Battle of Miletus, 412 BC

Battle of Miletus, 412 BC

The battle of Miletus (412 BC) was an Athenian victory fought outside the walls of Miletus, but that was followed almost immediately by the arrival of a Peloponnesian fleet and an Athenian retreat (Great Peloponnesian War).

After the Athenian defeat at Syracuse the Spartans decided to try and encourage a series of revolts in the Athenian Empire. Miletus, encouraged by the Athenian exile Alcibiades, was one of the cities to revolt, and soon became the main Spartan base in the area. A small force of five ships under Chalcideus was sent to the city, while the Athenians responded by blockading the city with twenty ships. This force won a minor victory at Panormus, in which Chalcideus was killed, but the real attack on the city had to wait until Athenian reinforcements had arrived.

The reinforcements arrived towards the end of the summer. They consisted of 1,000 Athenian hoplites, 1,500 Argives, of whom 1,000 were hoplites and 500 light troops who had been given heavy army in Athens, and 1,000 hoplites from the Athenian Empire. They were carried on a fleet of 48 ships, and were commanded by three generals - Phrynichus, Onomacles and Scironides. This fleet crossed the Ageanan to Samos, and then sailed directly to Miletus, landing close to the city.

The army that came out to oppose them was a good cross-section of the alliance that would eventually defeat Athens. Miletus, a former member of the Empire, provided 800 hoplites. The Spartans provided the force of Peloponnesians that had accompanied Chalcideus. The Persians provided two forces - a group of hired mercenaries, and their own cavalry, commanded in person by the local satrap Tissaphernes. Sadly Thucydides gives no numbers for these forces.

The battle began with a general advance along the Athenian line, but the Argives got ahead of the rest of the army, believing that as Dorian Greeks they would have no problem defeating the Ionian Milesians. During their advance the Argives became somewhat disorganised, and they suffered a costly defeat, losing 300 of their 1,500 men.

On the other flank the Athenians were victorious, defeated the Peloponnesian contingent first, then turning on the Persian contingent. Seeing the defeat of the rest of their army the Milesians retreated back into their city. Alcibiades, who had been fighting with the Tissaphernes, escaped from the battlefield and made his way to Teichiussa on the coast, where he was lucky enough to find a Peloponnesian fleet of 55 ships that had just arrived.

Meanwhile the Athenians at Miletus built a trophy to commemorate their victory, and then prepared to build a blockading wall across the isthmus that connected the city to the mainland. At this point news of the new Peloponnesian fleet reached them. Most of the army wanted to stand and fight, but Phrynichus refused to take part in a battle against a larger enemy force with Athens's last major fleet. He got his way, and that evening the entire Athenian force retreated to Samos. The Argive contingent, angry after their own defeat and now seeing the results of the battle thrown away, left the allied army and sailed for home.

Miletus Ancient Greece

Miletus Ancient Greece was one of the great Ionian cities in southwestern Asia Minor. Homer refers to the people of Milieus as Cambrians. They fought against the Achaean (Greeks) in the Trojan War. Later traditions have Ionian settlers taking the land from the Cambrians.

This city itself sent off settlers to the Black Sea area, as well as the Hellespont. In 499 This city led the Ionian revolt that was a contributing factor in the Persian Wars.

Battle of Salamis

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Battle of Salamis, (480 bc ), battle in the Greco-Persian Wars in which a Greek fleet defeated much larger Persian naval forces in the straits at Salamis, between the island of Salamis and the Athenian port-city of Piraeus. By 480 the Persian king Xerxes and his army had overrun much of Greece, and his navy of about 800 galleys bottled up the smaller Greek fleet of about 370 triremes in the Saronic Gulf. The Greek commander, Themistocles, then lured the Persian fleet into the narrow waters of the strait at Salamis, where the massed Persian ships had difficulty maneuvering. The Greek triremes then attacked furiously, ramming or sinking many Persian vessels and boarding others. The Greeks sank about 300 Persian vessels while losing only about 40 of their own. The rest of the Persian fleet was scattered, and as a result Xerxes had to postpone his planned land offensives for a year, a delay that gave the Greek city-states time to unite against him. The Battle of Salamis was the first great naval battle recorded in history.


Histiaeus was tyrant of Miletus in the late 6th century B . C ., and a minister of Darius I, who conspired to help the Ionian colonies revolt, in 499 B . C .. In 512 B . C . he accompanied Darius on his campaign to Scythia, and was left in charge of the boats. When Darius did return in the prescribed time, some of the other leaders who were guarding the boats, including Miltiades, who was at that time in service of Darius, recommending leaving. Histiaeus however, insisted that they remain, although he pretended to leave in order to deceive the Scythians. Shortly afterward Darius returned, and rewarded Histiaeus for his loyalty.

In return for his good service, Darius awarded Histiaeus a town in Thrace, which was later the site of Amphipolis. It was strategically located and had both silver mines and timber, so Megabazus, a jealous minister, connived and convinced Darius to recall him back to Susa as a personal advisor. The city of Miletus was then left in charge of his son-in-law, Aristagoras. Histiaeus however, did not like living in Susa and plotted his escape carefully. He assumed that if a revolt in Miletus broke out, Darius would send him back in order to restore order. He sent a message to Aristagoras by shaving a slave's head, tattooing a message, and waiting for the hair to grow back. The plan worked. Aristogoras, with the aid of Athens, attacked and burned Sardis, and Darius restored Histiaeus to his former position. Unfortunately, Artaphernes, a brother of Darius, got wind of the plot and Histiaeus fled, first to Chios, then Miletus, and he raised a fleet and became a pirate in the Black Sea.

