Located between the country of Turkey and the Greek Island of Crete, this Dodecanese island has a little something for everyone. Over the centuries, Rhodes has seen the ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, The Order of the Knights of St. John, the Ottomans, and the Italians — as you can imagine, the cultural identity of Rhodes is quite unique.
Rhodes, or in modern Greek Ródos also spelled Ródhos, constitutes a dímos (municipality) within the South Aegean region. Rhodes (Ródos) city on the northern tip of the island, is the largest city of the South Aegean region. The island is traversed northwest-southeast by hills that reach 3,986 feet (1,215 metres) in the summit of Atáviros. The peak commands a view of the coast of Asia Minor, the Dodecanese archipelago, and on clear days, the summit of Mount Ídi (Psíloreítis) on Crete (Kríti). In antiquity the island was infested with snakes, and it is said that the name may derive from erod, Phoenician for “snake.” Farmers still wear leather boots for protection from a surviving poisonous species. In Pindar’s ode however, it is said that the island was born of the union between Helios, the sun god, and Rhodos, the nymph he fell in love with.
As mentioned, Rhodes is the largest island of the Dodecanese islands which consist of 12 large and 150 small islands, and the fourth largest island in Greece (after Crete, Evia, Lesvos). It covers 1,401 sq. km. It is situated at the crossroads of the two sea routes of the Mediterranean, between the Aegean Sea and the coasts of the Middle East. It is located 460 km southeast of Athens, 380 km west of Cyprus and 18 km southwest of Turkey. The coastline of the island measure 253 km in length and 151 km of beaches. The island has a length of 80 km (49.71 miles) and maximum width of 39 km (24.24 miles).
Rhodes current population is little over 117,000 inhabitants. Over 50,000 inhabitants live in its capital city and the remaining inhabitants in the 42 picturesque villages of the island. The local language is Greek, the majority of the residents also speak English. The predominant religion is Greek Orthodox. The Metropolis of Rhodes belongs to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. There is a significant Latin Catholic minority (over 2.000, many are descendants of Italians remaining on the island after the Italian dictatorship). Rhodes has a Turkish Muslim minority (over 3.500, mostly remnant from Ottoman Turkish times). 7 Jewish families (approx. 40 persons) remain on the island. Most of the inhabitants are occupied in the tourism industry (service) although historically the main industry was agriculture, stockbreeding, fishery, and viticulture. The valleys provide rich pasture, while the plains produce a variety of grains. The main produce on the island is grain, olive oil, wine, figs and vegetables. The tap water is drinkable and restaurants will serve glasses of ice water upon request.
Rhodes has been blessed with a beautiful natural environment, a big variety of beaches, green valleys, mountains, forests, rich and uniquely diverse flora & fauna. It has plentiful water, diverse soil distribution, and favorable climate conditions.
Due to the Mediterranean climate, the habitats of the island mainly belong to the Eumeditteranean vegetation zone. Exceptionally rare, unique mixed forests with Turkish Pine trees (Pinus Brutia) and Mediterranean Cypress trees, Pistacia trees (Postacia Lentiscus), the kermes oak (Quercus coccifera). The hinterland also includes olive groves while the coastal areas are dominated by cedar trees (Juniperus sp). The unique plant species of Rhodes include oriental sweetgum (Liquidambar Orientalis). There are 1350 plants recorded on Rhodes of which 8 are local endemic, 13 are endemic to the Aegean and 64 are endemic to Rhodes and Turkey. Some of the rarest are Komper’s Orchid, one of the most beautiful and certainly one of the rarest in Europe, Rhodian Peony, one of the most impressive wildflowers on the island, and Candia Tulip that grows in Rhodes, on Crete, and in South Turkey.
The main animal, as well as the symbol of the island, is the fallow deer of Rhodes (Dama Dama), known locally as “platoni”. This is the only wild population of deer in Greece, protected under Greek legislation since 1969. Other important animal species are the Mediterranean Mon Seal (among the rarest and most endangered species), the Rhodian Bonelli’s Eagle, the Butterfly of Rhodes (Panaxia Quatripunktaria, their concentration in the area is due to the forests of oriental sweetgum and the type of resin it produces), Ghizani or Minia fish (a rare and one if the most endangered freshwater species in Europe), and the Loggerhead Sea Turtle – the only species of turtle that reproduces in Greece (it has existed on our planet since the age of dinosaurs)!
The highest elevation is 1216 m (3,990 ft) – Ataviros Mountain. Remains of the Zeus temple are found at the peak of the mountain. The second highest mountain is Gramytis or Akramytis 823 m (2,700 ft), followed by Prophet Elias mount 800 m (2,625 ft).
DID YOU KNOW?
Fascinating facts about Rhodes. Information that is worth knowing:
*The Lindians (Lindos) were the first to draw up a code of maritime law, later known as the Rhodian law. This became the basis for Roman maritime law, and even today forms the backbone of the law of the sea!
*The Acropolis of Lindos is the second most visited Acropolis in Greece, after Athens Acropolis!
* To diminish the weight of the dome of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) in Constantinople (Istanbul today), very light tiles of a white spongy earth were used which were manufactured on Rhodes!
*The logo of the athletic footwear “NIKE” was adopted from Greek Goddess, Nike (Winged Victory) hence the name. The actual logo is believed to be the wing of the Goddess. The statue was commissioned (around 190 BC) to celebrate a naval victory by Rhodes.
* The Greek flag is called “Galanolefki” which means “blue and white”. Originally it was blue with a white diagonal cross. The cross is now situated in the upper left corner and symbolizes the Christian faith. Blue represents the colour of the sea, and white represents freedom, something that Greeks hold very dear after years of enslavement under the Turks. The nine stripes each symbolize a syllable in the Greek motto of freedom: E-LEF-THE-RI-A – E – THA-NA-TOS, which translates to Freedom or Death