The Rhodian Navy: The Proper Application of Limited Force

A. John Graham, Advisor

This dissertation treats the history of the navy of Rhodes, an island with a democratic government that arm protected from the death of Alexander the Great to the assassination of Julius Caesar (323-43 B.C.). Chapter 1 treats previous scholarship on the subject. Chapter 2 describes the island's unwilling role as a pawn in the struggle between the Athenian, Persian, and Spartan empires, and the establishment of a force at sea capable of preventing future foreign domination.

  • Chapter 3 details the great siege of 305 B.C., when a Macedonian general-king sought to subjugate the island, and failed spectacularly due to the prowess of the fleet and the courage of Rhodes' defenders. Chapter 4 described the aftermath of the siege and the island's war against endemic piracy and another dynast who sought hegemony. Chapter 5 narrates the Rhodian navy's successful repulse of organized Etruscan and Cretan pirates, and the resultant showdown with Philip V, the aggressive king of Macedonia proper. Chapter 6 records the wars with both Philip V and his rival, Antiochus III "The Great," and the island's alliance with the imperialist Roman Republic.

  • Chapter 7 treats the vicissitudes of Roman-Rhodian relations, and corrects the mistaken belief prevalent in scholarship concerning the Rhodian navy's demise. Chapter 8 will make it clear that it was Rhodes' unwilling involvement in Rome's civil wars, not any lingering debility, that allowed the island's conquest and the navy's destruction by Cassius in 43 B.C.

  • Aspects of the research described have furnished matter for three papers read before the American Philological Association and the U.S. Naval Academy Naval History Symposium of 1993. An article derived from the Annapolis lecture will be included in the published proceedings of that symposium.