Story of the Persian War - Alfred J. Church

Of the Taking of Miletus

The city of Athens had greatly increased in might since it was rid of its lords. The manner of the riddance was this. For a while after Hipparchus had been slain—this Hipparchus, with Hippias his brother, had received the lordship from Pisistratus his father, and he had been slain at the festival of Athene—the tyranny was more grievous than before. Now there was in Athens a great house, the sons of Alcmæon, and these had been banished by the children of Pisistratus. At the first indeed joining with others who were in like case, they sought to obtain their return by force, building a fort on Mount Parnes, whence they might attack the city; but they accomplished nothing. Then they devised this device. They made a covenant with the council of the Amphictyons that they would build the temple of Apollo that is in Delphi for a certain sum of money. But in the building they made all things fairer than according to the letter of the covenant—and this they could do by reason of their great wealth—and especially, when it had been agreed that they should use common stone in the building of the temple, they used for the front thereof marble of Paros. After this they persuaded the Pythia with a sum of money that whenever any men from Sparta came to ask counsel of the oracle, whether they came on their own affairs or the affairs of the State, she should bid them set free the city of Athens. When this message had come to the Lacedæmonians many times, they sent one of their chief citizens with an army to drive out the children of Pisistratus from Athens. And this they did, though the men were dear friends to them, for they judged it well to prefer the bidding of the Gods to the friendship of men. This army came by sea and landed at Phalerus. And when the sons of Pisistratus heard of it, they sent for help to Thessaly, with which country they had alliance, and there came to them from Thessaly a thousand horsemen, under Cineas, King of Thessaly. With them they assailed the camp of the Lacedæmonians, and slew not a few of them, among whom was the captain of the army, and drove such as were left into their ships. After this the Lacedæmonians sent another army, greater than before, under King Cleomenes, sending them not in ships but by land. These also, so soon as they had crossed the borders, the horsemen of the Thessalians attacked, but could not stand before them, but fled back without delay into their own land. Then Cleomenes, coming to the city and taking to him such as were minded to drive out from Athens its lords, besieged the sons of Pisistratus in the Pelasgian fort; but they would not have accomplished their purpose—for they had no mind to make a long siege of the fort, and the sons of Pisistratus had meat and drink in abundance—but would have tarried a few days, and so departed, but for this chance. The sons of Pisistratus sought to send their children out of the country secretly; but the children were taken. Then they made a covenant with the Athenians that, if the children should be given back to them, they would depart out of the country within the space of five days. And this they did, their house having had the lordship for thirty years and six. Thus was Athens rid of its lords.



Aristagoras then coming to this city of Athens presented himself before the people, and said the same words that he had said before in Sparta, about the good things in Asia, and about the manner of fighting of the Persians, how they had neither spear nor shield, and were therefore easily to be conquered. Also he said that the Milesians were colonists from Athens, and that it was just that the Athenians, being so mighty, should deliver them from slavery. And because his need was great, there was nothing that he did not promise, till at the last he persuaded them. For it is easier, it seems, to deceive a multitude than to deceive one man. Cleomenes the Spartan, being but one man, Aristagoras could not deceive; but he brought over to his purpose the people of Athens, being thirty thousand. So the Athenians, being persuaded, made a decree to send twenty ships to help the men of Ionia, and appointed one Melanthius, a man of reputation among them, to be captain. These ships were the beginning of trouble both to the Greeks and the barbarians.



After this Aristagoras sailed to Miletus; and so soon as he was gone there he did a thing which could be of no profit to the men of Ionia, but vexed King Darius. He sent a messenger to the Pæonians, whom Megabazus had carried away captive from the river Strymon and set down in Phrygia, saying, "Thus saith Aristagoras, lord of Miletus, If ye will obey him, ye shall have deliverance. All Ionia hath rebelled against the King. Now therefore ye can depart in safety to your own land. How ye shall get to the sea ye must order for yourselves; but when ye are come thither, we will see to the matter." The Pæonians heard this with great gladness; and taking with them their wives and their children, they fled to the sea. Yet some of them were afraid and remained behind. And when they had come to the sea, they crossed over to Chios. And when they were already in Chios there came a multitude of the horsemen of the Persians, pursuing them, who, as they had not been able to overtake them, sent messengers to them in Chios, bidding them return to the land of Phrygia. But the Pæonians would not hearken to them. And the people of Chios carried them thence to Lesbos, and the Lesbians carried them to Doriscus; and from Doriscus they returned on foot to their own land of Pæonia.