The revolt was finally put down at the Battle of Lade in 494 B . C ., and sometime after this Histiaeus was captured by the Persian General Harpagus. Artaphernes knew that Darius would pardon him if he allowed him to return to Susa, so he killed him and sent his head to Darius.

Engagement of Lade

During 495 BC, near Lade, a huge battle occurred. Renew is an island off the shoreline of Anatolia. For this battle, the Persian military proposed to attack Miletus by means of sea and land. It was reasoned that Miletus would watch itself shorewards and Greek boats would gather approach Miletus to stop the Persian naval force as they moved closer. A couple of Greek islands took an interest and amassed their vessels near Lade, 333 boats inside and out.

An agreement to end the battle was eventually reached after the Persians asked the Greeks to do all things considered. Regardless, not all Greeks would abandon the fight. The Greek leaders who requested doing combating were brave, anyway would be squashed. The next year, the Persians would get Miletus as a reprisal. They would kill a significant parcel of the inhabitants. Samos was saved as they had kept the previous agreement. This show of retribution helped with restricting together the Greek metropolitan networks against the accompanying Persian interruption.

The First and Second Persian interruptions were essential junction in Ancient Greek history. These battles were among the most critical of them.

The Ionian Revolt

About 2500 years ago, the Persian Empire was expanding through Asia and into Asia Minor (the area between the Black and Mediterranean Seas) and taking control of the eastern world. A Persian ruler was installed over every city-state that they conquered. It was this action that eventually provoked the Ionian revolt which marked the beginning of the long confrontation between the Greek and Persian empires.

About BC 550, Cyrus I, emperor of Persia, conquered the territory of Ionia (the west coast of Modern Turkey). For all of their advances in science and mathematics, these well-established city-states seemed the most prominent in Greece. The people of Ionia, were discontent with their new, dictatorial rulers. The Persian rulers knew the feelings of the populace, but did little to alleviate the hostilities. Around BC 500, Artaphrenes, ruler of the western capital of Persia (Sardis) met with other leaders of Ionia. Seeing that many of them were anxious for gains in power and land, he made them agree not to attack each other. Artaphrenes knew that internal conflict could result in disintegration of the empire.

In BC 499, Aristagoras, the ruler of the Ionian city Miletus, yearned to control the city of Naxos. He tried to gain help from surrounding cities but failed. Fearing punishment from Darius I (Persian Emperor from BC 521-486) or Artaphrenes, for breaking the agreement, he incited a rebellion. Aristagoras encouraged the Ionians to remove their leaders. In response, many cities in the area rebelled and ousted their Persian rulers. Knowing that it would not be long until Darius retaliated, Aristagoras traveled to Sparta and appealed to King Cleomenes for aid. When the Spartan leader learned of the distance his army would travel to reinforce the Ionians, he declined the request for aid

Aristagoras, now desperate for support, went to Athens for help. The Athenians, fearing an inevitable attack by the Persians, decided to support Aristagoras and sent twenty triremes along with five from Eretria. The Ionian fleet, bolstered by Athenian and Eretrian ships, sailed to Ephesus in BC 498. The ships were moored at the port of Coressus and the soldiers followed the river Cayster to Sardis. The Allied Greek force marched into the city where they met little resistance. As they marched deeper into the city, they finally engaged Artaphrenes (ruler of Sardis) who was defending the citadel. Not able to capture the citadel, the Ionians set the city ablaze and retreated to Ephesus. Persians troops in the area met the Greeks at Ephesus and massacred most of them. The remaining Ionians scattered to the surrounding cities.

Despite the great setback of losing so many men, Aristagoras continued his fight against Persia. He encouraged more revolts in Western Asia Minor, Thrace and Cyprus. Aristagoras sent part of his fleet to aid the Cyprians, but the Persians thoroughly defeated the Cyprian army. Darius I decided to attack Caria, a city with close ties to Miletus, Aristagoras' city. When the Carians learned of this plan, they ambushed the Persian army at night and annihilated it. Four Persian generals died in the battle. Although their deaths were a great loss, Persia continued to reclaim cities.

Seeing his rebellion collapse and fearing for his life, Aristagoras fled to Mycrinus. He gave command of Miletus over to Pythagoras, a mathematician. Aristagoras, frustrated with his failed rebellion, attacked the Thracians, but in time, he and his army were cut off and destroyed.

After Aristagoras left Miletus, the Persian fleet sailed to Lade and destroyed the Greek fleet defending the city. Darius and his army captured Miletus in BC 494. After the city-state fell, the revolts in the Persian Empire crumbled, due to a lack of leadership.

The revolt had several lasting effects. The Ionian enlightenment ended. Darius I's anger for Athens grew, because of the aid they provided to the Ionians, and gave him the incentive to invade Greece. The rebellion had clearly shown that the empire was unstable, and vulnerable to internal conflicts.

Grant, Michael. Atlas of Classical History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Hanson, Victor Davis. The Wars of the Ancient Greeks. London: Cassell, 1999.

Rawlinson, George. The History of Herodotus. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc, 1952.

Sinnigen, William G. and Robinson Jr., Charles Alexander. Ancient History: Third Edition. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc, 1981.

The Mechanics of a Monumentally Difficult Prediction

The reason this astronomical event is thought of as being so important is that predicting a solar eclipse , compared with a lunar eclipse , is exceptionally difficult. The astronomer must not only calculate when it will occur, but where on Earth’s surface it will be visible and according to NASA, in a lunar eclipse the moon passes through the Earth's sun shadow and the phenomena is visible on the whole side of the Earth that is in nighttime, and they often last longer than an hour. In solar eclipses, however, the moon's shadow falls across the Earth in a comparatively narrow path with a maximum duration at any given location of about 7½ minutes.

