It is 497BCE, Onesilus is preparing to face the might of the imperial army of the Persian
General Artybius, near his kingdom City, Salamis.
The battle that will follow will decide the outcome of his revolt against the Persians
and the future of the whole Island of Cyprus.
The two armies arranged to face each other on a flat plain, Onesilus took post in the
centre of his formation opposite to the Persian general.
Apparently Artybius’s warhorse was trained to fight against enemy troops and that was
something well known to Onesilus, so together with his shield bearer he devised a plan to
deal with it. The battle began and Artybius charged against
Onesilus, the plan of Onesilus’s shield bearer worked and he was able to kill the
horse while Onesilus stroke down Artybius.
With the Persian general dead the battle seemed to be turning in favor of Onesilus’s cause,
but during his moment of triumph treachery stroke, a considerable body of troops commanded
by the tyrant of Curium deserted Onesilus in the midst of battle and turned over to
the enemy, it is not certain if what followed was pre-meditated or spontaneous , but many
others followed his example . Onesilus’s army collapsed and he was cut
down shortly afterwards, it was an inglorious end to and almost successful revolt , the
Cyprians snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Back in Asia minor the Persians were not being idle, the imperial juggernaut was being mobilized,
3 Persian nobles and relatives of the great king himself, divided the front into operational
districts and methodically began to campaign against each and everyone of the rebellious
cities and communities of the Ionians.
Daurises, Otanes and Hymaees were their names.
The largest contingent of the Persian force under Daurises, set off towards the Hellespont
in order to subjugate the strategically positioned cities there that controlled the straights
that led to the black sea and were blocking potential reinforcements but also controlled
vital trade routes.
One by one, the cities fell before the might of the Persians, supposedly each in a single
day according to Herodotus.
It was around that time that Daurises was informed that the Carians had also joined
forces with the Ionians cities and revolted against the Persian rule, he turned round
and leaving the Hellespont marched away towards Caria in order to crash the rebellion.
In the meantime the Persian Hymaees who was campaigning against the Propontis, conquered
the city of Cius and marched his army towards the Troad, when he was informed about Daurises
departure he began marching southwards presumably to combine his forces with those of Daurises
but he never made it, while he was in the area of Troad, campaigning against the local
Aeolians he was “carried off by disease” thus one of the Persian generals was already
out of the picture.
The third Persian army was getting ready to campaign against the Ionians, Otanes together
with Artaphernes, using the devastated Sardis as their operational base, resumed the offensive
shortly after Hymaees’s death and marched against their immediate Ionian rebels, re-capturing
Clazomenae and Cyme, the net was closing in on the Ionians.
And while all this was happening, the Carians “by some chance”, were informed of Daurises
mobilization against them and had time to plan the way that they were going to deal
with this impending threat.
The carian army gathered near a place known as the “White pillars” close to the river
Marsyas ( the modern day name is”Cyne”), a tributary of Meander.
Many plans of action were put forth, we know 2 of them, the first of those 2 plans suggested
that the Carians should cross the river and face the Persian army with the river at their
back, the idea was that wthout any chance of retreat, the Carians would be forced to
stand their ground and face the Persians no matter what, it was a plan that was eventually
discarded and the Carians did the exact opposite, letting the Persians cross the river so that
they would have it at their back instead, in the hope that after the Persians would
be defeated they would have nowhere to retreat.
The battle that followed was long drawn affair and stoutly contested, the Carians fought
stubbornly and obstinately but they eventually succumbed to the weight of Persian numbers,
the calamity for the Carians was great, it is the first instance that Herodotus gives
us casualty figures, 10.000 of the rebels Perished while in comparison the Persians
lost only 2000 men.
As the stranglehold of the Persian war machine began to get tighter, our “protagonist”
Aristagoras who according to Herodotus “proved himself to be a man of little courage”,
decided that his position was unattainable and began planning his departure from Ionia.
After contemplating a number of plans for an unglamorous exit from the revolt that he
initiated, he eventually decided to sail to the colony of Myrcinus, the same Myrcinus
that was given to his father –in law, the exiled Histieius, from the great king Darius
There Aristagoras seems to have began a series of raids and sieges against neighboring Thracian
tribes and there he eventually met his end, when his army was isolated and surrounded
while he was besieging a city, thus ended the life of the man who was the main cause
of the Ionian revolt.
