Rhodes’ library

Main information
Location / Site
Chronological era
4th c. BC – AD 1st c.
  • Hellenistic
Identifying features
  • Inscriptions (dedications, catalogs, regulations) (texts from the institution)
  • Architectural Remains (physical remains)
  • Historical texts
  • Philosophy
  • Political texts



Although its location is still under debate, the Hellenistic library of Rhodes is securely attested by three fragmentary inscriptions. They give an exceptional testimony on the workings and contents of a municipal library in the 2nd century BCE.

Identifying features

Three fragmentary inscriptions from the 2nd c. BCE (more information, in French) discovered on the Rhodian acropolis attest the presence of a public library in the city. These inscriptions, a catalogue of works and decrees of operation, give us precious information on the contents and working of this library, and on its links with the city’s gymnasium.

History of the library

All the available sources on the library date from the second half of the 2nd c. BCE. They are probably linked to the foundation of the library or to formalise the rules in an already established library. We do not have any information on the evolution of the library through time.


The library was probably in the neighbourhood of the city’s main gymnasium, located at the foot of the acropolis, East of the stadium (more information, in French). There, citizens and foreigners received an athletic and intellectual formation well-attested in ancient literature. The library’s exact location remains uncertain.

Architecture and internal fittings

The remains in the terrace north of the stadium are scanty and only partially explored. In 2002, W. Hoepfner proposed to identify the library with a group of two rooms near the odeon, north-west of the stadium. This identification is however doubtful as it is based on the heavy reconstruction of remains in the 1930s and raises important problems in its organisation (more information, in French)

Place of the library in the society

Rhodes’ library was a public institution under the responsibility of gymnasiarchs, who were rich citizens in charge of gymnasia and the education of young citizens. It was maintained and enlarged by gifts from citizens and rich foreigners, including kings and dynasts.

Functioning and activities

The library seems to have been opened to a non-professional literate audience, maybe for educational purposes as part of the gymnasium. The books mentioned in the catalogue correspond to a library used by Rhodian rhetorical schools, which were famous in the Hellenistic period (more information, in French). The library’s holdings could be consulted in situ, but it was forbidden to take them out of the building. There was also a direct, albeit still obscure, link between the library and some kinds of public archives in the city.

Contents of the library

None of the original library holdings have been retrieved, but a fragmentary catalogue gives us a glimpse at its contents: Classical and Hellenistic books of rhetoric and political philosophy (more information, in French).

Links with other libraries or centres of knowledge




  • Coqueugniot G., 2013, Archives et bibliothèques dans le monde grec. Édifices et organisation. Ve siècle avant notre ère – IIe siècle de notre ère, Oxford, BAR, p. 134-136.
  • Rosamilia E., 2014, ‘Biblioteche a Rodi all’epoca di Timachidas’, Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, serie 5, 6/1, p. 325-361.


Coqueugniot Gaëlle


Title : Rhodes’ library
Creator : Coqueugniot Gaëlle
Subject : Library
Description : Historical texts, Philosophy, Political texts
Editor : Coqueugniot Gaëlle (transl.)
Date : May 2018
Type : Library / Gymnasium / Public institution
Format : Text & Picture
Source : Inscriptions (dedications, catalogs, regulations) (texts from the institution) / Architectural Remains (physical remains)
Language : English
Relation : http://nimrod.huma-num.fr/en/sites/rhodes-site/
Rights : CC by NC - SA
Coverage :


/ 4th c. BC – AD 1st c. / Hellenistic