Rhodes (Greek: Ρόδος, Rhódos; Italian Rodi; Ladino: Rodi or Rodes; Ottoman Turkish: ردوس, Rodos) is a Greek island and the largest of the Dodecanese islands in terms of both land area and population, that lies to the south-east of the Greek mainland, approximately midway between the mainland and the island of Cyprus.
As of 2007, it has a population that exceeds 130,000, of whom roughly 80,000 reside in the City of Rhodes, the island's capital.
The island was inhabited starting roughly after the Tower of Babel incident in 2241 BC, presumably by the descendants of Dodanim, the son of Javan, although little remains of this culture. In the 16th Century BC the Minoans came to Rhodes, 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 (on the mainland) made up the so-called Dorian Hexapolis.
Invasions by the Persians eventually overran the island, but after their defeat by the forces from Athens in 478 BC, the cities joined the Athenian League. When the Peloponnesian War broke out in 431 BC, Rhodes remained largely neutral although it was still a member of the League. The war lasted until 404 BC, but by this time Rhodes had withdrawn entirely from the conflict and had decided to go her own way.
In 408 BC the cities united to form one territory, and built a new capital on the northern end of the island, Rhodes. However the Peloponnesian War had so weakened the entire Greek culture that it lay open to invasion. In 357 BC the island was conquered by Mausolus of Halicarnassus, then fell to the Persians in 340 BC. But their rule was also short and Rhodes became a part of the growing empire of Alexander the Great in 332 BC after he defeated the Persians, to the great relief of the citizens of Rhodes.
With the death of Alexander his generals fought for control. Three of them, Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Antigonus, succeeded in dividing the kingdom among themselves. Rhodes formed strong commercial ties with the Ptolemies in Egypt, and together they formed the Rhodo-Egyptian alliance which controlled trade throughout the Aegean in the 3rd century BC. The city developed into a maritime, commercial and cultural center and its coins were in circulation almost everywhere in the Mediterranean. Its schools of philosophy, literature and rhetoric were famous.
In 305 BC, Antigous had his son besiege Rhodes in an attempt to break the alliance. After a year they gave up and signed a peace agreement in 304 BC, 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 now known as the Colossus of Rhodes.
In 164 BC, Rhodes signed a treaty with Rome, and became a major schooling center for Roman noble families. At first the state was an important ally of Rome and enjoyed numerous privileges, but these were later lost in various machinations of Roman politics. Cassius eventually invaded the island and sacked the city.
In the 1st Century AD, Saint Paul brought Christianity to the island. In 297, the long Byzantine period began for Rhodes, when the Roman empire was split and the eastern half became a Greek empire. Although part of Byzantium for the next thousand years, it was nevertheless repeatedly attacked by various forces.
In 1309 the Byzantine era came to an end when the island was taken by forces of the Knights Hospitaller. Under the rule of the newly named Knights of Rhodes, the city was rebuilt into a model of the European medieval ideal. Many of the city's famous monuments, including the Palace of the Grand Master, were built in this period.
The strong walls which the Knights had built withstood the attacks of the Sultan of Egypt in 1444 and of Mehmed II in 1480. Finally, however, Rhodes fell to the large army of Suleiman the Magnificent in 1522. The few remaining Knights fled to Malta.
In 1912, Rhodes was seized from the Turks by the Italians, and in 1947, together with the other islands of the Dodecanese was united with Greece. It thus bypassed many of the events associated with the "exchange of the minorities" between Greece and Turkey.