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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

038 - Behind the Wooden Walls

In this episode, we discuss the aftermath of the Greek loss at Thermopylae, as the Persians advance southwards to Athens and the rest of the Greeks flee to Salamis and to the Peloponnese; the lead-up to and the naval Battle of Salamis (480 BC) itself, in which Themistocles tricks the Persians into fighting in the narrows between Attica and Salamis, resulting in a stunning Greek victory at sea; and the battle's aftermath, which sees Xerxes' fleet and the bulk of his army retreat back to Asia

Late Summer 480 BC - The Greek fleet withdraws south from Artemisium after an indecisive engagement with the Persian fleet and news of the Greek army's defeat at Thermopylae; while the Peloponnesians fortify the Isthmus at Corinth, the Athenians evacuate their women and children to Troezen and their old men and possessions to Salamis; meanwhile, Xerxes moves south with his army, devastating Phocis and destroying Thespiae and Plataea for their loyalty to the Greek cause, while the Persian fleet sets out and reaches Phaleron; the Persians burn and loot Attica, now abandoned except for those few on the acropolis; when their wall was finished, the Peloponnesians wish to retire to the Isthmus and make their defense in the Peloponnese, but Themistocles, with support of Aegina and Megara, threatens to sail with Athenians to Italy, if Peloponnesians withdraw; Themistocles sends his slave with message to Xerxes, tricking the Great King into fighting in the narrows between Attica and Salamis; and a stunning Greek victory vindicates his naval strategy; the Persian fleet flees at night to the Hellespont to guard the bridges for the army to retreat and then to winter at Samos to ensure the Ionian Greeks don't rebel again; after the Persian army retreats north to Thessaly, from there Xerxes leads the bulk of his army overland back to Asia, but he leaves Mardonius behind with a force for an expedition against the Greeks the next spring

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

037 - Molon Labe

In this episode, we discuss the death of Darius and the ascension of Xerxes to the Persian throne; Xerxes' preparations for a much larger, second Persian invasion of Greece (in 480 BC); the formation of the Hellenic League and their own preparations and tactical maneuverings in order to defend Greek liberty against Persia; and the simultaneous multi-day land and naval battles at Thermopylae and Artemision in central Greece

486 BC - Egypt revolts from the Persian Empire; as he prepares to put it down, Darius dies from some illness (after 36-year reign) and is succeeded by his son, Xerxes

485 BC - Xerxes suppresses the Egyptian revolt in person, removes Egypt’s special privileges, and reduces it to satrapy status; the Aleuadai of Thessaly send envoys to Susa urging Xerxes to invade Greece and finish what his father started

484-481 BC - Xerxes begins to prepare for a full-scale invasion of Greece, by mustering an enormous army and navy from all provinces of his empire; he also undertakes a three-year project to dig a canal through the isthmus of the Mount Athos promontory, puts a bridge over the Strymon River and food deposits for the route through Thrace, and another bridge across the Hellespont from Abydos on Asiatic coast to Sestos on the European side

484 BC - Babylon revolts from the Persian Empire but is quickly subdued; the Babylonians are given leniency due to Xerxes' fondness for them

482 BC - Babylon revolts for a second time; it is quelled by Megabyzos and this time there is no leniency, as Babylon is forced to merge with Assyria into one satrapy

Spring 481 BC - Xerxes assembles his army in Cappadocia and proceeds to Sardis, and sends heralds to all Greek poleis, except Athens and Sparta, requesting for "earth and water"

Fall 481 BC - The Greeks hold a conference at Corinth; 31 Greek states agree to end their quarrels (i.e. the war between Athens and Aegina ceases at this time) and to fight to the death to preserve Greek liberty; they create the Hellenic League, the first union of Greek states since the mythical times of the Trojan war; Sparta presides over meetings and has supreme command over both land and sea forces;  they send spies to investigate the Persian army at Sardis and envoys to Argos, Corcyra, Crete, and Syracuse; Argos and Crete opt to remain neutral as Delphi advises, Corcyra agrees to join, and Syracuse refuses alliance

Winter 481/0 BC - Xerxes' massive army gathers and winters at Sardis

Spring/Early Summer 480 BC - Xerxes crosses Asia into Europe and joins with fleet at mouth of Hebros River; they begin to make their west through Thrace; 2nd meeting of Hellenic League at Corinth to determine where to meet Persians in the field; they decide to send a force of hoplites, under the Spartan Euainetos and aided by the Athenian Themistocles, to guard the pass of Tempe in Thessaly; but the Hellenic League abandons Tempe when they are informed by Alexander of Macedon that their position could be turned by the Persians; as a result, when Xerxes' army and fleet enters Macedon, the Thessalians medize

