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6. Ottoman period


As soon as the Turks became masters of Rhodes, they converted the main churches into mosques and resided in the Old Town, allowing the Jews to live in a designated area. Greek craftsmen or traders were allowed to enter the fortified Old Town only during the day and were not allowed to stay overnight. This system was preserved until the early years of Italian occupation. The Greek population was exempted from the Turkish custom of the levy of children and forced mass conversions to Islam have not been recorded. In this way the population of the Rhodian countryside remained almost entirely Greek.


With the Turkish occupation Rhodes is once again led into decline. Trade and maritime activities cease, farming lands are destroyed, schools do not operate and only the priests are able to teach the 'basics', so that the faithful can at least read and chant in church.


Free from Western religious pressure, Rhodes belongs once again to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The existence of Turkish troops, population and guard obstructed Rhodes (as was the case in Kos) to revolt during the revolution of 1821. The movement, which was to help Rhodes join the revolution with the other islands, was betrayed and the instigators, including the metropolitan Agapios, members of the 'Friendly Society' and all the notable persons, were imprisoned.


The second half of the 19th century saw a number of disasters on Rhodes, such as the earthquakes in 1851, 1856 and 1862. In 1865 the Knights Church of St. John was blown up by gunpowder which had lain hidden in its cellars since the period of the Knights. There was a big fire which destroyed many shops which does not appear to have been an accident...


The Greek population of Rhodes applauded, as a step towards freedom, the declaration of the Constitution by the Neoturks (1908). However, the compulsory military service and other measures, that proved damaging for the minorities, forced many Rhodians to emigrate to other countries and the U.S.A. in particular.
During the Turkish domination, the educational system was almost non-existent and education was basic and consequently any intellectual movement was poor. It was only during the last years of Turkish domination and parallel to the economic growth and the social development of the Greek population, that educated metropolitans and benefactors were able to promote education by establishing schools in every village. From the year 1911, when the Venetokleon High school began operating, Rhodes becomes both the administrative and intellectual capital of the Dodecanese. At the same time, associations are established, books are published and the first academics and writers appear on the scene.



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