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Dorieus' Expedition to Sicily, c.510 BC

Dorieus' Expedition to Sicily, c.510 BC

Dorieus' Expedition to Sicily, c.510 BC

Dorieus' Expedition to Sicily (c.510 BC) was an unsuccessful attempt by a band of Greek adventurers to capture the town of Eryx in western Sicily and use it as the basis of a new Greek city.

Dorieus was a member of the Spartan royal family, a younger son of Cleomenes, king from c.520 BC and the brother of King Leonidas of Thermopylae fame. A few years after his father came to the throne Dorieus decided to seek his fortune overseas. His first venture, in c.514, was to North Africa, where he attempted to found a colony between the Persian and Carthaginian Empires. He was expelled by the Carthaginians and Libyans, and returned to Greece where he consulted the oracles.

They told him to 'found Heraclea in Sicily', which he interpreted as an instruction to found a city in western Sicily. Dorieus's new target was the town of Eryx, an Elymian settlement on the north-west coast of Sicily, between the Phoenician cities of Motya and Panormus. According to legend this town had been conquered by Hercules during one of his labours, but then returned to its inhabitants until one of his descendants came to claim it. As a member of the Spartan royal house Dorieus could claim descent from Hercules.

Dorieus gathered a band of adventurers, including four other Spartans, who would join him as co-founders of the new settlement. They departed for Sicily in about 510 BC, and after taking part in some fighting in southern Italy soon reached their target.

After that the expedition was a total disaster. Dorieus and his band may have held Eryx for long enough to rename it Heraclea, but they were quickly defeated by an alliance of Phoenicians and Elymians. Dorieus was killed and most of his army destroyed.

Only one of the fire Spartan 'co-founders', Euryleon, survived the disaster. He took his surviving men and captured a nearby Greek settlement at Minoa. His army then moved south and helped the inhabitants of Selinus overthrow Peithagoras, their tyrant. Euryleon then threatened to become a tyrant himself and was killed.

Dorieus' death was later used by Gelon, tyrant of Syracuse in the 480s in an attempt to gain support from mainland Greece for his attempted conquests, but without much success.

Sicilian Wars

The Sicilian Wars, or Greco-Punic Wars, were a series of conflicts fought between the Carthaginians and the Greek city-states, led by Syracusans, over control of Sicily and the western Mediterranean between 600 BC and 265 BC.

Carthage's economic success, and its dependence on shipping to conduct most of its trade (for the empire's southern border was surrounded by desert), led to the creation of a powerful navy to discourage both pirates and rival nations. They had inherited their naval strength and experience from their forebearers, the Phoenicians, but had increased it because, unlike the Phoenicians, the Punics did not want to rely on a foreign nation's aid. This, coupled with its success and growing hegemony, brought Carthage into increasing conflict with the Greeks, the other major power contending for control of the central Mediterranean.

The Greeks, like the Phoenicians, were expert sailors who had established thriving colonies throughout the Mediterranean. These two rivals fought their wars on the island of Sicily, which lay close to Carthage. From their earliest days, both the Greeks and Phoenicians had been attracted to the large island, establishing a large number of colonies and trading posts along its coasts. Small battles had been fought between these settlements for centuries.

No Carthaginian records of the war exist today, because when the city was destroyed in 146 BC by the Romans, the books from Carthage's library were distributed among the nearby African tribes, and none remain on the topic of Carthaginian history. As a result most of what we know about the Sicilian Wars comes from Greek historians.


The Phoenicians had planted trading posts all over the coast of Sicily after 900 BC, but had never penetrated far inland. They had traded with the Elymian, Sicani and Siculi communities and ultimately withdrew without resistance to Motya, Panormus and Solus when the Greek colonists arrived after 750 BC. Ε] These cities remained independent until becoming part of the Carthaginian hegemony after 540 BC, probably when Malchus of Carthage "conquered all Sicily" and sent the captured booty to Tyre . Ζ]

Carthaginian hegemony and Greeks in Sicily [ edit | edit source ]

Carthage created her hegemony in part to resist Greek encroachments in the Phoenician sphere of influence. Phoenicians initially (750 -650 BC) did not resist the Greeks, but after the Greeks had reached Iberia sometime after 650 BC, Carthage emerged as the leader of Phoenician resistance. During the 6th century BC, mostly under the leadership of the Magonid dynasty, Carthage established a commercially dominant position in the Western Mediterranean. Η] The Phoenicians in Sicily and the Elymians had teamed up to defeat the Greeks of Selinus and Rhodes near Lilybaeum in 580 BC, the first recorded clash between Phoenicians and Greeks incident in Sicily. The next known Greek incursion in Sicily took place 70 years later.

The Greeks living in Sicily behaved pretty much like the mainland Greeks, expanding their political and commercial domain at the expense of their neighbors while keeping the Ionian/Dorian feud alive – the Doric colonies were comparably more aggressive in expanding their territory. Trade also flourished between the natives, the Greeks and the Phoenicians and the Sicilian Greeks colonies became prosperous. This prosperity enabled some of the Greek cities to start to expand their territories again, ultimately leading to the events known as the "First Sicilian War".

Carthage joins the fight [ edit | edit source ]

Carthage and Elymians joined hands in 510 BC to oppose the expedition of Prince Dorieus, who had lost the Spartan throne and was seeking to found a colony, showed up to colonize Eryx – after being expelled from Libya by Carthage in 511 BC. Dorieus was defeated and killed – the Greek survivors then founded Heraclea Minoa. ⎖] Sicilian Greeks (probably the cities of Akragas, Gela and Selinus) fought an undated war of revenge against Carthage, which led to the destruction of Minoa and a treaty which brought economic benefits for the Greeks. ⎗] An appeal for aid to avenge the death of Dorieus was ignored by mainland Greece, even by Leonidas of Sparta, brother of Dorieus and who later would win immortal fame at Thermopylae in 480 BC. This possibly demonstrated the futility of opposing Carthage by single Greek cities ⎘] or the unreliability of aid from mainland Greece, a situation that would change with the rise of the Greek tyrants in Sicily.