When the twenty ships of the Athenians were arrived, and with them five ships of the Eretrians, which came, not for any love of the Athenians, but because the Milesians had helped them in old time against the men of Chalcis, Aristagoras sent an army against Sardis, but he himself abode in Miletus. This army, crossing Mount Tmolus, took the city of Sardis without any hindrance; but the citadel they took not, for Artaphernes held it with a great force of soldiers. But though they took the city they had not the plunder of it, and for this reason. The houses in Sardis were for the most part built of reeds, and such as were built of bricks had their roofs of reeds; and when a certain soldier set fire to one of these houses, the fire ran quickly from house to house till the whole city was consumed. And while the city was burning, such Lydians and Persians as were in it, seeing that they were cut off from escape (for the fire was in all the outskirts of the city), gathered together in haste to the market-place. Through this market-place flows the river Pactolus, which comes down from Mount Tmolus, having gold in its sands, and when it has passed out of the city it flows into the Hermus which flows into the sea. Here then the Lydians and Persians were gathered together, being constrained to defend themselves. And when the men of Ionia saw their enemies how many they were, and that these were preparing to give battle, they were stricken with fear, and fled out of the city to Mount Tmolus, and thence, when it was night, they went back to the sea. In this manner was burned the city of Sardis, and in it the great temple of the goddess Cybele, the burning of which temple was the cause, as said the Persians, for which afterward they burned the temples in Greece. Not long after came a host of Persians from beyond the river Halys; and when they found that the men of Ionia had departed from Sardis, they followed hard upon their track, and came up with them at Ephesus. And when the battle was joined, the men of Ionia fled before them. Many indeed were slain, and such as escaped were scattered, every man to his own city.

After this the ships of the Athenians departed and would not help the men of Ionia any more, though Aristagoras besought them to stay. Nevertheless the Ionians ceased not from making preparations of war against the King, making to themselves allies, some by force and some by persuasion, as the cities of the Hellespont and many of the Carians and the island of Cyprus. For all Cyprus, save Amathus only, revolted from the King under Onesilus, brother of King Gorgus.

When King Darius heard that Sardis had been taken and burned with fire by the Ionians and the Athenians, with Aristagoras for leader, at the first he took no heed of the Ionians, as knowing that they would surely suffer for their deed, but he asked, "Who are these Athenians?" And when they told him he took a bow and shot an arrow into the air, saying, "O Zeus, grant that I may avenge myself on these Athenians." And he commanded his servant that every day, when his dinner was served, he should say three times, "Master, remember the Athenians." After this he called for Histiæus of Miletus, and said to him, "Histiæus, I hear that thy deputy to whom thou gavest over Miletus has rebelled, and has brought men from over the sea to help him, and, taking with him also certain of the Ionians (who verily shall suffer for their wrong-doing), has taken from me the city of Sardis. How can this have been done without thy counsel? Take heed lest the blame fall on thee." Then answered Histiæus, "What is this that thou hast said, that I should devise any evil against thee? For what do I lack being here with thee? If my deputy has done such things, he has done them of his own counsel. Yet do I scarce believe that he has done them. But if so, see what a thing thou hast done in taking me away from the coast country. Surely had I been yet there, no city had been troubled. But now send me as speedily as may be to the land of the Ionians, that I may set all things in order as they were aforetime, and also deliver up this deputy, if he has so done, into thy hands. Verily, I swear by thy Gods, O King, that I will not put off the tunic which I shall wear on the day when I go down to the land of the Ionians, before I make the great island of Sardinia tributary to thee." So Darius let him go, commanding him when he had accomplished these things to come back to him at Susa.

