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Miltiades (Roman replica).jpg
Roman copy of Greek bust of Miltiades (original dating to 5th−4th century BC)
Native name
Born550 BC
Died489 BC (aged 60-61 years old)
Allegiance Athens
Rank General ( Strategos )
Battles/wars European Scythian campaign of Darius I

First Persian invasion of Greece


  • Battle of Paros
MemorialsStatue of Nemesis by Pheidias

Miltiades ( /mɪlˈtəˌdz/ ; Greek : Μιλτιάδης; c. 550 – 489 BC), also known as Miltiades the Younger, was a Greek 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.



Miltiades was a well-born Athenian, and considered himself a member of the Aeacidae, [1] as well as a member of the prominent Philaid clan. He came of age during the tyranny of the Peisistratids.

His family was prominent, due in good part to their success with Olympic chariot-racing. [1] [2] Plutarch claimed that Cimon, Miltiades' father, was known as "Coalemos", meaning "simpleton", because he had a reputation for being rough around the edges, [3] 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. [4]

Miltiades was named after his father's maternal half-brother, Miltiades the Elder, who was also a victor at Olympic chariot-racing.

Miltiades's son Cimon was a major Athenian figure of the 470s and 460s BC. His daughter Elpinice is remembered for her confrontations with Pericles, as recorded by Plutarch.

Tyrant of the Thracian Chersonese

Map of Thracian Chersonesus. Thracian chersonese.png
Map of Thracian Chersonesus.

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. [5] 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. [6]

Miltiades the Elder was childless, so when he died around 520 BC, [7] 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, [8] so the tyrant Hippias sent Miltiades the Younger to claim his brother's lands. [9] 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. [10]

Persian vassal

Coinage of Miltiades in Thracian Chersonesos. Lion, head left, raising left forepaw, tail curled above. Head of Athena, wearing crested Attic helmet and earring, within incuse square. Circa 495-494 BC. THRACE, Chersonesos. Miltiades II. Circa 495-494 BC.jpg
Coinage of Miltiades in Thracian Chersonesos. Lion, head left, raising left forepaw, tail curled above. Head of Athena, wearing crested Attic helmet and earring, within incuse square. Circa 495-494 BC.

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, [11] though some historians are skeptical of this claim. [12] [13] 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. [14] [15]

Return to Athens

Miltiades, Roman copy of 5th century original. Testa di stratega detto milziade, copia romana da orig. attico del 500-480 ac ca.jpg
Miltiades, Roman copy of 5th century original.

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. [17] 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. [18]

Battle of Marathon

The Battle of Marathon Battle of Marathon Greek Double Envelopment.png
The Battle of Marathon

Miltiades is often credited with devising the tactics that defeated the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. [19] 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. [20]

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. [21] [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." [21]

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. [24] 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. [25] [26] 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. [24]

Miltiades fighting the Persians at the Battle of Marathon, in the Stoa Poikile (reconstitution) Miltiades fighting the Persians at the Battle of Marathon in the Stoa Poikile (reconstitution).jpg
Miltiades fighting the Persians at the Battle of Marathon, in the Stoa Poikile (reconstitution)

These tactics were successful in defeating the Persians, who then tried to sail around the Cape Sounion and attack Attica from the west. [27] 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. [27]

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:

The cavalry left. When Datis surrendered and was ready for retreat, the Ionians climbed the trees and gave the Athenians the signal that the cavalry had left. And when Miltiades realized that, he attacked and thus won. From there comes the above-mentioned quote, which is used when someone breaks ranks before battle. [28]

Expedition at Paros

"Helmet of Miltiades". The helmet was given as an offering to the temple of Zeus at Olympia by Miltiades. Inscription on the helmet: MILTIADES. Archaeological Museum of Olympia. His helmet read Miltiades dedicates this helmet to Zeus. Helmet of Miltiades 050911.jpg
"Helmet of Miltiades". The helmet was given as an offering to the temple of Zeus at Olympia by Miltiades. Inscription on the helmet: ΜΙLTIAΔES. Archaeological Museum of Olympia. His helmet read Miltiades dedicates this helmet to Zeus.

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. [29] 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. [30]


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. [30]

Stoa Poikile

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. [31]

See also


  1. One ship, carrying his son Metiochos, was captured by the Persian fleet and Metiochos was made a lifelong prisoner, but was nonetheless treated honourably as a de facto member of the Persian nobility. [16]
  2. In Herodotus's account, Miltiades is keen to attack the Persians (despite knowing that the Spartans are coming to aid the Athenians), but strangely, chooses to wait until his actual day of command to attack. [22]
  3. At the Battle of Leuctra. [23]

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Cimon Athenian statesman

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Cardia or Kardia, anciently the chief town of the Thracian Chersonese, was situated at the head of the Gulf of Melas. It was originally a colony of the Milesians and Clazomenians; but subsequently, in the time of Miltiades, the place also received Athenian colonists, as proved by Miltiades tyranny. But this didn't make Cardia necessarily always pro-Athenian: when in 357 BC Athens took control of the Chersonese, the latter, under the rule of a Thracian prince, was the only city to remain neutral; but the decisive year was 352 BC when the city concluded a treaty of amity with king Philip II of Macedonia. A great crisis exploded when Diopeithes, an Athenian mercenary captain, had in 343 BC brought Attic settlers to the town; and since Cardia was unwilling to receive them, Philip immediately sent help to the town. The king proposed to settle the dispute between the two cities by arbitration, but Athens refused. Demosthenes, the famous Greek patriot and orator, spoke on this very matter to the Athenian Senate in 341 BC his "Oration On The State Of The Chersonesus" :

