Hippeis

Hippeis

The World of Christian Cameron

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Miltiades

This bust of Miltiades is nearly contemporary.

This bust of Miltiades is nearly contemporary.

Tyrant of the Thracian Chersonese. His son Cimon or Kimon rose to be a great man in Athenian politics. Probably Miltiades was the author of the Athenian victory of Marathon, but Miltiades was a complex man, a pirate, a warlord, and a supporter of Athenian democracy.

He became a vassal of Darius I of Persia, joining Darius’ expedition against the Scythians around 513 BC (thus serving alongside Histaeus and probably Hipponax, Heraclitus, Aristagoras, and possibly Artaphernes…a small world!). He joined the Ionian Revolt of 499 BC against Persian rule, establishing friendly relations with Athens and capturing the islands of Lemnos and Imbros (which he eventually ceded to Athens). However, the revolt collapsed in 494 BC and in 492 BC Miltiades fled to Athens to escape a retaliatory Persian invasion. His son Metiochos was captured by the Persians and made a lifelong prisoner, but was nonetheless treated honourably as a de facto member of the Persian nobility. Arriving in Athens, Miltiades initially faced a hostile reception for his tyrannical rule in the Chersonese. Having spent three years in prison, he was sentenced to death for the crime of tyranny. However, he successfully presented himself as a defender of Greek freedoms against Persian despotism and escaped punishment. He was elected to serve as one of the 10 generals (strategoi) for 490 BC. He is often credited with devising the tactics that defeated the Persians in the Battle of Marathon later that year.

Marathon helmet

This helmet is one Miltiades sent from Marathon to Olympia as spoils of the contest there.

The following year, 489 BC, Miltiades led an Athenian expedition of seventy ships against the Greek-inhabited islands that were deemed to have supported the Persians. The expedition was not a success. The fleet attacked Paros, which had been conquered by the Persians, but failed to take the island. Miltiades suffered a bad leg wound during the campaign and became incapacitated. His failure prompted an outcry on his return to Athens, enabling his political rivals to exploit his fall from grace. Charged with treason, he was sentenced to death, but the sentence was converted to a fine of fifty talents. This was a huge and unaffordable sum by the standards of the time. He was sent to prison where he died, probably of gangrene from his wound. The debt was later paid by his son Cimon. (from Wikipedia)

The name “Miltiades” derives from “μίλτος” (miltos), a red ochre clay used as paint. It was a name often given to red-haired babies. It was Miltiades’s father’s name as well. He may not have had red hair!