Achaemenid Persia

Ionian Rebellion and First Persian War
Greek Cities of Asia Minor: Yauna Satrapy
Ionian Rebellion (499/8-494 BCE)
Possible Causes
Disruption of established trade routes
Egypt conquered in 525 BCE (Naucratis in decline)
Darius’ Scythian expedition of 513/512 BCE and Black Sea trade
Destruction of Sybaris (Italy) in 511/510 BCE (Milesian trading
Persian rule comparatively more alien than (Hellenized) Lydian
Personal motivation? Histiaeus and Aristagoras (Herodotus, 5.35)
Miletus, the Satrap, and the Naxos Expedition
Tyrant of Miletus, Histiaeus, after proving his loyalty during Darius’ Scythian
expedition, allowed to established post in Thrace at Myrcinus (Strymon river)
Darius grows suspicious of Histiaeus’ plans at Myrcinus, recalls him to Susa
(house arrest), 511-499 BCE
Aristagoras (Histiaeus’ son-in-law) left to rule in Miletus
Aristagoras convinces the Persian satrap, Artaphernes, to support an expedition
against the island of Naxos, with designs on conquest of other islands and Euboea
Aristagoras and Persian commander Megabates quarrel; Megabates warns
Naxians; Naxos expedition fails (499 BCE)
“Aristagoras was unable to fulfill his promise to Artaphernes; and, along with
that, the expenses of the campaign that were demanded of him were causing him
distress, and he was afraid because of the ill success of the army and his quarrel
with Megabates, and he thought the kingship over Miletus would be taken from
him. Because every one of these matters was a terror to him, he meditated
revolt.” (Herodotus, 5.35)
Aristagoras’ Failed Expedition against Naxos
Aristagoras and Histiaeus
(Herodotus, 5.35)
At that same moment there came to [Aristagoras] from Susa a fellow from
Histiaeus, with his head tattooed, urging Aristagoras to desert from the
King. For Histiaeus wanted to urge Aristagoras to revolt but he had no
other safe way of communicating with him (for all the roads were watched);
so he took the most trustworthy of all his slaves and shaved his head and
then tattoed a message on it and waited until the hair grew in again. He
sent the man off to Miletus with no instructions save that, when he came to
Miletus, he should bid Aristagoras to shave his hair off and examine his
head. The tattoed marks did, as I said before, urge Aristagoras to revolt.
Histiaeus acted this way because he found it dreadful to be held in Susa so
long. If there were a revolt, he had great hopes that he would be sent down
to the coast; but if there were no revolution in Miletus, he reckoned that he
never would go home again.
Electrum Coin from Lesbos
Ionian Rebellion (499-494 BCE)
Facing Lion’s Head
1.76 grams
Western Fringe of Achaemenid Persian Empire
and Athenian and Spartan Spheres of Influence
Aristagoras’ Appeal to Sparta
(Herodotus, 5.50)
When the day appointed for the answer came and they met at the place
arranged, [the Spartan king] Cleomenes asked Aristagoras how many days
journey it was from the Ionian sea to where the Great King was. In
everything else Aristagoras was very clever and had tricked Cleomenes
successfully, but here he tripped up. He ought not to have told the truth if
he wanted to bring the Spartans into Asia. However, he did tell it, saying
that the journey from the sea up to Susa was a matter of three months.
Cleomenes cut off all the rest of the story that Aristagoras was set to give
him about the journey and said, “My friend from Miletus, away with you
from Sparta before the sun sets!”
Aristagoras’ Appeal to Athens
(Herodotus, 5.97)
It was just at this moment [when the Persians commanded the Athenians to
take back Hippias], when the Athenians were thinking like this and were at
odds with the Persians, that Aristagoras of Miletus came to Athens, being
driven out of Sparta by King Cleomenes; for Athens was far the most
powerful of the remaining cities. Aristagoras came before the popular
assembly. He said all the same things that he had said in Sparta, about the
riches of Asia and the Persian style of warfare and how these people were
not used to spears or shields and would be easy to conquer. He said this,
and he also said that Miletus was a colony of Athens and that, given the
greatness of Athenian power, they should certainly protect the Milesians.
He promised them anything and everything, for he was very eager indeed,
and in the end he persuaded them.