Late Summer 480 BC - In need of a new plan after their withdrawal from Tempe, the Hellenic League decides to hold the narrow land pass at Thermopylae in Malis with a small advance force under the Spartan king Leonidas, while the fleet, under the Spartan Eurybiades and Athenian Themistocles, was to defend their approach via the sea at Artemesion, in hope that these land and naval forces can cooperate in stopping the joint advance of Xerxes, whose strategy depended on close communication between his own land and naval forces; after much difficulty, brought on by stiff Greek resistance, thunderstorms, and perhaps treachery, the Persians win the simultaneous land and naval battles at Thermopylae and Artemision; King Leonidas and his army are annihilated (“Go, stranger, and to Lacedaimon tell that here, obeying her behests, we fell), and the Greek fleet withdraws south back to Athens

Monday, March 13, 2017

036 - The Marathonomachoi

In this episode, we discuss the events leading up to the first Persian invasion of Greece (in 490 BC), including both sides preparations for war, shifting alliances amongst the Greeks and Persians, and regnal squabbles at Sparta; the Battle of Marathon itself and its aftermath; the folklore that surrounded the battle afterwards; the ongoing military feud between the Athenians and Aeginetans; and the internal political happenings at Athens during the 480s BC

492 BC - Mardonios, brother-in-law of Darius, is appointed as commander of the Persian army, establishes democracies in Ionian cities in place of former tyrannies, and sets out on a land and sea campaign to recover Thrace, which had broken from Persia during the Ionian revolt; Macedon once again recognizes the Great King as overlord, but the wreck of many ships in a violent storm as the Persian fleet tries to round Mount Athos on the Chalkidiki peninsula necessitates their return to Asia; however, with Thrace and Macedon under their control, Persian power now extends to the northern border of Thessaly

491 BC - Darius sends ambassadors to all Greek cities of the islands and central/southern Greece, requesting "earth and water" (i.e. submission); Athens and Sparta both resist, and Athens appeals to Sparta over suspected medism of their rival Aegina, so as a token of their reconciliation and alliance Kleomenes forces Aegina, a Peloponnesian ally, to furnish hostages to Athens; this leads to an internal squabble between the two Spartan kings, which results in Kleomenes convincing Leotychidas to get Demaratos exiled and to replace him as Eurypontid king; Demaratos thus flees to Persia, where he becomes advisor to Darius

Winter 491/0 BC - Darius makes preparations to punish Athens and Eretria for aiding the Ionian revolt and to take vengeance for the burning of Sardis (“Remember the Athenians!”)

Spring 490 BC - Datis and Artaphernes lead the Persian fleet from Cilicia in southern Asia Minor across the central Aegean, with the aim to exact punishment on Eretria and Athens and to install Hippias as tyrant; they take Naxos and burn its temples as retribution; Delos is spared and honored, though, while other islands are forced to give troops and hostages

Summer 490 BC - The Persian fleet sails to Euboea, forces Karystos to capitulate, and then proceeds to Eretria; the Persians pillage and burn Eretria's temples in revenge for the temples at Sardis and enslave its population; then they arrive with Hippias at the northern end of the plain of Marathon (an area of strong Peisistratid influence); Athens sends Pheidippides to Sparta for help, who covers 140 miles in one day; the Spartans, though, cannot send forces till after the full moon; so after Miltiades passes a motion to meet the Persians in the field, the Athenians march to Marathon, where they are joined by 600 Plataeans; the polemarch Callimachus follows the battle strategy of Miltiades (by using a double envelope), and the Persians are defeated (6400 Persian and 192 Athenian casualties, including Callimachus); the Persians then sail to Athens, but a possible shield signal (by the Alkmaionidai) is flashed to alert them that the Athenians had rushed back to Athens to prevent their landing; Datis and Artaphernes then return to Asia, where they are likely punished for their failures

489 BC - Miltiades undertakes an expedition to force the Aegean islands to renounce their allegiance to Persia; despite initial successes, he is injured and fails at Paros; upon his return, he is tried by Xanthippos for deceiving the people and fined a hefty sum of fifty talents, but dies shortly thereafter from his wound; Kleomenes' plot against Demaratos is discovered so he flees to Thessaly and then attempts to organize the Arcadians and helots against Sparta; in order to prevent this uprising, he is invited back to Sparta but shortly after his return, he goes mad and kills himself; Leonidas takes over as Agiad king of Sparta

Winter 488/7 BC - Ostracism of Hipparchos, a relative of Hippias (condemned to death in absentia); first successful ostracism on the Athenian historical record

Winter 487/6 BC - Ostracism of Megakles, leader of the Alkmaionidai and friend of Hippias

486 BC - The Spartans send Leotychidas with Aeginetan envoys to Athens for the Aeginetan hostages; Athens refuses and so Aegina captures a number of leading Athenians; war between Athens and Aegina results, in which the Athenians defeat a small Aeginetan naval squadron in the Saronic Gulf but are repulsed when they land on the island

Winter 486/5 BC - Ostracism of Kallias, son-in-law of Miltiades and friend of Megakles

