The Ionian Revolt As Told By Herodotus

Essay by istealpantsCollege, Undergraduate December 2008

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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. One of the most debated passages is Herodotus' telling of the Ionian Revolt and his account of Aristagoras, the tyrant of Miletus turned rebel leader. In fact 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". This view is supported also 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". Herodotus gives us one of the only sources of information for this event, but even so, his account of the events which transpired in this early battle between the Greeks and Persians is considered incorrect in many respects and aspects.

One of the most highly debated stories is Herodotus' account of the Ionian leader Aristagoras. 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 a matter of some conjecture however. There...