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Ionian Revolt


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The east Greeks, prosperous and compliant subjects of Persia from c.546/5 bc, remained uniquely quiet at Darius I's irregular accession. Further Persian expansion in Egypt, and Thrace, however, increased imperial tax‐exactions and reduced Hellenic market‐share and attractive mercenary opportunities. Resenting barbarian overlords, autocratic regimes (see tyranny), and conscript service for Persia, most Ionian cities (see ionians) followed Milesian Aristagoras in deposing local tyrants (499). Enough Athenian and Eretrian assistance arrived to raze Sardis. Ethnic religious assembly (Panionium), political organization, and intercity operations proved east Greek capacities for unified action. So Hellespontines, Carians, and many Cypriots joined the rebels. Samian and Lesbian interests (see lesbos; samos), however, diverged from Milesian and Carian. Inadequate revenues and budgetary mechanisms and disputed military hierarchies further weakened resolve.

Persia mobilized and defeated Hellenes and allies at Ephesus, Cyprus, and Labraunda, then reconquered Anatolian territories by amphibious, triple‐pronged, city‐by‐city advances. Both commands welcomed a decisive naval battle near Miletus (at Lade, 494). Approximately 70,000 allied Greeks in 353 ships, capable Dionysius of Phocaea commanding, faced 600 largely Phoenician vessels. Co‐operation among the predominantly Chian, Samian, Milesian, and Lesbian contingents—rivals to begin with—collapsed when battle commenced. Persian ‘politics’ and bribery succeeded where sheer force had not. Many fought bravely, but most Samians had agreed to defect. Miletus was sacked, the inhabitants killed, enslaved, or deported. The coastal and island mop‐up was easy and ruthless.

Herodotus' account, based on surviving losers' biased reconstructions, replays and exasperatedly explains the defeat. Like the westerners' later edifying victory, the east Greeks' edifying defeat demanded heroes and villains. Short‐sighted tyrants, Ionian disorganization, and military disinclination are blamed throughout. Ionian achievements are trivialized or negated, as each polis castigated the others' motives. Herodotus condemned the liberation as doomed from birth, but his facts allow alternative reconstructions. Initial successes and co‐ordination suggest that liberation was possible.

Revolt produced three positive results. Mardonius replaced some unpopular Hellenic tyrants on Persia's western borders with more democratic regimes. Artaphernes renegotiated tribute collections. Persian westward expansion was delayed.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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