Ionian Revolt (499/8-494 BCE): Summary
Asia Minor Greeks appeal to Sparta (unsuccessful)
Asia Minor Greeks appeal to Athens (successful)
Athens sends assistance (contingent of 20 ships)
Burning of Sardis and Athenian Naval Support
(Herodotus, 5.105)
Darius and the Burning of Sardis
(Herodotus, 5.105)
When King Darius was informed that Sardis had been captured and
burned by the Athenians and the Ionians…he first (so the story
goes), when he heard the news, made no account of the Ionians--for
he knew well that they would surely not get off scot-free for their
rebellion--but he put the question, “Who are the Athenians?” and,
having his answer, asked for a bow. He took it, fitted an arrow to it,
and shot it into the sky, and as he sent it up he prayed, “Zeus, grant
me the chance of punishing the Athenians.” Having said that, he
ordered one of his servants that, as often as a meal was set before
him, the man should says three times, “Master, remember the
Darius’ Preparations
After this, Darius tried to find out what the Greeks had in mind.
Would they fight him or surrender? He sent heralds here and there
throughout Greece, under instructions, and ordered them to ask for
earth and water for the King. These he sent to Greece itself; others
he sent to his own tributary cities that lay along the coast, and these
heralds were to demand the construction of warships and horse
transports. (Herodotus, 6.48)
Objectives: Eretria on Euboea and Athens
First Persian Expedition
Battle at Marathon (September, 490 BCE)
Principal Account: Herodotus, 6.108-115
Marathon: large deme of Attica 26 miles NE of Athens
Modern estimations of the size of the Persian expedition
around 20,000 troops
Athenian and Plataean forces probably around 10,000
Casualties: 6,400 Persians; 192 Athenians (Herodotus,
Battle Site: Marathon (Herodotus, 6.102)
So [the Persians] conquered Eretria and stayed a few days there and
then sailed for Attica, pressing the Athenians hard and thinking that
they would do to them the very same as they had done to the
Eretrians. And because Marathon was the most suitable spot in Attica
for cavalry action and the nearest to Eretria, it was to Marathon that
Hippias, son of Pisistratus, guided them.
Battle of Marathon (490 BCE)
Battle of Marathon
Double-Envelopment Tactic; Superiority of Hoplite Phalanx
This was the order of battle at Marathon, and it fell out that, as
the line was equal in length to the Persian formation, the middle
of the Greek side was only a few ranks deep, and at this place the
army was weakest; but each of the two wings was very strong.
(Herodotus, 6.111)
Delayed Battle: Athenians hoping for Spartan assistance (?);
Athenians wait for absence of Persian cavalry (?); Athenians fight
only when Persians begin moving against Athens (?)
Marathon: Phases of Battle
Marathon Tumulus: Monument for the Fallen
Spearheads from the Battlefield of Marathon
Herodotus (6.112) on Marathon
The lines were drawn up, and the sacrifices were favorable; so the
Athenians were permitted to charge, and they advanced on the
Persians at a run. There was not less than three quarters of a mile in
the no-man’s land between the two armies. The Persians, seeing them
come at a run, made ready to receive them; but they believed that the
Athenians were possessed by some very desperate madness, seeing their
small numbers and their running to meet their enemies without the
support of cavalry or archers. That was what the barbarians thought;
but the Athenians, when they came to hand-to-hand fighting, fought
right worthily. They were the first Greeks we know of to charge the
enemy at a run and the first to face the sight of the Median dress and
the men who wore it. For till then the Greeks were terrified even to
hear the name of the Medes.
Summary of First Persian Invasion
Persian Objectives
Contest for glory in Athens among great families
Punitive Expedition; not Conquest
Restoration of pro-Persian Pisistratid, Hippias
Defeat not significant for Persian Empire (contrary to Greek
Miltiades of the Philaid clan (leading general in the battle)
Athenians rush back to city to defend it (origins of marathon
athletic event); Persians sail home
Charges of Treachery against Alcmaeonids (Herodotus, 6.115)
Problems with Herodotus’ Account
Absence of Persian Cavalry
Running of Hoplites for almost a mile
Casualties (6,400 Persians; 192 Greeks)
Ramifications of Marathon
Ideology of Great King of Persia demands Retribution
Spartan Non-Participation
Spartans observed the Carneia religious festival; they had to wait
for the next full moon (Herodotus, 6.106)
“After the full moon there came to Athens 2,000 Spartans, who
were so eager to reach the city that they arrived in Attica on the
third day out of Sparta. Though they had come too late for the
battle, they were nonetheless anxious to see the Persians; and so
they went to Marathon and saw. Thereafter, praising the
Athenians and their action, they went home again.” (Herodotus,
Athenian Reputation Soars
Marathonomachoi (Aeschylus)
Reinforcement of Cleisthenes’ democratic reforms
Athens as Second State in Greece (to Sparta)
Marathon Inscription (discovered in 2004)
Good report indeed, as it reaches always the
furthest ends of well-lit earth, will report the
aretê of these men, how they died fighting
against Medes and crowned Athens, a few
having awaited the attack of many.

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