Between the New Town and the Acropolis
*The pleasing oasis of the Rhodian Villa and Cultural Centre (open Mon–Fri 8.30–2.30, 3.45–9; Sat 7.45–1. Gardens open always in daylight hours) stands in a mature garden in the heart of the one of the busiest areas of the town (access from both Diakou and Venizelou Streets). The institution houses a library and exhibition areas in a handsome neoclassical villa with verandahs, surrounded by dense and varied vegetation.
*The storage rooms of a Hellenistic house give an unusual picture of the service areas and cellars of a 4th century bc house. (Entered to the left side of the large Tourism School building on Troizinas Street, across from the d’Amboise Gate. The site is at the far side of the car parking area, and lies currently underneath a school building.) Steps at first lead down to the ancient floor-level, where there are two areas of polychrome floor decoration, suggesting a residence of some importance. Beside this and below, are several deep chambers cut into the bed-rock used for storing grain and other perishables. Insets for the original roof-beams can be seen, as well openings for ventilation. The easternmost chamber has small steps leading into it and grooves for sliding a wooden retaining door; there are wedge-shaped shafts at various points, used as chutes for filling the chambers. At the opposite end is a deep cylindrical well with foot-holes to each side inside. In an age before refrigeration and running water, these were the practical arrangements necessary for supplying a residence.
*The Early Christian basilica which lies beneath the builds at the intersection of Heimaras Street and Pavlou Mela Streets, about half way up the acropolis hill, is the most extensive and important Palaeochristian complex uncov ered in the city. The site is unattractively overhung with several apartment buildings which rise on concrete piles from the excavations; but the area uncovered and the quality of the exceptional *mosaic floor with abstract design (visible from Mela St.) still in situ, make it worth seeking out. In the southeast corner are remains of earlier antique paving and architectural elements. One block further west, along the edge of Sophouli Street, are the foundations of the street-facing façades of Hellenistic houses. The streets in this area closely follow the grid of the ancient Hippoda mian plan.
*Nearby on the upper eastern slope of Mount Smith are the excavations of a so-called ‘Palatial Building’ and of a Hellenistic house, which lie to either side of Enoplon Dinameon Street. In the latter, below the level of a peristyle and pebble-mosaic floor can be seen a plastered, multiple chambered cistern, suggesting an impluvium for water storage. Mosaic floor and elements of the water management system of a large residence can be seen in the ‘Palatial Building’ excavations.
*The area of olive and oak trees stretching to the west of Diagoridon Street and up to the crown of the hill is an Archaeological Park (always open) comprising the Ancient Stadium, an (?) Odeion and the Temple of Pithian Apollo, most of which was first uncovered by Italian archaeologists between 1919 and 1929. According to the fashion of their time and the wishes of their political masters, what was uncovered was also considerably restored in a manner that has inevitably deadened its antique appeal. The ground level in and around the (2nd century bc) Stadium has risen leaving the first row of seats partly sunken: a gentle swelling curve in the line of two long sides can be detected. At the points where steps descend through the seating, small slots can be seen in the row of seats with back-rests, for the fixing of wooden retaining panels or doors. Beyond its north end, is a small building generally referred to as a ‘theatre’, which has been mostly reconstructed (apart from the orchestra and three of the seats, which are original). Although too small for a theatre proper, this probably functioned as an Odeion—a type of building designed for more intimate performances of music, song or poetry, as well as for teaching and occasional political meetings. The fact that the external form of the structure is square brings to mind the design of the ‘bouleuterion’, or council chamber, in Ancient Priene (Turkey)—a city which was also laid out by Hippodamus.
From the Odeion, steps lead up an impressive work of terracing. The Italian restorers have intervened heavily, but the well-designed stepping of some of the lower areas and the rustication of the ancient blocks clearly distinguish the antique work from the new. At the top, the ground flattens out onto the terrace of the twin-sanctuary of Apollo Pithios, and of his sister Artemis, whose temple stood below and a little to the north. The columns of one corner of the 4th century bc Temple of Apollo have been re-built by the Italian archaeologists to indicate the height of the building: it was a hexastyle Doric temple, oriented due east. The construction of its platform presents many points of inter est: the floor of the interior naos was constituted by the cut, living bedrock; and the podium or crepidoma of the temple was created by cutting away the rock all around and then facing it with steps. These steps demonstrate the fine qualities of Hellenistic masonry, which is never lacking in pleasing details: the lowest step is rough-course bed-rock, the second step has a raised lip on its outer edge, and the upper three courses are pleasingly tapered and undercut at the lower join. The corners are beautifully finished and the whole has the necessary, bowed rise towards the centre. Under the east end, a chamber has been left between the bed-rock core and the inside of the steps. A similar situ ation is presented in the ruins of the Temple of Artemis below, where a cut in the rock drops down to a plastered cistern to either side.
*Along the ridge of Mount Smith behind—which takes its name from the redoubtable Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith (1764–1840) who lodged in a house on the hill in 1799 and 1800 during his campaigns against the French navy in the Napoleonic Wars—are the few scattered re mains of what was the acropolis of Ancient Rhodes . At the highest point (111 m a.s.l.) to the northern end, were sited the two temples of Zeus Polieus and of Athena Polias, dominating the skyline from every direction of arrival by sea. Virtually nothing remains except for a few scattered column drums which mark the sites. To the east and a lit tle below, however, extensive cutting of the living rock and stretches of walling give an intimation of the flight of terraces which led to them. These mark the edge of an interesting area of underground ‘nymphaea’.
*The several so-called *Nymphaea (or sanctuaries dedicated to the Nymphs) which sink deeply down from ground level at the northern end of Mount Smith just east of the summit, probably began life as cisterns for collecting water from the several seeping springs in the area. A good way of understanding them is by beginning at the hidden hermitage or grotto of Aghios Nikolaos where the pagan cult of the nymphs seems to live on in a Christian guise (this lies just below the east side of Boreiou Ipeirou Street). Like the nymphaea, it originally housed a small seeping spring. Across the road from Aghios Nikolaos is a series of inter connected chambers with arched niches below ground level and rock-cut steps leading down into them. These are now completely uncovered, but may have been—at least partially—roofed: one of them (to the northeast) shows signs of a ledge for a roof. The complex is entered down a long rock-cut sloping ‘dromos’ from the east. From ground level several openings are visible, but they interconnect and belong to the one complex. Further north, and just to the west (left) of the road is another complex conceived in the form of an atrium with a central impluvium, and apse-like areas to either end, with many rock-cut niches for votive objects above (especially on the north side). Some remains of carved decoration are visible: on the east side, a rock cut entablature and ‘capitals’ can still be seen. Be low, cut steps are visible leading down into what must have been a pool of water whose level varied seasonally. Across the road (east side) is another grotto, more obviously de signed as a cistern or well-house with access by steps. The springs which gave rise to this group of quasi-sanctuaries have dried now; but their importance to the inhabitants of the city is represented in the sacred spaces that they carved and created around the functional cisterns at their centre, and which they dedicated to the nymphs—protecting divinities of the springs.
Rhodes Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.