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Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Anatolia


Miletus (Greeks)

Miletus was a city of the ancient Greeks, although it certainly pre-dated their arrival in Anatolia. Originally a Neolithic settlement of the Leleges people, they were largely displaced or absorbed by Indo-European Luwian speakers from about the thirteenth century BC, although Minoan settlement before that (as Milatos) may already have spelled the end of the Leleges as a recognisable Near East group.

It was Luwian-speaking Hittite texts of the second millennium BC which referred to Miletus as the city of Milawata (Millawanda, adapted from Milatos). Its Luwian settlers were related to the Lukka or Arzawans, although there is almost no detailed history for the region before the sixth century BC. The city lies in western Anatolia, about thirty kilometres south of the present-day city of Söke in Turkey and the adjacent island of Samos (site of a long-term rival city), and close to the mouth of the River Menderes (now the Büyükmenderes). In the first millennium BC this was located within the region which was known as Karkissa (or Karkija, Greek Caria).

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 - and the city did cause the Hittites some trouble in this period. Even if the majority of the Carian people were Anatolians, any external (Mycenaean) 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, Greeks certainly settled heavily along the Anatolian coast between about 1200-800 BC, including in 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.

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 the Greek colony of Sybaris in southern Italy. Miletus was also important in the founding of the Greek colony of Naukratis in Egypt and founded more than sixty (and as many as ninety) colonies on the shores of the Black Sea, including Abydos, Cyzicus, Olbia, Panticapaeum, and Sinope (now Sinop).

Although little 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 its governance was firmly in the grip of the Persian-supported tyrants.

Central Anatolian mountains

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information 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), from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from The Iliad, Homer (Translated by E V Rieu, Penguin Books, 1963), and from External Links: Hittites.info (dead link), and Encyclopaedia Iranica, and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Miletus (Perseus Digital Library), and Thrasybulus of of Miletus (Hellenica World), and A Walk Through Ancient Miletus, and The Ancient Theatre Archive.)

c.1200 - 800 BC

The entire Near East is hit by drought and the loss of surviving crops. Food supplies dwindle and the number of raids by habiru and other groups of peoples who have banded together greatly increases until, by about 1200 BC, this flood has turned into a tidal wave. Already decaying, the Hittite empire is now looted and destroyed by various surrounding peoples, including the Kaskans and the Sea Peoples (and perhaps even selectively by its own populace).

Hittite Lion Gates
The abrupt and violent termination of the second millennium BC's international system plunged Anatolia into a dark age of two or three centuries before light began to dawn on a western Anatolia which was now heavily settled by Ionian Greeks

Some important Hittite cities and states, such as Tarhuntassa and Ugarit, disappear - and Milawata (classical Miletus) is destroyed - but others, such as Carchemish, survive. Small Hittite (or 'neo-Hittite') states form out of some territories to the east and south.

In western Anatolia, Maeonia emerges as an independent kingdom, and Ionian migration away from troubles on the Greek mainland see additional settlement along the Anatolian coast. Miletus is gradually rebuilt and repopulated during this 'dark age' period, with Neleus being credited with the Ionian re-founding of the city.

fl c.1068 BC


Son of Codros of Athens. City re-founder.

c.1068 BC

Codros of Athens sacrifices himself to prevent an oracle regarding the Doric conquest of the city from coming true. In doing so, he preserves the Mycenaean bloodline which survives in Athens when all of Greece has fallen to the Dorians. His heirs become hereditary Archons, or lords, of Athens, with his son, Medros, the first of these.

Another son, Neleus, is credited with founding (actually re-founding) the city of Miletus in Caria. The native males are slaughtered, the women are taken as mates, and a Neleid monarchy is established. The link with Athens is apparently never forgotten, causing the later Persian overlords a good deal of trouble in this region.

Mycenae reconstruction
This artist's reconstruction of the citadel at Mycenae shows it at the height of its power, when Mycenaean Greeks ruled or terrorised much of the eastern Mediterranean Sea

c.1050s - ? BC


Unknown kings of Miletus.

c.890s? BC

At a highly uncertain point in the tenth or ninth centuries BC (circa 890 BC has been used here as an extremely rough approximate date), conflict erupts between two successors to the throne. The Neleid cousins, Leodamas and Phitres (or Amphitres) both claim the succession. The conflict results in a strange trial in which each pretender leads part of the Milesian army against a different enemy. Leodamas wins his battle and becomes king.

fl c.890s? BC


Neleid clan claimant. Won a succession trial. Murdered.

c.890s? BC

Having lost the succession contest, Phitres revolts and, at the head of his own force, kills Leodamas and attempts to accede to the throne. He is often shown as the earliest-known tyrant of Miletus, but if this story is accurate then he is more accurately termed its last king. Also, the shortened name Phitres is probably Amphitres in its full form.

fl c.890s? BC

Phitres / Amphitres

Usurped throne. Killed by sons of Leodamas. Last king.

c.890s? BC

The sons of Leodamas take revenge against Phitres for their father's death. It is then that Epimenes is selected as an aesymnetes (a member of the nobility who directs the city's governance). He exterminates the band of men which is formed by the sons of Phitres and establishes an aristocracy.

