The Robinson Library
The Robinson Library >> General and Old World History >> Greece >> Regions, Provinces, Islands, Etc.

one of the Dodecanese Islands

Rhodes lies about 12 miles off the southwestern coast of Turkey, has an area of 540 square miles, and a population of about 115,500. A range of mountains that rise as high as 3,986 feet runs lengthwise across the island. The capital of Rhodes and the other Dodecanese islands is the city of Rhodes.

location of Rhodes


Archaeological evidence shows that Rhodes has been inhabited since the Stone Age and figured prominently in the Aegean civilization of ancient times. In the second millennium B.C., when the island first appeared in written records, it was inhabited by the Dorians and its chief towns were Lindos, Ialyssos, and Kamiros. All three of these towns were flourishing commercial centers with colonies spread from the coast of Asia Minor to northeastern Spain.

By the 5th century B.C. the three cities had become democracies within the Delian League, a confederacy of Greek states under the leadership of Athens. In 412 B.C., the island revolted against Athens and became the headquarters of the Peloponnesian fleet. Four years later the majority of the inahbitants moved into the newly completed city of Rhodes, which legend says was laid out according to designs by the Greek architect Hippodamus of Miletus, and the island once again became an important commercial center, even assuming much of the trade once controlled by Athens. Political development suffered, however, as various Greek states struggled for control of the island.

Rhodes submitted to the sovereignty of Alexander the Great in 332 B.C., but upon his death in 323 B.C. the citizens revolted and expelled the Macedonians. The island maintained its independence for the next two centuries, during which time the city of Rhodes became one of the most important economic and political centers in the Mediterranean region. Cultural achievements during this period include a school of eclectic oratory whose chief representative was Apollonius Molon, the teacher of Cicero; the birth of Stoic philosopher Panaetius; the paintings of Protogenes; and the Colossus of Rhodes, a 105-foot-high statue of Helios created by Chares of Lindus that stood as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World for over half a century. Staunch allies of Rome, Rhodians aided Julius Caesar in his struggle against Pompey the Great and the Roman Senate. In 42 B.C., however, Roman general Gaius Cassius Parmensis, one of the assassins of Julius Caesar, invaded Rhodes and forced its inhabitants to submit to Roman rule. Although it was no longer an economic or political power, Rhodes continued to be an important center of learning for centuries.

In 395 A.D., on the division of the Roman Empire, Rhodes became part of the Byzantine Empire. It remained under Byzantine rule until 1309, when it was occupied by the Knights Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem, when it was taken by the Turks. Turkish sovereignty continued until the Turko-Italian War of 1911-1912, after which it and thirteen other Aegean islands were ceded to Italy. All of those islands were in turn awarded to Greece following World War II.

Rhodes Today

Over 50,000 of the island's inhabitants live in the city of Rhodes, with the remainder scattered amongst 42 other towns and villages. Tourism is by far the largest sector of the economy, with agriculture, stockbreeding, fishing, and wine making being locally important. The island is served by one international airport and five sea ports.

Sites and Attractions

Archaeological sites on Rhodes include the Acropolis of Lindos, the Acropolis of Rhodes with the Temple of Pythian Apollo and an ancient theater and stadium, and the sites of ancient Ialysos and Kamiros. The Colossus of Rhodes once stood where the harbor of Mandraki stands today, and two stone pillars topped by bronze deer mark what legend says were its anchor points. The Archaeological Museum of Rhodes is housed in a medieval building that was once the Hospital of the Knights.

the harbor of Mandraki, where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood
the harbor of Mandraki, where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood

Other sites of interest include Rhodes Old Town, the oldest inhabited medieval town in Europe, the Byzantine Museum, the Palace of the Grand Master, the ruins of the castle of Monolithos, the castle of Kritinia, the Kahal Shalom Synagogue, and the Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent.

For more information about Rhodes, see

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
World War II

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> General and Old World History >> Greece >> Regions, Provinces, Islands, Etc.

This page was last updated on 05/04/2018.