1902 Encyclopedia > Greece > Greek History: The Ionic Revolt and the Persian Wars, 502-479 B.C.

(Part 5)



III: The Ionic Revolt and the Persian Wars, 502-479 B.C.

The twelve Ionian cities on the western coast of Asia Minor formed a community which kept itself thoroughly distinct from the iEolian colonists to the north and the Dorians to the south. The Pan-Ionic festivals preserved the memory of the common descent. The Ionian life and culture had a character of its own. But the Ionian cities The had no political cohesion, nor had they any recognized Ionian leader. One after another they became tributary to the citiea kings of Lydia. The process of subjugation commenced at the time when the Lydian dynasty of the Mermnadae (about 716 B.C.) began to make themselves independent of Assyria. It was completed by Croesus, to whom, about 550 B.C., all the Ionian cities had became subject. Croesus under was friendly to the Greeks : he respected their religion, Lydia; and enriched its shrines; he welcomed distinguished Greeks to Sardis. All that was exacted from the Ionians by Croesus was that they should acknowledge him as their suzerain, and pay a fixed tribute. The Persians, under Cyrus, defeated Croesus and conquered Lydia about 547 B.C. The whole coast-line of Asia Minor was afterwards reduced by Harpagus, the general of Cyrus. The Persians, under zealous monotheists, destroyed the Greek temples. But it Persia, was not till the reign of Darius, who succeeded Cambyses in 521 B.C=, that the Ionians felt the whole weight of the Persian yoke. Darius, the able organizer of the Persian empire, preferred that each Ionian city should be ruled by one man whom he could trust. He therefore gave system- o atic support to tyrannies.
It is characteristic of the political condition of Ionia that The Ionic the revolt was not a popular movement, but was the work revolt, of two men, each of whom had private ends to serve. Histiaeus, tyrant of Miletus, had rendered a vital service to Darius during his Scythian expedition (510 B.C.) by dissuading the other Greek leaders from breaking down the bridge over the Danube, which secured the retreat of the Persian army. Having been rewarded with a principality in Thrace, he presently became suspected of ambitious designs. Darius sent for him to Susa, and detained him there on the pretext that he could not live without his friend. Meanwhile Aristagoras, the son-in-law of Histiaeus, ruled at Miletus. In 502 Aristagoras undertook to restore the exiled oligarchs of Naxos, and for this purpose obtained 200 Persian ships from Artaphernes, the satrap of western Asia Minor. The enterprise miscarried. Aris* tagoras, dreading the anger of Artaphernes, now began to meditate revolt. He was encouraged by secret messages from Histiaeus, who hoped to escape from Susa by being sent to suppress the rising. Aristagoras laid down his tyranny, and called on the people of Miletus to throw off the Persian yoke. The other Ionian cities followed the example. They deposed their tyrants and declared themselves free. The iEolian and Dorian settlements made common cause with them. Cyprus also joined in the revolt (500 B.C.). Aristagoras next sought aid beyond the iEgean. Sparta held aloof, but five ships were sent by the Eretrians, and twenty by the Athenians. The united Greek force surprised Sardis, and set fire to it, but was presently driven back to the coast. The Athenians then went home. Darius was deeply incensed by this outrage. The whole Persian force was brought to bear on Ionia, and Miletus was invested by land and sea. In a sea fight off Lade, an island near Miletus, the Ionians were decisively defeated by a Persian fleet of nearly twice their number,

partly through the shameful desertion of the Samians and Lesbians during the battle (496 B.C.). The Persians soon afterwards took Miletus by storm (495 B.C.). The Greek cities of the Asiatic sea board and of the Thracian Cher-sonese successively fell before them. First But the vengeance of Darius was not yet complete. He Persian could not forget that Greeks from beyond the sea had expedi- nelped. to burn Sardis, and he resolved that the punishment acainst °f Athens and Eretria should be as signal as that of his Greece, own vassals in Ionia. A Persian army, under Mardonius, crossed the Hellespont and advanced through Thrace. But the Persian fleet which accompanied it was shattered by a storm in rounding Mount Athos. The progress of Mar-donius was also checked by the Thracians, and he retreated to Asia.

