The Hospitallers were politically, more astute then the Templars. In 1306 the Grand Master of the Hospitalers was approached about occupying the Island of Rhodes. He recognizes a new mission with strategic importance that placed the Order once again on the front line in the struggle against the expansion of Islamic forces into Christian territories.
This mission likely sustained the Order.
The Templars, did not adapt to the new circumstances as well as the other orders, attempts were made by the Templars to organize a new Crusade to retake the Holy Lands, but by October, 1307, machinations of Philip IV of France destroyed the old Temple organization.
The Island of Rhodes would become the Order’s home for 216 years. (see map) Over this time period, the Hospitallers, became known as the Knights of Rhodes. In this time period the Knights had made the transition from a land based heavy calvary to naval power. The Knights in conjunction with able assistance of the Rhodian islanders, became the terror of the Aegean Sea. To the Islamic leaders of the Ottoman Empire, these Knights on their islands, were nothing but a nest of pirates and vipers. Christian corsairs. What it brings to mind is one of the old charges of Freemasonry “.… will make you a brother to pirates and corsairs…” The Hospitaller order had become exactly that. For 200 years, ranging forth from their island strong hold, the Knights Hospittaler, now known as the Knights of Rhodes, with their swift galleys, and sails emblazoned with the 8 pointed Cross, were the terror to Muslim trade routes.
Several failed attempts were made to drive the Knights from Rhodes. The most notable of these happened in 1480, Sultan Mehmet II, the conqueror of Constantinople, sent a massive army, which failed to dislodge the Knights in a siege that is a story in itself and the Knights achieved an incredible victory over the invincible Sultan. One of the banners of the Masonic Templar order contains the letters FERT and is a direct symbolic reference to this victory at Rhodes.