Meanwhile, the Persians triumphant on all fronts still failed to eradicate the revolt.
The victorious army of Daurises was on its way marching southwards to strike at the heart
of the Carian rebels, the survivors of the battle of Marsyas gothered to a sacred grove
of Zeus at a place called “Laubranda”, there they were joined by an army of Miletians
and we can assume that they began planning their counterstrike encouraged by the Miletian
reinforcements , unfortunately for them, Daurises swiftly surrounded their position and crashed
496BCE This disaster was even greater for the rebels
than the defeat inflicted in the battle of Marsyas and it was especially devastating
for the Miletians that suffered the greater loses.
With their armies being defeated on multiple fronts and their operational bases being invaded
by the Persians, one would have assumed that the defeat at Laubranda would have been the
final stroke, but it wasn’t.
Undeterred the Carians resolved to fight on, they knew that if they could not stop the
Persian onslaught their next target would have been their cities and their livelihood,
so they laid an ambush at a pass near a place called “Pedausus”.
The victorious Persians, oblivious to the peril that awaited them, with their morale
and we might say arrogance being reinforced by the two crushing defeats they had inflicted
to the rebels, marched on with little to no reconnaissance, they reached Pedausus during
a night march.
And there the Carians sprung their ambush rushing out of their hiding places falling
upon the marching column of Daurises, the Persians were caught completely unprepared
and in low visibility within an area that they were unfamiliar with the ruse was totally
successful and the Persians were completely annihilated by the rebels, Daurises was killed
together with most of his generals and commanding officers.
It was an unforeseen and unexpected major setback for the Persian war effort, out of
the three generals who had campaigned against the Ionians 2 of them were already dead, and
a large portion of the Persian army was destroyed during the ambush at Pedasus.
Despite the disastrous defeats that the Persians inflicted to the Ionian rebels they lingered
and even managed to entrain a decisive blow of their own, protracting the duration of
the revolt and giving their cause some breathing space.
Around that time, another forgotten hero of our story re-appeared, it was Histieaus who
convinced the Great King Darius to send him back to his city in order to attempt to convince
the Ionians to end their revolt, or so the King thought.
When Histieaus arrived at Sardis, Artaphernes who was always suspicious of his motives openly
accused him of being an accomplish of the rebels and of instigating the revolt together
Allarmed by Artaphenes’s accusations, Histieus escaped to the Island of Chios and eventually
attempted to make his way back to Miletus.
Contrary to what he might have expected the Miletians didn’t welcome him but alarmed
by the possibility of exchanging one Tyrant for another they attacked him before he even
made his way back into the city walls.
Thus Histieaus the former Tyrant of Miletus and a confidant of the Persian king became
a fugitive and an adventurist, and eventually set sail for the city of Byzantium, there
he established himself and began raiding and seizing every ship that attempted to sail
through the Bosporus unless they agreed to obey his orders.
The disaster at Pedasus seems to have created a stalemate during the years 496 to 495 BCE,
little to no campaigning ensued during those years, instead the Persians used that time
to gather and accumulate their forces and construct a plan of action.
The final chapter of the Ionian revolt was about to be written.
Around 494BCE the Persians were ready, after having gathered every detachment of their
armies into a single block, they have decided to strike at the heart of the insurrection,
the combined army accompanied by a fleet of Phoenicians, Egyptians, Cilicians and the
re subjugated Cypriots, set off against the city of Miletus.
When the Ionians were informed about the approaching force, they gathered at their meeting place
called the “Panionium” and contemplated on what course of action they should follow.
What the rebels ultimately decided to do was to avoid a land battle against the Persians
at any cost and attempt to defeat them at sea were they felt they stood a better chance.
Leaving the Milesians to fend for themselves as they
Every single ship that was available to the Ionian rebels was to be used, it was to be
the largest mobilization of Greeks in history up until that point in time, the total number
of ships gathered were three hundred and fifty three.