So to accurately calculate a solar eclipse the observer requires an intimate understanding of the Moon's orbit around Earth to within fractions of a degree of accuracy, and what makes Thales’ prediction a historical mystery is that historians know early Greeks , at large, didn’t have this essential lunar data and there are no other records of Greek astronomers in this period accurately predicting any other eclipses. Thus, it is thought by historians that the only place Thales’ advanced astronomical knowledge could have come from was Egypt.

THE IONIAN REVOLT, 499 - 493 BC: The Start of the Greco-Persian Wars

[ABOVE: Map of the Ionian Revolt, 499 - 493 BC]

In 499 BC, the Greek cities of Ionia, on the Western coast of Asia Minor, staged a revolt against Persian rule. Greeks fighting against the Persians were initially successful, especially after gaining assistance from Athens soon after. Persia was initially slow to respond to the rioting, and the revolt eventually spread from Byzantium in the north to Cyprus in the south, engulfing much of the Greek world and the empire of Darius. When Persia began to gain the upper hand, Athens and her Eritrean allies backed off to mainland Greece, but Athens’s aid against Persia would not be forgotten by Darius. Using their excellent large-scale campaign management and siege warfare and by using the natural terrain to their advantage and to the Greek’s disadvantage, the revolt was suppressed and the rebels were put down harshly by 493 BC. Thrace and several Greek islands would be taken under Persian rule soon after, and revenge would be sought upon by Darius against Athens.


[ABOVE: A 2nd century Roman-made copy of a Greek 4th century BC bust of Herodotus]

The Ionian Revolt is described in detail in primary sources best by Herodotus (c.484-425 BC). A Greek himself living under the then-Persian-ruled Greek city of Halicarnassus a couple of decades after the revolt, he described the revolt as, largely, one that was doomed to always fail. This wasn’t born out of bias, but rather due to his position of only being able to write of events described to him through oral tradition. However, the revolt, while suppressed in the end, was very successful most cities involved in it were raised to the ground, and aid from mainland Greece reflected the grand scale of the revolt. However, once the Persian army was mobilised, alongside their Phoenician-owned fleets, they were unstoppable.

Go and check out my previous blog on the Achaemenid Persian Empire if you'd like a little background:

Following their expeditions into Scythia, Thrace and Macedonia, Persian expansion relaxed during the last decade of the 6th century BC. This didn’t mean that Greek cities living under Persian rule were relieved of pressure, but it did mean many Persian military demands were cut short, allowing the resentment of perceived agents of Persian control - the tyrants - to increase. The revolt’s origins stem from politics tyrants ruling over their individual city-states had to be seen to have the support of Persia in order to keep their prestigious titles, having to each bring themselves in person to the notice of Darius if they wanted greater rewards. This led to several times where these want-to-be tyrants would need to gamble, for if their one opportunity to show themselves off to the Persian king as irreplaceable failed then they would have to quit. This is likely the case with Aristagoras, tyrant of Miletus and the man who would start the revolt.



[ABOVE: A Miletan coin from Aristagoras's time, c.5th century BC]

Of all Aegean island nations, Naxos was perhaps the most prosperous during the 6th to early 5th centuries BC, while Miletus was arguably the most prosperous Ionian city. Two generations prior, Miletus was engaged in civil war, which was quelled by the Greeks of Paros The Parians sent their best men to Miletus, and settled the Miletan dispute by visiting their nation during their economic decline, and noting down the names of the few well-worked fields among the then-mostly devastated ones left on the island. With this list complete, they put the government in the hands of these people who owned the well-worked farms, thinking that they could run their nation as well as they ran their own lands. The populace was then ordered to do as their new rulers wished.


[ABOVE: Map of the isle of Naxos, showing its main settlements]

While this happened, men were being banished from Naxos by the people, ending up in Miletus. Aristagoras was Miletus’s governor at the time, and he was the son of Molpagoras, who was in turn the son-in-law and cousin of Histiaeus, whose father in turn was being detained in Susa by Darius. Histiaeus, tyrant of Miletus, was in Susa when the Naxians arrived in Miletus. Once there, the Naxians asked Aristagoras for military aid to get them back to Naxos. Aristagoras took this to mean that he could in turn end up ruling Naxos as a thanks. He told them that while he did not have the manpower to retake Naxos by force, his friendship with the Lydian Satrap Artaphrenes, brother of Darius, could provide them with the troops needed. With this, the Naxians gave Aristagoras permission to do what he could, telling him to offer gifts and pay for his military’s expense along the way, which they said they’d pay themselves. They did this as they expected the current inhabitants of Naxos to submit to them once they saw them, thinking that this would also happen on all other Aegean Islands not yet under Persian control.


[ABOVE: A model head of a Persian noble, thought to be Artaphrenes, c.520-480 BC]

Aristagoras travelled to Sardis. He told Artaphrenes that Naxos, while not a particularly big island, was lush, fertile and rich in property and slaves. Aristagoras told Artaphrenes to get an expedition together to take the island and bring back the banished exiles, telling him that he had enough money set aside as a reward to cover everything aside from military upkeep. Aristagoras also told Artaphrenes that owning Naxos would give Persia an Aegean island which had many other dependent islands (the Cyclades), enough islands to launch a successful attack on Euboea afterwards. Aristagoras recommended 100 warships would be enough for this expedition, but Artaphrenes disagreed, saying he would require 200, along with King Darius’s approval. Pleased with this reply, Aristagoras returned to Miletus, while Artaphrenes sent a message to Darius detailing Aristagoras’s proposition, which the king approved of too. With this, Artaphrenes received 200 warships and a large army of Persians and allies. Artaphrenes handed command of the army to Megabates, Artaphrenes and Darius’s cousin. The force under Megabates now was sent from Artpahrenes over to Miletus, where Aristagoras, the Ionian forces and the exiles from Naxos joined them. Upon reaching the isle of Chios, Megabates stopped to make round checks on his forces’ sentries, he found no guards were left on board one of the ships. The ships captain was punished by having his head placed through the ships oar-hole, where he was left tied down. Finding out, Aristagoras thought the captain had been severely mistreated, so went to untie him himself. Megabates was furious at this, but this didn’t phase Aristagoras, who reminded Megabates of his position under his command. Enraged further, Megabates secretly sent some men over to Naxos to warn them of the coming forces.