"Our present concernment is about the affairs of the Chersonesus, and Philip's expedition into Thrace...but most of our orators insist upon the actions and designs of Diopithes...which, if one moment neglected, the loss may be irreparable; here our attention is instantly demanded...shall Philip be left at full liberty to pursue all his other designs, provided he keeps from Attica; and shall not Diopithes be permitted to assist the Thracians? And if he does, shall we accuse him of involving us in a war?...none of you can be weak enough to imagine that Philip's desires are centered in those paltry villages of Thrace...and has no designs on the ports...arsenals...navies...silver mines, and all the other revenues of Athens; but that he will leave them for you to enjoy...? Impossible! No; these and all his expeditions are really intended to facilitate the conquest of Athens....let us shake off our extravagant and dangerous supineness; let us supply the necessary expenses; let us call on our that, as he hath his force constantly prepared to injure and enslave the Greeks, yours too may be ever ready to protect and assist them."

Miltiades the Elder was an Athenian politician from the Philaid family. He is most famous for traveling to the Thracian Chersonese, where at the behest of the local peoples he ruled as a tyrant. During his reign, Miltiades' best-attested action is the construction of a defensive wall across the peninsula.

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First Persian invasion of Greece

The first Persian invasion of Greece, during the Persian Wars, began in 492 BC, and ended with the decisive Athenian victory at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. The invasion, consisting of two distinct campaigns, was ordered by the Persian king Darius the Great primarily in order to punish the city-states of Athens and Eretria. These cities had supported the cities of Ionia during their revolt against Persian rule, thus incurring the wrath of Darius. Darius also saw the opportunity to extend his empire into Europe, and to secure its western frontier.

Wars of the Delian League

The Wars of the Delian League were a series of campaigns fought between the Delian League of Athens and her allies, and the Achaemenid Empire of Persia. These conflicts represent a continuation of the Greco-Persian Wars, after the Ionian Revolt and the first and second Persian invasions of Greece.

The Philaidae or Philaids were a powerful noble family of ancient Athens. They were conservative land owning aristocrats and many of them were very wealthy. The Philaidae produced two of the most famous generals in Athenian history: Miltiades the Younger and Cimon.

Cimon Coalemos, was a renowned ancient Olympic chariot-racer of the 6th century BC.


  1. 1 2 Creasy (1880) pg. 9
  2. Herodotus. (2009). The landmark Herodotus : the histories. Strassler, Robert B., 1937-, Purvis, Andrea L. (First Anchor books ed.). New York: Anchor Books. p. 6.35. ISBN   9781400031146. OCLC   264043716.
  3. Plutarch "Lives" William and Joseph Neal edition, (1836), p.338
  4. Herodotus. (2009). The landmark Herodotus : the histories. Strassler, Robert B., 1937-, Purvis, Andrea L. (First Anchor books ed.). New York: Anchor Books. p. 6.103. ISBN   9781400031146. OCLC   264043716.
  5. Debra Hamel (2012) "Reading Herodotus: A Guided Tour Through the Wild Boars, Dancing Suitors, and Crazy Tyrants of 'The History'" JHU Press, p.182
  6. C.W.J.Elliot and Malcolm F. McGregor (1960) "Kleisthenes: Eponymous Archon 525/4 BC" Phoenix, Vol 14, No. 1
  7. Hamel (2012) ibid
  8. Herodotus, lib vi. c. 38
  9. Sara Forsdyke (2009) "Exile, Ostracism, and Democracy: The Politics of Expulsion in Ancient Greece" Princeton University Press p.123
  10. Herodotus, lib vi. c. 39
  11. Rice, Earle (15 September 2011). "The Battle of Marathon". Mitchell Lane Publishers, Inc. via Google Books.
  12. Burn, A. R. (1982). The Pelican History of Greece. London: Penguin. p. 160.
  13. Hammond, N. G. L. Oxford Classical Dictionary (Second ed.) . Oxford University Press. pp.  688. ISBN   0-19-869117-3.
  14. J.A.S. Evans (1963) "Notes on Miltiades' Capture of Lemnos" Classical Philology, Vol. 58, No. 3, pp.168-170
  15. Creasy (1880) pg. 10
  16. Herodotus, lib vi. c. 41
  17. Herodotus, lib vi, c.104
  18. Pausanias 3.12.7
  19. Creasy (1880) pg. 11–20
  20. Creasy (1880) pg. 11
  21. 1 2 Herodotus vi.109.
  22. Herodotus VI, 110
  23. Creasy (1880) pg. 380
  24. 1 2 Creasy (1880) pg. 23
  25. Plutarch, Aristides, V
  26. Herodotus VI, 111
  27. 1 2 Creasy (1880) pg. 26
  28. Suda, entry Without cavalry
  29. Creasy (1880) pg. 27
  30. 1 2 Creasy (1880) pg. 28
  31. Aeschines, Against Ctesiphon, § 186