Greek tyrants [ edit | edit source ]

While Carthage remained engaged in Sardinia after 510 BC, most of the Greek colonies in Sicily fell under the rule of tyrants. The tyrants of Gela, Akragas and Rhegion successfully expanded their dominion at the expense of native Sicilians and other Greek cities during 505-480 BC, with the Dorian city of Gela being the most successful.

Dorian Greeks dominate Sicily [ edit | edit source ]

Cleander (505-498 BC) and his brother Hippocrates (498 -491) of Gela successfully took over both Ionian and Dorian Greek territory, and by 490 BC, Zankle, Leontini, Catana, Naxos, besides neighboring Sicel lands and Camarina had fallen to Gela. Gelo, successor of Hippocrates, captured Syracuse and made the city his capital. By using ethnic cleansing, deportation and enslavement, ⎙] Gelo transformed the former Ionian cities into Dorian ones and made Syracuse the dominant power in Sicily. Meanwhile Akragas, another Doric city, had taken over neighboring Sikan and Sicel lands under the tyrant Theron (488-472 BC). To forestall any conflicts between Akragas and Syracuse, Gelo and Theron married into each other's families, thus creating a united front against the Sicels and Ionian Greeks of Sicily.

Ionian Greeks call on Carthage [ edit | edit source ]

To counter this Doric threat, Anaxilas of Rhegion from Italy, who had captured Zankle from Gela in 490 BC, allied himself with Terillus of Himera, and married the daughter of Terillus. ⎚] Himera and Rhegion next became allies of Carthage, the tyrants even build up personal relationships with the Magonid dynasty of Carthage. Selinus, a Doric city whose territory bordered Theron's domain, also became a Carthaginian ally – perhaps the fear of Theron and the destruction of Megara (mother city of, Selinus), by Gelo, had played a part in this decision. Thus, 3 power blocks were delicately balanced in Sicily by 483 BC – Ionians dominating the north, Carthage the west, Dorians the east and south. The Sicels and Sikans in the interior remained passive, and if not directly under Greek rule, did not hinder the movements of their forces. The Elmyians joined the Carthaginian alliance.

Delving into History ® _ periklis deligiannis

By Periklis Deligiannis

By the end of the sixth century BC, Anaxandridas of the Agiad royal family, one of the two Spartan kings (Sparta had two kings), had a difficulty in bearing children from his first wife. The Spartan ephors forced him to take a second wife – despite the southern Greek monogamy – in order to obtain a successor. Anaxandridas’ second wife gave birth to Cleomenes, who was destined to become one of the most skilful Spartan kings. However, shortly after the birth of Cleomenes, Anaxandridas’ first wife also gave birth to a son, named Dorieus. Although Dorieus came from the king’s first wife, Cleomenes succeeded Anaxandridas to the throne as firstborn. Dorieus became furious because of the takeover of royal power by Cleomenes. Thus he decided to organize a colonization campaign, in order to leave forever Sparta (515 BC). His first choice for the founding of his colony, was the site of the river Kinyps in Libya. The men who followed him out were referred by the sources as “Lacedaemonians” and it seems that they included a few real Spartans (Spartan citizens, called omoioi). The Spartan omoioi followers of Dorieus were mainly his personal friends and some members of his political faction. The majority were other Lacedaemonians, mainly hypomeiones (fallen citizens, ex-Spartans who were just beginning to become numerous), perioikoi (free Lakonian, Messenian and Pylian subjects of Sparta) and Peloponnesian allies.

A part of Libya, Cyrenaeca, had been colonized by settlers of Lacedaemonian origins. The Cyrenaeans (named after their major city, Cyrene/Kyrene) were originated from the Greek island of Thera, a Spartan colony (modern Santorini). Additionally, close to the neighbouring river Kinyps was Oea, a city which is reported later as a Punic/Phoenician colony. However, a Theran city had the same name (Oea) and therefore it is probable that Oea of Libya was originally founded by Oean Theran or Cyrenaean colonists. Moreover, “Oea” is a Greek name. Probably the Carthaginians expelled later the Greek settlers of the Libyc Oea, colonizing the city with Phoenicians. The Cyrenaeans supported Dorieus’ colonist campaign in Libya because of their Lacedaemonian origins and for their own survival also. At this time, they faced two major threats. To the east, the Persian king Cambyses had conquered Egypt, threatening them directly. To the west, the Carthaginians expanded constantly, approaching dangerously the western Cyrenaean borders. The Cyrenaeans could be crushed by these enemies, and possibly routed out back to Greece. Considering that Dorieus’ mission was organized by the official Spartan state, it was probably a measure taken by Sparta for the salvation of its colony, Cyrene. The Spartans had to act for the salvation of Cyrene and Cyrenaeca, especially at a time when the Greeks were threatened by the expansion of their powerful enemies from the East (Persians and Syro-Phoenicians) and the West (Carthaginians and inland Etruscans). The Cyrenaeans would be happy by the establishment of a “twin” Spartan colony in the valley of Kinyps, that would reinforce the Greek element in Libya.

A pair of ancient Greek bronze greaves, typical of the hoplite armory.

Dorieus’ colonist mission was led by Theran seamen to Cyrene (515/4 BC). There, Dorieus met the exiled Philip of Croton (a Greek city-state of Southern Italy), whom he incorporated along with his comrades (political exiles) in his colonist army. The Spartans marched with Cyrenaean help and finally reached the valley of river Kinyps, where they founded a city. The settlers faced from the beginning the ferocious attacks of the native Libyans. The Carthaginians considered the valley of Kinyps as their own colonization zone, and were alarmed by the establishment of a Spartan colony near their borders. The Greek colonists were held in more than two years, repulsing the Libyan attacks (514-512/511 BC). Eventually the Carthaginians and the Libyans joined forces, and thus they managed to expel the Lacedaemonians from Kinyps. Dorieus and his men returned to Sparta, but his colonist campaign was not in vain. The Carthaginians, who coveted Cyrenaeca, understood that if they tried to march across the river Kinyps, they would “trigger” a new Spartan or generally Greek campaign for the protection of Cyrene and Cyrenaeca. The Carthaginians had already two open fronts with the Greeks in Sicily and Spain (the last against Massalia/Marseille) and did not wish the opening of a third front. Later, they agreed with the Cyrenaeans in defining their common borders on the Altars of Filaini, in the Gulf of Great Syrtis. During the Hellenistic period, the Cyrenaean borders were expanded against the Punic territory, when the Carthaginians were obliged to fall back in front of the mighty Greek Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt which had already incorporated Cyrenaeca.

