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Aristagoras


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Deputy tyrant of Miletus c.505–496 bc in Histiaeus' absence, and influential rebel with too many causes. Trying to extend Miletus' Aegean power, he promoted a joint Ionian–Phoenician expedition of 100 ships against Naxos in 500. Failing in the four‐month siege, facing large military debts, and perhaps contemplating an independent east Aegean empire, he arrested and deposed fellow autocrats before demobilization (and thereby curried favour with ordinary Greeks along the coast), seized the Persians' Ionian fleet, abdicated Histiaeus' de iure tyrannical powers at Miletus, and promoted revolt against Persia from the Black (Euxine) Sea to Cyprus. Control of land and sea was quickly achieved. Seeking allies and cash, Aristagoras sailed to Europe (499/8). Spartans declined, Athenians and Eretrians (see eretria) briefly enlisted, but, faced with Phoenician sea‐power and Persian access by land, the Ionian Revolt faltered. Although Aristagoras superficially united Ionian communities during the six‐year revolt, his authority over Miletus and allied forces remained anomalous. As financial support diminished and allies bickered, he secured refuge and resources in strategically important Myrcinus, Histiaeus' base of operations (497/6). While expanding power and revenues there, he was ambushed and killed by Thracians.

Herodotus calls Aristagoras the originator of the Ionian Revolt. Despite impressive early successes, he later proved an easy scapegoat for self‐justifying survivors, victims of Persian retribution, and Athenian and Spartan self‐glorification. Later events confirmed his belief in the possibility of Anatolian Greek independence, but his revenues, diplomatic skills, and strategic planning proved inadequate. History vilifies losers and tyrants.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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