Rhodes History

Because of its strategic position on the crossroads between the East and the West, Rhodes was constantly faced with attacks and dominations from ancient times. All the different civilizations that have passed through Rhodes have had a profound influence on the history of Rhodes, leaving their indelible mark on the local culture, art and architecture.


The first settlers are believed to have come from the coasts of Asia Minor during the Late Neolithic Age. Over time, the island emerged as an important commercial center that had established trade relations with Minoan Crete, Cyprus, Egypt, Phoenicia and mainland Greece. During the 15th century BC, it was settled by the Mycenaeans, and four centuries later, by the Dorians. This resulted in the island’s division into three influential city-states: Ialyssos, Lindos and Kameiros.

During the Classical era, Rhodes was already a strong naval power and was actively involved in the political conflicts of the time. Many temples and structures such as the Acropolis of Rhodes were also built in this time period. After the Battle of Salamis and the defeat of the Persians, the island became a part of the Delian League, an organization led by Athens. This led to Rhodes’ participation in the Peloponnesian War, towards the end of which, in 408 BC, the three city-states of Ialyssos, Lindos, and Kameiros combined and formed the city of Rhodes.

With the reign of Alexander the Great, Rhodes fell under Macedonian domination. After the fall and fragmentation of the Macedonian Empire, the island of Rhodes fought for its freedom and, after a long siege, triumphed in 305 BC.

It was during this period that the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was constructed and dominated the harbor. This impressive giant statue was destroyed in 222 BC, though, as a result of a tremendous earthquake. After 164 BC, Rhodes was annexed to the Roman Empire and, subsequently became part of the Byzantine Empire.

The Middle Ages

Because of its strategic position, Rhodes was conquered successively by the Arabs and the Genoese. However, the history of Rhodes was primarily marked by the rule of the Knights of Saint John, which began 1309 AD. The Knights Hospitaller fortified the City of Rhodes with citadels, castles and formidable walls, and also built a series of other remarkable Gothic and Renaissance-style edifices, such as hospitals and churches. The Palace of the Grand Master, the Catholic cathedral, the residences of the knights (the so-called Inns of the Tongues) and many other commercial and public buildings can still be seen in the present-day Old Town. Many castles were also built in the countryside, such as the Castle of Monolithos and the medieval Castle of Kritinia.

The Modern Era

In 1522, after a long siege, the Ottomans took control of the island, which remained part of the Ottoman Empire until 1912. The Turks repaired the damages inflicted on the city walls, built a series of mosques and baths, and also enriched the town’s medieval buildings with features of Ottoman architecture.

During the First World War, Rhodes was occupied by the Italians, who contributed to its development. They removed all Ottoman additions to the medieval buildings of the Old Town and renovated important sites, such as the Palace of the Grand Master. They also undertook important public works, as well as the construction of nice buildings, such as the National Theater.

Eventually, in 1947, Rhodes and all the Dodecanese islands became part of the Greek State.