In Sparta, Dorieus and his men organized a new colonist mission, this time in Magna Graecia (Southern Italy) with a fleet of five triremes, of which one was Crotoniat. The latter trireme belonged to Philip and other Crotoniat political exiles, who hoped to return to their city even by force. Thus Dorieus’ new army consisted of the crews of five triremes, that is 1,000 men: Spartans and other Lacedaemonians, other Peloponnesians and Crotoniates. Additionally, an ancient source mentions 100 Athenians among them. Dorieus’ men landed most likely in Taras, a Spartan colony of Southern Italy. Dorieus marched to the west and found the Crotoniates at war with their former allies, the Sybarites. Croton and Sybaris were major Greek colonies in the area, founded by Peloponnesian Achaeans. Dorieus chose to side with the Crotoniates because of the presence of Philip’s men in his army, among other reasons. The plunderage of rich Sybaris was possibly the main reason. Finally, the Crotoniates and Dorieus’ warriors captured and destroyed Sybaris (511/510 BC). But Dorieus’ men did not remain in Italy, not even the Crotoniat exiles. It seems that they faced the hostility of the Italiot Greeks, inclusive their Crotoniat former allies and their Tarantine kinsmen. None of these wished the establishment of a mighty Spartan colony that would replace Sybaris, consisting a threat to their welfare.

Corinthian bronze helmet and bronze muscled cuirass.

Thus Dorieus’ Greeks sailed or walked along the northern coast of Sicily, ending up in the northwestern promontory of the island, in the territory of mount Eryx. There they founded a new colony, Heraclea. The new city was isolated from the other Greek areas of Sicily, surrounded by the territories of the Phoenicians and Elymians (natives of Sicily), but it flourished and quickly strengthened (in two or three years). The Carthaginians were again alarmed by the new Greek settlement in northwest Sicily which belonged to their sphere of influence. They were alarmed more by the fact that Heraclea was founded by Dorieus’ Spartans, “familiars” of them from the Kinyps campaign. They sent an expeditionary force which joined forces with the Sicilian Phoenicians and the Elymians. Eventually, the far more numerous Punic army crushed Dorieus’ limited forces (508/7 BC). The Spartan prince and three of his four lieutenants, including Philip the Crotoniate, were killed. The Elymians of Egesta (Segesta), allies of Carthage, were so impressed by Philip’s fighting spirit, that their descendants worshipped him as a ​​hero. Heraclea was destroyed by the Carthaginians and its surviving inhabitants took refuge in the territory of Selinus. The only surviving Spartan lieutenant was Euryleon who conquered Minoa, a Selinuntian colony, renaming it to Heraclea (Minoa). Finally Euryleon attacked Selinus and managed to overthrow Pythagoras, the tyrant of the city. But he became tyrant in his place, perhaps intending to continue the war against the Carthaginians. The Selinountians soon overthrew Euryleon and killed him in the Agora (Market) of the city.

In 489/8 BC, king Cleomenes, Dorieus’ brother, died in Sparta. He was succeeded by his younger brother, the famous Leonidas, who was destined to lead the Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC) and to ‘write’ the most glorious page in Spartan history. King Anaxandridas, Dorieus’ father, was fortunate to have three great sons, each of whom wrote his own meaningful history. Dorieus may not be as famous as his two brothers, but his inexhaustible energy and his unwavering perseverance to acquire a new home far away from Sparta (which disappointed him so much) denote definitely a strong personality. Had Dorieus remained in Sparta, he would succeed Cleomenes and he would probably be the Spartan commander to confront the Persians at Thermopylae instead of Leonidas, thereby “stealing” the eternal glory from the latter, the most famous Spartan of all time.

(1) Diodorus Siculus: HISTORICAL LIBRARY.

(3) Pugliese Carratelli G. (Editore): THE WESTERN GREEKS, Venezia-Milano: Bompiani, 1996.

THE IONIAN REVOLT, 499 - 493 BC: The Start of the Greco-Persian Wars

[ABOVE: Map of the Ionian Revolt, 499 - 493 BC]

In 499 BC, the Greek cities of Ionia, on the Western coast of Asia Minor, staged a revolt against Persian rule. Greeks fighting against the Persians were initially successful, especially after gaining assistance from Athens soon after. Persia was initially slow to respond to the rioting, and the revolt eventually spread from Byzantium in the north to Cyprus in the south, engulfing much of the Greek world and the empire of Darius. When Persia began to gain the upper hand, Athens and her Eritrean allies backed off to mainland Greece, but Athens’s aid against Persia would not be forgotten by Darius. Using their excellent large-scale campaign management and siege warfare and by using the natural terrain to their advantage and to the Greek’s disadvantage, the revolt was suppressed and the rebels were put down harshly by 493 BC. Thrace and several Greek islands would be taken under Persian rule soon after, and revenge would be sought upon by Darius against Athens.


[ABOVE: A 2nd century Roman-made copy of a Greek 4th century BC bust of Herodotus]

The Ionian Revolt is described in detail in primary sources best by Herodotus (c.484-425 BC). A Greek himself living under the then-Persian-ruled Greek city of Halicarnassus a couple of decades after the revolt, he described the revolt as, largely, one that was doomed to always fail. This wasn’t born out of bias, but rather due to his position of only being able to write of events described to him through oral tradition. However, the revolt, while suppressed in the end, was very successful most cities involved in it were raised to the ground, and aid from mainland Greece reflected the grand scale of the revolt. However, once the Persian army was mobilised, alongside their Phoenician-owned fleets, they were unstoppable.

Go and check out my previous blog on the Achaemenid Persian Empire if you'd like a little background:

Following their expeditions into Scythia, Thrace and Macedonia, Persian expansion relaxed during the last decade of the 6th century BC. This didn’t mean that Greek cities living under Persian rule were relieved of pressure, but it did mean many Persian military demands were cut short, allowing the resentment of perceived agents of Persian control - the tyrants - to increase. The revolt’s origins stem from politics tyrants ruling over their individual city-states had to be seen to have the support of Persia in order to keep their prestigious titles, having to each bring themselves in person to the notice of Darius if they wanted greater rewards. This led to several times where these want-to-be tyrants would need to gamble, for if their one opportunity to show themselves off to the Persian king as irreplaceable failed then they would have to quit. This is likely the case with Aristagoras, tyrant of Miletus and the man who would start the revolt.



