“Gold rained on the island [of Rhodes] at the time when Athena was born from the head of Zeus“ –Strabo, Greek geographer, philosopher, and historian, 1st century BC
The goddess Athena has a special connection to Rhodes, and Lindos in particular. For centuries, the town was the location of a significant cult dedicated to the goddess. While this would change as new cultures and religions influenced the island, the original acropolis remained on the steep hill overlooking the town.
Going back to ancient times, Lindos has been controlled by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Knights of St John and Ottomans before returning to Greek control. According to myth, Lindos was founded by the Dorians led by the king Tlepolemus of Rhodes, who arrived during the 10th century BC. Around 300 BC, there was a massive temple of Athena built there which survived intact until medieval times.
By the 14th century, the ancient ruins were falling into disrepair and the site was taken over by the Knights of St. John. This is the same group who built the castle in Monolithos we visited the day before. In this case they built a fortress on the site of the original acropolis as a defence against the Ottomans.
Just over an hour from the main town in Rhodes, it was an easy drive as the town is located just off the main island road. The Greek islands have a lot of narrow and rough roads, but this was not one of them. When we first drove from Rhodes Town, Lindos was an impressive sight that suddenly appeared in view as we wound along the coast and passed by.
On this occasion we were going to Lindos from our accommodations in Pefki, located just to the south. There are parking options all along the road that runs parallel to the town, but they fill up quickly. We took the lot a bit further away (just past the town going south) but it was free and we got some exercise.
From the parking lot, Lindos was a 10 minute walk taking a road that passed by a bay. There was a swimming area down below.
We did a lot of wandering and window shopping as we walked the narrow streets. No cars are allowed inside the main part of the town, so it was very pedestrian-friendly. The closer you got to the centre of town, the more crowded it became. There were bars, cafes, restaurants, ice cream shops, clothing stores and the usual souvenir shops.
One thing we didn’t like was seeing the donkeys tied up waiting to take tourists up to the fortress. It reminded us of the donkeys in Santorini who were suffering sores and spinal injuries from carrying the tourists up and down from the water. While we were glad to see no one was using them during our brief visit, it’s clear they will continue doing business.
Eventually we decided to head up to the fortress and the acropolis, and looked for directions on how to get there. Signage was limited, and we needed to follow a series of alleyways through the centre of town before finding our way up. We made a few wrong turns the first time, but eventually started noticing the small marker signs posted here and there.
We reached the outer walls of the citadel. From here we could clearly see how the structure was carved right out of a massive, rocky promontory. We paid the 15 euro (per person) entry fee and went up.
Also near the entrance to the fortress was a Rhodian trireme (warship) that was cut into the rock. The work of a Greek sculptor, the relief dates from about 180 BC.
We made our way up one more series of steps before going inside the fortress. While walking through the ruins of a Byzantine church we came upon a quiet resident relaxing in the cool shade.
After passing through the medieval ruins, we moved upwards towards the acropolis. This area didn’t have any shelter from the hot sun, and we could feel the constant heat. One nice benefit was that fewer tourists made their way up in the heat so it was much quieter compared to the town below.
The original temple of Athena dated back to the 6th century BC, though the Temple of Athena Lindia was a later incarnation from a few centuries later. It was built over a natural cave in the cliff, which was a site of an earlier pagan religious site. According to some scholars, there was a pre-Hellenic cult on the hill that worshipped a fertility goddess named Lindia.
The cult of Athena continued for centuries, and in later times Alexander the Great and his successors made offerings on the site. However, it fell out of use by the 4th century AD when pagans were being persecuted.
From the top we had great views of the Aegean, the town and the bay we had passed when we first arrived.
Much like the centre of Rhodes Town, the medieval town of Lindos was touristy, crowded and slightly more expensive than everywhere else on the island. However, it was fun to explore and didn’t get too overbearing, as there were places where the crowds thinned out. Lindos felt like the kind of place where you have no choice but do touristy things, and we had an ice cream, a lemonade and lunch while we were there. But it was a pretty town that was full of history and included great views from the acropolis high above.