Rhodes is an island 18km from South West Turkey and is one of the furthest islands from Greece. It’s mentioned possibly in Genesis 10:4 and 1 Chronicles 1:7 where the LXX renders Dodanim as Rodanim, or Rhodes, and occurs in Acts 21:1 when Paul is travelling to Jerusalem a day after stopping in Kos.

The island itself is shaped like a spearhead and is 80km long and 38km wide. It was occupied in 8th century BC by Dorians from Argos, which is on mainland Greece, south of Corinth. They built three important cities on the island (Lindus, Ialysos and Kameiros) which, together with Kos and two other Dorian cities on the mainland, formed the Dorian Hexapolis—a league of six cities.

The Persians under Cyrus invaded and overran the island, but they were in turn defeated by forces from Athens in 478BC. Rhodes then joined a league of city states (the Athenian League, whose purpose was to continue fighting Persia) but broke away from that league in 412-411BC.

Four years later in 408-407BC the inhabitants founded a new city, Rhodes, laid out on an exceptionally fine site, according to a scientific plan, allegedly by the famous architect Hippodamus of Miletus.This town soon rose to considerable importance and attracted much commerce in the Aegean and across Asia Minor, trade that had previously been in Athenian hands. In parallel with this was the development of a navy, which was manned by proverbially the finest sailors in the Mediterranean world.

During the following centuries the city developed into an important maritime, commercial and cultural centre; its coins circulated nearly everywhere in the Mediterranean. Its famous schools of philosophy, science, literature and rhetoric dominated the region.

It was most famous, however, for the 7th wonder of the ancient world—the Colossus of Rhodes.

After the death of Alexander the Great, Antigonus I with his son Demetrius, tried to conquer the whole of Alexander’s empire. As part of their campaign Demetrius besieged Rhodes in 305-304BC using huge siege engines, including a 55 metre battering ram and a siege tower named Helepolis that weighed 163 tons and required 3400 men to move it. It had 16 catapults on seven floors, but in 304BC a relief force of ships sent by Ptolemy arrived, and Demetrius and his army abandoned the siege, leaving behind most of their siege equipment. To celebrate their victory, the Rhodians sold or melted down the equipment and used the bronze to build a colossal statue of their patron god, Helios.

The statue was over 30 metres tall—the approximate height of the modern Statue of Liberty from foot to crown—making it the tallest statue of the ancient world. It took 12 years to build and was finished in 280BC, but after 54 years Rhodes was hit by an earthquake in 226BC and the Colossus snapped at the knees and collapsed on to the land.

It lay on the ground for 800 years until it was sold to a Jewish merchant who reputedly removed the bronze on the backs of 900 camels.

So, the Colossus would have been lying next to the harbour in the time of the Apostle Paul. People of his era still travelled to see it lying on the ground. Pliny the Elder said that few people could wrap their arms around the fallen thumb, and each of its fingers was larger than most statues. Perhaps as Paul passed by this collapsed idol, he might have thought about the futility of idol worship, or perhaps seen in it a parable of what would happen to the kingdom of men depicted by a fallen and crushed image as described by Daniel. Whatever his thoughts were about the past, we can be certain that his chief intent was to arrive at Jerusalem for the day of Pentecost (Acts 20:16). Rhodes was just another stepping stone to achieve this goal.