The Naxians had no idea they were being targeted by such a large force, but upon hearing the news from Megabates’ messengers, everything from their fields was brought within the city walls, and the city’s people were stocked well with enough food and water to last out a siege, and the city’s walls themselves were reinforced. When the Persian force arrived, they were met with a now-well defended army and city, until 4 months had passed, and the money given to Aristagoras to fund this expedition had run out. With this in mind, a stronghold was ordered to be built on Naxos for the exiles while the main army returned to Persian territory. The Naxian expedition had failed.


Aristagoras was thus able to keep his promise to Artaphrenes. He was also concerned that his failure, wasting of money and personal feud with Megabates could result in him loosing his rulership of Miletus. With this in mind, Aristagoras contemplated rebelling. By coincidence, at this time a message arrived from Histiaeus in Susa, telling Aristagoras he should rebel against Darius. With Persia’s road networks being heavily guarded, the message had to be tattooed to a man’s head after it had been shaved, whereafter his hair would grow and when the message needed to be read, the man's head was simply shaved again and the message could be read. Histiaeus took this extra precaution to deliver this message to Aristagoras because he disliked being kept in Susa, and expected to be allowed to the coast on the offset of a Miletan rebellion he thought that unless such a rebellion took place, he’d likely never be allowed to leave.


Aristagoras sought his supporters’ advice, telling them first of Histiaeus’s message. Their response is just what he was after they urged him to revolt. One man however, the writer Hecataeus, said otherwise, stating that Darius’s vast empire and resources would lead to this rebellion being swiftly crushed. When this argument fell on deaf ears, Hecataeus instead switched tactics, saying that if Aristagoras were to indeed revolt, he should first take control of the sea, knowing Miletus was weak at the time. Hecataeus explained that taking over the sanctuary at Branchidae would be the best way to achieve this this location is where Croesus of Lydia had once dedicated a vast amount of valuables, so seizing this wealth would help greatly fund their rebellion, or else they should be stolen by the empire. While Hecataeus’s proposal didn’t go down well, Aristagoras and his followers still chose to go through with the revolt. The followers also chose to sail to Myous, which is where the expeditionary force coming back from Naxos had temporarily stopped, in order to gain control of the commanders who were on board ships there.

A force was dispatched and several captains were captured. With the Ionian Revolt officially started, the next thing Aristagoras did was give up his position as tyrant and convert the citizens of Miletus to a state of equality as per the law so as to make them more voluntary in joining the rebellion. He then went on to repeat this for the rest of the Ionian cities, expelling some local tyrants and installing his own captured captains as tyrants instead in order to get on good terms with the local peoples. Once enough tyrants were killed or deposed of, Aristagoras set sail for military allies, heading first to Sparta.


Go and check out my previous blog on Lycurgus and the policy of the Spartans:

[ABOVE: Territorial holdings of Sparta]

One of the current kings of Sparta was Cleomenes I, from the Eurypontid Lineage, who took over from his father Anaxandridas II in around 519 BC. Anaxandridas had previously married his niece, and while the marriage was stable, the Ephors of Sparta recommended he marry someone else instead to bare children, but he refused, despite this move making him unpopular with the people. Together, the Ephors and Gerousia insisted that he should thus instead keep his current wife but bring in a new one too. With this proposal, Anaxandridas agreed, and thus spent the rest of his life between two homes, contrary to normal Spartan custom. It was this second wife that birthed Cleomenes.


Whereas Cleomenes is described as being on the verge of insanity during his life, his half-brother Dorieus (born to Anaxandridas’s first wife) is described to be an outstanding man, giving him confidence that his prestige as such would make him a better suited king than Cleomenes. However, when Anaxandridas died, as per the Spartan constitution, Cleomenes became king and not Dorieus, angering him greatly. He thus went so far as to get together a bunch of Spartan settlers and sail for Libya, hoping to found his own Spartan colony, without first checking with the Ephors for permission. Two years after the settlements founding on the banks of the River Cinyps, the Spartans were driven out by local Libyans and Carthaginians, forcing him back to the Peloponnese. Back home, he received advice to colonise Heraclea in Sicily, as the region it occupied was supposedly visited by Heracles. This advice, and a positive response from the Oracle at Delphi, convinced him to set sail for Sicily, taking his former Libyan followers with him. After aiding the people of the city of Croton, Dorieus captured the city of Sybaris. From here, they marched into Sicily, but were quickly defeated in battle by local Carthaginian forces. In this clash, Dorieus was killed. In hindsight, had Dorieus just stayed in Sparta, he would have become king soon after - Cleomenes’ reign, in which he would only bare a daughter named Gorgo, would be more brief than expected.


