Rhodes in the New Testament
Rhodes is an island (and city) in the Aegean Sea, West of Caria, rough and rocky in parts, but well watered and productive, though at present not extensively cultivated. Almost one-third of the island is now covered with trees in spite of earlier deforestation. The highest mountains attain an altitude of nearly 4,000 ft.
The older names were Ophiusa, Asteria, Trinacria, Corymbia. The capital in antiquity was Rhodes, at the northeastern extremity, a strongly fortitled city provided with a double harbor. Near the entrance of the harbor stood one of the seven wonders of the ancient world--a colossal bronze statue dedicated to Helios. Tiffs colossus, made by Chares about 290 BC, at a cost of 300 talents ($300,000 in 1915), towered to the height of 104 ft.
In the popular mind--both before and after Shakespeare represented Caesar as bestriding the world like a colossus--this gigantic figure is conceived as an image of a human being of monstrous size with leas spread wide apart, at the entrance of the inner harbor, so huge that the largest ship with sails spread could move in under it; but the account on which this conception is based seems to have no foundation.
The statue was destroyed in 223 BC by an earthquake. It was restored by the Romans. In 672 AD the Saracens sold the ruins to a Jew. The quantity of metal was so areat that it would fill the cars of a modern freight train (900 camel loads).
The most ancient cities of Rhodes were Ialysus, Ochyroma, and Lindus. The oldest inhabitants were immigrants from Crete. Later came the Carians. But no real advance in civilization was made before the immigration of the Dorians under Tlepolemus, one of the Heraclidae, and (after the Trojan war) Aethaemanes. Lindus, Ialysus and Camirus formed with Cos, Cnidus and Halicarnassus the so-called Dorian Hexapolis (Six Cities), the center of which was the temple of the Triopian Apollo on the coast of Caria. Rhodes now founded many colonies--in Spain (Rhode), in Italy (Parthenope, Salapia, Sirus, Sybaris), in Sicily (Gela), in Asia Minor (Soli), in Cilicia (Gaaae), and in Lycia (Corydalla).
The island attained no political greatness until the three chief cities formed a confederation and rounded the new capital (Rhodes) in 408 BC. In the beginning of the Peloponnesian war, Rhodes sided with the Athenians, but, after 19 years of loyalty to Athens, went over to the Spartans (412 BC).
In 394, when Conon appeared with his fleet before the city, the island fell into the hands of the Athenians again. A garrison was stationed at Rhodes by Alexander the Great. After his death this garrison was driven out by the Rhodians.
It is at this time that the really great period of the island's history begins. The inhabitants bravely defended their capital against Demetrius Poliorcetes in 304 BC--the same Demetrius who two years before had won a naval victory and had coins stamped with a "Victory" that is the counterpart of the "Winaed Victory" which commands the unbounded admiration of the modern world--and extended their dominion over a strip of the Carian coast, as well as over several of the neiahboring islands, and for the first time in the history of the world established an international maritime and commercial law.
The arts and sciences now began to flourish in the fair island in the southeastern Aegean. Aeschines, the famous orator of Athens, fled to Rhodes after his defeat by Demosthenes, and rounded a school of oratory, which was attended by many Romans. Rhodes became the faithful ally of Rome after the defeat of Antiochus in 189 BC. As a reward for her loyalty she received Caria. In 168, however, only a small portion of this territory remained under Rhodian sway (Peraea, or the Chersonesus).
In 42 BC the island was devastated by Cassius. Later it was made a part of the Roman province of Asia (44 AD). Strabo says that he knows no city so splendid in harbor, walls and streets. When the Roman power declined, Rhodes fell into the hands of Caliph Moawijah, but later was taken by the Greeks, from whom at a later date the Genoese wrested the island. In 1249 John Cantacuzenus attempted to recover Rhodes, but in vain. Finally, however, success crowned the efforts of the Greeks under Theodoros Protosebastos. In 1310 the Knights of John, who had been driven from Palestine, made Rhodes their home.
After the subjuaation of the island by Sultan Soliman in 1522 the Knights of John removed to Malta, and Rhodes has remained uninterruptedly a possession of the Sublime Porte down to the recent war between Turkey and the Balkan allies, forming, with the other islands, the province of the "Islands of the White Sea" (Archipelago). It has a Christian governor whose seat, though mostly at Rhodes, is sometimes at Chios. The population of the island has greatly diminished by emigration. In 1890 the total number of inhabitants was 30,000 (20,000 Greeks, 7,000 Mohammedans, 1,500 Jews).
The chief products of Rhodes are wheat, oil, wine, figs and tropical fruits. A very important industry is the exportation of sponges. The purity of the air and the mildness of the climate make Rhodes a most delightful place to live in during the fall, winter and early spring. The city, built in the shape of an amphitheater, has a magnificent view toward the sea. It contains several churches made out of old mosques.
The once famous harbor is now almost filled with sand. The inhabitants number nearly 12,000 (all Turks and Jews). Rhodes is mentioned in the New Testament only as a point where Paul touched on his voyage southward from the Hellespont to Caesarea (Acts 21:1); but in 1 Macc 15:23 we are informed that it was one of the states to which the Romans sent letters in behalf of the Jews.