Biography on Miltiades!

Miltiades, son of Cimon, succeeded his brother Stesagoras as the tyrant of Thacian Chersonese. He was the nephew of Miltiades (senior) who came to possess Chersonese as a tyrant.

By a strata­gem Miltiades, son of Cimon, arrested the leading men at Chersonese and thereby removed the possibility of any local leader’s bid for the tyranny. He strengthened his position by maintaining a body of 500 merceneries and by marrying the daughter of the Thracian King Olorus.

In his European expedition Darius was helped by contingents from various Greek cities commanded by their despots among whom was Miltiades of Thracian Chersonese. But Miltiades was no friend of the Persians. When Darius and his army had crossed over to Scythia by throwing a bridge of boats across the mouth of the Danube it was Miltiades who agreeing with the suggestion of the Scythians pleaded for breaking the bridge. But the counsel of Histiaeus to the contrary ultimately prevailed and the bridge was not broken. If the advice of Miltiades had been adopted, the subsequent Persian invasion of Greece might never have taken place.


Miltiades’ enmity towards the Persians was manifest in his active sympathy for the Ionian rebels. During the Ionian revolt he seized for Athens the isles of Lemnos and Imbros. The excursion of Darius beyond the Danube, so far as it was intended to make an im­pression upon the Scythians proved ineffective and shortly after this (c. 496 B.C.) the Scythians raided Thrace and Miltiades had to flee Chersonese and reach Athens via Imbros avoiding a near capture at the hands of the Phoenicians. Enemies of Miltiades accused him of crime of oppression in Chersonese but he was acquitted by his fellow citizens to whom he had brought the gift of Lemnos and Imbros.

Miltiades was a sworn enemy of the Peisistratids who had put to death his father, Cimon. He, more than any other Athenian, had a first-hand knowledge of the Persians. It was only wise on the part of the Athenians to select him as one of the strategy when the Persians invaded Athens joined by Hippias the ex­pelled Peisistratus of Athens. Miltiades was the soul of the resistance which his country offered to the invader at Marathon.

At the battle of Marathon, the Greeks although united discipline with courage, they had committed the folly of dividing the command among ten generals each to be in supreme command for a day, besides, there was the Polemarch or the War Archon. In the council of war that met before the battle the question was whether to attack or to await an attack.

The commanders were divided in their opinion. Miltiades urged an immediate attack. It seemed for a time that more faint-hearted policy would be adopted. But Miltiades turned to Callimachus, the Polemarch and said “It is now in your hands, Callimachus either to enslave Athens or to make her free and to leave behind you for all future generations a memory more glorious than ever Harmodius and Aristogeiton left. Never in the course of our long history have we Athe­nians been in such peril as now. If we submit to the Persian invader, Hippias will be restored to power in Athens and there is little doubt what misery must then ensue; but if we fight and win, then this city of ours may well grow to pre-eminence amongst all the cities of Greece. If you ask me how this can be, and how the decision rests with you, I will tell you; we commanders are ten in number, and we are not agreed upon what action to take; half of us are for a battle, half against it. If we refuse to fight, I have little doubt that the result will be the rise in Athens of bitter political dissension; our purpose will be shanken, and we shall submit to Persia. But if we fight before the ret can show itself in any of us, then if God gives us fair play, we can not only fight but win. Yours is the decision; all hangs upon you; vote on my side, and our country will be free yes, and the mistress of Greece. But if you support those who have voted against fighting, that happiness will be denied you—you will get the opposite.”


Miltiades’ argument prevailed and Callimachus voted for fighting. But there was yet another snag. Each of the ten generals was to be in supreme command for a day by turn. But Aristides voluntarily yielded his leadership to Miltiades and others followed his example. This corrected the folly of appointing ten generals and dividing the command.

Under Miltiades’ vigorous strategy and deployment of soldiers the small Greek force routed the Persian horde in what was not only one of the decisive battles but also one of the most incredible victories of history.

When the Persians were already in their ships after their defeat at the battle of Marathon, a signal was given to them by flashing of a shield. The popular explanation of the time was that the Persians were thereby asked to invade. Athens by water. But that move was frustrated by Miltiades again who hurried troops to Athens for defence.

Legend grew up quickly round the battle and Miltiades was glorified at the cost of all other generals. When a generation had passed, facts were partly for­gotten and partly transfigured. Transfiguration might have been due to three motives as Prof Bury points out, namely, love of the marvellous, vanity of the Athenians and the desire of his family to exalt the services of Miltiades. At any rate, Miltiades was the heart and soul of the campaign.


Although there might have been some overdoing in praising Miltiades and a positive injustice to other generals including Polemarch Callimachus in not giving their due, yet victory at Marathon was particularly due to the extraordinarily brilliant strategy and tactics of Miltiades.

But the end of the man who was immortalised by the victory at Marathon was miserable. He was put to the command of an expedition against the island of Paros, for the Parians had furnished a trireme to the armament of Datis and thereby made war upon Athens.

Miltiades besieged the island for more than three weeks but returned home without success and personally injured. His enemies, jealous of his exploits at Marathon imputed the failure to criminal conduct of Miltiades and accused him of deceiving the Athenian people. He was tried.

He appeared on a couch at his trial, but was unable to speak in his own defence as gangrene had started in his wounded leg. His friends spoke for him dwelling mainly on his services at the battle of Marathon and his capture of Lemnos and Imbros. The popular verdict was to spare his life but to fine him fifty talent. But his gangrene grew worse and he died soon after. His son Cimon paid the fine.