[ABOVE: A Miletan coin from Aristagoras's time, c.5th century BC]

Of all Aegean island nations, Naxos was perhaps the most prosperous during the 6th to early 5th centuries BC, while Miletus was arguably the most prosperous Ionian city. Two generations prior, Miletus was engaged in civil war, which was quelled by the Greeks of Paros The Parians sent their best men to Miletus, and settled the Miletan dispute by visiting their nation during their economic decline, and noting down the names of the few well-worked fields among the then-mostly devastated ones left on the island. With this list complete, they put the government in the hands of these people who owned the well-worked farms, thinking that they could run their nation as well as they ran their own lands. The populace was then ordered to do as their new rulers wished.


[ABOVE: Map of the isle of Naxos, showing its main settlements]

While this happened, men were being banished from Naxos by the people, ending up in Miletus. Aristagoras was Miletus’s governor at the time, and he was the son of Molpagoras, who was in turn the son-in-law and cousin of Histiaeus, whose father in turn was being detained in Susa by Darius. Histiaeus, tyrant of Miletus, was in Susa when the Naxians arrived in Miletus. Once there, the Naxians asked Aristagoras for military aid to get them back to Naxos. Aristagoras took this to mean that he could in turn end up ruling Naxos as a thanks. He told them that while he did not have the manpower to retake Naxos by force, his friendship with the Lydian Satrap Artaphrenes, brother of Darius, could provide them with the troops needed. With this, the Naxians gave Aristagoras permission to do what he could, telling him to offer gifts and pay for his military’s expense along the way, which they said they’d pay themselves. They did this as they expected the current inhabitants of Naxos to submit to them once they saw them, thinking that this would also happen on all other Aegean Islands not yet under Persian control.


[ABOVE: A model head of a Persian noble, thought to be Artaphrenes, c.520-480 BC]

Aristagoras travelled to Sardis. He told Artaphrenes that Naxos, while not a particularly big island, was lush, fertile and rich in property and slaves. Aristagoras told Artaphrenes to get an expedition together to take the island and bring back the banished exiles, telling him that he had enough money set aside as a reward to cover everything aside from military upkeep. Aristagoras also told Artaphrenes that owning Naxos would give Persia an Aegean island which had many other dependent islands (the Cyclades), enough islands to launch a successful attack on Euboea afterwards. Aristagoras recommended 100 warships would be enough for this expedition, but Artaphrenes disagreed, saying he would require 200, along with King Darius’s approval. Pleased with this reply, Aristagoras returned to Miletus, while Artaphrenes sent a message to Darius detailing Aristagoras’s proposition, which the king approved of too. With this, Artaphrenes received 200 warships and a large army of Persians and allies. Artaphrenes handed command of the army to Megabates, Artaphrenes and Darius’s cousin. The force under Megabates now was sent from Artpahrenes over to Miletus, where Aristagoras, the Ionian forces and the exiles from Naxos joined them. Upon reaching the isle of Chios, Megabates stopped to make round checks on his forces’ sentries, he found no guards were left on board one of the ships. The ships captain was punished by having his head placed through the ships oar-hole, where he was left tied down. Finding out, Aristagoras thought the captain had been severely mistreated, so went to untie him himself. Megabates was furious at this, but this didn’t phase Aristagoras, who reminded Megabates of his position under his command. Enraged further, Megabates secretly sent some men over to Naxos to warn them of the coming forces.


The Naxians had no idea they were being targeted by such a large force, but upon hearing the news from Megabates’ messengers, everything from their fields was brought within the city walls, and the city’s people were stocked well with enough food and water to last out a siege, and the city’s walls themselves were reinforced. When the Persian force arrived, they were met with a now-well defended army and city, until 4 months had passed, and the money given to Aristagoras to fund this expedition had run out. With this in mind, a stronghold was ordered to be built on Naxos for the exiles while the main army returned to Persian territory. The Naxian expedition had failed.


Aristagoras was thus able to keep his promise to Artaphrenes. He was also concerned that his failure, wasting of money and personal feud with Megabates could result in him loosing his rulership of Miletus. With this in mind, Aristagoras contemplated rebelling. By coincidence, at this time a message arrived from Histiaeus in Susa, telling Aristagoras he should rebel against Darius. With Persia’s road networks being heavily guarded, the message had to be tattooed to a man’s head after it had been shaved, whereafter his hair would grow and when the message needed to be read, the man's head was simply shaved again and the message could be read. Histiaeus took this extra precaution to deliver this message to Aristagoras because he disliked being kept in Susa, and expected to be allowed to the coast on the offset of a Miletan rebellion he thought that unless such a rebellion took place, he’d likely never be allowed to leave.


Aristagoras sought his supporters’ advice, telling them first of Histiaeus’s message. Their response is just what he was after they urged him to revolt. One man however, the writer Hecataeus, said otherwise, stating that Darius’s vast empire and resources would lead to this rebellion being swiftly crushed. When this argument fell on deaf ears, Hecataeus instead switched tactics, saying that if Aristagoras were to indeed revolt, he should first take control of the sea, knowing Miletus was weak at the time. Hecataeus explained that taking over the sanctuary at Branchidae would be the best way to achieve this this location is where Croesus of Lydia had once dedicated a vast amount of valuables, so seizing this wealth would help greatly fund their rebellion, or else they should be stolen by the empire. While Hecataeus’s proposal didn’t go down well, Aristagoras and his followers still chose to go through with the revolt. The followers also chose to sail to Myous, which is where the expeditionary force coming back from Naxos had temporarily stopped, in order to gain control of the commanders who were on board ships there.

A force was dispatched and several captains were captured. With the Ionian Revolt officially started, the next thing Aristagoras did was give up his position as tyrant and convert the citizens of Miletus to a state of equality as per the law so as to make them more voluntary in joining the rebellion. He then went on to repeat this for the rest of the Ionian cities, expelling some local tyrants and installing his own captured captains as tyrants instead in order to get on good terms with the local peoples. Once enough tyrants were killed or deposed of, Aristagoras set sail for military allies, heading first to Sparta.