It was in Cleomenes’ reign that Aristagoras arrived in Sparta. Aristagoras brought with him a bronze chart with the entire known world engraved into it. He told the king of the Ionian’s situation, and of how the Persians weren’t “formidable fighters” or well armoured in battle, making them easy to defeat. Aristagoras also tried to convince Cleomenes to join him by describing Ionia as wealthier “than the rest of the world put together” in terms of both its sheer wealth and luxury goods. After describing the lands of the Ionians, Lydians, Phrygians and all the tributes they paid to Darius, he described the Persian capital of Susa, telling Cleomenes that he should consider taking the city and all its wealth. Aristagoras then made a mistake in his pursuit to convince the Spartans to join: he told the truth as to how long it would take to get from Ionia to Susa: 3 months. This was a step too far for the Spartan king, who ordered Aristagoras to leave Sparta immediately. Aristagoras pursued Cleomenes further though, now trying to bribe the king to go to Asia, but Cleomenes’s 8/9 year old daughter, Gorgo, told her father that Aristagoras was attempting to corrupt him. This pleased the Spartan king, and with that, Aristagoras left Sparta.

Go and check out my previous blog on how Athens became the world's first democracy, 508/7 BC:

Once out of Sparta, Aristagoras went to Athens, who at that point had only recently rid themselves of their last tyrant, Hippias. He essentially gave them the same speech as he had in Sparta, stating how rich Asia was and how easy the Persians were to beat in combat. Aristagoras also expected that Miletus would receive their aid, since it was a colony of Athens. In desperation, and after promising them everything, Aristagoras had convinced Athens to help, and they in return voted to send twenty warships to aid the revolt, commanded by a distinguished Athenian: Melanthius. Aristagoras set sail for Asia at the head of the Athenians.

[ABOVE: The route of the Ionian forces aided by Athenian and Eritrean contingents]

These twenty warships would be the beginning of misery to come for both sides.


When back at Miletus, Aristagoras hatched a plan, one simply to pest Darius he sent a man to the Paeonians, now displaced in Phrygia from Thrace. His message was for the Paeonians to take the Ionian Revolt as the opportunity to also rise up against Persia and take their Thracian homeland back. The messenger promised the Paeonians protection once they made it to the Aegean coast. Happy with this idea, most of the Paeonians fled to the coast with their families, eventually returning to Paeonia.


[ABOVE: The acropolis of Sardis' remains]

Meanwhile, Aristagoras and Melanthius’s twenty warships arrived at Miletus, joined by five ships from Eritrea who were there to repay a debt owed to Miletus. Once there, Aristagoras launched the attack on Sardis but stayed in Miletus, giving command to his brother, Charopinus, and a Milesian called Hermophantus. Leaving their fleet in Ephesian territory and using local Ephesians as guides, they eventually reached the city of Sardis, capturing the entire city aside from the well-fortified acropolis, which was being defended by Artaphrenes. The rest of the city could have been looted, but the houses were either entirely made out of reeds or only the roofs were when a soldier burnt down one house, it didn’t take long for the entire city to be engulfed in flames. Artaphrenes only had a handful of troops with him in the acropolis, yet when attacked they put up a considerable fight, so much so that the attacking Ionians withdrew to the safety of the nearby Mount Tmolus, returning to their fleet in the night.

[ABOVE: The burning of Sardis by the Greeks in 498 BC, unknown author]

During this siege, a sacred sanctuary to the goddess Cybebe was burnt down. Persia would use this sacrilege as the excuse to burn down several Greek sanctuaries in the wars to come.


The Ionian troops who left the siege of Sardis made it to Ephesus, but were caught up by Persian troops who had been called to help the Lydians. The Ionians formed up for battle, but were soundly defeated. Eualcides, the commander of the Eritrean forces, was killed in combat, while the remaining Ionian survivors split up in their route and returned to their homes. It was after the failed siege of Sardis and the defeat outside Ephesus that caused the Athenian troops to board their ships once more and return home, even when Aristagoras tried to persuade them to stay. Meanwhile, the Ionians had already come this far towards their pursuit of action against the Persian king that they regrouped and made ready to pursue Darius once more. Sending a fleet to the Hellespont, they captured the city of Byzantium and all its surrounding settlements, gaining most of Caria on their return back to Asia.


[ABOVE: Map of the ancient kingdoms and main cities within the isle of Cyprus]

With the revolt having some good success at this point, Cyprus too revolted. The Cypriots had never been the most willing of Persian subjects, so when the king of Cyprus, Gorgus, was outside the main Cypriot city of Salamis one day, (this “Salamis” is not to be confused with the island near Athens of the same name where a famous battle would take place) Onesilus, Gorgus’s younger brother who had previously tried convincing Gorgus to join the Ionian Revolt, now joined with conspirators and closed the gates on his own brother. Gorgus thus took refuge with the Persians and Onesilus was made king of Salamis. Onesilus thus set out to convince all of Cyprus to join him in rebellion, and when only the city of Amathous refused, he quickly besieged the city. A Persian reinforcing army under a Persian named Artybius would eventually be sent to attack Onesilus, supported by Phoenician-manned warships, and Ionians would also arrive at Cyprus to protect Onesilus with their fleet.


[ABOVE: Darius I in a painting imagined by a Greek painter, 4th century BC]

Meanwhile, Darius got word of the Athenian and Ionian capture and destruction of Sardis by Aristagoras. Confident he could quickly subdue the Ionians again, Darius instead asked who the Athenians were. Once being told of them, the king took a bow and arrow and shot it into the sky, declaring for Zeus himself to make it possible for him to punish the Athenians one day. He also asked for a servant to remind him before every meal:

“Master, remember the Athenians.”

Darius then summoned for Histiaeus, still detained in Susa. The king prompted Histiaeus for answers as to why Aristagoras, who Histiaeus had himself left in charge of Miletus, was now leading a revolt against the empire, asking if he had anything to do with this too. Histiaeus denied involvement, despite being the one who first convinced Aristagoras to revolt. Histiaeus even convinced the king to allow him to go to Ionia himself to restore order. In agreement, Darius returned to Susa.


