The Minoans and Mycenaeans were among the first to have outposts on Rhodes, but only with the arrival of the Dorians in 1100 BC – settling in Kamiros, Ialysos and Lindos – did the island begin to make itself felt. Switching allegiances like a pendulum, Rhodes was allied to Athens when the Persians were defeated in the Battle of Marathon (490 BC), but had shifted to the Persian side by the time of the Battle of Salamis (480 BC).
After the unexpected Athenian victory at Salamis, Rhodes hastily aligned itself with Athens once more, joining the Delian League in 477 BC. Following the disastrous Sicilian Expedition (416–412 BC), Rhodes revolted against Athens and hooked up with Sparta instead, aiding it in the Peloponnesian Wars. In 408 BC the cities of Kamiros, Ialysos and Lindos consolidated their powers, co-founding the city of Rhodes. Rhodes became Athens’ ally again to defeat Sparta at the Battle of Knidos (394 BC). Rhodes then joined forces with Persia to fight against Alexander the Great, only to attach itself to Alexander when he proved invincible.
In 305 BC Antigonus, a rival of Ptolemy, sent his formidable son, Demetrius Poliorketes – Besieger of Cities – to conquer Rhodes. When the city managed to repel Demetrius after a long siege, it built a 32m-high bronze statue of Helios Apollo to celebrate. Known as the Colossus of Rhodes, it was later hailed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Rhodes now knew no bounds. It built the biggest navy in the Aegean, and its port became a principal Mediterranean trading centre. The arts also flourished. When Greece became the arena in which Roman generals fought for leadership of the empire, Rhodes allied itself with Julius Caesar. After Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC, Cassius besieged the city, destroying its ships and carting its artworks off to Rome. Rhodes went into decline and became part of the Roman Empire in AD 70.
Rhodes eventually joined the Byzantine province of the Dodecanese and was granted independence when the Crusaders seized Constantinople. Later, the Genoese gained control. Next to arrive, in 1309, were the Knights of St John, who ruled Rhodes for 213 years until being ousted by the Ottomans. They were in turn kicked out by the Italians nearly four centuries later. In 1947, after 35 years of Italian occupation, Rhodes finally became part of Greece, along with the other Dodecanese islands.