Homer tells in the Iliad that Rhodes island took part in the Trojan War, sending 9 ships under the leadership of Tlepolemus.
Finds from excavations show that the island was inhabited in the Neolithic period. In the 16th century BC the Minoans came to Rhodes island, to be followed in the 15th century by the Achaeans. It was, however, in the 11th century that the island started to flourish, with the coming of the Dorians. It was the Dorians who later built the three important cities of Lindos, Ialysos and Kamiros, which together with Kos,Cnidus and Halicarnassus made up the so-called Dorian Hexapolis.
At the time of the Peloponnesian War, it wavered in its decisions; later it welcomed Alexander the Great. The struggle between Alexander’s successors had its effect on Rhodes island, which because of its commercial ties with Egypt, allied itself with Ptolemy. This brought it into conflict with Antigonus, who attempted to seize the island, sending there Demetrius Poliorcetes with a large army. Demetrius, in spite of his famous siege engines, did not finally succeed in taking the city of Rhodes island and after a year’s siege signed an armistice. In memory of this historic victory, the Rhodians dedicated to God “Helios” (the Sun) a very large statue, the “Colossus of Rhodes island”. The Colossus of Rhodes island, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, with a height of 32 meters, was the work of the Lindian sculptor Haris, and was placed at one of the harbors of the city, according to one version, with legs apart, to allow ships to pass under it. Its construction took
12 years to complete.
In the Persian Wars Rhodes island was forced to fight on the side of the Persians, but later in 478 BC joined the Athenian League.
A new era began for the island in 408 BC when its three major cities united and decided to build a new city at the north end of the island, on the site, that is, of the present-day city of Rhodes island. This new city was one of the finest in antiquity and enjoyed great prosperity in the 4th, 3rd and part of the 2nd century BC. Its schools of philosophy, literature and rhetoric - at which a number of distinguished Romans studied - were famous. The city developed into a maritime, commercial and cultural center and its coins were in circulation almost everywhere in the Mediterranean
In 164 BC, Rhodes island signed a treaty with Rome, thus acquiring many privileges, which it later lost because of the complexities of Roman policies. It was finally laid waste by Cassius.
In the 1st century AD, the Apostle Paul brought Christianity to the island. In 297, the long Byzantine period began for Rhodes island, in the course of which there were many attacks upon it by Arabs and Crusaders.
A new period of greatness opened up for the island when in 1309 the rule of the Knights of the Order of St. John began. Drawn from eight states (France, Provence, Auvergne, Castelle, Aragon, England, Germany and Italy), the Order’s original purpose was the defense of the Holy Land and later the assistance of Pilgrims. Under the rule of the Knights of Rhodes island, the medieval city with its famous monuments, including the Palace of the Grand Master, today the Castello, was built.
The strong walls which the Knights had built withstood the attacks of the Sultan of Egypt (1444) and of Mohamed II (1480). Finally, however, Rhodes island yielded before the large army of Suleiman the Magnificent (1522) and the very few remaining Knights capitulated and fled to Malta. In 1912, Rhodes island was seized by the Italians, and in 1948, together with the other islands of the Dodecanese was united with Greece.