In Cyprus, the Persian and Cypriot armies lined up for battle outside the city of Salamis. The élite troops from the cities of Salamis and Soli were placed opposite the Persians, while the rest of the Cypriot forces faced off against the rest of the army. Onesilus placed himself directly opposite Artybius. The Ionian engaged the Phoenician fleet and proved worthy adversaries. On land, Artybius himself charged downhill on his horse, which is said to have been trained to stand up and kick with its front legs when confronted with heavy infantry, straight towards Onesilus. Onesilus’s esquire knew of Artybius’s horse’s trick, and when the Persian general attacked Onesilus, he cut off the horses feet as it landed them back on the ground. Artybius was then slain in combat.

[ABOVE: Depiction of a Greek hoplite (right) fighting a Persian soldier (left), 5th century BC]

Elsewhere in the land battle, the tyrant of the Cypriot city of Curium, who was leading a big quantity of the Cypriot army, switched sides mid-battle, joining the Persians. This greatly turned the tide of battle, forcing the Cypriots to retreat. In the route, casualties were heavy. Among the dead was the king of Soli, and Onesilus himself. The people of the Cypriot city of Amathous, previously put under siege by Onesilus, gained revenge by cutting off Onesilus's head and burying it. With all other Cypriot cities soon besieged after by Persian forces, Gorgus was reinstated as king of Salamis. With the tide of war thus swinging back in Persia’s favour, the Ionian fleet set sail back to Ionia. Soli was the last Cypriot city to fall back into Persian hands after Achaemenid soldiers dug tunnels under ground and into the city. Cyprus was subdued, and the Ionian fleet that had fled were caught up to by Persian forces, who defeated the Greeks in battle and plundered their ships. The Hellespontine cities of Dardanus, Abydus, Percote, Lampsacus and Paesus were all quickly recaptured by Persian forces led by a commander named Daurises.



[ABOVE: The Carian campaign of 496 BC]

Upon the recapture of Paesus, Daurises got word that the region of Caria had now joined in the revolt, so headed south from the Hellespont. The Carians, meanwhile, marched north quickly their plan was to let the Persians cross the River Meander and then meet them for battle there, cutting off a quick line of retreat for the enemy. When the two armies engaged however, a quick Persian victory ensued, swarming the Carians with sheer numbers. Herodotus gives the figures of 2,000 dead Persian soldiers and around 10,000 Carians. Surviving Carian troops eventually regrouped with local Milesian allies at a sanctuary to Zeus. The Persians caught up to them, battle ensued once more and the rebels were crushed. However, some Carian survivors from this second engagement learned that the Persians were heading for their home cities. Knowing their own lands better than the Persians, the Carians set up a series of ambushes. On a road to the town of Pedasa, the Persians were ambushed. Three high-ranking Persian commanders, including Daurises and even Gyges' own son Myrsus, were killed.


Meanwhile, after a Persian commander was sent to crush the Ionians that attacked Sardis caught an illness and died, Artaphrenes and Otanes, a commander who served with Daurises, were sent in his place, and both commanders captured cities on their march towards Ionia. With their successes, Aristagoras, who started this whole revolt, feared the armies heading his way, and thus fled for Thrace. Gaining control of the land he had set out for, his own army soon came under attack from local Thracian tribes, and in the fight, Aristagoras was killed.
The revolt would continue, but without its first leader.


Histiaeus, formerly tyrant of Miletus and once detained in Susa by King Darius, had since been released by the king and met up with him in Sardis. When Histiaeus arrived, governor Artaphrenes asked him what he thought caused the revolt to begin with. Despite Histiaeus' attempt to feign ignorance, Artaphrenes saw through him, saying “it was you who stitched the shoe, while Aristagoras merely put it on.” In fear of what else Artaphrenes might know, Histiaeus quietly snuck out the city at night, heading for the coast. On his way west, he was captured in the city of Chios, whose citizens (who were fighting for the revolt) thought he was attempting to retake the city. When Histiaeus explained everything, they set him free.

Later, Histiaeus sent a letter to Sardis Persians who he had spoken to before about the rebellion were in the city, and he hoped to bolster the rebellion’s numbers with some of Darius’s own men. However, the messenger instead delivered the message to Artaphrenes, who told the messenger to hand it to the Persians at Sardis, but relay their reply back to him instead. With the plot discovered, Artaphernes had many Persians killed.


At Histiaeus’s own request, the men of Chios attempted to get him back to Miletus. The Milesians, though, having recently gained and enjoyed independence, did not wish to have another tyrant reinstated. Histiaeus would try to take the city for himself, but was wounded in the attempt. Effectively banished from his own city, Histiaeus set out for Mytilene, hoping the city would hand him some ships. They together manned eight ships, sailing for Byzantium. There, they set up camp and took control of all ships which were setting sail for the Black Sea, unless a ships crew would recognise Histiaeus as their leader.


Histiaeus’s presence in Byzantium left Miletus vulnerable, and the city was soon under attack by Persian land and sea forces, which included the navy of the recently-subdued Cypriots. When word of the attacks on Miletus and Ionia reached the Ionian rebels, they decided not to engage the Persians head-on on land, choosing instead to pull back, let the Milesians delay the Persians, and assemble their fleets together, meeting the Persian ships at sea by a small island near Miletus called Lade.

[ABOVE: Locations of the city of Miletus, and the location of the battle of Lade, 494 BC]


Contingents of ships from Aeolis, Lesbos and Miletus itself would assist the Ionians as the Greek and Persian navies faced off against each other at Lade. From the left-wing of the combined navy to the right-wing were the following city-states and their ships: The Milesians with 80 ships, Prieneans with 12 ships, Myusians with 3 ships, Myesians with 17, Chians with 100, Erythraens and Phocaeans with 11 ships, Lesbians (from Lesbos) with 70 ships, and the right-wing was manned by the Samians with 60 ships. Together, 353 triremes, commanded by Dionysius of Phocaea, faced off against 600 Persian ships. Should the Greek fleet win the day at Lade, the Persians would likely loose control of the sea, and the fleet’s commanders would be punished severely by Darius.

