The Samos Rebellion - 522 B.C.

The exiles from Samos returned from their unsuccessful expedition with Persia with every intention to take Samos and overthrow the tyrant Polycrates.

Once they were on their way back to Samos, Polycrates sent out a naval force to meet them in the open sea and have them destroyed. A naval battle ensured and the exiles were victorious, making the fleet loyal to Polycrates head into the harbour and safe inside the city walls.

The exiles too landed but the ensuring land battle was too much for the exiles to handle. Polycrates was safe inside his city walls which was now surrounded by a huge moat built by the prisoners of war that had previously been captured.

For the exiles to be able to regain control of the island it was clear to all that they were going to need help. They abandoned the island for now and headed for Sparta to ask for aid, which they did agree too. For whatever reason that remains unknown, Persia did not come to the aid of Polycrates (See Note#1).

Spartan aid was granted because of an old grudge that Sparta had with Samos, as a bowl sent from Sparta to Croesus in Lydia was stolen by Samos in the past. The people from Samos claimed that the Spartans arrived too late as Lydia had already fallen to the Persians and private persons bought the bowl from the Spartans (H3:47). It seems reasonable too that after the Lelantine War, Sparta and Samos had established close ties of friendship. Which gave Sparta more than a passing interest on who was ruling there. The other argument is that Polycrates had already made his pro-Persian intentions known and the Spartas was not willing for them to expand into the sea where they may have the oppotunity to threaten Sparta.

The exiles now returned to Samos, but this time with Spartan aid. At the same time that they were beseiging Samos, Cambyses and the Persians were trying to invade Egypt.

Many attempts were made to take the city of Samos, and the city walls were breached but they were valiently fought off by the citizens. The moat around the castle being too much to overcome. The Spartans didn't have seige weapons as yet, a fact that would also hinder them at the battle of Plataea, and the fortifications as strong as the city of Samos was too much for them. The Spartan idea of taking the city at that time was a dash to the city walls to scale them and then overrun the city. The city of Samos would not be succumbed this way.

Illistration: The Spartans found out first hand that their bravery would not be enough to breach the solid walls of Samos (city). Their lack of seige experience will also a problem for them in 40 years time at the Battle of Plataea.

A story remains of two Spartans named Archias (son named Samius, for the battle)and Lycopas, who managed to enter the city as they pressed hard upon the flying Samians into the city via their gates but were slain there. For their valiant actions, they were buried in Samos with honours by the Samians.

The Spartans had come for a lightning strike to take Samos and it was now becoming clear that this was not going to happen. After a seige that last 40 days the Spartans realised that they were not ready for a long drawn out siege and gave up any further idea that the city could be taken and were either bribed or of their own accord gave up trying to take Samos and left for home. The continual threat of a helot revolution at home would also be playing on their minds. The fact that Herodotus doesn't say that the bowl was returned to Sparta, but was last at Samos in the temple of Hera downplays the bribery point.

The exiles left together with them, realising also that without Spartan help the city would never by taken and had to trust their fortunes elsewhere.

So even though his plan didn't go the way he intended, Polycrates did accomplish his goals. The exiles were gone never to return and his position as tyrant was more secure without them.

On the mainland the starap Oroetus wanted to overthrown Polycrates as he wanted influence over Samos. As Camyses was in the last days of sickness and the Persian army was away invading Egypt, Oroetus extended a hand of friendship to Polycrates. He sent him a letter saying that he wanted to rebell from Persia and wanted to come to Samos and that he would bring his vast fortune with him. He may have even said that he had the money promised for him earlier from Cambyses.

Polycrates sent out Maeandrius to speak with Oroetus and to enquire further. Herodotus says that Oroetus filled chests with lead and piled gold on top to make it look like he had more gold than he had. But it is more likely that once there, Oroetus bribed Maeandrius and influenced him greatly. On his return to Samos Maeandrius confirmed of the vast wealth that awaited them there.

Soon after Polycrates manned his vessels and set sail to meet Oroetus. Even though he had a dire warning from his daughter not to go, Polycrates also went to help the revolt from Persia and take Oroetus and his wealth away.

But what Herodotus calls "too horrible to repeat", Polycrates was ambushed by Oroetus, torchered and crusified.

During these events Cambyses, finally surcomed to his sickness (though it is also claimed that he committed suicide), and Darius became king of Persia.


NEXT PAGE>>>The Samosian Exiles

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Note#1: The could be any number of reasons for this. The fleet did not aid Persia when it was needed. Persia was in the grips of a war to take Egypt and did not want to use valuable naval ships to aid him.

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