Go and check out my previous blog on Lycurgus and the policy of the Spartans:

[ABOVE: Territorial holdings of Sparta]

One of the current kings of Sparta was Cleomenes I, from the Eurypontid Lineage, who took over from his father Anaxandridas II in around 519 BC. Anaxandridas had previously married his niece, and while the marriage was stable, the Ephors of Sparta recommended he marry someone else instead to bare children, but he refused, despite this move making him unpopular with the people. Together, the Ephors and Gerousia insisted that he should thus instead keep his current wife but bring in a new one too. With this proposal, Anaxandridas agreed, and thus spent the rest of his life between two homes, contrary to normal Spartan custom. It was this second wife that birthed Cleomenes.


Whereas Cleomenes is described as being on the verge of insanity during his life, his half-brother Dorieus (born to Anaxandridas’s first wife) is described to be an outstanding man, giving him confidence that his prestige as such would make him a better suited king than Cleomenes. However, when Anaxandridas died, as per the Spartan constitution, Cleomenes became king and not Dorieus, angering him greatly. He thus went so far as to get together a bunch of Spartan settlers and sail for Libya, hoping to found his own Spartan colony, without first checking with the Ephors for permission. Two years after the settlements founding on the banks of the River Cinyps, the Spartans were driven out by local Libyans and Carthaginians, forcing him back to the Peloponnese. Back home, he received advice to colonise Heraclea in Sicily, as the region it occupied was supposedly visited by Heracles. This advice, and a positive response from the Oracle at Delphi, convinced him to set sail for Sicily, taking his former Libyan followers with him. After aiding the people of the city of Croton, Dorieus captured the city of Sybaris. From here, they marched into Sicily, but were quickly defeated in battle by local Carthaginian forces. In this clash, Dorieus was killed. In hindsight, had Dorieus just stayed in Sparta, he would have become king soon after - Cleomenes’ reign, in which he would only bare a daughter named Gorgo, would be more brief than expected.


It was in Cleomenes’ reign that Aristagoras arrived in Sparta. Aristagoras brought with him a bronze chart with the entire known world engraved into it. He told the king of the Ionian’s situation, and of how the Persians weren’t “formidable fighters” or well armoured in battle, making them easy to defeat. Aristagoras also tried to convince Cleomenes to join him by describing Ionia as wealthier “than the rest of the world put together” in terms of both its sheer wealth and luxury goods. After describing the lands of the Ionians, Lydians, Phrygians and all the tributes they paid to Darius, he described the Persian capital of Susa, telling Cleomenes that he should consider taking the city and all its wealth. Aristagoras then made a mistake in his pursuit to convince the Spartans to join: he told the truth as to how long it would take to get from Ionia to Susa: 3 months. This was a step too far for the Spartan king, who ordered Aristagoras to leave Sparta immediately. Aristagoras pursued Cleomenes further though, now trying to bribe the king to go to Asia, but Cleomenes’s 8/9 year old daughter, Gorgo, told her father that Aristagoras was attempting to corrupt him. This pleased the Spartan king, and with that, Aristagoras left Sparta.

Go and check out my previous blog on how Athens became the world's first democracy, 508/7 BC:

Once out of Sparta, Aristagoras went to Athens, who at that point had only recently rid themselves of their last tyrant, Hippias. He essentially gave them the same speech as he had in Sparta, stating how rich Asia was and how easy the Persians were to beat in combat. Aristagoras also expected that Miletus would receive their aid, since it was a colony of Athens. In desperation, and after promising them everything, Aristagoras had convinced Athens to help, and they in return voted to send twenty warships to aid the revolt, commanded by a distinguished Athenian: Melanthius. Aristagoras set sail for Asia at the head of the Athenians.

[ABOVE: The route of the Ionian forces aided by Athenian and Eritrean contingents]

These twenty warships would be the beginning of misery to come for both sides.


When back at Miletus, Aristagoras hatched a plan, one simply to pest Darius he sent a man to the Paeonians, now displaced in Phrygia from Thrace. His message was for the Paeonians to take the Ionian Revolt as the opportunity to also rise up against Persia and take their Thracian homeland back. The messenger promised the Paeonians protection once they made it to the Aegean coast. Happy with this idea, most of the Paeonians fled to the coast with their families, eventually returning to Paeonia.


[ABOVE: The acropolis of Sardis' remains]

Meanwhile, Aristagoras and Melanthius’s twenty warships arrived at Miletus, joined by five ships from Eritrea who were there to repay a debt owed to Miletus. Once there, Aristagoras launched the attack on Sardis but stayed in Miletus, giving command to his brother, Charopinus, and a Milesian called Hermophantus. Leaving their fleet in Ephesian territory and using local Ephesians as guides, they eventually reached the city of Sardis, capturing the entire city aside from the well-fortified acropolis, which was being defended by Artaphrenes. The rest of the city could have been looted, but the houses were either entirely made out of reeds or only the roofs were when a soldier burnt down one house, it didn’t take long for the entire city to be engulfed in flames. Artaphrenes only had a handful of troops with him in the acropolis, yet when attacked they put up a considerable fight, so much so that the attacking Ionians withdrew to the safety of the nearby Mount Tmolus, returning to their fleet in the night.

[ABOVE: The burning of Sardis by the Greeks in 498 BC, unknown author]

During this siege, a sacred sanctuary to the goddess Cybebe was burnt down. Persia would use this sacrilege as the excuse to burn down several Greek sanctuaries in the wars to come.


The Ionian troops who left the siege of Sardis made it to Ephesus, but were caught up by Persian troops who had been called to help the Lydians. The Ionians formed up for battle, but were soundly defeated. Eualcides, the commander of the Eritrean forces, was killed in combat, while the remaining Ionian survivors split up in their route and returned to their homes. It was after the failed siege of Sardis and the defeat outside Ephesus that caused the Athenian troops to board their ships once more and return home, even when Aristagoras tried to persuade them to stay. Meanwhile, the Ionians had already come this far towards their pursuit of action against the Persian king that they regrouped and made ready to pursue Darius once more. Sending a fleet to the Hellespont, they captured the city of Byzantium and all its surrounding settlements, gaining most of Caria on their return back to Asia.


