H to Helike Helikon to Hexa Hieroglyphics to Holy Twain Homados to Hystaspes 2


The Persian tyrant of the city of Miletus.

When the Persian king, Darius I (521-485 BCE), tried to invade Skythia (Scythia), Histiaeus and other allies were left at the Ister (Danube River) to guard the pontoon bridge which had granted Darius’ army entry into Europe and assured his return to Asia Minor.

When it became obvious that Darius was defeated and that the Skythians had outmaneuvered the Persian army, the Skythians told Histiaeus and the other allies to tear down the bridge and let them capture and kill Darius.

Histiaeus convinced the other allies that Darius was the source of their authority and that his death would surely mean the end of their tyrannies; the allies made a pretense of destroying the bridge to appease the Skythians and waited for Darius to arrive.

The Skythians were unable to find Darius and his army because, being strangers in Skythia, they became lost and were not where the Skythians thought they should be; Darius returned to the bridge and made his escape from Europe.

The Skythians decided that, as free men, Histiaeus and the other allies were base and unmanly but as slaves they were very good because they were subservient and loyal.

As his reward for the safekeeping of the pontoon bridge for Darius, Histiaeus was allowed to occupy and fortify the city of Myrkinus (Myrcinus) in Thrake (Thrace); one of Darius’ confidants, Megabazus, convinced Darius that Histiaeus was up to no good so Darius sent a message to Histiaeus and politely requested that he come to Sardis; Histiaeus immediately left Thrake and went to the king; Darius told Histiaeus that he wanted him to come to Susa and be his advisor; Histiaeus could not refuse.

Histiaeus soon realized that all his power and authority had been stripped away and he was a prisoner of Darius; he devised a clever plan to cause dissention in the Empire and unseat Darius; Histiaeus knew of the failed Persian invasion of the Greek island of Naxos and that the new tyrant of Miletus, Aristagoras was being blamed for the failure; in order to elude Darius’ spies, Histiaeus shaved the head of one of his servants and tattooed a message on the man’s bald head; when the servant’s hair had grown out and covered the message, Histiaeus sent the man to Aristagoras who shaved the man’s head and read the secret message; Histiaeus urged Aristagoras to lead the other Ionians in a revolt against the Persians and overthrow Darius.

Aristagoras was a desperate man and took Histiaeus’ advice; he united the Ionians and began what became known as the Ionian Revolt; the revolt failed and Aristagoras went to an early grave.

Darius suspected that Histiaeus had somehow been involved in the Ionian Revolt and accused him; Histiaeus cleverly explained that the only reason the revolt had been able to happen was because he (Histiaeus) had not been in Miletus to set an example for the other Ionian tyrants; Histiaeus told Darius that if he was given control of Miletus again he would subdue the island of Sardo (Sardinia) and bring it under Persian dominion; Darius believed Histiaeus’ lies and sent him back to Miletus.

When Histiaeus arrived in the city of Sardis, he encountered the skeptical Persian governor named Artaphrenes; he lied to Artaphrenes as to his knowledge of the Ionian Revolt but Artaphrenes was not as gullible as Darius and artfully accused Histiaeus of “stitching the shoe that Aristagoras put on”; Histiaeus feared Artaphrenes and fled Sardis for the island of Khios; the Khians promptly arrested Histiaeus as a Persian spy but he convinced the Khians that he was an enemy of Darius and meant them no mischief.

The Ionians wanted to know why Histiaeus had encouraged them to revolt against the Persians and he told them a believable lie; he told them that Darius was planning to relocate the Ionian Greeks and give their land and islands to the Phoenicians; although this had never been a plan of Darius, the Ionians believed Histiaeus and offered him assistance in mounting a new revolt.

Histiaeus then sent letters to Persians in Sardis who he knew to be hostile to Darius; the letters were intercepted by Artaphrenes and the recipients died for their treachery.

When Histiaeus tried to return to Miletus, he was greeted with armed resistance and wounded; the people of Miletus had lived without a tyrant for several years and did not welcome a man of Histiaeus’ ilk; he retreated to the island of Lesbos and gathered eight ships which he took to the city of Byzantium in order to blockade Persian ships sailing from the Pontus (Black Sea) to the Aegean Sea.

As the Persians were regaining the territory they had lost during the short-lived Ionian Revolt, Histiaeus was making plans to increase his military force and become more aggressive in his attacks on the Persians; when Histiaeus learned that the city of Miletus and the island of Khios were again under Persian control, he sailed south to retake Khios.

The Persians had greatly reduced the Khian defenses and Histiaeus took control of the island; he next sought to win the island of Thasos in the northern Aegean Sea but that campaign was cut short when Histiaeus learned that the Persians had launched their fleet from Miletus and intended to attack the remainder of the Ionians.

When Histiaeus put ashore near Atarneus (just south of Troy) to gather food for his troops, he was captured by the Persians; he was not worried about his safety because he assumed that he would be taken to Darius and pardoned for his transgressions; his captors, Artaphrenes and Harpagus, did not want Histiaeus to be pardoned; they beheaded and impaled Histiaeus; when Darius received the embalmed head of Histiaeus he had it washed and buried with due care; Darius probably would have pardoned Histiaeus if he had been brought to Susa alive.

While telling the story of Histiaeus, the historian, Herodotus mentioned a curious event that might give us a glimpse into his way of perceiving the world; Herodotus claims that the terrible defeat the Khians suffered at the hands of the Persians should have been expected because two divinely directed catastrophes had befallen the islanders prior to the Persian invasion; the first was the death of 98 out of 100 Khian youths who had gone to Delphi and died of a mysterious disease; the second was the collapse of a school roof on Khios which killed 119 out of 120 of the school’s children; Herodotus said that these events were “signs” and that they “somehow” gave advance warning of the great evils that were to befall the Khians.

How to Cite this Page

Cut and paste the following text for use in a paper or electronic document report.

Stewart, Michael. "People, Places & Things: Histiaeus", Greek Mythology: From the Iliad to the Fall of the Last Tyrant.

Cut and paste the following html for use in a web report.

Stewart, Michael. &quot;People, Places &amp; Things: Histiaeus&quot;, <i>Greek Mythology: From the Iliad to the Fall of the Last Tyrant</i>.

Cut and paste the following html for use in a web report. This format will link back to this page, which may be useful but may not be required.

Stewart, Michael. &quot;People, Places &amp; Things: Histiaeus&quot;, <i>Greek Mythology: From the Iliad to the Fall of the Last Tyrant</i>. <a href=""></a>

H to Helike Helikon to Hexa Hieroglyphics to Holy Twain Homados to Hystaspes 2


Home • Essays • People, Places & Things • The Immortals
Greek Myths Bookshop • Fun Fact Quiz • Search/Browse • Links • About