The Battle of Lade was a naval battle which
occurred during the
Ionian Revolt, in 494. It was fought between an alliance of the Ionian
cities (joined by the Lesbians) and the Persian Empire of Darius the Great, and
resulted in a decisive victory for the Persians which all but ended the revolt.
The Ionian Revolt was triggered by the dissatisfaction of the Greek cities of
Asia Minor with the tyrants appointed by Persia to rule them. In 499, the
then-tyrant of Miletus, Aristagoras, launched a joint expedition with the
Persian satrap Artaphernes to conquer Naxos, in an attempt to bolster his
position in Miletus. The mission was a debacle, and sensing his imminent
removal as tyrant, Aristagoras chose to incite the whole of Ionia into
rebellion against the Persian king Darius the Great. Initially, in 498, the
Ionians went on the offensive, supported by troops from Athens and Eretria,
capturing Sardis, before suffering defeat at the Battle of Ephesus. The revolt
then spread to Caria and Cyprus. Three years of Persian campaigning across Asia
Minor followed, with no decisive effect. By 494 the Persian army and navy had
regrouped, and made straight for the epicentre of the rebellion at Miletus. The
Ionians sought to defend Miletus by sea, leaving the defense of Miletus to the
Milesians. The Ionian fleet gathered at the island of Lade, off the coast of
Miletus. The Persians were uncertain of victory at Lade, so attempted to
persuade some of the Ionian contingents to defect. Although this was
unsuccessful at first, when the Persians finally attacked the Ionians, the
Samian fleet accepted the Persian offer. As the Persian and Ionian fleets met,
the Samians sailed away from the battle, causing the collapse of the Ionian
battle line. Although the Chian contingent and a few other ships remained and
fought bravely against the Persians, the battle was lost. With the defeat at
Lade, the Ionian Revolt was all but ended. The next year, the Persians reduced
the last rebel strongholds, and began the process of bringing peace to the
region. The Ionian Revolt constituted the first major conflict between ancient
Greece and Persia, and as such represents the first phase of the Greco-Persian
Wars. Although Asia Minor had been brought back into the Persian fold, Darius
vowed to punish Athens and Eretria for their support of the revolt. Moreover,
seeing that the myriad city states of Greece posed a continued threat to the
stability of his empire, he decided to conquer the whole of Greece. In 492, the
first Persian invasion of Greece, the next phase of the Greco-Persian Wars,
would begin as a direct consequence of the Ionian Revolt.
Ionia versus Persian Empire
Commanders and leaders:
Ionia - Dionysius of Phocaea
Persian empire - Datis (?)
Ionia - 353 ships (Herodotus)
Persians -600 ships (Herodotus)
Casualties and losses:
Ionia - 246 ships
Persians - 57 ships
Main article: Ionian Revolt
In the dark age that followed the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization,
significant numbers of Greeks had emigrated to Asia Minor and settled there.
These settlers were from three tribal groups: the Aeolians, Dorians and
Ionians. The Ionians had settled about the coasts of Lydia and Caria, founding
the twelve cities which made up Ionia. These cities were Miletus, Myus and
Priene in Caria; Ephesus, Colophon, Lebedos, Teos, Clazomenae, Phocaea and
Erythrae in Lydia; and the islands of Samos and Chios. The cities of Ionia had
remained independent until they were conquered by the famous Lydian king
Croesus, in around 560. The Ionian cities then remained under Lydian rule until
Lydia was in turn conquered by the nascent Achaemenid Empire of Cyrus the
Great. The Persians found the Ionians difficult to rule. Elsewhere in the
empire, Cyrus was able to identify elite native groups to help him rule his new
subjectssuch as the priesthood of Judea. No such group existed in Greek
cities at this time; while there was usually an aristocracy, this was
inevitably divided into feuding factions. The Persians thus settled for the
sponsoring a tyrant in each Ionian city, even though this drew them into the
Ionians' internal conflicts. Furthermore, a tyrant might develop an independent
streak, and have to be replaced.
The tyrants themselves faced a difficult task; they had to deflect the worst of
their fellow citizens' hatred, while staying in the favour of the Persians.
About 40 years after the Persian conquest of Ionia, and in the reign of the
fourth Persian king, Darius the Great, the stand-in Milesian tyrant Aristagoras
found himself in this familiar predicament. In 500, Aristagoras was approached
by some exiles from Naxos, who asked him to take control of the island. Seeing
an opportunity to strengthen his position in Miletus by conquering Naxos,
Aristagoras approached the satrap of Lydia, Artaphernes, proposing a joint
attack on Naxos, to which Artaphernes assented.
The expedition sailed in the spring of 499 but quickly descended into a
The force laid siege to the Naxians for four months, but eventually the
Persians and Aristagoras both ran out of money. The force therefore sailed
despondently back to the mainland. Aristagoras found himself in dire straits
and fully expected to be stripped of his position by Artaphernes. In a
desperate attempt to save himself, Aristagoras chose to incite his own
subjects, the Milesians, to revolt against their Persian masters, thereby
beginning the Ionian Revolt. Although Herodotus presents the revolt as a
consequence of Aristagoras's personal motives, it is clear that Ionia must have
been ripe for rebellion anyway, the primary grievance being the tyrants
installed by the Persians.] Aristagoras's actions have thus been likened to
tossing a flame into a kindling box; they incited rebellion across Ionia (and
Aeolis and Doris), and tyrannies were everywhere abolished, and democracies
established in their place.
