Friday, May 1, 2015

Today in History: Rhodes Was Lost

It was on May 1, 1946 that the Paris Peace Conference ruled that Italy should have over the Dodecanese Islands, the most important of which is the island of Rhodes, to Greece. Can this be called a just decision? Rhodes first aligned itself with Italy in 164 BC when they willingly signed a treaty with the Roman Empire. Later, along with Crete, they were formally annexed as the 18th Province of Imperial Rome. That is certainly a far-reaching root of history to draw upon. They were then part of the Eastern Roman Empire, then the Byzantine Empire, taking them away from Italy. However, by the XIII Century the Italians were back during the Fourth Crusade as the forces of the city-states of Venice and Genoa began to reassert control over the Dodecanese Islands. The following century the island of Rhodes came under the control of the Knights of St John (later known as the Knights of Malta). That was an independent entity but, of course, many of the knights were Italians and one of the ancestors of the Italian Royal House, Amadeus V Count of Savoy, was among those knights who defended Rhodes against the Ottoman Turks. Many believe that this was the source of the Savoy motto FERT for 'Fortitudo Eius Rhodum Tenuit' or 'his strength defended Rhodes'. Eventually though the islands were taken by the Ottoman Empire.

There they stayed until 1912 when the Kingdom of Italy gained the Dodecanese Islands after defeating the Turks in the Italo-Turkish War. The Italian government invested more in improvements and the infrastructure of the islands than anyone ever had. Obviously, the Allies at the Paris Peace Conference did not hand back the islands to the previous owner, otherwise they would have been given to the Turks as the Ottoman Empire had been the last to possess the islands before the Kingdom of Italy. How is it then that they were given to Greece? It doesn't seem to make much sense from a legal point of view. The islands had never belonged to Greece. At the time of Greek independence they were not included in the new Greek state but were retained by Turkey. The Greek element they possessed, in terms of the population, came from the era of the Byzantine Empire. Yet, that was an empire that was the "Eastern Roman Empire" and based all of its territorial claims on those of the original, undivided, Roman Empire of Rome, Italy. Moreover, the Italians had returned with the forces of Venice and Genoa and had held the islands for no small amount of time. Even after the Turks had taken control of most of the region, Italian control was maintained at times over various parts of the islands for a very long time.

Given all of that, it would be difficult to see how any country could have a better and more long-standing claim to the Dodecanese Islands than Italy.

No comments:

Post a Comment