The trouble with Ionia - 499 B.C.

Back in Miletus Aristagoras received a message from Histiaeus (he had to shave the head of a slave to read it), to revolt from Darius.

Histiaeus was being kept at Susa and he wanted to return, a revolt at home would have meant that Histiaeus would probably have to oversee the recapture.

This suited Aristagoras alot, he got Miletus to openly revolt from Darius and helping other coastal cities to remove their tyrants, there was now open rebellion.

Aristagoras set off to Sparta to hopefully get them to help them revolt from the Persians, there were going to need all the help they could get.

On arrival at Sparta he met with King Kleomenes I . Some of the key parts of the (long) speech include...

"We beseech you, therefore, by the common gods of the Grecians, deliver the Ionians, who are you own kinsmen from slavery...they ((Persians)) use short spear and cover their heads with turbins. So easy to vanquish!. so much gold, silver..."

Kleomenes I asked Aristagoras "How many days journey it was from the sea of the Ionians to the king's residence?"

Aristagoras replied "Three months." Which was in fact true, but if he had the chance again, he would have lied.

Kleomenes I was caught by surprise at this, and immediately told Aristagoras to leave Sparta. [1].

The next day Aristagoras tried again. He hadn't come all this way for nothing, and he could tell that he had tempted the King of Sparta. He entered the King's chambers bearing an olive wreath. The king was with his daughter Gorgo. Aristagoras asked Kleomenes I to send the girl out of the room, but the king told him to say on; and not mind the child.

Aristagoras began with a promise of the ten talents if the king would grant him his request, and kept raising it; the king kept turning it down. Aristagoras had now reached fifty talents when the child spoke.

"Father, get up and go, or the stranger will certainly corrupt thee."

Pleased at the warning of this child, the king withdrew and went into another room. Aristagoras quitted Sparta for good, but all was not lost, there was still another plan that had formulated in his mind, now he was going to need to pull it off.

Friction already existed between Athens and Persia when Aristagoras the Milesian arrived at Athens from Sparta. He spoke to the people of Athens, and just like he had done in Sparta, spoke of them of the good things to be found in Asia, and the Persian mode of fight, how they used neither shield or spear and where easy to conquer. All this he urged and reminded them also, that Miletus was a colony from Athens (compare all this with what he said in Sparta).

He cared little on what he promised till, at the last, he prevailed and won them over. Herodotus writes;

"Its seems indeed to be easier to deceive a multitude than one man - for Aristagoras, though he failed to impose on Kleomenes I the Lacedaemonian, succeeded with the Athenians, who were thirty thousand."

Athens sent 20 ships under the generalship of Melanthis to help Aristagoras and the city of Miletus.

Aristagoras had called in a old favour from the Eretrians as well and they added five triremes to the Athens fleet [2]. To cause more mishchief Aristagoras got the Paeonians to openly revolt from the Persians and they left by sail first to Chios then Lesbos and from there made their way to Doriscus (near river Hebrus).

The main part of King Darius' army was away at war and the small contingent that remained at home were trying to put at spot fires of rebellion along the Ioania coast. Not being able to catch up with the Paeonians the army wasn't big enough to take on the revolt. It was during the Ionian Revolt that Miltiades managed to reinstate himself in the Chersonese.

NEXT PAGE>>>Battle of Sardis


'Histories' by Herodotus published by Wordsworth 1996

'The Greco-Persian Wars' by Peter Green published by University of California Press 1998


Note#1: The Spartans also held aloof because they were on the verge of war with their neighbours, Argos. It is also suggested that if Sparta had joined forces with Athens to defend Ionia that between them they could have successfully been able to at least keep hold of the islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos, and their naval bases. With domination of the sea, it would have been enough to deter Darius from invading Europe.

Note#2: Erectria came to the aid of the Ionian cities due to the help they received from Miletus during the Lelantine War


To see where 'Ionia' is, go to the Where is..? logo on the above menu.

Copyright 2011 | All Rights Reserved