Wars of the Diadochi > Siege of Rhodes

Siege of Rhodes

Alexander the Great - Dove Decoration


The Siege of Rhodes (305-304 BCE) was one of the most famous battles of the Wars of the Diadochi in which Antigonus I Monophthalmus sent his son Demetrius I Poliorcetes to siege the island city-state of Rhodes because it was aligned with the ruler of Ptolemaic Kingdom under the rule of Ptolemy I Soter. The battle famously led to the creation of the Colossus of Rhodes which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and built by scraping the battle equipment left behind.

At the time the island of Rhodes was a city-state located on the Aegean Sea. It was a commercial and mercantile republic with a massive navy that patrolled the entrance to the settlement. Throughout the chaos of the Wars of the Diadochi they managed to maintain neutrality with the other powers in order to protect their vital trade routes. Despite this they still maintained a close connection with the Ptolemaic Kingdom based out of Egypt.

Rhodes maintained treaties of neutrality with other empires to protect trade. However, they had a close relationship with Ptolemy I and Demetrius was worried Rhodes would supply him with ships. Demetrius also saw the possibility of using Rhodes as a base. The decision to lay siege to Rhodes was influenced by these fears but it was also a piratical enterprise by Demetrius. Much of the Greek world, regardless of whether they were allies of Demetrius or not, apparently also viewed the siege as a pirate attack and sympathized with the Rhodians, and this attitude existed even in Macedonia.As well as a fighting fleet of 200 ships and 150 auxiliary vessels Demetrius also enlisted the aid of many pirate fleets. Over 1,000 private trading vessels followed his fleets in anticipation of the plunder success would bring.

The Siege

The city and main harbor of Rhodes was strongly fortified and Demetrius was unable to prevent supply ships from running his blockade so capturing the harbor was his main priority. He first built his own harbor alongside and constructed a mole from which he deployed a floating spiked boom but Demetrius never succeeded in taking the harbor. At the same time his army ravaged the island and built a huge camp next to the city but just out of missile range. Early in the siege the walls were breached and a number of troops entered the city but they were all killed and Demetrius didn't press the attack. The walls were subsequently repaired.Both sides used many technical devices during the siege such as mines and countermines and various siege engines. Demetrius even built the now notable siege tower, known as the Helepolis, in his attempt to take the city.The citizens of Rhodes were successful in resisting Demetrius; after one year he abandoned the siege and signed a peace agreement (304 BC) which Demetrius presented as a victory because Rhodes agreed to remain neutral in his war with Ptolemy (Egypt). The unpopularity of the siege may have been a factor in its abandonment after only one year.


Following the defeat of Demetrius I the citizens of Rhodes would use the weapons and armaments left behind to construct the massive Wonder of the Ancient World known as the Colossus of Rhodes. The completion of this project would be overseen by Ptolemy II Philadelphus.


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