Aristagoras had brought all of Hellenic Asia Minor into revolt, but evidently
realised that the Greeks would need other allies in order to fight the
Persians. In the winter of 499, he sailed to mainland Greece to try to recruit
allies. He failed to persuade the Spartans, but the cities of Athens and
Eretria agreed to support the rebellion. In the spring of 498, an Athenian
force of twenty triremes, accompanied by five from Eretria, for a total of
twenty-five triremes set sail for Ionia. They joined up with the main Ionian
force near Ephesus. This force was then guided by the Ephesians through
mountains to Sardis, Artaphernes's satrapal capital. The Greeks caught the
Persians unawares, and were able to capture the lower city. However the lower
city then caught fire, and the Greeks, demoralised, then retreated from the
city, and began to make their way back to Ephesus. The Persians troops in Asia
Minor followed the Greek force, catching them outside Ephesus. It is clear that
the demoralised and tired Greeks were no match for the Persians, and were
completely routed in the ensuing battle at Ephesus. The Ionians who escaped the
battle made for their own cities, while the remaining Athenians and Eretrians
managed to return to their ships, and sailed back to Greece.
Despite these setbacks, the revolt spread further. The Ionians sent men to the
Hellespont and Propontis, and captured Byzantium and the other nearby cities.
They also persuaded the Carians to join the rebellion. Furthermore, seeing the
spread of the rebellion, the kingdoms of Cyprus also revolted against Persian
rule without any outside persuasion. For the next three years, the Persian army
and navy were fully occupied with fighting the rebellions in Caria and Cyprus,
and Ionia seems to have had an uneasy peace during these years. At the height
of the Persian counter-offensive, Aristagoras, sensing the untenability of his
position, decided to abandon his position as leader of Miletus, and of the
revolt, and he left Miletus. Herodotus, who evidently has a rather negative
view of him, suggests that Aristagoras simply lost his nerve and fled. By the
sixth year of the revolt in 499, the Persian forces had regrouped. The
available land forces were gathered into one army, and were accompanied by a
fleet supplied by the re-subjugated Cypriots, and the Egyptians, Cilicians and
Phoenicians. The Persians headed directly to Miletus, paying little attention
to other strongholds, presumably intending to tackle the revolt at its
The Median general Datis, an expert on Greek affairs, was certainly dispatched
to Ionia by Darius at this time. It is therefore possible that he was in
overall command of this Persian offensive. Hearing of the approach of this
force, the Ionians met at the Panionium (the sacred meeting ground), and
decided not to attempt to fight on land, leaving the Milesians to defend their
walls. Instead, they opted to gather every ship they could, and make for the
island of Lade, off the coast of Miletus, in order to "fight for Miletus
Greeks The Ionian cities were joined in this battle by the Aeolians of Lesbos.
Herodotus lists the number of ships provided by each state: City - Number of
Herodotus gives the order of the Ionian battle line as being, from east to
Herodotus says that there were 600 ships in the Persian fleet, provided by the
Phoenicians (who were most eager to fight), the Egyptians, Cilicians, and the
Cypriots, whose own revolt had recently been subdued.
The Persian fleet may have been commanded by the veteran Median general Datis;
Persian records seem to suggest that he was sent by Darius to Ionia at around
about the time of Lade.
However, Herodotus does not name any Persian commanders in this campaign.
When the Persians arrived off the coast of Lade and learned the number of
Ionian ships, they began to worry that they would not be able to defeat the
Greeks, and feared Darius's wrath should they fail. The Ionian tyrants who had
been expelled at the beginning of the revolt were present, and according to
Herodotus, they were now given instructions by the Persians: "Men of
Ionia, let each one of you now show that he has done good service to the king's
house; let each one of you try to separate your own countrymen from the rest of
the allied power. Set this promise before them: they will suffer no harm for
their rebellion, neither their temples nor their houses will be burnt, nor will
they in any way be treated more violently than before. But if they will not do
so and are set on fighting, then utter a threat that will restrain them: if
they are defeated in battle, they will be enslaved; we will make eunuchs of
their boys, and carry their maidens captive to Bactra, and hand over their land
The tyrants thus sent messages to their own kinsman, but the Ionians refused
the offers. Critically, each group thought that only they had been
approachedthere does not seem to have been any discussion of this offer
between the different contingents, and the possibility for treachery does not
seem to have been realised.