The Ionian fleet assembled near a small island just off the coast of the city of Miletus,called
Trivia, you will search in vain today to find the small island of Lade, during the course
of 2 millennia the deposits of the River Meander have connected the area around Miletus with
the mainland, including the island of Lade, little remains of the landmark near which
the epilogue of the Ionian revolt would be written.
While the Ionians were assembled near Lade, the combined Persian forces approached Miletus,both
their fleet and their army encamped near the city walls of Miletus.
Even though the Persians had a crushing numerical advantage they were still wary of the Ionian
fleet, so they decided to send those Tyrants who were expelled from their cities at the
beginning of the revolt and were now with the Persian army, to try and convince their
former subjects to abandon their efforts against the Great King so they might be treated fairly
and with leniency afterwards.
They crossed the small distance between the coast of Miletus to Lade during the night
and brought their conditions of surrender to the rebels.
Not one of the them accepted the conditions, refusing to follow their former Tyrants and
betray their countrymen…for now…
The next day intense councils were held within the Ionian headquarters in order to determine
the conduct of the upcoming battle, many commanders and Generals spoke, until it was the turn
of “Dyonisius, the general of the city of Phocaea, a city that happened to be the smallest
contributor of ships to the Ionian fleet, a force of only 3 ships.
"Our affairs, men of Ionia, stand on the edge of a razor, whether to be free men or slaves,
and runaway slaves at that.
If you now consent to endure hardships, you will have toil for the present time, but it
will be in your power to overcome your enemies and gain freedom; but if you will be weak
and disorderly, I see nothing that can save you from paying the penalty to the king for
Believe me and entrust yourselves to me; I promise you that (if the gods deal fairly
with us) either our enemies shall not meet us in battle, or if they do they shall be
Thus spoke Dionysius and the Ionians decided to appoint him as the commander in chief of
their whole fleet.
A regime of strict and unremitting training was imposed on the unruly rebels by the hardy
Dionysius, day after day from dawn till dusk he kept them at it, not even letting them
to come ashore and rest, keeping them under the sun all day long.
The Ionians endured this strict training regime for seven days, but being unaccustomed to
such fatigues, they eventually staged another rebellion and at the eighth day mutinied against
Dionysius and refused to train further, proclaiming that “even the slavery with which we are
threatened, however harsh, can be no worse than our present thralldom”.
And with this attitude, the Ionians prepared to face the mightiest force of their time.
Soon afterwards the Persian fleet sailed to attack the Ionians who in turn sailed out
to meet them, Six hundred Persian ships were facing three
hundred and fifty three Ionian ships respectively, from east to west the Ionians were assembled
in the following order, the Miletians with their 80 ships were positioned at the easternmost
edge of the formation, followed by the ships from Priene, next to them were the ships from
the city of Myus followed by Teos, Chios, Erythraea, Phocaea, Lesbos and finally the
westernmost edge of the formation was occupied by the Samians.
The two fleets started rowing towards each other , the battle that was about to ensue
would decide the outcome of a revolt that lasted for 5 years causing the deaths of thousands
and the devastation of hundreds of cities and communities.
Just as the ships were about to clash, at the westernmost edge of the Ionian formation
the Samian contingent hoisted their sails and began fleeing the battlefield, it was
a disastrous backstabbing for the rebels, apparently the whole treachery was pre-determined
right after the mutiny of the Ionians against Dionysius, the Samians decided that this lack
of discipline had already doomed their cause and they eventually reached an agreement behind
the scenes with one of the Persian delegations to defect during the battle
This defection caused a domino effect, one after the other the Ionians abandoned their
own cause and fled, however and to their credit only the Chians with their large navy of 100
ships fought on and disdained to “play the part of cowards”, at their side stood eleven
ships from Samos who’s captains refused to flee from the battlefield and stayed.
The remaining Ionians stood no chance against the Persian armada, they fought bravely inflicting
several casualties to the Persians but having lost more than half of their already few ships,
the Chians abandoned the battle and fled back to their Island.
The conclusion of the battle of Lade, as it became known to history, spelled the end of
the armed resistance of the Ionians and meant that their revolt was effectively over, the
Persians were now completely free to strike at the epicenter of the insurrection, the
city of Miletus.