close contact with Western Europe in terms of economy, politics and culture, thus becoming once more one of the most important commercial and naval centres of Europe, controlling communication between the East and the West.

As the knights are forced to face the muslim threat in various fronts, they fortify the city with significantly robust offensive constructions, which consequently grant Rhodos the title of the most well-fortified city of its time. At the same time, impressive public buildings, such as the Grandmaster’s Palace and the Hospital are built. Thanks to its strong fortification, the city manages to withstand the big Turkish siege of 1480. In 1522, however, the Turks return and this time the knights, after six months of bloody battles and due to one of their brothers’ treason, are forced to surrender and move to Malta, while Rhodos becomes once more a province of a big Empire: the Ottoman.