Seventeenth logos: the end of the Ionian revolt (6.1-42)
Book Six opens
with the arrival of Histiaeus at Sardes. He cannot deceive Artaphrenes,
who compares him to the maker of a shoe that Aristagoras has put on. The
man from Miletus flees to his home town, but his compatriots and the other
Ionians mistrust him too. Even his story
that he had ignited the revolt to prevent mass deportation does not help
him, and he is forced to leave Miletus and then, with the help of eight
warships, starts a career as a privateer, attacking corn ships in the Bosporus.
As we have seen, Miletus is left isolated. However,
the Persians cannot take it as long as the Ionians can supply it from overseas.
So, a Phoenician fleet sails into the Aegean and occupies Lade, a small
island in front of the harbor of Miletus. After winning a naval battle,
the Persians can invest Miletus by land and sea. Five years after Aristagoras'
revolt, the greatest city in Ionia is reduced to slavery. Next year, the
last Greek resistance is broken; several rebels escape to Sicily, where
they found Zancle (modern Messina). Histiaeus surrenders and is impaled
by Artaphrenes. The head of the deceitful author of the Ionian revolt is
send to Darius.
This logos continues with some remarks on Miltiades,
an Athenian adventurer who had left his home town to escape the tyranny
of Hippias and had established a small monarchy for himself at the entrance
of the Hellespont. At the approach of the Phoenician fleet, he flees back
Herodotus does not name the Persian commanders at Lade, but Datis may
have been one of them. This engagement can best be dated on October 20,
494; Miletus fell after a siege of a month.
Miltiades, whose revenge was still to come, had
sympathized with the Ionian revolt. This is proven by the coins he had
issued, showing the lion of Miletus. If we are to believe Herodotus -who
may be mistaken at this point-, Miltiades had already proposed to revolt
two decades before: when Darius had been fighting his disastrous Scythian
campaign, Miltiades had suggested to destroy the bridge across the Danube,
cut off the great king's lines of retreat and to throw off the Persian
yoke (above; at that occasion, Histiaeus'
proposal to save Darius had prevailed). This Miltiades once had had to
cope with a Scythian invasion (±495 BCE). After defeating these
enemies, he dedicated his helmet to the god Zeus; it is currently exhibited
in the Museum at Olympia (picture below; notice the
inscription on the cheek).
Eighteenth logos: affairs in Greece (6.43-93)
Darius had implored his god to grant him the punishment of the Athenians.
After Ionia has been pacified, he sends an expedition to the Greek mainland
under command ofMardonius, a member of the highest
Persian nobility: he was the son of Gobryes, one of the seven conspirators
(above) and the man who had persuaded
Darius to return from Scythia (above).
His army adds all Macedonians to the list of the great king's subjects;
his navy first attacks Thasos, but it caught in a violent northern gale
when it rounds the Athos promontory. Three hundred ships are smashed up,
and twenty thousand men are devoured by sea monsters.
Although Mardonius' expedition -which took place in 492 BCE- had ended
in disaster, it added important provinces to the Persian Empire: both Macedonia
and Thasos possessed gold mines and produced timber. Herodotus makes a
tantalizing remark (6.46) that Thasos had used its silver to build ships,
which suggests that it had tried to become a sea power like Polycrates'
Samos and Miletus had been and Athens was to become (cf. the remark made
The great king now tries diplomatic means
to subdue Greece; ambassadors demand earth and water, the usual token of
submission. Sparta and Athens flatly refuse to consider the demands (below),
but several cities are willing to surrender. Among the king's new subjects
is the island Aegina, which causes great alarm at Athens and Sparta. King
Cleomenes launches a pre-emptive strike towards the unreliable island,
but when he is away, the other king -the above
mentioned Demaratus- makes trouble, and Cleomenes has to return home. (At
this point, Herodotus interrupts his tale and offers a fantastic explanation
of the origin of the Spartan dual kingship.) The royal quarrel does not
last long: Cleomenes spreads the rumor that Demaratus is an illegal child,
bribes the oracle at Delphi to confirm this accusation, and ensures that
his colleague goes into exile. Demaratus is succeeded by a strawman, Leotychides.
The two kings invade Aegina; arrest the leaders of the pro-Persian party
and send them to a prison in Athens.
When Cleomenes' machinations at Delphi become known,
this king has to leave Sparta too; by threatening to start a guerilla war
in Arcadia, he brings about his return. However, the king starts to behave
himself very strange, and his family is forced to place the madman in the
stocks. When he obtains a knife, he starts to mutilate himself until he
dies. Herodotus suggests that the madness of the king who had bribed the
Delphian oracle was a divine punishment. He adds a story about an earlier
impiety of Cleomenes, who had once executed several soldiers in a sanctuary.
The Athenian and Spartan worries about the loyalty of Aegina are understandable:
the island was located at the uncomfortably short distance of 25 kilometers
from the Athenian harbors. If Aegina had become a Persian naval base, the
Athenian corn supply would have been endangered, since Athens had begun
to depend on imports from the Aegean Sea. Besides, the Persian navy would
have been able to attack Athenian and Spartan territory wherever it choose.
The capture of the leaders of the Aeginetan pro-Persian party took place
in September 491; he must have gone mad immediately after his return to
Sparta in December. He committed suicide in 488.
