Bursting with natural beauty and blessed with abundant sunshine, Rhodes is a popular destination for sun-seekers and culture lovers. Delve a little deeper into its history, and you’ll find there’s more to this magical island than meets the eye.
As with many Greek destinations, the Island of the Sun is the cradle of some wonderful ancient Greek myths and legends, which tell the story of its origins and early inhabitants. Significant events in the island’s history and geography are woven together with tales of gods, goddesses, heroes and mythological creatures.
Part truth, part fantasy, it’s easy to be swept up in these fascinating stories, as you explore the island’s history and try to distinguish fact from fiction. If you take any of our Rhodes private tours, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about the mythology of Rhodes. Here’s a little taster to whet your appetite.
The Creation of Rhodes
We touched on the creation of Rhodes in our Local Guide to Rhodes and Rhodes Town, but let’s expand on that a little here.
There are several different versions of Rhodes’ creation myth, but the one most commonly told originated from the ancient Greek lyrical poet, Pindar, in Olympian 7. Pindar describes the time following the battle between the gods and titans, where Zeus was sharing out the land following the victory of the immortals. The god Helios, god of the sun, was absent at the time and forgotten in the sharing of the spoils.
Upon his return he demanded his own land, so Zeus promised he could have the next piece of land that arose from the sea. At that moment, the island of Rhodes appeared, verdant and beautiful, from the shimmering blue Aegean.
Helios and Rhode
Entranced by its beauty and overwhelmed with happiness, Helios blessed the island with his radiance, so it was forever more known as the Island of the Sun (perfect for lazy days on those wonderful Rhodian beaches!).
Helios fell in love with the sea nymph, Rhode, daughter of Poseidon, and they lived together on Rhodes as protector god and goddess, with Helios naming the island in her honour. They had seven sons, known collectively as the Heliadae, and a daughter, Electryone.
Rhodes was eventually inherited by three of their grandsons – Kameiros, Ialysos, and Lindos – whose father, Cercaphus, divided the island between them. Each built their own eponymous city, the ruins of which can be explored today on a Rhodes sightseeing trip.
The Colossus of Rhodes
One of the most well known legends of Rhodes was that a gigantic bronze statue once stood at the entrance to Mandraki Harbour. Crafted in the likeness of Helios the Sun God, the Colossus of Rhodes was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The statue was built as a celebration after the year-long siege of Rhodes by Demetrios, successor to Alexander the Great, was finally defeated in 305 BC. The triumphal statue took twelve years to build, from 292–280 BC, a task undertaken by the sculptor Chares of Lindos. However, this massive statue only stood for around 54 years, being felled by a devastating earthquake in 226 BC.
Though shattered, the Colossus of Rhodes remained a source of wonder and admiration for centuries as it lie on the ground. Eventually it was dismantled by Muslim caliph Muawiyah I, who captured Rhodes in 693 AD. According to Byzantine sources, the statue was melted down and loaded onto 900 camels to be removed.
Though nothing remains today and it’s uncertain whether the statue could have logistically straddled the entrance to Mandraki Harbour, no Rhodes trip is complete without a visit to the harbour entrance, where statues of a stag and doe stand in the supposed footsteps of the Colossus.
The Early Inhabitants of Rhodes
According to mythology, an ancient, mysterious tribe known as the Telchines were the earliest inhabitants of Rhodes. These mystical sea-demons were magicians, artists and craftsmen, renowned as semi-divine inventors of smithing. Legend states that they crafted both the harpe sword of Cronos and Poseidon’s trident.
Other myths claim that Tlepolemus, one of the sons of the hero Herakles, founded the first settlement on the island and led the Rhodians in the Trojan War, commanding nine ships.
Walk in the Footsteps of Gods and Heroes
If you want to walk in the footsteps of gods and heroes, book one of our private tours of Rhodes. We can take you to Mandraki Harbour and the island’s ancient settlements, and show you the natural beauty and magic of the Island of the Sun.
To find out more or book your Rhodes private tour, contact Rhodes Experience today. We’re ready to help you plan your dream Rhodes experience.