1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Miltiades

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22056021911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 18 — MiltiadesJohn Malcolm Mitchell

MILTIADES, the name of two Athenian statesmen and generals of a family (the Philaidae) of Aeginetan origin, which claimed descent from Aeacus.

1. Miltiades (6th century B.C.), the son of Cypselus, a prominent opponent of Peisistratus. According to Herodotus (vi. 36, 37) he led a colony to the Thracian Chersonese at the request of the Doloncians, who, hard pressed by the Absinthians (or Apsinthians), were advised by the Delphian oracle to invite to their country the man who should first show them hospitality after leaving the temple. Since, however, the Athenians had from c. 600–590 B.C. held Sigeum in the Troad, whence they had fought against Mitylene, it, is probable that the Doloncians appealed for help to Athens, and that Peisistratus took the opportunity of getting rid of one of his chief opponents by sending Miltiades. He became “tyrant” of the Chersonesus, which he fortified by a wall across the isthmus from Cardia to Pactya. He was captured by the people of Lampsacus, but released on the intercession of Croesus of Lydia. He was succeeded by Stesagoras, son of his half-brother, Cimon.

2. Miltiades (died c. 488 B.C.), the victor of Marathon, was another son of Cimon. On the death of Stesagoras, he was sent to the Chersonese (? about 518–516) by Hippias—no doubt to support Hegesistratus at Sigeum (see Peisistratus). He entrapped and imprisoned the chief men of Chersonesus, which was then in a turbulent condition, and strengthened himself by an alliance with Hegesipyle, daughter of the Thracian prince Olorus (Herod. vi. 39). He led a contingent in the Scythian expedition of Darius Hystaspis and, according to Herodotus, advised the leaders who were left at the Danube bridge to destroy it and leave Darius to his fate. This story is improbable, as Darius left Miltiades in possession of the Chersonese for some twenty years longer, though Persian forces were frequently in the neighbourhood. Miltiades was, according to Herodotus, expelled by Scythian invaders, but was brought back by the Doloncians, and subsequently captured Lemnos and Imbros for Athens from the so-called Pelasgian inhabitants, who were Persian dependents. Having thus (probably) incurred the enmity of Darius, Miltiades fled to Athens on the approach of the Persians under Datis and Artaphernes, leaving his son Metiochus a prisoner in Persian hands, and was at once impeached unsuccessfully on the charge of tyranny in the Chersonese.[1] Possibly the story of his having tried to destroy the Danube bridge was invented or exaggerated at this time as an argument in his favour (see Grote, History of Greece, 1 vol., ed. 1907, p. 119 note). Since, however, Herodotus almost certainly relied on Alcmaeonid tradition, which was hostile to Miltiades, the whole story is uncertain; the statement that he fled before a Scythian invasion is especially improbable. If Miltiades really recommended the destruction of the bridge, we may infer that the Herodotean story of his flight before the Scythians is a misunderstanding of the fact that his residence in Chersonese after the Scythian invasion was insecure and not continuous.

On the approach of the Persians Miltiades was made one of the ten Athenian generals, and it was on his advice that the polemarch Callimachus decided to give battle at Marathon (q.v.). Subsequently he used his influence with the Athenians to induce them to give him a fleet of seventy ships without any indication of his object (Herod, vi. 132–136). Cornelius Nepos (Miltiades, c. vii.), probably on good authority (? Ephorus), states that he had a commission to regain control over the Aegean. No doubt his object was to establish an outer line of defence against future Persian aggression. Herodotus says that, having besieged Paros vainly for nearly a month, he made a secret visit to Timo, a priestess of Demeter in Paros, with a view to the betrayal of the island, and being compelled to flee wounded himself severely in attempting to leap a fence (but see Ephorus in Fragm. hist. gr. 107).

On his return to Athens he was impeached by Xanthippus, who was allied by marriage to the Alcmaeonids, on the ground that he had “deceived the people,” and only escaped on the strength of his past services with a fine of 50 talents. The facts of the trial and the charge are difficult to recover, nor do we know why the siege was raised. Some authorities hold that he was bribed to this course, and hence that the charge was one of treason; others suggest that he retired in the belief that a Persian fleet was approaching. All that is known is that he died of his wound (489–488), without paying the fine, which was paid subsequently by his son Cimon (q.v.). He appears to have been a man of strong determination and great personal courage, of a type characteristic of the pre-Cleisthenic constitution. His absence in the Chersonese during the first years of the new democracy (508–493?) and his patrician lineage account naturally for the difference which existed, between him and the popular leaders—Themistocles and Aristides.

See the passages of Herodotus and Cornelius Nepos, quoted above, and histories of Greece. On the Parian expedition and the trial, R. W. Macan, Herodotus iv.-vi., vol. 2, appendix xi.; on the foreign policy of Miltiades see Themistocles.  (J. M. M.) 

  1. So Herodotus; but the story is difficult to believe in view of the fact that the family of Miltiades was distinctively μισοτύραννος. Possibly the trial is merely a hostile version of the ordinary test of a man’s qualification for office (δοκιμασία).