“Cruising the Dodecanese” is Peter Sommer Travels’ last scheduled cruise in Greece in 2017. This year, to give an impression of the experience, we are providing a diary of sorts on our blog. Rather than describing every day in detail (you can check our itineraries on www.petersommer.com for that), every day we will pick one image we took that day, accompanied by some explanations and thoughts.
Today, we left beautiful Symi, having given our guests the opportunity to explore it a little further, aiming (after a swimming break in a very lovely and very rocky cove) for our final destination on this cruise: Rhodes. Rhodes, or more properly, Rhodos, is a very special place, a large and beautiful and verdant island just off the southwestern corner of Asia Minor/Anatolia; and her capital has been an important city since its foundation in 408 BC.
Before then, the island of Rhodes was composed of three major city-states (poleis) sometimes cooperating and sometimes competing. They were Ialysos, Kameiros and Lindos. In 408 BC, they decided to unite into a single state with one capital port city called Rhodos. It was a success: Rhodos/Rhodes looks back on 2,415 years of uninterrupted urban history as I am writing. Really? Yes, really.
Our main aim and visit in the Old Town of Rhodes, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage site, today was the Hospital of the Knights of Saint John, who controlled the island from the early 14th to the early 16th century and who made the town what it is now. Their hospital is today’s Archaeological Museum, a very rich treasury of finds: from Rhodos Town itself, but also from the other cities in the island.
Pebble mosaics are a very distinctive feature of the rich homes of ancient Rhodos in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. We have written about them before, to give more background. This one, most likely from the 2nd century BC, shows a sea-god, most probably a complex character called Glaukos, known as a lover and a beloved of gods and humans. He was most certainly the floor-decoration in the andron, the banqueting room of a rich Rhodian home. His image is an allusion to his erotic travails, a story of rejection and of eventual success that goes far beyond these pages.
Artistically, this pebble floor mosaic is a masterpiece. While full tesserae mosaics we know from Roman cities later are modelled on paintings (probably encaustic ones, meaning done with wax-based paint), pebble mosaics reflect drawings. The musculature and facial expression of our figure is a perfect example of great draughtsmanship. The mosaic is one of several in the museum, and more will be found eventually!
Tomorrow, we will explore the history of the Knights of Saint John, or the Knights of Rhodes, in more detail.