[ABOVE: Map of the ancient kingdoms and main cities within the isle of Cyprus]

With the revolt having some good success at this point, Cyprus too revolted. The Cypriots had never been the most willing of Persian subjects, so when the king of Cyprus, Gorgus, was outside the main Cypriot city of Salamis one day, (this “Salamis” is not to be confused with the island near Athens of the same name where a famous battle would take place) Onesilus, Gorgus’s younger brother who had previously tried convincing Gorgus to join the Ionian Revolt, now joined with conspirators and closed the gates on his own brother. Gorgus thus took refuge with the Persians and Onesilus was made king of Salamis. Onesilus thus set out to convince all of Cyprus to join him in rebellion, and when only the city of Amathous refused, he quickly besieged the city. A Persian reinforcing army under a Persian named Artybius would eventually be sent to attack Onesilus, supported by Phoenician-manned warships, and Ionians would also arrive at Cyprus to protect Onesilus with their fleet.


[ABOVE: Darius I in a painting imagined by a Greek painter, 4th century BC]

Meanwhile, Darius got word of the Athenian and Ionian capture and destruction of Sardis by Aristagoras. Confident he could quickly subdue the Ionians again, Darius instead asked who the Athenians were. Once being told of them, the king took a bow and arrow and shot it into the sky, declaring for Zeus himself to make it possible for him to punish the Athenians one day. He also asked for a servant to remind him before every meal:

“Master, remember the Athenians.”

Darius then summoned for Histiaeus, still detained in Susa. The king prompted Histiaeus for answers as to why Aristagoras, who Histiaeus had himself left in charge of Miletus, was now leading a revolt against the empire, asking if he had anything to do with this too. Histiaeus denied involvement, despite being the one who first convinced Aristagoras to revolt. Histiaeus even convinced the king to allow him to go to Ionia himself to restore order. In agreement, Darius returned to Susa.


In Cyprus, the Persian and Cypriot armies lined up for battle outside the city of Salamis. The élite troops from the cities of Salamis and Soli were placed opposite the Persians, while the rest of the Cypriot forces faced off against the rest of the army. Onesilus placed himself directly opposite Artybius. The Ionian engaged the Phoenician fleet and proved worthy adversaries. On land, Artybius himself charged downhill on his horse, which is said to have been trained to stand up and kick with its front legs when confronted with heavy infantry, straight towards Onesilus. Onesilus’s esquire knew of Artybius’s horse’s trick, and when the Persian general attacked Onesilus, he cut off the horses feet as it landed them back on the ground. Artybius was then slain in combat.

[ABOVE: Depiction of a Greek hoplite (right) fighting a Persian soldier (left), 5th century BC]

Elsewhere in the land battle, the tyrant of the Cypriot city of Curium, who was leading a big quantity of the Cypriot army, switched sides mid-battle, joining the Persians. This greatly turned the tide of battle, forcing the Cypriots to retreat. In the route, casualties were heavy. Among the dead was the king of Soli, and Onesilus himself. The people of the Cypriot city of Amathous, previously put under siege by Onesilus, gained revenge by cutting off Onesilus's head and burying it. With all other Cypriot cities soon besieged after by Persian forces, Gorgus was reinstated as king of Salamis. With the tide of war thus swinging back in Persia’s favour, the Ionian fleet set sail back to Ionia. Soli was the last Cypriot city to fall back into Persian hands after Achaemenid soldiers dug tunnels under ground and into the city. Cyprus was subdued, and the Ionian fleet that had fled were caught up to by Persian forces, who defeated the Greeks in battle and plundered their ships. The Hellespontine cities of Dardanus, Abydus, Percote, Lampsacus and Paesus were all quickly recaptured by Persian forces led by a commander named Daurises.



[ABOVE: The Carian campaign of 496 BC]

Upon the recapture of Paesus, Daurises got word that the region of Caria had now joined in the revolt, so headed south from the Hellespont. The Carians, meanwhile, marched north quickly their plan was to let the Persians cross the River Meander and then meet them for battle there, cutting off a quick line of retreat for the enemy. When the two armies engaged however, a quick Persian victory ensued, swarming the Carians with sheer numbers. Herodotus gives the figures of 2,000 dead Persian soldiers and around 10,000 Carians. Surviving Carian troops eventually regrouped with local Milesian allies at a sanctuary to Zeus. The Persians caught up to them, battle ensued once more and the rebels were crushed. However, some Carian survivors from this second engagement learned that the Persians were heading for their home cities. Knowing their own lands better than the Persians, the Carians set up a series of ambushes. On a road to the town of Pedasa, the Persians were ambushed. Three high-ranking Persian commanders, including Daurises and even Gyges' own son Myrsus, were killed.


Meanwhile, after a Persian commander was sent to crush the Ionians that attacked Sardis caught an illness and died, Artaphrenes and Otanes, a commander who served with Daurises, were sent in his place, and both commanders captured cities on their march towards Ionia. With their successes, Aristagoras, who started this whole revolt, feared the armies heading his way, and thus fled for Thrace. Gaining control of the land he had set out for, his own army soon came under attack from local Thracian tribes, and in the fight, Aristagoras was killed.
The revolt would continue, but without its first leader.


Histiaeus, formerly tyrant of Miletus and once detained in Susa by King Darius, had since been released by the king and met up with him in Sardis. When Histiaeus arrived, governor Artaphrenes asked him what he thought caused the revolt to begin with. Despite Histiaeus' attempt to feign ignorance, Artaphrenes saw through him, saying “it was you who stitched the shoe, while Aristagoras merely put it on.” In fear of what else Artaphrenes might know, Histiaeus quietly snuck out the city at night, heading for the coast. On his way west, he was captured in the city of Chios, whose citizens (who were fighting for the revolt) thought he was attempting to retake the city. When Histiaeus explained everything, they set him free.

