Nearly two million visitors a year come to the historic island of Rhodes to enjoy its sun, beaches, and famous medieval city. Rhodes is the largest island of the Dodecanese, or Twelve Islands, although there are actually two hundred small islands that compose the group. Historically it was the home of the world-renowned Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It is also mentioned in the Bible as one of the ports visited by the boat carrying the Apostle Paul to Jerusalem on his return from his third, and last, missionary journey. The island of Rhodes lies much closer to Turkey than to Greece, but it can be easily reached by frequent flights from Athens or by ferry from Piraeus (14 hours), the port of Athens; from Kusadasi through Samos (6 hours); or from Bodrum, Marmaris, or Fethiye (between 1½ and 2 hours). Flights are also available from Thessaloniki and Crete, and in summer from Santorini and Mykonos as well. Because of its favorable location close to the shoreline of Asia Minor and between Greece and Israel, Rhodes was favored for development in antiquity. Both its eastern and western ports were frequented by traders and merchants, and numerous ancient writers mention it as a place of both economic and cultural achievement. In the 4th century B.C.E. Rhodes even surpassed Athens as a center for trade and commerce. The island also became renowned for its school of rhetoric, founded in 324 B.C.E., at which such distinguished Romans as Cicero, Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Tiberius studied. Famous citizens of Rhodes included the poet Apollonios and the sculptors Pythocretes (who created the famed Nike of Samothrace, which was dedicated by the citizens of Rhodes to commemorate their victory over Antiochus III in 190 B.C.E.) and Chares of Lindos (sculptor of the Colossus of Rhodes). The world-famous Laocoön, a sculpture that depicts the priest of Apollo and his children in the grip of two great snakes, was produced by three sculptors from Rhodes, Agesander, Athinodoros, and Polydoros.
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