The city of Rhodes, Greece has seen the rise and fall of the Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Venetian, and other empires over the centuries. The photo below shows part of the old city walls and some of the fortifications guarding the coast as we entered the main harbor. Behind the walls stand the towers and walls of the Palace of Grand Masters. This structure dates from the First Crusade, when the victorious Knights of St. John decided to fortify the town and build the palace (actually a castle) as a stronghold to help secure this part of the route from Europe to the Holy Land.

Entering the main harbor at Rhodes.

The old harbor was home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Colossus of Rhodes. The Colossus was an imposing bronze statue of the Greek sun-god Helios, over 100 ft high, standing at the entrance of the harbor. The Colossus included a lighthouse, with light provided by a tended bonfire at the top of the statue. Legend has it that the statue stood astride the entrance to the old harbor, which meant that the feet stood at the stone pillars on each side of the water gap seen below. This was almost certainly an embellishment, since construction methods of the time (280 B.C.) would have required the engineers to fill in the channel before they could build the Colossus and then dredge it open again after the project was complete. The necessary construction and dredging technology did not exist at that time, and the ankles and lower legs of such a statue could not have supported the whole weight, so it is more likely that the Colossus stood as a monolith, probably where you see the fountain at the right side of the photo. An earthquake brought the Colossus down in 226 B.C. and it was never rebuilt. The bronze used in the original construction was eventually cut up and salvaged.

Entrance to the old harbor of Rhodes.

Gates guarded by towers provide access to the Palace of Grand Masters. This was a layered system of fortifications, and an attacker would have to breach the city walls to reach the Palace, and then fight past successive defenses to conquer the castle itself. These defenses were effective until the invention of cannon. The photo below shows one of the guarded entrances to the palace. Once inside, there were many levels for tourists to explore, leading us to call this the Palace of the Grand Stairmasters.

Causeway entrance to the Palace of the Grand Masters.

The guard tower design provided protection for archers as they defended the castle. In addition, the design allowed for shooting down through the holes you can see below, to target any attackers who might have made it to the tower walls. I suppose you could pour boiling oil or hot tar down through those holes, too.

View of the guard towers at one of the Palace gateways.

Archeological digs are still in progress in some parts of the Palace. The photo below shows about a foot of soil being removed to expose some mosaic floors from ancient times.

Excavations revealing old mosaic floors inside the Palace.

Here is a photo of one of the restored mosaic floors in another part of the Palace. The picture of a hunter killing a leopard looks rather similar to one of the mosaic images being excavated in the photo above. The bravery of hunters and their success over wild animals were probably reoccurring themes in the artwork. I wonder if the leopards were really that big compared to the hunters, though.

Fully restored mosaic floor.

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