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Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Anatolia


Tyrants of Miletus

Miletus was a city of the ancient Greeks, although it certainly pre-dated their arrival in Anatolia in the form of the city of Milawata (Millawanda) as it was known in Hittite texts. It lies in western Anatolia, about thirty kilometres south of the present-day city of Söke in Turkey and the adjacent island of Samos, and close to the mouth of the River Menderes (now the Büyükmenderes). In the first millennium BC this was located within the region that was known as Karkissa (or Karkija, Greek Caria). The majority of its people probably originated as Luwian-speaking Indo-Europeans who were related to the Lukka or Arzawans, although there is almost no history for the region before the sixth century BC.

Caria's leading city was Miletus itself. It is mentioned is by Homer, who includes it amongst the allies of Troy. In that period - the late thirteenth or early twelfth century BC - Miletus is better ascribed to Ahhiyawa, potentially a Mycenaean colony. Even if the majority of the Carian people were Anatolians, any external takeover would have seen their social structure being overlaid by a new layer of nobility. If the stories of the Trojan War are to be believed, the Carians of that time already did not speak a recognisable western Anatolian language, so perhaps even then they had been influenced by their Mycenaean masters. Following the Mycenaean victory at Troy, the Greeks certainly settled heavily along the Anatolian coast between about 1200-800 BC, including Caria where the locals at Miletus are later noted as speaking Greek with a distinctive Ionian dialect. However, Caria's more concrete history begins with the Persian conquest of the region.

Following the capture of all of Anatolia by Cyrus the Great between 547-546 BC a new administrative structure was introduced to replace the defeated kingdoms. The new great satrapy of Sparda initially controlled not only the territory of the former kingdom of Lydia, but also that of Katpatuka which had been the initial target of Lydia's aggression. The new satrapy also consisted of the central minor satrapy of Lydia around its capital of Sardis, and the more peripheral minor satrapies of Hellespontine Phrygia (with its capital at Daskyleion), Greater Phrygia, Karkâ (Caria), and Skudra between 512-479 BC.

Before 500 BC, Miletus was the greatest Greek city in the east. It was the natural outlet for products from the interior of Anatolia and had a considerable wool trade with Sybaris, in southern Italy. Miletus was also important in the founding of the Greek colony of Naukratis in Egypt and founded more than sixty colonies on the shores of the Black Sea, including Abydos, Cyzicus, Olbia, Panticapaeum, and Sinope (now Sinop). Although nothing is known of the city's administration prior to the Persian arrival, in the early fifth century it was home to perhaps its most well-known son, Hecataeus of Miletus, the 'Father of Geography', by which time it's governance was firmly in the grip of the tyrants.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from Hittite Diplomatic Texts, Gary Beckman (Second Edition, 1999), from The Kingdom of the Hittites, T Bryce (1998), from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from Anabasis Alexandri, Arrian of Nicomedia, from Panyassis of Halikarnassos: Text and Commentary, Paníasis, from The Oxford Classical Dictionary, Simon Hornblower, Antony Spawforth, & Esther Eidinow (Oxford University Press, 2012), and from External Links: Hittites.info (dead link), and Encyclopaedia Iranica, and Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

c.630 BC

Settlers from Miletus found the city of Sinope in Paphlagonia.

fl c.600 BC


Earliest-known tyrant of Miletus.

549 - 546 BC

The defeat of the Medes opens the floodgates for Cyrus the Great with a wave of conquests, beginning with Cilicia in 549 BC. Harpagus, a Median of the royal house and the main cause of the Median defeat, commands Cyrus' army in Anatolia, conquering it between 547-546 BC. Taken during this campaign are Armenia, Karkâ (Caria), Lycia, Lydia, Paphlagonia, Phrygia, and Tabal (Cappadocia), and Harpagus and his descendants reign thereafter in Karkâ and Lycia (and apparently Cilicia too) as satraps. Harpagus also takes on the satrapy of Sparda following the death of its satrap.

Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great freed the Indo-Iranian Parsua people from Median domination to establish a nation that is recognisable to this day, and an empire that provided the basis for the vast territories that were later ruled by Alexander the Great

530s? BC

Harpagus is succeeded as satrap of Sparda at some point before 530 BC, which possibly marks his death rather than retirement. There seem to be no subsequent satraps of Karkâ. Instead Sparda remains the dominant satrapy, with Karkâ possibly being administered directly through minor local offices. Whether or not such a local office is held (at least initially) by the tyrant of Miletus is not clear, but Miletus remains a highly important regional town.

520s BC

Lygdamis becomes the first tyrant of Halicarnassus and effectively the satrap (governor) of Persian-controlled Karkâ. He is of mixed Carian-Greek ancestry, probably a very common background given the fact of Greek settlement along Anatolia's western coast for the previous half a millennium. By taking up his position and passing it on to his descendants he creates the Lygdamid dynasty.

fl 500s BC


Tyrant of Miletus. Detained at the Persian royal court.

fl 499 BC


Nephew. Tyrant of Miletus. Revolted against the Persian. Fled.

c.500 BC

Aristagoras sees the opportunity for self-aggrandisement in the restoration of some exiled oligarchs to the large, rich island of Naxos. He approaches Satrap Artaphernes I of Sparda for support and, with agreement from Darius, a fleet of two hundred triremes is sent to Naxos. The expedition fails in its goal when Naxos is warned by Greek members of the fleet, but Aristagoras has seen an opportunity to rid himself (and his detained uncle, Histiaios) of Persian control.

499 - 493 BC

The Ionian Greeks of western Anatolia and the islands of the eastern Aegean who are under Persian hegemony now rise in the Ionian Revolt. The Carians join in and, with the Ionians being led by Aristagoras, tyrant of Miletus, they inflict heavy losses on the Persians. Similar revolts arise in Aeolis, Salamis, and Doris as the Greeks see a chance for freedom. Athens sends troops to aid the Ionian islands but the Persians gradually gain the upper hand and the revolt crumbles.

The end of the revolt probably sees the Persians breath a sigh of relief that these troublesome Greeks are back under proper control. Aristagoras, the main leader of the revolt, flees to Thrace in the hopes of setting up a colony outside Persia's control, but he is killed in a battle against a nearby town. His chosen successor in Miletus is Pythagoras, but Darius the Great kills the men of the city and enslaves its women and children, ensuring that the city is deserted. For its part in the revolt, Athens will soon face the first of two Persian invasions of Greece itself.

494 - ? BC


Tyrant of Miletus.

480 - 479 BC

FeatureInvading Greece in 480 BC, the Persians subdue the Thracian tribes and the Macedonians. Then the vast army of Xerxes makes its way southwards and is swiftly engaged by Athens and Sparta in the Vale of Tempe. The Persians are subsequently stymied by a mixed force of Greeks - which includes Athenians, Corinthians, Helots, Mycenaeans, Thebans, and Thespians - led by Sparta under King Leonidas at Thermopylae. (These events are depicted somewhat colourfully - but no less impressively for that - in the 2007 film, 300.) The Persian army is held up long enough for the Athenians to prepare their navy for a seaborne engagement with the Persian fleet.

Battle of Thermopylae
The Spartan stand at Thermopylae in 480 BC, along with some Greek allies, stopped the Persian advance in its tracks and provided a rallying call for the rest of the free Greek cities to oppose the Persians


Athens, as the leader of the coalition of city states known as the Delian League, fights the Persian navy at the battles of Artemisium and Salamis, the latter being a resounding Greek victory. It leaves much of the Persian navy destroyed and Xerxes is forced to retreat to Asia, leaving his army in Greece under Mardonius.

The following year, Mardonius meets the Greeks in a final battle. The Spartans, now at full strength, lead a pan-Greek army at the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC which decisively defeats the Persians and ends the Greco-Persian War. The Persian forces retreat back into Asia Minor.