Later, Histiaeus sent a letter to Sardis Persians who he had spoken to before about the rebellion were in the city, and he hoped to bolster the rebellion’s numbers with some of Darius’s own men. However, the messenger instead delivered the message to Artaphrenes, who told the messenger to hand it to the Persians at Sardis, but relay their reply back to him instead. With the plot discovered, Artaphernes had many Persians killed.


At Histiaeus’s own request, the men of Chios attempted to get him back to Miletus. The Milesians, though, having recently gained and enjoyed independence, did not wish to have another tyrant reinstated. Histiaeus would try to take the city for himself, but was wounded in the attempt. Effectively banished from his own city, Histiaeus set out for Mytilene, hoping the city would hand him some ships. They together manned eight ships, sailing for Byzantium. There, they set up camp and took control of all ships which were setting sail for the Black Sea, unless a ships crew would recognise Histiaeus as their leader.


Histiaeus’s presence in Byzantium left Miletus vulnerable, and the city was soon under attack by Persian land and sea forces, which included the navy of the recently-subdued Cypriots. When word of the attacks on Miletus and Ionia reached the Ionian rebels, they decided not to engage the Persians head-on on land, choosing instead to pull back, let the Milesians delay the Persians, and assemble their fleets together, meeting the Persian ships at sea by a small island near Miletus called Lade.

[ABOVE: Locations of the city of Miletus, and the location of the battle of Lade, 494 BC]


Contingents of ships from Aeolis, Lesbos and Miletus itself would assist the Ionians as the Greek and Persian navies faced off against each other at Lade. From the left-wing of the combined navy to the right-wing were the following city-states and their ships: The Milesians with 80 ships, Prieneans with 12 ships, Myusians with 3 ships, Myesians with 17, Chians with 100, Erythraens and Phocaeans with 11 ships, Lesbians (from Lesbos) with 70 ships, and the right-wing was manned by the Samians with 60 ships. Together, 353 triremes, commanded by Dionysius of Phocaea, faced off against 600 Persian ships. Should the Greek fleet win the day at Lade, the Persians would likely loose control of the sea, and the fleet’s commanders would be punished severely by Darius.

[ABOVE: Reconstructed model trireme, the Greek and Persian war ship]

Worried in case they lost to a smaller navy, the Persian commanders convened together, inviting local Ionian tyrants who had gone to the Persian’s side after Aristagoras had deposed of them. They told the tyrants to detach their own citizens from the Ionian alliance, promising no punishment of any sort for them if they did. Come the cover of darkness, the tyrants went off to send messages to their own people to convince them to do so, but to no avail the people were already set on their choice to stay in the rebellion.


Before the fleets engaged at Lade, Dionysius roused his troops up for battle:

“Men of Ionia, our affairs are balanced on a razor’s edge. We can remain free or we can become slaves - and runaway slaves at that. If you are prepared to accept hardship, then in the short term there’ll be work for you to do, but you will defeat the enemy and be free if, on the other hand, you choose softness and lack of discipline, I am quite sure that you’ll be punished for rebelling against the king. No, you must do as I suggest. Put yourselves in my hands, and I can assure you that, if the gods are impartial, the enemy will either not engage us or, if they do, they will suffer a severe defeat.”


This speech persuaded the Ionian alliance to train hard while awaiting the Persian fleet. In the meantime, Dionysius had the men practice fleet formations and drills all day. He in fact worked them so hard and during such hot temperatures that some men in the navy began to start viewing this hard work as a form of enslavement itself. Some of these men remained on the isle of Lade itself, making camp, keeping to the shade and refusing to board ships. Finding out about this, the Persian-led Phoenician ships set sail against the Ionian fleet. The battle of Lade had begun, but while the Ionians reacted by forming into a column, the Samians’ 49 out of 60 ships hoisted their sails and withdrew from the fight back to Samos. This flight of such a large contingent of ships caused all the Lesbian ships, and large amounts of other Ionian contingents, to break off and flee. The battle itself, though not documented in detail itself, saw the Chian fleet of 100 ships take the heaviest hit, as they showed the most upfront bravery in fighting the Persians after seeing some of their own allies flee without a fight. Several Persian ships were captured by Chian ships, but these Greeks were eventually heavily overrun and crushed. Any Chian survivors soon withdrew back to Chios.


Surviving Chian ships beached at Mycale, with its soldiers and sailors setting out on foot to the mainland. They eventually arrived at night near Ephesus, to the Ephesians’s surprise. So surprised were they in fact that the local people’s mistook them for nighttime raiders, hoping to make off with their women, and so attacked and killed them. As Dionysius saw his Ionian fleet destroyed in battle or fleeing, he too fled far away.

Following their victory at Lade, the Persians blockaded Miletus by sea and land. The city was eventually taken, and the inhabitants’ men were killed and the women and children were sold into slavery. Survivors were handed to King Darius at Susa, who relocated them to the Red Sea coast. Samos would be spared such harsh treatment by Persia, who instead reinstated their own local leader, Aeaces the son of Syloson, as governor. Caria was soon reoccupied by Persian forces shortly after Miletus’s fall, with its communities either bowing down willingly or being forcibly put down.

[ABOVE: The ruins of Miletus]


Meanwhile, Histiaeus, still gaining support in Byzantium, got word of the fall of Miletus. Leaving a general under him in charge of the Hellespont, he set sail for Chios with a force of Lesbians. Taking over the island after some resistance, he used the island as a base to begin further campaigns against the isle of Thasos, with a force of Aeolians and Ionians. While besieging Thasos, he got word that the Persian fleet who had blockaded Miletus had now set sail west to subdue the rest of the Aegean islands. Lifting the siege of Thasos, Histiaeus set sail for Lesbos to meet the fleet with his entire force. They soon, however, ran out of supplies while stationed at Lesbos, so set sail for the lush lands of Mysia. He was unaware, though, that the Persian general Harpagus was stationed nearby to there with a vast army of his own. Straight after disembarking, Histiaeus was met by Harpagus in combat, at what is known as the Battle of Malene. Histiaeus was captured and most of his army was wiped out after a reserved Persian cavalry detachment successfully charged into and routed most of the Greek forces. While retreating from the field himself, Histiaeus was caught by a pursuing Persian soldier, who spared his life after he was spoken to in Persian. Thinking his life may be spared, Histiaeus was instead brought to Darius and impaled on a stake in Susa, and his head was brought to Darius himself, who ordered the head buried to honour his enemy.


