The Siege of Rhodes was the second (the first one being between 23 May – 17 August 1480), and ultimately successful attempt by the Ottoman Empire to expel the Knights of Rhodes from their island stronghold and thereby secure Ottoman control of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Part of the Ottoman wars in Europe, the siege of Rhodes started on 26 June 1522 and ended on 22 December 1522. After several days of pressure from the town’s people the Grand Master asked for a fresh truce on 20 December.
The representatives of the city’s Latin and Greek inhabitants accepted Sultan Suleiman’s terms, which were actually generous. The knights were given twelve days to leave the island and would be allowed to take with them their weapons and any valuables or religious icons they desired. Islanders who wished to leave could do so at any time within a three-year period. No church would be desecrated or turned into a mosque. Those remaining on the island would be free of Ottoman taxation for five years.
On 1 January 1523 after the remaining knights and soldiers marched out of the town, with banners flying, drums beating and in battle armour. Boarding the 50 ships which had been made available to them and sailed to Crete (a Venetian possession), accompanied by several thousand civilians.
The generous promises made through the truce was however not kept. After the knights left, the Turkish soldiers started the massacre and the plundering. Sultan Suleiman himself went to pray in St John’s which was already turned into a mosque.
The one gate of Rhodes is called “Red Gate” because it had turned red from the blood running down the tower, where on top the citizens were executed.