Meanwhile the Persians took not a few cities of the Ionians and Æolians. But while they were busy about these, the Carians revolted from the King; whereupon the captains of the Persians led their army into Caria, and the men of Caria came out to meet them; and they met them at a certain place which is called the White Pillars, near to the river Mæander. Then there were many counsels among the Carians whereof the best was this, that they should cross the river and so contend with the Persians, having the river behind them, that so there being no escape for them if they fled, they might surpass themselves in courage. But this counsel did not prevail. Nevertheless, when the Persians had crossed the Mæander, the Carians fought against them, and the battle was exceedingly long and fierce. But at the last the Carians were vanquished, being overborne by numbers, so that there fell of them ten thousand. And when they that escaped—for many had fled to Labranda, where there is a great temple of Zeus and a grove of plane trees—were doubting whether they should yield themselves to the King or depart altogether from Asia, there came to their help the men of Miletus with their allies. Thereupon the Carians, putting away their doubts altogether, fought with the Persians a second time, and were vanquished yet more grievously than before. But on this day the men of Miletus suffered the chief damage. And the Carians fought with the Persians yet again a third time; for, hearing that these were about to attack their cities one by one, they laid an ambush for them on the road to Pedasus. And the Persians, marching by night, fell into the ambush, and were utterly destroyed, they and their captains.

After these things, Aristagoras, seeing the power of the Persians, and having no more any hope to prevail over them—and indeed, for all that he had brought about so much trouble, he was of a poor spirit—called together his friends and said to them, "We must needs have some place of refuge, if we be driven out of Miletus. Shall we therefore go to Sardinia, or to Myrcinus on the river Strymon, which King Darius gave to Histiæus?"

To this Hecateus, the writer of chronicles, made answer, "Let Aristagoras build a fort in Leros (this Leros is an island thirty miles distant from Miletus) and dwell there quietly, if he be driven from Miletus. And hereafter he can come from Leros and set himself up again in Miletus."

But Aristagoras went to Myrcinus, and not long afterwards was slain while he besieged a certain city of the Thracians.

And now Histiæus came down from Susa to Sardis. When he was come to Sardis, Artaphernes the governor inquired of him the cause why the Ionians had rebelled, and when Histiæus said that he could not tell, Artaphernes said, for indeed he knew the whole matter, "The matter stands thus, Histiæus. Thou hast stitched the shoe and Aristagoras has put it on." When Histiæus heard this, and perceived that the thing was known, he fled to the coast. And first he went to Chios, where the people cast him into prison, but finding that he had rebelled against the King set him at liberty; and from Chios he went to Miletus; but the men of Miletus, being rid of one lord, even Aristagoras, were not minded to take to themselves another, and when he sought to make an entrance by night, they fought against him and wounded him in the thigh. After this, having got ships from the Lesbians, he laid wait at the Hellespont and seized all the ships that came forth from the Black Sea unless they would take service with him.

Now the Persians had gathered together a great host and a fleet also against Miletus; and the men of Miletus sent deputies to the Great Ionian Council. And the council resolved that they would not send an army to fight against the Persians, but that the cities should send all their ships, not leaving one behind, and that they should be assembled at Lade, which is an island near Miletus. So all the Ionians sent their ships, a hundred coming from Chios, and eighty from Miletus, and sixty from Lesbos. The number of the whole was three hundred and fifty and three. But the number of the ships of the barbarians was six hundred.

First the Persian captains sent for the lords of the Ionian cities whom Aristagoras had driven out, and said to them, "Now can ye do good service to the house of the King. Let each seek to draw away his own countrymen from the alliance of the Ionians; and let him tell them that they shall suffer no harm by reason of their revolt, but shall be in all points even as they were in former days. But if they be stubborn then shall they and their children be sold into slavery, and their land shall be given unto strangers." Then the lords sent messengers to tell these words to their countrymen; but these would not hearken or betray their allies. And each people thought that these promises were made to them only and not to the others.

Afterward divers councils were held by the captains of the fleet, in which, after others had set forth their opinions, Dionysius of Phocæa thus spake, "Ye men of Ionia, now are our fortunes on the razor's edge, whether we shall be free men or slaves, and slaves that are also runaways. If ye will endure for the time some hardness, ye will be able to prevail over your enemies and so be free forever; but if ye continue in your present slothfulness and disorder, there is no hope but that ye will suffer the wrath of the King when he shall avenge himself on you for your revolt. Be therefore persuaded by me and yield yourselves to my commands; for if ye fulfill these faithfully either will the Persians fly before us, or if they fight, will be utterly vanquished."