[ABOVE: Reconstructed model trireme, the Greek and Persian war ship]

Worried in case they lost to a smaller navy, the Persian commanders convened together, inviting local Ionian tyrants who had gone to the Persian’s side after Aristagoras had deposed of them. They told the tyrants to detach their own citizens from the Ionian alliance, promising no punishment of any sort for them if they did. Come the cover of darkness, the tyrants went off to send messages to their own people to convince them to do so, but to no avail the people were already set on their choice to stay in the rebellion.


Before the fleets engaged at Lade, Dionysius roused his troops up for battle:

“Men of Ionia, our affairs are balanced on a razor’s edge. We can remain free or we can become slaves - and runaway slaves at that. If you are prepared to accept hardship, then in the short term there’ll be work for you to do, but you will defeat the enemy and be free if, on the other hand, you choose softness and lack of discipline, I am quite sure that you’ll be punished for rebelling against the king. No, you must do as I suggest. Put yourselves in my hands, and I can assure you that, if the gods are impartial, the enemy will either not engage us or, if they do, they will suffer a severe defeat.”


This speech persuaded the Ionian alliance to train hard while awaiting the Persian fleet. In the meantime, Dionysius had the men practice fleet formations and drills all day. He in fact worked them so hard and during such hot temperatures that some men in the navy began to start viewing this hard work as a form of enslavement itself. Some of these men remained on the isle of Lade itself, making camp, keeping to the shade and refusing to board ships. Finding out about this, the Persian-led Phoenician ships set sail against the Ionian fleet. The battle of Lade had begun, but while the Ionians reacted by forming into a column, the Samians’ 49 out of 60 ships hoisted their sails and withdrew from the fight back to Samos. This flight of such a large contingent of ships caused all the Lesbian ships, and large amounts of other Ionian contingents, to break off and flee. The battle itself, though not documented in detail itself, saw the Chian fleet of 100 ships take the heaviest hit, as they showed the most upfront bravery in fighting the Persians after seeing some of their own allies flee without a fight. Several Persian ships were captured by Chian ships, but these Greeks were eventually heavily overrun and crushed. Any Chian survivors soon withdrew back to Chios.


Surviving Chian ships beached at Mycale, with its soldiers and sailors setting out on foot to the mainland. They eventually arrived at night near Ephesus, to the Ephesians’s surprise. So surprised were they in fact that the local people’s mistook them for nighttime raiders, hoping to make off with their women, and so attacked and killed them. As Dionysius saw his Ionian fleet destroyed in battle or fleeing, he too fled far away.

Following their victory at Lade, the Persians blockaded Miletus by sea and land. The city was eventually taken, and the inhabitants’ men were killed and the women and children were sold into slavery. Survivors were handed to King Darius at Susa, who relocated them to the Red Sea coast. Samos would be spared such harsh treatment by Persia, who instead reinstated their own local leader, Aeaces the son of Syloson, as governor. Caria was soon reoccupied by Persian forces shortly after Miletus’s fall, with its communities either bowing down willingly or being forcibly put down.

[ABOVE: The ruins of Miletus]


Meanwhile, Histiaeus, still gaining support in Byzantium, got word of the fall of Miletus. Leaving a general under him in charge of the Hellespont, he set sail for Chios with a force of Lesbians. Taking over the island after some resistance, he used the island as a base to begin further campaigns against the isle of Thasos, with a force of Aeolians and Ionians. While besieging Thasos, he got word that the Persian fleet who had blockaded Miletus had now set sail west to subdue the rest of the Aegean islands. Lifting the siege of Thasos, Histiaeus set sail for Lesbos to meet the fleet with his entire force. They soon, however, ran out of supplies while stationed at Lesbos, so set sail for the lush lands of Mysia. He was unaware, though, that the Persian general Harpagus was stationed nearby to there with a vast army of his own. Straight after disembarking, Histiaeus was met by Harpagus in combat, at what is known as the Battle of Malene. Histiaeus was captured and most of his army was wiped out after a reserved Persian cavalry detachment successfully charged into and routed most of the Greek forces. While retreating from the field himself, Histiaeus was caught by a pursuing Persian soldier, who spared his life after he was spoken to in Persian. Thinking his life may be spared, Histiaeus was instead brought to Darius and impaled on a stake in Susa, and his head was brought to Darius himself, who ordered the head buried to honour his enemy.


[ABOVE: Coin from Lesbos, c.510-480 BC]

Stationed at Miletus for the winter, the Persian fleet put to sea in the following year of 493 BC, quickly capturing Chios, Lesbos and Tenedos. Captured boys were castrated and made into eunuchs, girls were sent to the king as slaves, settlements and sanctuaries were burnt, and the Ionians themselves were now under enslavement yet again. The Persian fleet then turned on the Hellespont, recapturing the Chersonese, Perinthus, Selymbria and Byzantium. The Byzantines, however, had already fled the city, setting course for the settlements around the Black Sea. More settlements north of the Hellespont were torched by the Persians soon after.

[ABOVE: Coin of Chios from AFTER the Ionian Revolt, c.490-435 BC]


After subduing the Hellespont, the Persians initiated no more hostile actions against the Ionians. In fact, following the revolt, developments were made to the benefit of the Ionians Artaphrenes, governor of Sardis, forced the Ionians to negotiate terms with each other so that they would remain more loyal to advance Persian affairs than raiding each other’s own homelands. Tributes to be paid were established, being no more taxing on the citizens than any tax on the region had been beforehand.

