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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Rhodes

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(Ρόδος)

When St. Paul, in his voyage from Troas to Caesarea, touched at the island of Rhodes (Acts 21:1), 12 miles from the S. W. corner of Asia Minor, he was in sight, if only for an evening and morning, of a beautiful city which was for centuries the capital of one of the noblest free States of ancient Greece. ‘With regard to harbours, roads, walls, and other buildings, it so far surpasses other cities, that we know of none equal, much less superior to it’ (Strabo, xiv. ii. 5). Highly favoured by Nature-‘the sun shines every day in Rhodes,’ said an ancient proverb (Pliny, Historia Naturalis (Pliny) ii. 62)-it owed still more to the naval enterprise, political wisdom, commercial integrity, and artistic genius of its people. On an amphitheatre of hills it was as carefully planned in 404 b.c.-by Hippodamus of Miletus, who also laid out the Piraeus-as a modern garden-city. Occupying so central a position in the world that geographers reckoned from it their parallels of latitude and longitude, it succeeded in making itself a focus of the traffic of three continents. After the time of Alexander the Great, it was the first naval power in the aegean, and its code of mercantile law was regarded as an ideal for all other States. Its opulence was merited by its humanity. ‘The Rhodians, although their form of government is not democratic, are attentive to the welfare of the people, and endeavour to maintain the multitude of the poor.… There are public officers in the State, the function of whom is to procure and distribute provisions, so that the poor may obtain subsistence, and the city not suffer for want of persons to serve her, especially in manning her fleets’ (Strabo, loc. cit.).

Such a commercial centre naturally attracted a colony of Jews, and about 139 b.c. Rhodes was one of the many free States to which Rome is said to have addressed a letter in favour of that race (1 Maccabees 15:23). Rhodes alternately benefited by the deserved favour and suffered from the unworthy jealousy of the Romans. For assisting them in their war against Antiochus the Great, she received (189 b.c.) a large part of Lycia and Caria, but when she began to be dreaded as a possible rival of Rome itself, she was not only shorn of these possessions, but nearly ruined in her commerce by the raising of her rival Delos into a free port. In the Mithridatic war her services to Rome were again so signal, and she won so much glory by successfully resisting a great siege (88 b.c.), that she recovered some of her lost territory and all her former prestige. Finally, however, for taking Caesar’s part in the Civil War, she was so severely punished by Cassius, who robbed her of whole fleet (43 b.c.), that she never again attained her old prosperity. Vespasian made the island a part of the province of Lycia.

Rhodes was the city of the famous Colossus. Two specimens of her art are the Laocoon and the Toro Farnese. Her coins, with the Sun-god on the one side and the Rose on the other, are among the most beautiful in existence. Rhodes acquired a new fame in the Middle Ages as the home, for two centuries, of the Knights of St. John.

Literature.-J. P. Mahaffy, Greek Life and Thought2, 1896, ch. xv., Alexander’s Empire, 1887, ch. xx.; C. Torr, Rhodes in Ancient Times, 1885; H. van Gelder, Geschichte der alten Rhodier, 1900.

James Strahan.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Rhodes'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/r/rhodes.html. 1906-1918.

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