Reconstructed model of a trireme, the type of ship in use by both the Greek and
Persian forces The Ionians did however hold meetings to discuss the conduct of
the battle. Dionysius, the Phocaean general, offered to train and lead the
Greek force: "Our affairs, men of Ionia, stand on the edge of a razor,
whether to be free men or slaves, and runaway slaves at that. If you now
consent to endure hardships, you will have toil for the present time, but it
will be in your power to overcome your enemies and gain freedom; but if you
will be weak and disorderly, I see nothing that can save you from paying the
penalty to the king for your rebellion. Believe me and entrust yourselves to
me; I promise you that (if the gods deal fairly with us) either our enemies
shall not meet us in battle, or if they do they shall be utterly
Dionysius thus began an intensive training program, leading the fleet out every
day to train the rowers in ramming manoeuvers, and the marines in combat. For
seven days the Ionians accepted this regime, but being unused to the hard work,
they refused to obey thereafter, and stayed in camp instead.
According to Herodotus, upon seeing the resultant discontent and division in
the Ionian camp, the Samians decided to accept the Persian offer of lenience in
return for desertion. However, some modern historians reject the notion of
dissent in the Greek camp. Herodotus derived his account of Lade from the
Samians themselves, and it is suggested that, seeking to excuse their
treachery, they came up with this story. At any rate, the Samians remained with
the other Greeks in the run up to the battle.
Soon after the rebellion against Dionysius, the Persian fleet moved to attack
the Ionians, who sailed out to meet them. The ensuing battle was evidently
confused, since Herodotus admits that "which of the Ionians were brave men
or cowards then in that sea-fight I cannot exactly say; for they all blame each
It is nevertheless clear that very early on in the battle, the Samian
contingent hoisted their sails, as had been agreed, and fled the battlefield.
However, 11 Samian ships refused to desert the other Ionians, and remained at
the battle. At some later date, the Samians erected a pillar in their
marketplace commemorating the bravery and sacrifice of these crews. Seeing the
Samians leave, their neighbours on the western wing, the Lesbians, also fled.
The whole west-wing of the Ionian battle line thus very quickly collapsed.
Other Ionian contingents also fled as the situation became more desperate. Only
the large Chian navy seems to have stood their ground, perhaps accompanied by a
few other ships. They fought valiantly, but had huge casualties. Eventually the
remaining Chian ships sailed away back to Chios, thereby ending the battle.
With the defeat of the Ionian fleet, the revolt was effectively over. Miletus
was closely invested, the Persians "mining the walls and using every
device against it, until they utterly captured it". According to
Herodotus, most of the men were killed, and the women and children were
Archaeological evidence partially substantiates this, showing widespread signs
of destruction, and abandonment of much of the city in the aftermath of Lade.
However, some Milesians did remain in (or quickly returned to) Miletus, though
the city would never recapture its former greatness. Miletus was thus
notionally "left empty of Milesians"; the Persians took the city and
coastal land for themselves, and gave the rest of the Milesian territory to
Carians from Pedasus.
The captive Milesians were brought before Darius in Susa, who settled them on
the coast of the Persian Gulf, near the mouth of the Tigris.
The ruins of Miletus:
Many Samians were appalled by the actions of their generals at Lade, and
resolved to emigrate before their old tyrant, Aeaces, returned to rule them.
They accepted an invitation from the people of Zancle to settle on the coast of
Sicily, and took with them such Milesians as had escaped from the Persians.
Samos itself was spared from destruction by the Persians because of the Samian
defection at Lade. Meanwhile, Dionysius of Phocaea went to Sicily, and
established himself as a pirate, preying on Carthaginian ships.
Most of Caria surrendered to the Persians in aftermath of Lade, although some
strongholds had to be captured through force. The Persian fleet and army
wintered at Miletus, before setting out in 493 to finally stamp out the last
embers of the revolt. They attacked and captured the islands of Chios, Lesbos
and Tenedos and then moved over to the mainland, and captured each of the
remaining cities of Ionia. Although the cities of Ionia were undoubtedly
harrowed in the aftermath, none seems to have suffered quite the fate of
The Persian army then re-conquered the settlements on the Asian side of the
Propontis, while the fleet sailed up the European coast of the Hellespont,
taking each settlement in turn. With all of Asia Minor now firmly returned to
Persian rule, the revolt was finally over. For the Persians, the only
unfinished business that remained by the end of 493 was to exact punishment on
Athens and Eretria for supporting the revolt. The Ionian Revolt had severely
threatened the stability of Darius's empire, and the states of mainland Greece
would continue to threaten that stability unless dealt with. Darius thus began
to contemplate the complete conquest of Greece, beginning with the destruction
of Athens and Eretria.
The first Persian invasion of Greece thus began in the following year, 492,
when Mardonius was dispatched (via Ionia) to complete the pacification of the
land approaches to Greece, and push on to Athens and Eretria if possible.
Thrace was re-subjugated, having broken loose from Persian rule during the
revolts, and Macedon compelled to become a vassal of Persia. However, progress
was halted by a naval disaster.
A second expedition was launched in 490 under Datis and Artaphernes, son of the
satrap Artaphernes. This amphibious force sailed across the Aegean, subjugating
the Cyclades, before arriving off Euboea. Eretria was besieged, captured and
destroyed, and the force then moved onto Attica. Landing at the Bay of
Marathon, they were met by an Athenian army, and defeated in the famous Battle
of Marathon, ending the first Persian attempt to subdue Greece.