Winter 485/4 BC - Ostracism of Xanthippos, brother-in-law of Megakles

483 BC - Athens discovers an unusually rich vein of silver in the Laurion mines with profits of 100 talents a year to the state; instead of distributing 10 drachma to each citizen, Themistocles persuades the people to pass a decree supposedly to build a large fleet of 100 triremes for the war with Aegina, but secretly he is aware of Persian preparations for another invasion (he is likely opposed by the hoplite-focused faction of Aristides); in addition, 100 of the richest men in Athens are made responsible for building and equipping one trireme each (first reference to what becomes the trierarchic system); timber for the 200 ships is imported from Macedon, where king Alexander, despite being a Persian vassal, remains pro-Athenian

Winter 483/2 BC - Ostracism of Aristides, political opponent of Themistocles

Sunday, March 5, 2017

035 - The Ionian Revolt

In this episode, we discuss the events of the Ionian Revolt from the Persian Empire, including the failed Naxos expedition, Miletus' role in the rebellion and its spread throughout the western coast of Asia Minor and Cyprus, the Greek sack of Sardis, the three-pronged Persian counteroffensive in Cyprus, Caria, Ionia, the Hellespont, and the Propontis, the Persian naval victory at Lade, and their subsequent sack of Miletus; the Spartan destruction of Argos at Sepeia; the early life of one of Athens' key political figures for the next four decades, Themistocles; and the internal political happenings of Athens during the 490s BC 

500 BC - Naxos in a state of internal strife (stasis), in which the demos seizes power and the aristocrats flee to Miletus where they are on friendly terms with the tyrant Histiaios; with Histiaios in Susa with Darius, the governor Aristagoras enlists the support of Artaphernes, the Persian satrap in Sardis, to conquer Naxos and the Cyclades, but his force of 200 ships fails to take Naxos after a four months' sieg

499 BC - Aristagoras convinces the Milesians and the rest of Asiatic Greeks to revolt from Persia in order to establish their own democratic institutions (isonomia); Kleomenes of Sparta turns down Aristagoras’ appeal for an alliance, but the Athenian ekklesia agrees to send twenty ships to help the Ionians and the Eretrians send an additional five ships (Herodotus remarks that “these ships were the beginning of evils both for Hellenes and Barbarians”)

498 BC - The squadron of twenty-five ships from Athens and Eretria sets sail for Miletus, and the combined Greek forces take and accidentally burned down Sardis, the seat of a Persian satrap, including the temple of the native goddess Cybele, but are defeated by the Persians during their return to Ephesus, which causes the Athenians to sail home

497 BC - Cyprus joins the revolt; Aristagoras flees Miletus to Myrkinos in Thrace; Persia begins their three-pronged counteroffensive (Cyprus/Caria, Ionia, and Hellespont/Propontis)

496 BC - Cyprus and Caria brought back into Persian control; Anaxagoras is killed fighting against local Thracians; the Scythians lead a large expedition southward to raid Thracian Chersonese, but are driven back by Miltiades (who also captures the island of Lemnos and Imbros in Athens' name--these are later colonized by poor Athenians)

Winter 496/5 BC - Hipparchus, a former political ally of Hippias and friend of the Persians, is elected as an archon, which signifies the ascendancy of a pro-Persian peace faction in Athens; the first ostracism on Athenian record is leveled against him but it fails

494 BC - Sparta under Kleomenes defeats and destroys Argos in the Battle of Sepeia greatly strengthens Sparta’s control over the Peloponnesian League and stabilizes the league’s organization; Persians besiege Miletus by land and sea, confronted by Ionian fleet of 350 ships (majority of ships from Chios, Miletus, Lesbos and Samos); treachery of large sections of the Samian and Lesbian ships leads to Persian victory in the Battle of Lade

Winter 494/3 BC - Persians take by storm and sack Miletus; temple with oracle of Apollo at Didyma plundered and burned; city not destroyed but prosperity ends

493 BC - Phrynichos at Athens presents and is fined for his play, The Capture of Miletus; the Persians subdue the rest of the Ionian towns on the Anatolian mainland, as well as the islands of Chios, Lesbos, and Tenedos; the Phoenician fleet, campaigning in the Hellespont, reestablishes Persian control over the European coast of the Hellespont, the Propontis, and the Bosporus; Miltiades flees the Thracian Chersonese, escapes the Phoenician fleet, and arrives in Athens; after crushing the revolt, the Persians compel the Ionian cities to make treaties with one another and reassess their tribute

Winter 493/2 BC - Election of Themistocles to eponymous archonship

492 BC - Miltiades and Themistocles become the most prominent figures in Athenian politics

Winter 492/1 BC - Miltiades is brought to trial on charges of tyranny while in the Thracian Chersonese (though acquitted, he is perhaps prosecuted by Xanthippos)