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Ionian Revolt Essay

2194 words - 9 pages

The credibility of Herodotus' text is without doubt a source of much debate amongst classical scholars. For almost any given tale within the text, there are arguments from scholars both for and against the historical accuracy of that particular passage. The account of Aristagoras, the tyrant of Miletus, turned rebel leader, is yet another of such debated anecdotes.One of the few premises that are agreed upon by scholars is that 'the deficiencies of Herodotus, as a historian, if he is measured against modern standards, are notorious' (Chapman 1972, 546). This view is supported by Grundy, as referred to by Evans, who suggests that 'the imperfect character of the information which Herodotus furnishes with regard to the story of the great revolt is so evident that the historian himself must have been conscious of it' (Evans 1976, 25).There are however some elements of the life of Aristagoras that are generally agreed upon as being historically accurate. These include the fact that that there was a tyrant of Miletus named Aristagoras, that he was a key political figure in the Ionian Revolt, that he was involved in an unsuccessful military campaign against the island of Naxos prior to the outbreak of the revolt, and that when the Ionians were clearly losing impetus in the Revolt, Aristagoras left Miletus for Myrcinus.Just how significant a figure Aristagoras in the the leadership of the Ionian Revolt is also a matter of some conjecture. There is no doubt that Mabel Lang is of the opinion that Aristagoras was a selfless patriot dedicated to the liberation of Ionia. In a somewhat romantic explanation of the course of the Revolt, Lang purports that the Ionian Revolt was a revolutionary movement led jointly by Aristagoras and Histiaeus which was defeated less by the Persians and the ambition of its leaders than by a lack of cooperation on the part of the Ionians (Lang 1968, 24).The opinions of Lang however, are strongly refuted by Chapman, who considers that while Aristagoras may have a large amount of text dedicated to him by Herodotus, he in fact did not play a major role in the Revolt (Chapman 1972, 547). Blamire notes that the concept of a conspiracy between Histiaeus and Aristagoras with the purpose of instigating the Ionian Revolt is not very realistic (Blamire 1959, 146).Herodotus himself is of the opinion that Aristagoras was a self-interested tyrant who had nothing but personal gain on his mind, and that the Ionian Revolt was merely a way of protecting himself from the wrath of the Persians after his expensive failure at Naxos. This is evidenced in his statement: Aristagoras could not keep his promise to Artaphenes; he was also under a lot of pressure from the expenses required for the expedition, and he was afraid that the military failure and his quarrel with Megabates would result in the rulership of Miletus being taken away from him. Driven by all these fears, he began to contemplate rebellion. (Herodotus, Book 5.35) Fear, greed, and other...

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