Second The ambition of Mardonius had been to bring all Persian European Hellas under the rule of the Achaemenidae. The tionetu" second Persian expedition, guided by more cautious counsel, had a narrower scope. It was directed strictly against those states which the great king had vowed to punish. The intrigues of the Pisistratidae were busy in promoting it, and Hippias was to lend his personal guidance to its leaders. But before the new force set out Persian agents were sent through Greece to demand the symbols of sub-mission from the cities. Most of the islands feared to re-fuse. ./Egina, now a prosperous maritime power, complied from another motive than fear. Even Persia was welcome to her as an ally against Athens. The Athenians called upon Sparta, whom they thus recognized as the head of Greece, to punish this treason to the Hellenic cause ; and Cleo-menés, after overcoming the opposition of his royal col-league, Demaratus, took an arbitrary revenge on the ^Eginetans by depositing ten men of their chief families in the hands of the Athenians.
In 490 B.C. the second Persian expedition crossed the jEgean under the command of Datis and Artaphernes. Naxos was sacked, Eretria was betrayed. It seemed hardly doubtful that Athens too must fall. The Persians landed Battle of in the bay of Marathon, enclosed by the spurs of Brilessus Marathon. (Pentelicus) and the hills of the Diacria. They thus avoided the dangers of a voyage round a rocky coast ; and no part of Attica, Hippias told them, was so favourable to cavalry. The Athenians had sent for help to Sparta; but a religious scruple forbade the Spartans to march before the time of the full moon. Nine thousand Athenian citizens, with the slaves who carried their shields, went forth to meet the Persians at Marathon. On the way they were joined by a thousand Plataeans,—the whole force of that city,-—who came to stand by their old protectors. Miltiades, formerly the ruler of the Chersonese, was one of the ten Athenian generals. Five of these voted for awaiting Spartan help. The other five, led by Miltiades, were for giving battle at once ; and the vote of the polemarch, Callimachus, turned the scale in their favour. The Greeks charged down from the hillside upon the Persians. The Greek centre was driven in, but the Greek wings prevailed, and then closed upon the Persian centre. The Persians fled to their ships. Six thousand Persians fell. The Greek loss was about 192. Believing that traitors at Athens had signalled to the Persians to surprise the city while undefended, the army hastened back. The Persian fleet soon approached, but seeing troops on the shore, sailed away for Asia. Miltiades. Aiter the victory of Marathon Miltiades was all-powerful at Athens. He asked the people to give him a fleet, in order that he might strike another blow at Persia while the effects of Marathon were fresh. His demand was granted. But he employed the fleet in an attempt to wreak a private grudge on the island of Paros. At the end of twenty-six days he returned to Athens baffled, and suffering from a wound in the thigh. He was indicted for
having deceived the people, and was sentenced to a fine of about £12,000. Being unable to pay it, he was disfranchised as a public debtor. His wound mortified, and he died, leaving debt and dishonour to his son Cimon. Aristides was now the most influential man at Athens, as Themistocles was the ablest. Themistocles foresaw that the Persians would return, and that Athens could resist them only on the sea. He aimed therefore at creating Policy of an Athenian navy. Already (491 B.C.) he had persuaded Themis-the Athenians to set about fortifying the peninsula of the tocleSi Piraeus, which, with its three harbours commanded by the height of Munychia, offered greater advantages than the open roadstead of Phalerum. He now urged that the revenues from the silver mines of Lauriuin should be applied to building a fleet. The frequent hostilities between Athens and iEgina enforced the advice. Before 480 B.C. Athens had acquired 200 triremes. Aristides was at the head of a party who viewed this movement with alarm. Had not the naval empire of Miletus, Chios, and Samos been transient? The land-holding citizens who had fought at Marathon would give place to a mob of sailors and traders. An unstable democracy would carry the state out of the ancient ways. The strife of parties came to an issue. An ostracism was held, and Aristides was banished,—probably in 484 or 483 B.C. Themistocles remained the leader of Athens in the new path which he himself had opened. Athens was now the first maritime power of Greece.
The repulse at Marathon had probably not prevented the Persian commanders from representing their expedition as in a great measure successful. Darius resolved on the complete subjugation of Greece. But, when vast prepara-tions had been in progress for three years, he died, leaving the throne to Xerxes, the eldest of his four sons by Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus (485 B.C.). Xerxes was not, like Xerxes, his father, a born ruler or a trained warrior. But he was profoundly convinced that all human beings were the natural slaves of the Persian king ; and he was influenced by a strong war-party in the palace, with Atossa and Mardonius at its head. The house of Pisistratus, the ambitious Aleuadae of Thessaly, and Demaratus, the exiled king of Sparta, united in urging an invasion of Greece. It was in vain that Artabanus, the uncle of the king, argued on behalf of the moderate party at the court. Orders were given to raise such an armament as the world Third had never seen, a host which should display the whole Persian resources of the empire from the Indus to the iEgean, ^uedi from the Danube to the Nile. Forty-six nations were represented by the forces which wintered at Sardis in 481 B.C. A fleet of 1200 triremes, and about 3000 transports and smaller craft, assembled near Cyme and Phocaea on the Ionian coast. In the spring of 480 B.C. Xerxes led about a million of men to the Hellespont, whither the fleet went before to meet them.

