Atlas - Rhodes

Main information


From the 5th c. BCE until modern times
  • Hellenistic
Italian excavations in 1910-1945, and Greek excavations
Discover the library page
Rhodes’ library

Established in the northern part of Rhodes island, the city of Rhodes controlled a choice location in the Aegean, on commercial routes between Greece, Asia Minor and the Orient. It was founded in the 5th century BCE as the new capital city of the island, following the synœcism of the three cities of Lindos, Ialyssos and Camiros. It quickly became a major economic and cultural centre in the Aegean.


The city of Rhodes was a late creation in the history of the island. The three cities of Lindos, Ialyssos and Camiros had been prosperous urban centres since the Mycenæans, and even more in Archaic times, under the Achæmenids. The three cities merged together after gaining their autonomy from the Athenian League, in the late 5th c. BCE.

The new capital city was founded in the last decade of the 5th c., following Hippodamos of Miletus’ urbanistic principles. In the 4th c. and in the following centuries, the Rhodian state — and its capital — remained a major political and economic centre. Despite being coveted by the Hellenistic kingdoms, it maintained its independence and its maritime power throughout the period, and attracted Roman merchants until the rise of Delos in the 2nd c. BCE.

Despite several devastating earthquakes, the city was continuously inhabited during the Roman period and in the Middle Ages; in the 14th c., it became the headquarter of the Knights Hospitaller.

Cultural context

A major maritime power in the Hellenistic Aegean, the state of Rhodes was controlled by an elite of merchants and ship-owners. Most of the political, economic and cultural institutions were assembled in the new capital. After its destruction by a devastating earthquake in 227 BCE, the city was rebuilt and embellished by numerous dedications from Hellenistic kings and, later on, from rich Romans.

Throughout the Hellenistic period, Rhodes was an important artistic, cultural and intellectual centre. Thanks to its ideal location, it developed strong links with the intellectual centres of Athens, Alexandria and Pergamon. We know the name of many intellectuals originating from Rhodes or who settled there: philologues and philosophers in the early Hellenistic period, orators in the 2nd and 1st c. BCE. The Lindian Chronicle (more information, in French) also mentioned local historical works and other literary sources now lost.

In Hellenistic times, Rhodes was also a supra-regional educational centre, like Athens. Numerous notables from Asia Minor followed the teachings of the city’s rhetorical and philosophical schools (more information, in French), which also attracted rich Romans such as Cicero.

We know two gymnasia in the Hellenistic city. The main gymnasium was located on a terrace of the acropole, under the sanctuary of Apollo Pythios (more information, in French). There was a library in or near this gymnasium. A second gymnasium, recently discovered in the South, was offered to the city by a Lagid king.


  • Bringmann K., 2002, 'Rhodos als Bildungszentrum der hellenistischen Welt', Chiron 32, p. 65-81.
  • Gabrielsen V., 1997, The naval aristocracy of Hellenistic Rhodes, Aarhus.
  • Mygind B., 1999, 'Intellectuals in Rhodes', in V. Gabrielsen, P. Bilde et. al. (eds), Hellenistic Rhodes. Politics, culture and society,  Aarhus, p. 247-293.
  • Wycherley RE, 1976, «Rhodes», in R. Stillwell, W.L. MacDonald et M.H. McAlister (eds), The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites,  Princeton, Princeton University Press.


Coqueugniot Gaëlle


Title : Rhodes
Creator : Coqueugniot Gaëlle
Subject : Site
Editor : Coqueugniot Gaëlle (transl.)
Date : May 2018
Format : Text & images
Language : English
Relation :
Coverage : Greece / 4th c. BC – AD 1st c. / Hellenistic
Rights : CC by NC - SA