The siege of Miletus in 494 followed the Ionian naval defeat in the
battle of Lade, and
saw the Persians recapture the city that had triggered the Ionian Revolt in
499. The revolt had originally been led by
Aristagoras, tyrant of
Miletus. He had fled from the city during the first major Persian counterattack
in 497-496 and died in a minor siege in Thrace, but the Persians still
considered Miletus to be their most important enemy.
In 494 the Persians raised a 600-strong fleet and a large army, and advanced
towards Miletus. The Ionians managed to gather a fleet of 353 ships, which they
posted at Lade, then an island just to the west of Miletus (since then the
Maeander River has silted up its estuary and both Miletus and Lade are now
inland. When the Persians attacked the Ionian fleet fell apart, with several
contingents deserting the cause (starting with the Samians, and then the
Lesbians). The part of the fleet that did stay and fight suffered a heavy
defeat, and the survivors scattered back to their home cities (or even further
afield in some cases). This left Miletus isolated in the face of the Persian
army. The Ionians had decided to focus most of their effort on the fleet,
leaving the Milesians to defend their own city. The resulting siege appears to
have been quite lengthy. Herodotus records that the Persians undermined the
walls, and other sources suggest that battering rams were used as well.
Eventually the city was captured, and devastated. According to Herodotus the
Persians killed most of the men, enslaved the women and children and destroyed
the shrines at Didyma. Archaeological evidence supports the idea that there was
significant destruction at this point, and the harbour area was abandoned.
Miletus had been one of the great cities of the Greek world, but it took
centuries for it to recover from this blow. The Persians then went on to
restore control of the rest of Ionian and the remaining rebel cities in the
Hellespont area. In 494 and the first part of 493 they acted with a similar
level of ferocity as at Miletus, but eventually they adopted a more
conciliatory approach, which helped restore some normality to the area.