Greece was probably never stronger than it was at this Condition time. The population of the Peloponnesus may have been of Greece, about two millions. Athens, according to Herodotus, had 30,000 citizens. The Boeotian towns and the islands were prosperous. The proportion of slaves to freemen varied from perhaps four to one at Athens to as much as ten to one at Corinth or iEgina. Life was still simple and vigorous. Society was not divided into rich classes ener-vated by luxury and poor classes enfeebled by want. The public palaestras were schools of physical training for war. But that which Greece lacked was political unity. Aristocracy and democracy were already rival forces. Political Everywhere the aristocrats felt that a victory over Persia divisions, must have a national character, and must so far be a victory for the people. They inclined therefore to the Persian cause; and the stand in defence of Greece was

eventually made by a few states only. Sparta, as the lead-ing city of Greece, took the first step towards the forma-tion of a national party, by convening a congress at the isthmus of Corinth in the autumn of 481. Here Them-istocles showed his statesmanship by prevailing on the Athenians to abstain from disputing the hegemony of Sparta. Most of the Peloponnesian cities were represented at the congress. But Argos and Achaia, jealous of Sparta, held aloof. In Boeotia, Thebes,—the enemy of Athens,— favoured Persia. In Thessaly the dynasty of the Aleuaclae were the active allies of the invader. Gelon of Syracuse refused to aid unless he were to lead. The Coreyreans promised sixty ships, but did not send them. Crete also failed to help. The states which fought against Persia were then these only,—Sparta with her Peloponnesian allies, Athens, iEgiua, Megara, Plataea, Thespiae. This national league expressed indeed the principle of Greek unity, but Greece was far from being united. The " medizing " party was strong, and it counted some adher-ents in many even of the patriotic cities. Wherever democracy had enemies Persia had friends. Plan of The first idea of the national defence was to arrest the defence, torrent of invasion at some northerly point which could be held against great numerical odds. Tempe proving unten-able, it was resolved to make a stand at Thermopylae. When Leonidas had fallen with his 300 Spartans and the 700 Thespians who shared their heroic death, the next ob-ject of the Peloponnesian allies was to guard the isthmus Athens, of Corinth. The peculiar misfortune of Athens in the war was her position between two gates, the first of which had been forced by the enemy. The Greek leaders seem to have assumed at first that it was vain to oppose the Persian land forces in an open field. Xerxes occupied Athens, and the flames which destroyed its houses and temples at last avenged the burning of Sardis. The Greek ships, which had gained some advantage over the Persian fleet at Artemisium in the northern waters of the Euboean strait, had moved to Salamis as soon as it was known that the Persians had passed Thermopylae. The homeless popula-tion of Athens had been conveyed to Salamis, iEgina, and Trcezen before the arrival of Xerxes. And now the fore-cast of Themistocles was verified. Athens, and Greece itself, were saved chiefly by the Athenian ships,—200 in number out of a total of 366. The Peloponnesian leaders wished to withdraw the fleet to the isthmus. Themistocles saw that if it left Salamis it would disperse. He sent word to Xerxes that the Greeks meditated escape. The Persian fleet surrounded them in the night. Next day the Battle of battle of Salamis was fought. Of 1000 Persian ships, 200 Salamis. were destroyed; the rest fled. It was on the same day that Gelon of Syracuse defeated the Carthaginians at Hiniera in Sicily (480 B.C.). Xerxes lost heart and re-treated to Asia, leaving Mardonius with 300,000 men to finish the war. In the summer of 479 Athens was again occupied and destroyed by the Persians. Now at length Sparta came to the rescue. Pausanias, the guardian of the young son of Leonidas, led 110,000 of the allies into Boeotia, and utterly defeated the army of Mardonius near Plataea (479 B.C.). On the same day the troops of the Greek fleet defeated those of the Persian fleet in a battle on the shore at Mycale near Miletus. This victory set Ionia free from Persia. Lessons The Persian wars had revealed both the weakness and of the the strength of Greece. The hereditary aristocracy of Persian xhegsaiy had shown that they were eager to establish the supremacy of their house with the help of Asiatic despotism. Such states as Argos and Thebes had not been ashamed to indulge jealousy and party spirit by betrayal of the com-mon cause. Even Sparta and the Peloponnesian allies had been disposed to confine their endeavours to the defence of
their own peninsula, leaving Athens and the northern cities to their fate. On the other hand the struggle had brought into strong relief the contrast between absolute monarchy and constitutional freedom. This appeared in two things: the Greek strategy was superior; and the Greek troops fought better. Athens, in particular, had shown how both the intelligence and the spirit of citizens are raised by equal laws. The mistakes of the invaders,—which, to a Greek mind, might well have seemed the work of Ate,—were such as are natural when a vast force is directed by the intemperance of a single will. Artemisia and Demaratus advised Xerxes to occupy Cythera. The Thebans advised Mardonius to sow dissension among the Greeks by means of bribes. Both counsels were judicious, and both were neglected. Time is, in war, the surest ally of superior numbers and resources; but the impatience of the Persian commanders staked everything on a few pitched battles. Again, the Persians, unlike the Lydians of old, destroyed the Greek temples. They thus conferred an immense moral advantage on their antagonist. He could no longer doubt that he was helped by his gods.

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