The conflict between Athens and Aegina was to last
for several years. It offered the Athenian statesman Themistocles
an excuse to build a large navy; he argued that the Athenian warships were
outmoded and no match for the larger fleet of Aegina. In fact, the shipbuilding
program was aimed against Persia; this navy was to save Greece in 480,
as we will see below.
Nineteenth logos: the battle of Marathon (6.94-140)
Aegina and Athens were at each other's throats, Darius continues to make
plans for the punishment of the Athenians and Eretrians. Mardonius is relieved
from his command and replaced by the Median Datis (above)
and Artaphrenes, the son of the governor of Lydia. In their company isHippias,
the tyrant who had been driven from Athens by Cleomenes, two decades ago
(above). He could still count on
some support in Athens. It takes a year to build a new navy of no less
than six hundred vessels. The new commanders depart from Miletus and avoid
the Athos promontory; their first target is Naxos, the island that Artaphrenes'
father had once tried to occupy (above).
It offers no resistance to the Persian fleet, which soon subdues almost
every island in the Aegean Sea. A few days later, the expeditionary force
attacks Eretria; fighting continues for six days, but the town is betrayed
on the seventh day. The Persian army enters the city, strips the temples
bare and burns them in revenge for the burnt temple of Cybele (above);
the inhabitants are carried off as prisoners.
The part of Athenian territory nearest Eretria -and
also the best ground for cavalry to maneuver in- is at Marathon; to this
village, therefore, Hippias directs the Persians. The Athenian general
Miltiades -the man who had been forced by the Persians to flee from his
personal kingdom at the entrance of the Hellespont (above)-
hurries to meet the invading army with 10,000 heavy armored infantrymen.
At the same time the runner Phidippides is dispatched to Sparta; three
days later, he returns (after covering some 450 kilometer!) with the message
that the Spartans will send reinforcements as soon as possible. Unfortunately,
a religious law forbids any military operation until full moon, which is
six days ahead.
At Marathon, a war of nerves has started. While
the Athenians postpone the engagement, they receive reinforcements from
their ally Plataea. Their problem is that the Persian cavalry is superior;
no infantry line could cross the open plain, because its rear would immediately
be attacked by the Persian horsemen. Their opponents, on the other hand,
are in a hurry, because they know that the Athenians are waiting for Spartan
reinforcements. One day, Miltiades receives favorable omens and moves his
army in position: he allows the center to be weak but strengthens the wings.
At dawn, suddenly, he orders his heavy armored men to run towards their
enemies, about two kilometers away. Herodotus remarks that the Persians
considered this charge "suicidal madness". On the wings the Athenians,
fighting with better armor and longer spears than their enemies, rout the
invaders; after this first victorious engagement, the wings attack the
Persian center from the rear. According to Herodotus, the Athenians loose
192 men in the ensuing mêlée, their opponents 6,400.
However, the rest of the Persian army can retreat
safely. The fleet picks up the soldiers and brings them to the harbor of
Athens. There, they can see that the Athenian army has marched from Marathon,
and is ready to oppose a second invasion. Seeing that it is impossible
to take Athens, Datis and Artaphrenes order the fleet to return to Asia.
The captive Eretrians are deported to the southern part of modern Iraq.
After the victory at Marathon, Miltiades leads an
attack on the Cyclades, the archipelago that the Persians had recently
added to their empire. It is no success: he is wounded and dies from gangrene.
Herodotus must have thought that this was not a fitting end for the man
who had saved Greece from Persian rule; he ends his logos with a
story of a more glorious achievement, Miltiades capture of Lemnos.
battle of Marathon was probably fought on September 10, 490 BCE; less likely
is August 12. The number of Persian casualties is exaggerated (192 ×
33 1/3). Two remains of the struggle are still visible: the tombs of the
Athenians and the Plataeans - the first in the middle of the plain (picture),
the latter close to the small museum of Vrana.
Book 1 Book
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7 Book 8 Book
The Persian vessels may have transported 25,000
soldiers, but ultimately it was numerical strength but discipline that
lead to victory. One great mystery remains: how could the Athenians cross
the plain without fear for a cavalry attack? Herodotus suggests that their
charge was too swift, but contradicts this when he says that the struggle
was long drawn out (which means: more than two hours). There is, however,
another story about this battle, to be found in the biography of Miltiades
by the Roman author Cornelius Nepos (first century BCE) and the Suda,
a tenth century Byzantine lexicon: one night, Ionian deserters had come
to the Athenian camp, telling that the cavalry were away. The question
remains what caused the Persian commanders to send their horsemen away.
A possible explanation is that they had become uneasy with the stalemate,
had decided to leave to plain to attack the Athenian harbor, and had ordered
the cavalry to embark on the transports. If this speculation is correct,
the Athenians just attacked the Persian rearguard. Whatever the truth,
it is certain that cavalry took part in the final stages of the battle,
because horsemen were depicted in a contemporary painting representing
The romantic story about the runner who came from
Marathon to say that the Athenians had been victorious and died from exhaustion,
is untrue. It originates in a combination of two stories: Phidippides'
athletic achievement and the swift Athenian march from Marathon to the
Rumor has it that throughout the night, one can
still hear horses whinnying and men fighting.