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The Order of the Knights of St John was founded as a charitable brotherhood in Jerusalem by merchants from Amalfi, in Italy, who were permanently resident in the Holy City. The period during which the Knights ruled in Rhodes was the most brilliant in their history.

After entrenching themselves in Rhodes, the Knights extended their power over the neighbouring islands and, for a considerable time, over Smyrna. The Knights left imposing evidence of their presence in Rhodes, and gave to the island the particular character it retains to this day, with its impregnable walls, gates, churches, hospitals, Inns and palaces. Their stay in Rhodes lasted 213 years, until 1522, when, on December 29, the last of the Grand Masters, Villiers de I' Isle Adam, was compelled to surrender the island to Suleiman the Magnificent. The name of the Colossus of Rhodes is familiar to everyone. Its history begins with the siege of Demetrios Poliorketes, successor of Alexander the Great, in 305 B.C. With the money they raised from the sale of Demetrios' siege machinery, which he had left behind when he withdrew, the Rhodians decided to express their pride in their great victory by building a triumphal statue of their favourite god, Helios. The task was assigned to the sculptor Chares of Lindos, a pupil of Lysippos himself, and twelve years (from 304 to 292 B.C.) were needed to finish it.

The Colossus was regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a masterpiece of art and engineering. However, the statue was only a nine-day wonder, or, to be more accurate, a 66-year wonder. A violent earthquake in 226 B.C. broke its knees and sent it to the ground. The Rhodians, afraid of some curse, did not dare to replace it, and it lay where it had fallen for many centuries.
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