On our second day in Rhodes we organised a hire car and drove half way along the east coast of Rhodes to visit the village of Lindos and its associated craggy headland. There are a number of reasons for tourists on Rhodes wanting to visit Lindos. There is of course the local beaches and conveniently there is a beautiful beach on each side of the headland. The town of Lindos is a beautiful Greek town to wander through but our main target was to get up to the top of the headland where the views are magnificent and the remains of thousands of years of Rhodes history can be explored.
We know that Lindos is a few centuries older than Old Rhodes Town and evidence of Mycenaean people arriving here has been found. However records suggest that Lindos was founded by Dorian people who began moving southward for whatever reason from their homeland in northern Greece. This movement began around the 10th century BCE, bringing with them that history changing material; Iron. Over the centuries they settled in large areas of Greece as well as sailing out into the Mediterranean, settling in places like Gortyn in Crete and Lindos on Rhodes. The aerial view of the Lindos Acropolis below illustrates what an amazing defensive coastal position this escarpment was. The crag was way above the landscape so perfect for the worship of their Gods as well as making an almost impregnable fortress when attacked by envious sea-faring neighbours.
The above image of the Lindos Acropolis indicates by arrow the route we took up to the top. However, one of the most interesting sites on this walk is not far up the pathway, engraved into rock wall of the hill. It is a ‘relief’ image of a warship used in the many sea battles around Rhodes before the common era. Having an understanding of what ancient ships looked like, even from texts where they are described with some clarity, is difficult. The best information is when such wrecks are found at the bottom of the sea and can be brought out of the water and preserved. Sometimes ancient ships are found buried in graves of Nordic heroes or lost under mud from flooded rivers. Finding an accurate design engraved on a rockface is an excellent way of accurately communicating across the millennia of what these ancient boats looked like. The site information sign next to the boat is copied below. The other image is of a similar rock drawing of an ancient trireme but this one comes from a site called Sperlonga, halfway between Rome and Naples. Inscribing such images on rock was apparently reasonably common in the Hellenic age as memorials for great heroes or lost sailors from the regular devastating sea battles.
Relief Stern of a warship (triemiolia)…early 2nd c. BCE
The relief served as the base of a bronze portait statue of Hagesandros son of Mikion, whom the Lindians honoured on the occasion of a naval victory of the Rhodians. The stern of the warship (triemolia), which preserves traces of red paint, is rendered in detail, with the aphlaston at the right end and the richly bedecked captain’s seat in the form of a bird’s wing. Discernible on the back of the base, within a small temple (naiskos), is a standing female figure with kalathos on the head. Preserved on the rock in front of the relief is a row of holes, in which were set the iron railings that protected the monument.
From the engraved warship up to the top of the acropolis is a solid climb but made easier by the steps that were part of the Knights of St John’s time on Rhodes when this site was fortified in a similar way to old Rhodes Town.
The area at the top of the acropolis is probably a lot clearer and tidier than many archaeological sites. This is because there has been a lot of excavation, removal of ‘rubbish’, renovation and fixing up of old failed renovations that it is difficult to get a sense of the layers of history that played out on this crag. That is why a plan of the site like the one on the left is a handy guide to take with you as you are walking around the Acropolis of Lindos
There are the remains of some of the younger buildings at the top of the stairs as you enter through the fortress walls that were erected by later rulers of Rhodes such as the Byzantines and the Crusader knights. It is best to head to the west of the acropolis area and have a look at the view out over Lindos village as well as the remains of the Temple of Athena Lindia. Given that Lindos is one of the earliest settlements on Rhodes, it is likely that this acropolis would have been a cult site in those early centuries. The first temple on this spot was built in the sixth century where the Goddess Athena was the centre of devotion. The temple was destroyed by fire in the fourth century so the remains we inspect today would have been from this era.
The ritual buildings to honour Athena were set out in front of the temple in the form of a grand entrance way (Proplyea) and a large Stoa (covered walkway or portico) for public gatherings and markets. The grand staircase in the image below led up to the Stoa and the grand entrance. These steps would have provided worshippers great views out to sea and down to St Paul’s Bay as they looked east.
There was insufficient time in our day to visit the beautiful St Paul’s Bay but we were certainly able to get a great view of it from the parapets of the Lindos acropolis. There are many reasons to be impressed by this inlet; it not only has a lovely beach but the bay is almost completely circled by a natural rock breakwater so swimming conditions are usually very calm. How it got named after the world travelling Christian Apostle Paul is unclear but the story goes that this is where he landed on one of his trips on his way back to Jerusalem. he was making his way down the coast of modern Turkey, visiting Christian groups along the way and he stopped at Miletus where he summoned the elders of Ephesus for some last words.
The only reference to Paul visiting Rhodes in the New testament is in Chapter 21 of the Acts…
“After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail.” Acts of the Apostles, Ch.21
Why Paul’s ship wouldn’t pull into the main port at Old Town Rhodes is a good question. The good citizens of Lindos have claimed his landfall and why not, given the beauty of this small cove on the east coast of Rhodes.
From the acropolis, we were heading back down town to check out the lovely village on the way to where we had left our hire car. We took a deviation and headed across under the west side of the crag. Here was to be found an ancient Greek theatre that was apparently constructed in the 4th century BCE. Only the seats are left, the stage area has disappeared over the centuries but it is very easy to imagine the enjoyment of the 1800 plus audience that was able to participate in the festivals and plays that would have been presented here.
One of the things I noted about the Lindoans as we walked back through their lovely town was how fond they were of black and white stone mosaics. They were everywhere. The only question I was left with was how they were able to source so many stones of the same size to get such perfect images?
The only photo I had to stop and take on the way back to Old Town Rhodes was the one on the right. I think its great to be proud of the fact that Rhodes was once the site of one of the seven wonders of world and the story of loss behind this famous figure is worth retelling. However, if I was the council representative checking the application for building a statue of the Colossus statue by the local pottery shop, I would have rejected this one. It looks like the shop owner got the services of his brother-in-law to pose as the colossus and now I am sure the brother-in-law has had to leave the island to escape the never-ending barbs of his neighbours.