[ABOVE: Coin from Lesbos, c.510-480 BC]

Stationed at Miletus for the winter, the Persian fleet put to sea in the following year of 493 BC, quickly capturing Chios, Lesbos and Tenedos. Captured boys were castrated and made into eunuchs, girls were sent to the king as slaves, settlements and sanctuaries were burnt, and the Ionians themselves were now under enslavement yet again. The Persian fleet then turned on the Hellespont, recapturing the Chersonese, Perinthus, Selymbria and Byzantium. The Byzantines, however, had already fled the city, setting course for the settlements around the Black Sea. More settlements north of the Hellespont were torched by the Persians soon after.

[ABOVE: Coin of Chios from AFTER the Ionian Revolt, c.490-435 BC]


After subduing the Hellespont, the Persians initiated no more hostile actions against the Ionians. In fact, following the revolt, developments were made to the benefit of the Ionians Artaphrenes, governor of Sardis, forced the Ionians to negotiate terms with each other so that they would remain more loyal to advance Persian affairs than raiding each other’s own homelands. Tributes to be paid were established, being no more taxing on the citizens than any tax on the region had been beforehand.

The Ionian Revolt did not allow the Greeks to completely escape Persian control, but it’s unknown if that was the overall goal. What the revolt did end was the Persians implementing their own tyrants in the Ionian cities for the time, and independence from Persia was only celebrated in a few Ionian cities for a brief time. Many Greeks would write that the revolt was the catalyst for Persia to begin setting its eyes on the Greek mainland, but their past subjugations of Thrace and Macedonia, and arguably even their Scythian campaign, show that their eyes were already somewhat set on the Greeks.

Revolts under Persian rule had happened before, but for King Darius, this one was different the Ionians had received help from overseas Athens, and for Darius this meant a revenge was necessary such an up and coming powerful ally is surely part of what spurred the Ionians on during the revolt.
A punishment was in order military action would soon be taken against Greece.


  • Herodotus's "Histories"
  • Philip Parker, "World History"
  • Nic Fields, "Thermopylae 480 BC, Last Stand of the 300"
  • Oswyn Murray, "Early Greece"
  • Robin Osborne, "Greece in the Making 1200 - 479 BC"


(I do NOT own these videos)

"The Ionian Revolt - Part 1+2+3 (Greco-Persian Wars) (499-493 B.C.E.)" by "Hoc Est Bellum"


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The Third Sicilian War (315–307 BC)

In 315 BC Agathocles, the tyrant of Syracuse, seized the city of Messana, present-day Messina. In 311 BC, he invaded the last Carthaginian holdings on Sicily, which broke the terms of the current peace treaty, and he laid siege to Akragas. Hamilcar, grandson of Hanno the Navigator, successfully led the Carthaginian counterattack. He defeated Agathocles in the Battle of the Himera River in 311 BC. Agathocles had to retreat to Syracuse while Hamilcar won control over the rest of Sicily. In the same year, he laid siege to Syracuse itself.

In desperation, Agathocles secretly led an expedition of 14,000 men to the mainland of Africa, hoping to save his rule by leading a counterstrike against Carthage itself. In this, he was successful: Carthage was forced to recall Hamilcar and most of his army from Sicily to face the new and unexpected threat. The two armies met in the first Battle of White Tunis outside Carthage. The Carthaginian army, under Hanno and Hamilcar, was defeated. Agathocles and his forces laid siege to Carthage, but its impregnable walls repulsed him. Instead, the Greeks contented themselves with occupying Northern Tunisia until they were defeated two years later in 307 BC. Agathocles himself escaped back to Sicily and negotiated a peace treaty with the Carthaginians, which maintained Syracuse as a stronghold of Greek power in Sicily despite its loss of much of its power and of the strategic city of Messana.

The battle [ edit | edit source ]

It is assumed that the Phocaean Greeks had 60 pentekonters (ships with 48 oars and two rudders for steering), Γ] not the trireme that would become famous at the Battle of Salamis, and the allied fleet was twice as large, also made of pentekonters, not the bireme normally used by the Phoenicians. Details of the battle are sketchy, but it is known that the Greeks had driven the allied fleet off, but had lost almost two-thirds of their own fleet in doing so: a Cadmean victory, according to Herodotus. Δ] The rams of the surviving ships had been severely damaged. Realizing that they could not withstand another attack, the Greeks evacuated Corsica, and initially sought refuge in Rhegion in Italy. Carthaginian and Etruscan battle losses are not known. A legend describes how Greek prisoners were stoned to death at Caere by the Etruscans, while the Carthaginians sold their prisoners into slavery. This battle is also known as "The Battle of Sardinia Sea".

Period of Kings (625-510 BC)

The first period in Roman history is known as the Period of Kings, and it lasted from Rome’s founding until 510 BC. During this brief time Rome, led by no fewer than six kings, advanced both militaristically and economically with increases in physical boundaries, military might, and production and trade of goods including oil lamps. Politically, this period saw the early formation of the Roman constitution. The end of the Period of Kings came with the decline of Etruscan power, thus ushering in Rome’s Republican Period.

Dorieus' Expedition to Sicily, c.510 BC - History

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The Aftermath

The Battle of Thermophylae was undoubtedly a defeat for the Greeks, which allowed the Persians to continue their march into Greece. They eventually reached and sacked Athens. Nevertheless, the defeat at Thermopylae had turned Leonidas and the men under his command into martyrs. This boosted the morale of the surviving Greek soldiers, who went on to defeat the Persians in the Battles of Salamis and Plataea, which effectively ended the Second Persian Invasion. Moreover, the battle left a legacy that lasted for millennia, demonstrating the courage of a small number of warriors, who in the face of a much larger enemy, stood their ground until the bitter end.

A monument in Greece in honor of King Leonidas (Wikimedia Commons)

Featured image: Leonidas at Thermopylae, by Jacques-Louis David. 1814. Wikimedia Commons

Herodotus, The Histories, [Waterfield, R. (trans.), 1998. Herodotus’ The Histories. Oxford: Oxford University Press.]

Watch the video: Italy 2011 Melilli, Sicily (January 2022).