The Ionian Revolt did not allow the Greeks to completely escape Persian control, but it’s unknown if that was the overall goal. What the revolt did end was the Persians implementing their own tyrants in the Ionian cities for the time, and independence from Persia was only celebrated in a few Ionian cities for a brief time. Many Greeks would write that the revolt was the catalyst for Persia to begin setting its eyes on the Greek mainland, but their past subjugations of Thrace and Macedonia, and arguably even their Scythian campaign, show that their eyes were already somewhat set on the Greeks.

Revolts under Persian rule had happened before, but for King Darius, this one was different the Ionians had received help from overseas Athens, and for Darius this meant a revenge was necessary such an up and coming powerful ally is surely part of what spurred the Ionians on during the revolt.
A punishment was in order military action would soon be taken against Greece.


  • Herodotus's "Histories"
  • Philip Parker, "World History"
  • Nic Fields, "Thermopylae 480 BC, Last Stand of the 300"
  • Oswyn Murray, "Early Greece"
  • Robin Osborne, "Greece in the Making 1200 - 479 BC"


(I do NOT own these videos)

"The Ionian Revolt - Part 1+2+3 (Greco-Persian Wars) (499-493 B.C.E.)" by "Hoc Est Bellum"


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Archaeological research:

The first archaeological excavations in Miletus were conducted in 1873 by a French researcher, Olivier Rayet. His work was continued, in the years 1899-1931, by the Germans - Julius Hülsen and Theodor Wiegand. Successive seasons of excavations in 1938, and after World War II, were also led by the German teams. Currently, the works at Miletus are conducted under the leadership of the Ruhr University of Bochum.

The exhibits unearthed during the excavations in Miletus are scattered across numerous museums. One of the most interesting objects - the Market Gate - was transported in pieces to Germany and reconstructed in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. In Turkey, the finds from Miletus are on display in the local museum in Miletus, but also in archaeological museums in Izmir and Istanbul.

Battle of Miletus, 412 BC - History

According to scant written evidence, Miletus was a key factor during the conflicts among Greek cities already from the late 8th century BC. It was a permanent enemy and competitor of neighbouring Samos. Thus, in the well-known war between Eretria and Chalcis over the control of the Lelantine Plain (8th c. BC), the Milesians joined the Eretrian side because Samos had joined Chalcis. In the first half of the 7th century BC the Milesians allied themselves with Erythrae against Naxos, while towards the end of the same century Erythrae became the enemy of Miletus, which had joined forces with Chios.

Later on, when the King of Lydia Alyattes attacked the land of Miletus, the Chians helped the city. The Lydian Kingdom was against Miletus already from the years of Gyges, Ardys and Sadyattes –the predecessors of Alyattes. However, the conflict came to a head when Alyattes unsuccessfully tried for 12 consecutive years to break down the resistance of the Milesians and their tyrant Thrasybulus. A treaty of alliance, favourable to Miletus, was finally signed (608 or 598 or 594 BC).

In the same period or shortly later Miletus allied with Samos against Priene. In any case, circa 530 BC, when they were again in conflict with Samos and its tyrant Polycrates, the Milesians were helped by their ally Mytilene and possibly other cities of Lesvos

The treaty Thrasybulus signed with Alyattes must have been in effect until the years of Croesus, as concluded by the text of Herodotus, who reports that when Cyrus occupied the Lydian Kingdom, he signed a treaty through which he granted the Milesians the privileges they already enjoyed. As a result, Miletus did not join the Ionians in their attempt to resist the Mede Harpagus, the general of Cyrus in Asia Minor.

The political history of Miletus in the 7th and 6th century BC is more difficult to describe: aristocracy was overthrown by the tyrant Thrasybulus circa 615 BC. He was succeeded by two tyrants, Thoas and Damasenor, who aimed to politically eliminate the most notable aristocratic families. A generalised revolt followed and lasted for two generations, according to Plutarch. It brought about conflicts between two classes of the population, the Aeinautes and the Cheiromaches, and must have been settled by Parian judges, who recommended an oligarchic regime. The revolt probably started during the decline of the Milesian export trade in the early 6th century BC, while it possibly ended in 525 BC or, according to a recent suggestion, circa 540 BC, when the first officials known as ‘aesymnetes’ appeared.

An alternative version of the events is given by Heraclides Ponticus, who reports that the revolt created conflicts between the rich and the Gergithes, who must have been a subordinate native (possibly of Lelegian origin) population. The Gergithes clashed violently with the rich and a period of massacres followed affecting both sides.

In 513 BC the Milesians under their tyrant Histiaeus participated in the Scythian expedition of Darius. Histiaeus played a decisive role in the successful retreat of Darius I because he persuaded the Ionians not to abandon their position on the Danube River, but remain and support the Great King. As a reward, Histiaeus was offered by Darius several territories of Thrace, where he settled after leaving his relative,Aristagoras in his stead in Miletus. The latter, after he failed to occupy Naxos on behalf of the Persians and fearing that he would fall into disgrace with them, caused the Ionian Revolt when he rebelled together with the populations of Asia Minor, Thrace and Cyprus. The defeat of the Milesians in the naval battle of Lade led to the suppression of the revolt. The Persians decided to punish the city that had instigated the revolt. Miletus was completely destroyed: most male citizens were killed and women and children were sold into slavery, while a part of the population was taken to Ambe of the Red Sea. The city was captured by the Persians, while the neighbouring highlands were ceded to the Carians.

Digital walk through ancient Miletus and extracts from the documentary and the 3D digital reconstructions