Acropolis of Rhodes – Ancient Stadium

Overlooking the city from the west and situated on the city’s highest point is the Acropolis of Rhodes, which unlike other ancient acropoleis was not fortified. The monuments date from the Hellenistic and late Hellenistic periods (3rd to 2nd centuries BC) and include sanctuaries, public buildings, temples and underground places of worship.

The layout of the ancient acropolis first came to light with excavations carried out by the Italian School of Archaeology at Athens during the Italian occupation of the island (1912-1943). Further discoveries have since been made on archaeological digs under the auspices of the Greek Archaeological Service, which have provided important information on the site’s history and topography. Today these excavations continue over an area of 3 acres with the aim of uncovering the whole site of the acropolis of the splendid ancient city of Rhodes.

Preserved within the beautifully landscaped and verdant archaeological park is the Hellenistic stadium from the 3rd century BC. Here athletic competitions were staged as part of the Haleion Games, an important celebration held by the ancient Rhodians in honour of the god Helios. Right next to the stadium is the small restored marble theatre, where in antiquity and today musical performances are given. In a dominant position at the summit of the hill is the Temple of Pythian Apollo, the city’s guardian. Reconstruction of the temple was begun by the Italians and then continued by the Greek Archaeological Service after the end of World War II to repair the damage caused by bombs and the weight of artillery emplaced there. Further restoration work was started in 1996.

In the centre of the extensive Rhodian necropolis are the tombs of Saint John (oi tafoi tou Agiou Ioannou). The most important of these are the large corner funerary complex with tombs featuring vaulted masonry tombs, the cluster of yet more tombs of vaulted stonework crowned by a monument with triglyphs and metopes and the tomb carved into the rock that includes a monumental gateway. Of greatest interest is the underground quarry where burial chambers were dug into the sides of the tunnels.

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