Settlements > Rhodes

Rhodes

Background

Rhodes then became a part of the growing empire of Alexander the Great in 332 BC, after he defeated the Persians. Following the death of Alexander, his generals vied for control of the kingdom. Three—Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Antigonus—succeeded in dividing the kingdom among themselves. Rhodes formed strong commercial and cultural ties[21] with the Ptolemies in Alexandria, and together formed the Rhodo-Egyptian alliance that controlled trade throughout the Aegean in the 3rd century BC.

The city developed into a maritime, commercial and cultural center; its coins circulated nearly everywhere in the Mediterranean. Its famous schools of philosophy, science, literature and rhetoric shared masters with Alexandria: the Athenian rhetorician Aeschines, who formed a school at Rhodes; Apollonius of Rhodes;[22] the observations and works of the astronomers Hipparchus and Geminus, the rhetorician Dionysius Thrax. Its school of sculptors developed, under Pergamese influence, a rich, dramatic style that can be characterized as "Hellenistic Baroque". Agesander of Rhodes, with two other Rhodian sculptors, carved the famous Laocoön group, now in the Vatican Museums, and the large sculptures rediscovered at Sperlonga in the villa of Tiberius, probably in the early Imperial period.

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 ft (55 m) battering ram and a siege tower named Helepolis that weighed 360,000 pounds (163,293 kg). 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: "If we have ten Rhodians, we have ten ships."[citation needed] The Rhodians also established their dominance on the shores of Caria across from their island, which became known as the "Rhodian Peraia". It extended roughly from the modern city of Muğla (ancient Mobolla) in the north and Kaunos bordering Lycia in the south, near the present-day Dalyan, Turkey.

Rhodes successfully carried on this policy through the course of the third century BC, an impressive achievement for what was essentially a democratic state. By the end of that period, however, the balance of power was crumbling, as declining Ptolemaic power made Egypt an attractive target for Seleucid ambitions. In 203/2 BC the young and dynamic kings of Antigonid Macedon and Seleucid Asia, Philip V and Antiochus III, agreed to accept—at least temporarily—their respective military ambitions, Philip's campaign in the Aegean and western Anatolia and Antiochus’ final solution of the Egyptian question. Heading a coalition of small states, the Rhodians checked Philip's navy, but not his superior army. Without a third power to which to turn, the Rhodians appealed in 201 BC to the Roman Republic.

Despite being exhausted by the titanic struggle against Hannibal (218-201 BC) the Romans agreed to intervene, having already been stabbed in the back by Philip during the war against Carthage. The Senate saw the appeal from Rhodes and her allies as the opportunity to pressure Philip. The result was the Second Macedonian War (200-196 BC), which ended Macedon's role as a major player and preserved Rhodian independence. Rhodian influence in the Aegean was cemented through the organization of the Cyclades into the Second Nesiotic League under Rhodian leadership.

The Romans actually withdrew from Greece after the end of the conflict, but the resulting power vacuum quickly drew in Antiochus and subsequently the Romans, who defeated (192-188 BC) the last Mediterranean power that might even vaguely threaten their predominance. Having provided Rome with valuable naval help in her first foray into Asia, the Rhodians were rewarded with territory and enhanced status.[citation needed] The Romans once again evacuated the east – the Senate preferred clients to provinces – but it was clear that Rome now ruled the world and Rhodian autonomy was ultimately dependent upon good relations with them.

And those good graces soon evaporated in the wake of the Third Macedonian War (171-168 BC). In 169 BC, during the war against Perseus, Rhodes sent Agepolis as ambassador to the consul Quintus Marcius Philippus, and then to Rome in the following year, hoping to turn the Senate against the war.[24] Rhodes remained scrupulously neutral during the war, but in the view of hostile elements in the Senate she had been a bit too friendly with the defeated King Perseus. Some actually proposed declaring war on the island republic, but this was averted. In 164, Rhodes became a permanent ally of Rome, ending an independence that no longer had any meaning.[clarification needed] It was said that the Romans ultimately turned against the Rhodians because the islanders were the only people they had encountered who were more arrogant than themselves

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