Battle of Malene, 494 BC

The battle of Malene (494 BC) ended the career of Histiaeus, former Tyrant of Miletus, a former supporter of Darius who may have played a part in the outbreak of the Ionian Revolt, but who ended his career as something of an adventurer.

Histiaeus had come to the fore during Darius's campaign north of the Danube in 513, but the Emperor soon became suspicious of him, and forced him to move to Susa. After the outbreak of the Ionian Revolt Histiaeus managed to convince Darius that he could put down the revolt and he was allowed to return to Asia Minor. However he was unable to convince Artaphernes, satrap of Lydia, of his honesty, and was soon forced to flee from Sardis. After a series of adventures he ended up in Byzantium, where he used a small fleet provided by Lesbos to intercept merchant ships coming from the Black Sea and force them to acknowledge him as leader of the revolt.

Ionian Revolt, 499-493 BC
Ionian Revolt,
499-493 BC

In 494 the main Ionian fleet was defeated at the battle of Lade, and Miletus was besieged and captured. Histiaeus abandoned his efforts at Byzantium, and sailed around the coast towards Ionian. He ran into trouble at Chios, the community that had suffered the heaviest losses at Lade, and ended up conquering the island. He then used it as a base for an attack on the island of Thasos, off the coast of Thrace.

This attack had to be abandoned when the Persian fleet left Miletus and sailed around the coast of Asia Minor towards Chios. Histiaeus retreated to Lesbos, and prepared to defend the island. However food soon ran short, and he decided to raid Atarneus on the mainland opposite Lesbos to gather food.

Histiaeus and his men landed at Malene, close to Atarneus. Unfortunately for them, there was a sizable Persian army, commanded by a general called Harpagus, in the area. The Persians intercepted Histiaeus and his men as they were landing. The resulting battle lasted for some time, but was eventually decided when Harpagus committed his cavalry reserves. Most of Histiaeus's men were killed. Histiaeus himself was captured after he shouted out in Persian identifying himself while fleeing from a Persian soldier.

Harpagus passed his capture on to Artaphernes at Sardis. He realised that Histiaeus would probably be able to talk his way out of trouble if he was sent to Darius at Susa, and so he impaled him and sent his embalmed head to Susa. Artaphernes's judgement was correct - Darius was angered at the execution and ordered Histiaeus's head to be cleaned and buried with honours.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (12 May 2015), Battle of Malene, 494 BC ,

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