The Thirty-First Discourse: the Rhodian Oration
Some information about the island of Rhodes and its capital city of the same name may contribute to an appreciation of this Discourse.
The island, which has an area of approximately 424 square miles, lies in the extreme eastern part of the Aegean Sea and is about ten miles south of Cape Alypo, the ancient Cynossema Promontorium, on the coast of Asia Minor. From it one can see to the north the elevated coast of Asia Minor and in the south-east Mount Ida of Crete. It is still noted for its delightful climate and its fertile soil.
There is a legend that the earliest inhabitants of Rhodes were the Telchines, skilled workers in metal, and the Children of the Sun, who were bold navigators; yet, whatever the racial affinity of these people may have been, in historic times the population was Dorian.
In the fifth century before Christ its three cities of Lindus, lalysus, and Camirus were enrolled in the Delian League, but in 412 b.c. they revolted from Athens. Then in 408 they united to form the new city of Rhodes on the northeast tip of the island. This city presented a very impressive appearance, laid out as it was by the architect Hippodamus in the form of an amphitheatre on a gentle slope running down to the sea.
After the founding of this city the prosperity and political importance of the island steadily increased. It threw off the yoke of Athens in the Social War, 357–354, and although it submitted first to Mausolus of Caria and then later to Alexander the Great, it reasserted its independence after the latter’s death, greatly expanded its trade, and became
more powerful than before, so that its standard of coinage and its code of maritime law became widely accepted in the Mediterranean. In 305–4 the city successfully withstood a siege by the redoubtable Demetrius Poliorcetes, who by means of his formidable fleet and artillery attempted to force the city into an active alliance with King Antigonus. On raising the siege Demetrius presented the Rhodians with his mighty siege-engines, from the sale of which they realized enough to pay for the Colossus, the celebrated statue of the Sun-god, one hundred and five feet high, which was executed by Chares of Lindus and stood at the entrance of the harbour.
In 227 Rhodes suffered from a severe earthquake, the damages of which the other states helped to restore because they could not endure to see the state ruined. Chiefly by her fleet Rhodes supported Rome in her wars against Philip V. of Macedon, Antiochus III., and Mithridates, who besieged the city unsuccessfully in 88. It assisted Pompey against the pirates and at first against Julius Caesar; but in 42 that Caius Cassius who formed the conspiracy against Caesar’s life captured and ruthlessly plundered the city for refusing to submit to his exactions; and although befriended by Mark Antony after this, it never fully recovered from the blow. In the year 44 of our era, in the reign of Claudius, it lost its freedom temporarily, but recovered it at the intercession of Nero, who throughout his life remained very friendly to Rhodes. Then at the beginning of the reign of Vespasian it was reduced to a Roman province. This has been considered the end of Rhodes’ freedom. Von Arnim, however (Leben und Werke, 217–218), gives good reason for believing that Rhodes was given its freedom again for a short time under Titus. This view is accepted by Van Gelder (Geschichte der alten Rhodier, 175), who suggests that this may have occurred somewhat later under Nerva or Trajan, by Hiller von Gaertringen in his article on Rhodes in Pauly-Wissowa, Suppl. V., col. 810, and by Lemarchand in his Dion de Prusc, 84.
Rhodes was noted for its paintings and its sculpture. In Dio’s time the city is said to have had 3000 statues. (See Pliny the Elder 34. 7. 36 and cf. § 146 of this Discourse.) Then too it was the birthplace of the philosopher Panaetius, whose pupil, the philosopher and historian Poseidonius, had his school there; Apollonius Rhodius also spent part of his