People > Miltiades



Miltiades the Younger, often simply known as Miltiades, was an influential Athenian general and statesman best known for his leadership at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE during the Greco-Persian Wars. His military acumen and strategic decisions played a critical role in one of the most significant battles in ancient history. Miltiades was born into the prominent Philaid family, a wealthy and influential aristocratic family in Athens. His uncle, Miltiades the Elder, had established a semi-autonomous colony in the Thracian Chersonese (modern-day Gallipoli Peninsula), which Miltiades the Younger would later inherit and govern.

After the death of his uncle, Miltiades became the ruler of the Thracian Chersonese, where he strengthened the colony's defenses and expanded its influence.He maintained control over the region by building strong fortifications and engaging in local alliances. As the Persian Empire expanded, Miltiades initially submitted to Persian rule and even participated in Darius I's Scythian campaign. However, he later rebelled against Persian control, which led to his eventual return to Athens around 493 BCE after escaping Persian reprisals. Upon his return to Athens, Miltiades became involved in Athenian politics and was elected as one of the ten generals (strategoi) for the year 490 BCE. His military experience and understanding of Persian tactics made him a valuable asset to Athens as tensions with Persia escalated.

The Battle of Marathon

In 490 BCE, the Persian king Darius I launched an invasion of Greece, landing a significant force at Marathon, approximately 26 miles northeast of Athens.The Athenians, supported by a small contingent from Plataea, marched to confront the Persians. Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Greek forces decided to engage the Persians at Marathon. Miltiades played a key role in persuading the other Athenian generals to adopt an aggressive strategy and engage the Persians in battle rather than waiting for reinforcements or conducting defensive operations. His tactical acumen was evident in the deployment of Athenian forces, utilizing a stronger center and weaker flanks to lure the Persians into an unfavorable position.

The Battle of Marathon resulted in a decisive Greek victory, with the Athenians managing to rout the larger Persian force. The victory boosted Athenian morale and demonstrated the effectiveness of hoplite warfare. Miltiades' leadership and strategic insight were crucial to the success of the battle, and he was hailed as a hero upon his return to Athens. Following his success at Marathon, Miltiades was given command of a fleet to attack Persian-held islands in the Aegean. However, the campaign was less successful, and Miltiades was injured during the siege of Paros. Accusations of misconduct and the failure of the campaign led to his trial upon his return to Athens. He was fined a significant amount and imprisoned when he could not pay the fine.


Miltiades died in prison from the wound he had sustained at Paros, marking a tragic end to the career of one of Athens' most celebrated generals. Miltiades is remembered for his innovative military tactics and his role in one of the earliest and most important victories against the Persian Empire. His strategies at Marathon influenced Greek military thinking and demonstrated the potential of well-disciplined hoplite forces against numerically superior foes. The victory at Marathon became a symbol of Greek resistance against Persian domination and a defining moment in Athenian history.

Miltiades' leadership cemented his place as one of the great military figures of ancient Greece, and his legacy endured in the collective memory of Athens.In summary, Miltiades was a pivotal figure in ancient Greek history, renowned for his leadership at the Battle of Marathon and his contributions to Athenian military and political life. Despite his later downfall, his legacy as a hero and military innovator remains significant.

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