Miltiades (//; Greek: Μιλτιάδης; c. 550 – 489 BC), also known as Miltiades the Younger, was an Athenian citizen known mostly for his role in the Battle of Marathon, as well as for his downfall afterwards. He was the son of Cimon Coalemos, a renowned Olympic chariot-racer, and the father of Cimon, the noted Athenian statesman.
His family was prominent, due in good part to their success with Olympic chariot-racing. Plutarch claimed that Cimon, Miltiades' father, was known as "Coalemos", meaning "simpleton", because he had a reputation for being rough around the edges, but whose three successive chariot-racing victories at the Olympics made him popular, so popular in fact that, Herodotus claims, the sons of Peisistratos murdered him out of jealousy.
Tyrant of the Thracian Chersonese
Around 555 BC, Miltiades the Elder left Athens to establish a colony on the Thracian Chersonese (now the Gallipoli Peninsula), setting himself up as a semi-autonomous tyrant under the protection of Athens. Meanwhile, contrary to what one would expect from a man whose father was rumoured to have been murdered by the city leaders, Miltiades the Younger rose through the ranks of Athens to become eponymous archon under the rule of the Peisistratid tyrant Hippias in 524/23 BC.
Miltiades the Elder was childless, so when he died around 520 BC, his nephew, Miltiades the Younger's brother, Stesagoras, inherited the tyranny of the Chersonese. Four years later (516 BC), Stesagoras met his death by an axe to the head, so the tyrant Hippias sent Miltiades the Younger to claim his brother's lands. Stesagoras' reign had been tumultuous, full of war and revolt. Wishing to achieve stronger control over his lands than his brother had, Miltiades feigned mourning for his brother's death. When the men of rank from the Chersonese came to console him, he imprisoned them. He then ensured his power by employing 500 troops. He also made an alliance with King Olorus of Thrace by marrying his daughter, Hegesipyle.
In around 513 BC, Darius I, the king of Persia, led a large army into the area, forcing the Thracian Chersonese into submission and making Miltiades a vassal of Persian rule. Miltiades joined Darius' northern expedition against the Scythians, and was left with other Greek officers to guard a bridge across the Danube, which Darius had used to cross into Scythia. Miltiades later claimed that he had tried to convince the other officers to destroy the bridge and leave Darius and his forces to die, but the others were afraid, and Darius was able to recross, though some historians are skeptical of this claim. When the king heard of the planned sabotage, Miltiades' rule became a perilous affair and he had to flee around 511/510 BC. Miltiades joined the Ionian Revolt of 499 BC against Persian rule, returning to the Chersonese around 496 BC. He established friendly relations with Athens by capturing the islands of Lemnos and Imbros and ceding them to Athens, which had ancient claims to these lands.
Return to Athens
The Ionian Revolt collapsed in 494 BC, and in 492 BC Miltiades and his family fled to Athens in five ships to escape a retaliatory Persian invasion.[n 1]
The Athens to which Miltiades returned was no longer a tyranny, but had overthrown the Peisistratids and become a democracy 15 years earlier. Thus, Miltiades initially faced a hostile reception for his tyrannical rule in the Thracian Chersonese. His trial was further complicated by the politics of his aristocratic rivals (he came from the Philaid clan, traditional rivals of the powerful Alcmaeonidae) and the general Athenian mistrust of a man accustomed to unfettered authority. However, Miltiades successfully presented himself as a defender of Greek freedoms against Persian despotism. He also promoted the fact that he had been a first-hand witness to Persian tactics, which was useful knowledge considering the Persians were bent on destroying the city. Thus, Miltiades escaped punishment and was allowed to rejoin his old countrymen. It was by Miltiades' advice that the Persian heralds who came to Athens to demand earth and water as tokens of submission were put to death.
Battle of Marathon
Miltiades is often credited with devising the tactics that defeated the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. Miltiades was elected to serve as one of the ten generals (strategoi) for 490 BC. In addition to the ten generals, there was one 'war-ruler' (polemarch), Callimachus, who had to decide—with the ten generals evenly split, five to five—whether to attack the Persians who had landed at Marathon under the command of Datis, or wait to fight them closer to Athens.
Miltiades, the one with the most experience in fighting the Persians, was firm in insisting that the Persians be fought immediately, as a siege of Athens would lead to its destruction. He convinced Callimachus to use his decisive vote in favor of a swift attack.[n 2] He is quoted as saying "I believe that, provided the Gods will give fair play and no favour, we are able to get the best of it in the engagement."
Miltiades also convinced the other generals of the necessity of not using the customary tactics of using hoplites arrayed in an evenly distributed phalanx armed with shields and spears, tactics otherwise not deviated from for 100 years, until the time of Epaminondas.[n 3] Miltiades feared the cavalry of the Persians attacking the flanks, and asked for more hoplites to be stationed there than in the centre. He ordered the two tribes in the centre, the Leontis tribe led by Themistocles and the Antiochis tribe led by Aristides, to be arrayed to a depth of four ranks while the rest of the tribes, on their flanks, were arrayed in eight ranks. Miltiades also had his men march to the end of the Persian archer range, called the "beaten zone", then break out in a run straight at the Persian army.
These tactics were successful in defeating the Persians, who then tried to sail around the Cape Sounion and attack Attica from the west. Miltiades got his men to quickly march to the western side of Attica overnight and block the two exits from the plain of Marathon, to prevent the Persians moving inland. Datis fled at the sight of the soldiers who had just defeated him the previous evening.
One theory for the Greek success in the battle is the lack of Persian cavalry. The theory is that the Persian cavalry left Marathon for an unspecified reason, and that the Greeks moved to take advantage of this by attacking. This theory is based on the absence of any mention of cavalry in Herodotus' account of the battle, and an entry in the Suda dictionary. The entry χωρίς ἰππεῖς ("without cavalry") is explained thus:
Expedition at Paros
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. His true motivations were to attack Paros, feeling he had been slighted by them in the past. The fleet attacked the island, which had been conquered by the Persians, but failed to take it. Miltiades suffered a grievous 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. He was sent to prison where he died, probably of gangrene from his wound. The debt was paid by his son Cimon.
Pheidias later erected in Miltiades' honour, in the temple of the goddess at Rhamnus, a statue of Nemesis, the deity whose job it was to bring sudden ill fortune to those who had experienced an excess of good. The statue was said to have been made from marble provided by Datis for a memorial to the Persians' expected victory.
Aeschines writes that although Miltiades wanted his name to be written in the Stoa Poikile, the Athenians refused. Instead of writing his name they had him painted in the front rank, urging the soldiers.