The Ionians hearkened to these words and committed themselves to Dionysius. And he every day made them move their ships in column, and practice with their oars, and exercise themselves in breaking the line. And the fighting men were kept under arms, and the ships remained on their anchors, so that the men had toil without ceasing from morning until night. These things the Ionians endured for seven days, but on the eighth—for they were not accustomed to such toil—being worn out with labor and with the heat of the sun, they began to say to each other, "Against what god have we sinned that we suffer such things? Surely we were mad that we gave ourselves to this boaster from Phocæa that has brought but three ships only. For he has taken us and plagued us with trouble that cannot be endured, so that many of us have already fallen sick, and many will soon fall. Surely it were better to endure any thing rather than these hardships. Even slavery were better than this servitude. Let us therefore yield him obedience no more."

After this they would not obey him, but pitched their tents upon the island, as though they had been soldiers, and lay in the shade, and would not practice themselves on their ships, which when the captains of the Samians perceived, they were more ready to receive the offer which the Persians had made to them. For they saw that there was no order among the Ionians, nor did they hope to prevail over the King, knowing that if they could vanquish this present fleet that was arrayed against them, there would come another five times as great. For this cause the Samians made an agreement with the King.

Not many days afterwards the ships of the Phœnicians sailed out to do battle, and the Ionians sailed against them. Who indeed bare themselves bravely and who played the coward that day is not certainly known, for the Ionians accused one another. But it is said that the Samians, according to the agreement that they had made, hoisted their sails and departed to Samos, but that eleven ships remained in their place and fought, for that the captains would not obey the leaders. For this deed the state of Samos granted them this honor, that their names should be written on a pillar, and that the pillar should be set up in the market-place of Samos. And this was done. Also the men of Lesbos, when they saw what their neighbors did, left also their place in the line; and indeed the greater part of the Ionians followed in the same way. Of them that remained the men of Chios were the most roughly handled. These had come with a hundred ships, on each of which were forty picked men at arms. Nor would they follow an ill example when they saw others play the coward, but behaved very valiantly, and though they were left well-nigh alone, yet broke many times through the lines of the enemy, and took many ships. And at the last, such as were able fled to Chios; and such as had their ships so sorely wounded that they could not return, beached their ships at this isle, and marched into the country of the Ephesians. This they did in the night, and the Ephesians, thinking that they were robbers that had come to steal away their women—for they were keeping a festival—marched out against them with their whole force and slew them.



As for Dionysius of Phocæa, when he saw that the Ionians were conquered, he would not return to Phocæa, for he knew that it must certainly fall into the hands of the Persians, but sailed away with his own ships and those that he had taken, and came to Phœnicia. There he sank certain merchantmen and took out of them a great booty. Afterwards he sailed to Sicily, and became a pirate, sparing indeed Greek ships, but taking ships of the Carthaginians and Tuscans.

The Persians besieged Miletus both by land and sea, digging mines under the walls, and using against it all manner of devices. And they took it in the sixth year from the time when Aristagoras caused it to revolt from the King. Most of the men they slew, and all the women and the children they made slaves; and the temple of Apollo at Branchidæ, to which, as has been said before, King Crœsus made many gifts, they burned with fire. Such of the inhabitants of Miletus as were not slain were sent up to Susa. The King did them no further harm, but settled them in the city of Ampe, which is near to the Red Sea, by the mouth of the river Tigris.

The Athenians showed what great sorrow they had at the taking of Miletus by many other proofs, and especially by this. The poet Phrynichus made a play, "The Taking of Miletus;" but when he showed it on the stage the whole multitude in the theater wept. And they put a fine of a thousand drachmas upon him because he had called to mind, they said, their own misfortune. And they made a law that no one thereafter should show this play.

Not many days afterwards Histiæus was taken prisoner by the Persians. Doubtless, had he been sent to Susa, King Darius would have pardoned him. And indeed, for fear of this, Artaphernes, governor of Sardis, commanded him to be slain. His body he fastened on a stake, and his head he embalmed and sent it on to the King. When the King heard it, he greatly blamed the governor, because he had not sent him up alive; and he commanded that they should take the head, and dress it with all care, and so bury it, for that this man had been a great benefactor to the Persians.

After this the Persians took all the towns of the Greeks on the mainland of Asia, and they netted the islands. Now the manner of netting was this. The men joined hands, making a line across the island from north to south, and so passed through it from end to end, hunting out all the inhabitants. Thus were the cities of the Ionians enslaved for the third time, once by Crœsus, King of the Lydians, and twice by the Persians.

After this the King, having conquered the Ionians, bided his time till he should avenge himself upon the Athenians.