469 BC

Athenian statesman and general, Kimon (or Cimon) leads an allied Greek fleet to Karkâ. The attack focuses on destroying Persian strongholds as far as Phaselis on the border with Pamphylia. The response from Xerxes is to send an army under Pherendates to Pamphylia and a joint fleet from Khilakku and Phoenicia (rebuilt after the loss of the Persian fleet in 479 BC) under the command of Tithraustes, a bastard son of Xerxes. The new fleet is destroyed and captured, and the Persian army is utterly defeated.

468 - 387 BC

Athens wrests control of Lycia away from its Median 'occupier' kings. Eventually it is re-conquered by Persia but it seems to take the weakened empire around eighty-or-so-years to manage it. The Achaemenid hold over Anatolia looks somewhat shaky as the fourth century BC dawns.

395 BC

Karkâ becomes a satrapy in its own right, upon the execution of Tissaphernes. Its first satrap is a Carian of a leading family, possibly Hyssaldomos, previously a dynastic ruler of Mylasa. If so then he is almost immediately succeeded by his son, Hekatomnos. The latter spawns a dynasty which governs for almost half a century. It is to these men that the tyrant of Miletus must answer, at least in principle.

367 - 358 BC

Ariobarzanus, satrap of Phrygia, joins Datames, satrap of Khilakku and Katpatuka, in revolt against Artaxerxes II. Autophradates, satrap of Sparda, is ordered to suppress the rebellion and he manages to expel Ariobarzanes from the greater part of his satrapy. In 365 BC, Athens sends thirty ships and 8,000 mercenaries to aid Ariobarzanus. He rewards Athens with the gift of Sestos and Crithote, cities on the Thracian Chersonesus.

Soon all of Asia Minor (Anatolia) revolts against Artaxerxes II, with Datames also having seized Paphlagonia. In 362 BC, even Autophradates is driven to join the rebels. Sparta, and also Takhôs, pharaoh of Egypt, send substantial help to the rebels. Two years later, in 360 BC, Ariobarzanes is betrayed by his son, Mithridates, and is executed. The satrapal revolt is finally suppressed in 359-358 BC.

334 - 333 BC

In 334 BC Alexander of Macedon launches his campaign into the Persian empire by crossing the Dardanelles. The first battle is fought on the River Graneikos (Granicus), eighty kilometres to the east. Dismayed at the Persian defeat, Satrap Arsites of Daskyleion commits suicide. Sparda surrenders, but Karkâ's unnamed satrap holds out in the fortress of Halicarnassus with the Persian General Memnon. The fortress is blockaded and Alexander moves on to fight the Lycian mountain folk during the winter when they cannot take refuge in those mountains.

The campaigning season of 333 BC sees Darius III and Alexander miss each other on the plain of Cilicia and instead fight the Battle of Issos on the coast. Darius flees when the battle's outcome hangs in the balance, gifting the Greeks Khilakku and Katpatuka, although pockets of Persian resistance remain in parts of Anatolia.

Alexander the Great crosses the River Graneikos
Alexander the Great crossed the River Graneikos (or Granicus) in 334 BC to spark a direct face-off with the Persians that had been brewing for generations, and his victory in battle near the river sent shockwaves through the Persian empire

320 - 301 BC

A new agreement sees Caria as part of the Empire of Antigonus.

301 - 281 BC

Antigonus is killed and Caria falls under the rule of the Lysimachian empire.

? BC


Tyrant of Miletus. Killed.

261 - 256 BC

The interference by Ptolemy of Egypt in Greek affairs continues, triggering the Second Syrian War. Antigonus II of Macedonia and Antiochus II of the Seleucid empire team up to combine their attacks. Egypt loses ground in Anatolia and Phoenicia, and is forced to cede lands which include its ally, the city of Miletus. Antiochus gains his epithet, 'Theos' ('god') for killing Timarchus, the tyrant of Miletus.