Beneath the modern village of Lindos lies buried one of the most important ancient cities of Rhodes and the eastern Aegean. The only ancient monuments visible today, preserve the mighty bare rock that rises from the sea at an altitude of 116 metres, and is a landmark of Lindos’ landscape. This is the monumental citadel of the sanctuary of Athena Lindia, renowned in antiquity, and the medieval castle of the Knights Hospitaller. Lindos’ history, though, starts much earlier, as evidenced by the occasional finds that have come to light in the wider area and date from the Neolithic to the Mycenaean periods.
From its historical dawn, Lindos rises through the haze of myth as a powerful force. Tlipolemos, son of Hercules, is mentioned as the first settler who brought his Dorians to Rhodes and founded the three major cities of the island, Lindos, Ialyssos and Kamiros, which together with Kos, Cnidus and Halicarnassus later formed a strong confederation, the “Dorian Exapolis”. Situated advantageously in the bay of Megalos Yalos, Lindos secured control over the western side of the island. Furthermore, Homer lists Lindos among the Greek cities that took part in the Trojan War, a quite early testimony of its naval power.
The golden age of Lindos was the Archaic period (7th-6th centuries BC), when the city participated in the Greek colonial movement, founding, among others, the city of Gela in Sicily. Dominant figure of the 6th century was the tyrant Kleoboulos, one of the seven sages of the ancient Greek world. The first monumental buildings of the acropolis, such as the temple of Athena, were erected in his day.
In 408-7 BC, in the northernmost part of the island, Lindos, Ialyssos and Kamiros co-founded the greatest city-state of the time, namely the city of Rhodes. Although it ceased to be politically and economically independent, Lindos remained an important centre, thanks to its famous sanctuary, which acquired a monumental form with propylaea and staircases in the Hellenistic period. During the Middle Ages the ancient citadel was used as a fortress and its defensive character was reinforced, especially in the years of the Knights’ reign (1309-1522).