People > Aristagoras



Aristagoras of Miletus was a key figure in the late 6th and early 5th centuries BCE, known primarily for his role in the Ionian Revolt against Persian rule. Here is a detailed description of his life and actions. Aristagoras was the son-in-law and nephew of Histiaeus, the tyrant of Miletus, a major Greek city in Ionia (modern-day western Turkey). Miletus was one of the leading cities in the region and had significant economic and political influence. When Histiaeus was detained by the Persian king Darius I in Susa (under the guise of an advisor but effectively as a hostage), Aristagoras took over the rule of Miletus as a deputy or proxy for Histiaeus.

Involvement in the Naxos Expedition (499 BCE):

Aristagoras played a pivotal role in an attempted conquest of the island of Naxos, which was meant to expand Persian control. This expedition was initially undertaken with the support of Artaphernes, the Persian satrap of Lydia, and involved a substantial Persian fleet. The mission failed due to a combination of mismanagement and internal conflict, leaving Aristagoras in a precarious position both politically and financially.

Initiation of the Ionian Revolt (499-494 BCE):

In a desperate move to save himself from Persian retribution and possibly to secure greater autonomy for Ionia, Aristagoras incited the Ionian cities to revolt against Persian rule. He relinquished his tyranny, ostensibly in favor of establishing democratic governments in the Ionian cities to garner wider support.Aristagoras sought and secured aid from Athens and Eretria, leveraging their anti-Persian sentiments. This external support was crucial in the early stages of the revolt.

Conflict and Consequences:

The revolt initially saw some success, including the burning of Sardis, the satrapal capital of Lydia. However, the Persian response was swift and brutal. Persian forces eventually crushed the revolt, culminating in the decisive Battle of Lade (494 BCE) where the Ionian fleet was defeated. Following this defeat, Miletus was besieged and sacked by the Persians, effectively ending the revolt. Following the failure of the revolt, Aristagoras fled to Thrace, where he sought to establish a new base of power. He met his end there, killed by Thracian tribesmen during an attempt to subjugate local populations.


Aristagoras is remembered as a catalyst for the Ionian Revolt, which was a significant precursor to the larger Greco-Persian Wars. The revolt exposed the vulnerabilities of Persian control in the region and set the stage for future conflicts between Greece and Persia. His actions, although ultimately unsuccessful, demonstrated the potential for collective Greek resistance against Persian hegemony. The Ionian Revolt had lasting repercussions, contributing to the eventual rise of Athens as a major power and the formation of alliances that would later play crucial roles in repelling Persian invasions.

Literary and Historical Sources:

Our understanding of Aristagoras and the Ionian Revolt primarily comes from Herodotus, often considered the "Father of History," who provides a detailed account of these events in his Histories. In summary, Aristagoras of Miletus was a pivotal figure in early 5th-century BCE Greek history, known for his leadership in the Ionian Revolt against Persian domination. His actions and their consequences had a profound impact on the subsequent history of Greek-Persian relations.

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