Rhodes is the largest of the Dodecanese islands in the South Aegean. It is located northeast of Crete, southeast of Athens and just off the Anatolian coast of Turkey.
In the 16th century BC, the Minoans came to Rhodes and in the 15th century BC, Mycenaean Greeks invaded. After the Bronze Age collapse, the first renewed outside contacts were with Cyprus.
In the 8th century BC, the island's settlements started to form, with the coming of the Dorians, who built the three important cities of Lindos, Ialyssos and Kameiros, which together with Kos, Cnidus and Halicarnassus (on the mainland) made up the so-called Dorian Hexapolis (Greek for six cities).
The Persians invaded and overran the island, but they were in turn defeated by forces from Athens in 478 BC. The Rhodian cities joined the Athenian League. When the Peloponnesian War broke out in 431 BC, Rhodes remained largely neutral, although it remained a member of the League. The war lasted until 404 BC, but by this time Rhodes had withdrawn entirely from the conflict and decided to go her own way.
In 408 BC, the cities united to form one territory. They built the city of Rhodes, a new capital on the northern end of the island.
In 357 BC, the island was conquered by the king Mausolus of Caria, then it fell again to the Persians in 340 BC. Their rule was also short.
Rhodes then became a part of the growing empire of Alexander the Great in 332 BC, after he defeated the Persians.
In 305 BC, Antigonus directed his son, Demetrius, to besiege Rhodes in an attempt to break its alliance with Egypt. Demetrius created huge siege engines, including a 180 foot battering ram and a siege tower named Helepolis that weighed 360,000 pounds. Despite this engagement, in 304 BC after only one year, he relented and signed a peace agreement, leaving behind a huge store of military equipment. The Rhodians sold the equipment and used the money to erect a statue of their sun god, Helios, the statue since called the Colossus of Rhodes.
Throughout the 3rd century BC, Rhodes attempted to secure her independence and her commerce, most especially her virtual control over the grain trade in the eastern Mediterranean. Both of these goals were dependent upon no one of the three great Hellenistic states achieving dominance, and consequently the Rhodians pursued a policy of maintaining a balance of power among the Antigonids, Seleucids and Ptolemies, even if that meant going to war with her traditional ally, Egypt. To this end they employed as leverage their economy and their excellent navy, which was manned by proverbially the finest sailors in the Mediterranean world. The Rhodians also established their dominance on the shores of Caria across their island, which became known as the "Rhodian Peraia".
In 201 BC, Rhodes and Pergamum appealed to the Romans for help against Philip V of Macedon. The result was the Second Macedonian War (200-196 BC), which ended Macedon's role as a major player and preserved Rhodian independence.
After the Third Macedonian War (171-168 BC), Rhodes lost its favoured status with Rome and became part of the Roman Empire.
In the 1st century AD, the Emperor Tiberius spent a brief term of exile on Rhodes. Saint Paul brought Christianity to people on the island. Rhodes reached her zenith in the 3rd century.