Greco-Persian Wars - Ionian Revolt (499–493 BC)

Ionian Revolt (499–493 BC)

Ionian Revolt
  • Naxos
  • Sardis
  • Ephesus
  • Cyprus
  • Marsyas
  • Labraunda
  • Pedasus
  • Lade
  • Miletus
  • Chios
  • Malene

The Ionian Revolt and associated revolts in Aeolis, Doris, Cyprus, and Caria were military rebellions by several regions of Asia Minor against Persian rule, lasting from 499 to 493 BC. At the heart of the rebellion was the dissatisfaction of the Greek cities of Asia Minor with the tyrants appointed by Persia to rule them, along with opposition to the individual actions of two Milesian tyrants, Histiaeus and Aristagoras. In 499 BC the then tyrant of Miletus, Aristagoras, launched a joint expedition with the Persian satrap Artaphernes to conquer Naxos, in an attempt to bolster his position in Miletus (both financially and in terms of prestige). The mission was a debacle, and sensing his imminent removal as tyrant, Aristagoras chose to incite the whole of Ionia into rebellion against the Persian king Darius the Great.

Struggling to rule the independent-minded cities of Ionia, the Persians appointed local tyrants to rule each of them. This would prove to be the source of much trouble for the Greeks and Persians alike. In 498 BC, supported by troops from Athens and Eretria, the Ionians marched on, captured, and burnt Sardis. However, on their return journey to Ionia, they were followed by Persian troops, and decisively beaten at the Battle of Ephesus. This campaign was the only offensive action taken by the Ionians, who subsequently went on the defensive. The Persians responded in 497 BC with a three-pronged attack aimed at recapturing the outlying areas of the rebellious territory, but the spread of the revolt to Caria meant the largest army, under Darius, moved there instead. While at first campaigning successfully in Caria, this army was wiped out in an ambush at the Battle of Pedasus. This resulted in a stalemate for the rest of 496 and 495 BC.

By 494 BC the Persian army and navy had regrouped, and they made straight for the epicentre of the rebellion at Miletus. The Ionian fleet sought to defend Miletus by sea, but was defeated decisively at the Battle of Lade, after the Samians had defected. Miletus was then besieged, captured, and its population was enslaved. This double defeat effectively ended the revolt, and the Carians surrendered to the Persians as a result. The Persians spent 493 BC reducing the cities along the west coast that still held out against them, before finally imposing a peace settlement on Ionia that was considered to be both just and fair.

The Ionian Revolt constituted the first major conflict between Greece and the Achaemenid Empire and represents the first phase of the Greco-Persian Wars. Asia Minor had been brought back into the Persian fold, but Darius had vowed to punish Athens and Eretria for their support for the revolt. Moreover, seeing that the political situation in Greece posed a continued threat to the stability of his Empire, he decided to embark on the conquest of all Greece.

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