The human presence on Rhodes, evidenced by cave finds, can be traced with certainty back to the Stone Age (4000 BC), probably immigrants from Asia Minor. These were followed by waves of Bronze Age settlers, Carians from Anatolia, Phoenicians from Asia Minor and Minoans from Crete.
Mycenaeans were a race from mainland Greece whose influence on Rhodes was extremely important. They built a trading empire across the eastern Mediterranean. The Dorians invaded Rhodes around 1100BC, as a result of which trade subsided and Rhodes was divided into three city-states (Lindos, Kamiros and Ialyssos). Over time, these city-states established trade with Cyprus, Egypt, Syria, the Phoenicians and other Greek states like Athens and Sparta. Rhodes flourished and established colonies in Sicily, southern Italy, Spain and France.
The most important event in the ancient history of Rhodes was the merging of its three city-states (Kamiros, Lindos, and Ialyssos) in 408 BC. The new city which they decided to build named Rhodes, was designed by Hippodamus of Miletus the greatest town planner of antiquity, and was laid out on the northern tip of the island. The ships of Rhodes covered the Mediterranean, and the seafaring and commercial activities of the citizens filled the town with wealth. Apart from being a powerful and independent state, Rhodes also developed at this time into an important center of learning and education. Schools of rhetoric and philosophy sprang up. The great sculptors Deinocrates and Hares were themselves sons of the Island. Hares was the artist who created the famous Colossus of Rhodes. Rhodes reached the height of its economic and political power in the 3rd century BC and the first half of the 2nd century.
In 164 BC, Rhodes signed a treaty with Rome. It became an educational center for Roman noble families, and was especially noted for its teachers of rhetoric, such as Hermagoras and the author of the Rhetorica ad Herennium. 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. Rhodes was stripped of any influence and the city fell into a slow decline.
Apostle Paul arrived in Lindos in 51 AD and began to convert the population to Christianity. A huge earthquake in 155 AD devastated the Island and left it vulnerable to attacks by the Goths, Arabs, Saracens, Turks and Romans.
In 395AD, after the division of the Roman Empire, Rhodes was attached to the Byzantine Empire. The economy of Rhodes became active once more. As the western Europeans waged the wars of the Crusades in the East, ships from all across the continent moored in Rhodes' harbors. Together with the economy, all other areas of life in Rhodes flourished.
In 1306 the Knights of St John of Jerusalem settled in the Dodecanese. Given the multinational composition of the chivalric order, Rhodes inevitably came into economic, political and cultural contact with all of Western Europe. The harbor became one of the most important portals through which goods and ideas passed from Western Europe to the East. Particularly after the mid-15th century, the Greek population seems to have prospered. A large scholarly class of Greeks and Westerners cultivated learning and studied the Classical writers in Greek and Latin. This mixed population of Greeks, Westerners and Jews lived together in a walled city surrounded by orchards of fruit trees.
In 1522, after a 90-day siege led by Süleyman I of Turkey, the Knights were forced to evacuate the island and allowed to sailed off to Malta. Rhodes was populated by ethnic groups from the surrounding nations. Turkish sovereignty over Rhodes lasted until 1912.
In 1912, Italy wrested Rhodes and the Dodecanese Islands from the Turks. As a result of the Treaty of Lausanne, Rhodes, along with the other Dodecanese islands, was officially assigned to Italy. It became the core of their possession of the Isole Italiane dell'Egeo (Italian Islands of the Aegean). The Italians attempted to reconstruct many buildings and monuments in Rhodes.
In 1943, the Germans invaded Rhodes and the Dodecanese Islands. While they were there, they deported the entire Jewish population to the extermination camp at Auschwitz. The Germans ruled Rhodes and other islands until they were liberated by the British May 1945.
In 1945 after the German surrender of the Dodecanese, the islands were put under the protection of a transitional British administration. In 1947, at the Paris Peace Conference, Greece was given control of the Dodecanese.
In 1948, together with the other islands of the Dodecanese, Rhodes was united with Greece. Today, Rhodes attracts more tourists than any other Greek island, and it is once more a crossroads for the peoples of the world, who come to enjoy its natural beauty and the historical memories which permeate its atmosphere and can almost be said to emanate from the soil.