Rhodes: History

(Ro-dos in Greek)

Rhodes History

As with many of the Greek islands, Rhodes history is long and colourful stretching all the way back to the Stone Age. In prehistoric times the island was home to Cretans and later the Phoenicians and Dorians who arrived on the island prior to the Trojan War in 1184 BC. The island began to develop quickly after this event and at the end of 5th century BC its three most powerful cities, Lindos, Ialyssos and Kamiros, opted to unite as a single political force and founded Rhodes.

From 200 BC it became an ally of Rome, during which time the Colossus of Rhodes - a 30m high statue of the Greek god Helios - was erected by Chares of Lindos. In 297 AD, Rhodes joined the Provincia insularum of the Roman Empire and remained such until the beginning of the 4th century when the Roman State was divided up and Rhodes became part of the Eastern Empire. Rhodes was then subjected to years of attack, with 620 AD seeing the island captured by the Persians. 33 years later Arabs invaded the town and destroyed many of its monuments, an attack which was followed by raids from the Saracens until 718 AD when the Byzantine navy destroyed the Saracen fleet.


In the 11th century Rhodes began to establish trade links with the west including the Crusaders, whom islanders supplied with ships and mercenaries. When the Crusaders captured Constantinople in 1204, the leader Leon Gavalas, named himself ruler of Rhodes and led the island until 1246 at which time Rhodes was captured by the Benoese. In 1261, the Byzantine emperors took back Constantinople and Rhodes became part of the Byzantine State although in fact, it was still under the charge of Benoese admirals who in 1309 AD sold it to the Knights of the Ioannites. The Knights remained in Rhodes for a total of 213 years, until 1522, when they were forced to surrender the island to Suleiman the Magnificent, the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

Turks remained on the island until 1912, when it was taken over by the Italians and it was only after the Second World War that Rhodes, along with other islands of the Dodecanese, became a part of Greece once more.