The Battle of Mycale - 479 B.C.

The Greeks when they understood that the barbarians had fled to the mainland, were sorely vexed at their escape; nor could they determine at first what they should do, whether they should return home, or proceed to the Hellespont. In the end, however, they resolved to do neither, but to make sail for the continent. So they made themselves ready for a sea fight by the preparations of boarding bridges, and what else was necessary; with which they sailed to Mycale. Greeks arrive at MycaleNow when they came to the place where the camp was, they found no one venture out to meet them, but observed the ships all dragged ashore within the barrier, and a strong land force drawn up in battle array upon the beach, a fortress newly built behind the enemy forces. Leotychides thereforesailed along the shore in his ships, keeping as close hauled to the land as possible, and by the voice of a herald thus addressed the Ionians in a manner that they should remember that the Greeks were there to free them from the Persians and to not offer any resistance to the Greek force.

In this Leotychides had the very same design which Themistocles entertained at Artmisium. Either the barbarians would not know what he had said, and the Ionians would be persuaded to revolt from them; or if his words were reported to the former, they would mistrust their Greek soldiers.

After Leotychides had made this address, the Greeks brought their ships to the land, and having disembarked, arrayed themselves for the battle. When the Persians saw them marshalling their array, and bethought themselves of the advice which had been offered to the Ionians, their first act was to disarm the Samians, whom they suspected of complicity with the enemy. First it had happened lately that a number of the Athenians who lingered in Attica, having been made prisoners by the troops of Xerxes, were brought to Asia on board the barbarian fleet; and these men had been ransomed, one and all, by the Samians, who sent them back to Athens, well furnished with provisions for the way. On this account, as much as on any other, the Samians were suspected, as men who had paid the ransom for five hundred of the king's enemies. After disarming them, the Persians next dispatched the Milesians to guard the paths which lead up into the heights of Mycale, because (the said) the Milesians were well acquainted with that region: their true object, however, was to remove them to a distance from the camp. In this way the Persians sought to secure themselves against such of the Ionians as they thought likely, if occasion offered, to make rebellion. They then joined shield to shield, and so made themselves abreastwork against the enemy.

The Greeks move forwardThe Greeks now, having finished their preparations, began to move towards the barbarians; when lo! as they advanced, a rumor flew through the host from one end to the other - that the Greeks had fought and conquered the army of Mardonius in Boeotia. At the same time a herald's wand [1] was observed lying upon the beach. Whatever fear the Greeks had vanished, and they charged more vigorously and at a quicker pace. So the Greeks and the barbarians rushed with like eagerness to the fray; for the Hellespont and the island formed the prize of which they were about to fight.

As the Persians had drawn up their defense along the shoreline, the Greek advancement had the Athenians (led by Xanthippus) marching on the beach and the Lacedaemonians taking the higher ground along the mountain side. So as the Lacedaemonians where hindered by the rough terrain, the Athenians on the other wing had already closed with the enemy. So long as the the wicker bucklers of the Persians continued standing, they made a stout defense, and had not even the worst of the battle; but when the Athenians, and the allies with them, wishing to make the victory their own, and not share it with the Lacedaemonians, cheered each other on with shouts, and attacked them with the utmost fierceness, then at last the face of things become changed.

For, busting through the line of shields, and rushing forwards in a body, the Greeks fell upon the Persians; who, through they bore the charge and for a long time maintained their ground, yet at length took refuge in their entrenchment. Here the Athenians themselves, together with those who followed them in the line of battle, the Corinthians, the Sicyonians, and the Troezenians, pressed so closely on the steps of their flying foes, that they entered along with them in to the fortress.

When the fortress was taken, the barbarians no longer offered resistance, but fled hastily away, all save only the Persians. They still continued to fight in knots of a few men against the Greeks, who kept pouring into the entrenchment. It was at this time that two of the Persian commanders of the fleet fled, while the two Persian commanders of the land force died fighting.

The Persians still however continued to hold out, when the Lacedaemonians, and their part of the army, reached the camp, and joined in the remainder of the battle. The number of Greeks who fell in the struggle was not small; the Sicyonians especially lost many including their general.




The part of the Persian army that came from Samos, although disarmed, still remained in the camp, seeing from the very beginning of the fight that the victory was doubtful, did all that lay in their power to render help to the Greeks and the other Ionians likewise, beholding their example, revolted and attacked the Persians.

The battle of MycaleAs for the Milesians, who had been ordered, for the better security of the Persians, to guard the mountain-paths, that, in case any accident befell them such as had now happened, they might not lack guides to conduct them into the high tracts of Mycale, and who had also been removed to hinder them from making an outbreak in the Persian camp; they, instead of obeying their orders, broke them in every respect. For they guided the flying Persians by wrong roads, which brought them into the presence of the enemy; and at last they set upon them with their own hands, and showed themselves the hottest of their adversaries. Ionia, therefore, on this day revolted a second time from the Persians.

The Greeks who then slaughtered the greater portion of the barbarians, either in the battle or in the rout, set first to their ships and burnt them, together with the bulwark which had been raised for their defense, first however removed therefrom all the booty, and carrying it down to the beach. Besides other plunder, they found many caskets of money. When they had burnt the rampart and the vessels, the Greeks sailed away to Samos, and there took counsel together concerning the Ionians, whom they thought to removing out of Asia. The Spartans proposed to evacuate the cities of the Ionian Greeks and bring the population to the Greek mainland, as they did not consider it worth their trouble to defend the Ionians everytime they were attacked. The Athenians, however, objected to losing their colonies, and accepted the Ionian Greeks into the Delian League against Persia. [2]Persian ships are burnt

Only a scanty remnant of the barbarians that escaped ever made it back to their capital of Sardis.

The Greek fleet now boarded their boats and made way to the Hellespont, to make sure that the bridge was destroyed once and for all.



Map of Samos and Mycale












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'Histories' by Herodotus published by Wordsworth 1996 (Book 9, 96 to 107)


Note#1; It is more than interesting to note that as Herodotus' story is drawing to a close suddenly divine inspiration comes from the heavens in the way of Hermes wand, being a message to inspire the Greeks, a main reason why Herodotus believes in the Gods. When during most of the book, he claims not to believe in all the talk of gods being seen or having accomplished tasks. This is seen as the same phenomenon that can be found in all different types of artists that seem to find god as their own life is coming to an end, even though for a long period before hand they ridiculed anybody who believed such nonsense, ie Dahli. As an example, in today's terms how people claim not to believe in the zodiac, but still know the characteristics of their star sign i.e. hedging their bets.

Note#2. The seeds for the Athenian Empire are sown here. Accepting the Ionian colonies to be under Athenian protection leads to tributes to her, to expand further. Sparta here has missed that chance. Many argue that Sparta wished only to be free from outside interference and therefore are staying true to their beliefs.

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