The temple of Apollo at Didyma (modern Didim)
The temple of Apollo at Didyma (modern Didim) sits on what was the Milesian peninsula until silting filled the bay between that and Mount Mycale, around sixteen kilometres to the south of Miletus itself

fl c.890s? BC


First aesymnetes leader of Miletus.

700s - 600s BC

Thanks to its important maritime location and its proximity to the famous sanctuary of Apollo at Didyma, Miletus prospers as a trading centre. During the eighth and seventh centuries BC, Miletus establishes as many as ninety colonies throughout the eastern Aegean, including Abydos, Cyzicus, Olbia, and Panticapaeum, and also Naukratis (Naucratis) in Egypt. Around 630 BC settlers from Miletus refound the town of Sinope on the Black Sea coast of otherwise barbaric Paphlagonia.

During the same period, Miletus is a key factor during conflicts between Greek cities. It is a permanent enemy and competitor of the neighbouring city of Samos. In the well-known war between Eretria and Chalcis over control of the Lelantine Plain (in the eighth century BC), the Milesians join the Eretrian side because Samos has sided with Chalcis.

In the first half of the seventh century BC (circa 699-650 BC) the Milesians ally themselves with Erythrae against Naxos, while towards the end of the same century Erythrae becomes the enemy of Miletus, which has joined forces with Chios.

Thales of Miletus
Thales of Miletus, sixth century BC mathematician, astronomer, and pre-Socratic philosopher, is counted as the first of the 'Seven Sages' during a period in which rational thought began to replace superstition

fl c.615 - 598/4 BC


First tyrant? Ally of Periandros of Corinth.

c.609/5 - 598/4 BC

The Lydians conquer the southern Anatolian region of Pamphylia and expand the kingdom in all directions. This brings them into direct contact with Greek settlers in western Anatolia, but a lengthy war is triggered against the city of Miletus in Caria around 609 BC (or 605 BC). According to Herodotus, eleven years later Thrasybulus tricks Alyattes II of Lydia into agreeing peace following stalemate on the battlefield. Thrasybulus appears to be tyrant before the war starts and after its conclusion.

fl c.590s BC


Succeeded Thrasybulus.

fl c.580s BC


Succeeded Thoas. Expelled?

c.590s - 560s BC

Details are vague, but with Thrasybulus having apparently overthrown the aristocracy to become tyrant, Thoas and Damasanor aim to politically eliminate the most notable aristocratic families. With Milesian exports now in decline, a generalised revolt follows, lasting for two generations according to Plutarch.

It brings about conflict between two classes of the population, the aeinautes and the cheiromaches, and may be settled by Parian judges who recommend an oligarchic regime. An alternative for cheiromaches is that the subjugated remnants of the Leleges people are behind the revolt.

Coins of Croesus of Lydia
Croesus of Lydia was reputed to have minted the first gold and silver coins - two sides of such a silver coin are shown here - and was famous for his wealth until he became too ambitious and was conquered by the growing Persian empire

c.582 - 547 BC

The 'Seven Sages' are created during the Athenian archonship of Damasius (582-581 BC). Thales of Miletus, mathematician, astronomer, and pre-Socratic philosopher, is counted as the first sage. Details about his heritage conflict, either placing him in Miletus as the son of a Greek woman and Phoenician-descended man, or having him emigrate there from Athens (the cities have been closely linked for centuries). Once there, aside from his teachings, he is present on the campaign by Croesus of Lydia in 547 BC against Cyrus the Great.

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, Caria, Lycia, Lydia, Paphlagonia, Phrygia, and Tabal (Cappadocia), and Harpagus and his descendants reign thereafter in Karkâ (Caria) and Lykia (Lycia) (and apparently Khilakku too) as satraps.

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

A new administrative structure is introduced to replace the defeated Anatolian kingdoms. The new great satrapy of Sparda initially controls not only the territory of the former kingdom of Lydia around its capital of Sardis, but also that of Katpatuka (Tabal) which had been the initial target of Lydia's aggression.

The new satrapy also consists of the more peripheral minor satrapies of Hellespontine Phrygia (with its capital at Daskyleion), Greater Phrygia, and also Skudra between 512-479 BC. Miletus signs a treaty with Cyrus which essentially preserves the rights it had previously established with Lydia.

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.

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
The great fourth century BC mausoleum of Mausolus and Artemisia (II) of Halicarnassus is reproduced here in CGI, but plans announced in 2019 may see it 'restituted' along with a host of other historical structures

fl c.520s? BC


Tyrant of Miletus? Persian vassal.

fl c.518 - 514 BC

Histiaios / Histiaeus

Son. Transferred to the Persian royal court. Killed 493 BC.

513 - 512 BC

The Persians enter northern Greece, with Darius conquering Thrace south of the Danube. They hold onto it for about fifty years, possibly until they are forced out of Macedonia by Alexander I. This territory is subjoined as a minor satrapy to the great satrapy of Sparda. Colchis on the eastern shore of the Black Sea is taken during the same campaign and is created a minor satrapy under the oversight of Armina.

Darius' campaign against the Scythians proves to be an embarrassing failure, however. Histiaios and the other Anatolian tyrants are required to take part in the effort with their own troops. Histiaios guards the bridge across the Danube while Darius explores to the north.

He refuses Scythian suggestions that he and other tyrants should abandon the Persians, and Miltiades the Younger of Athens, tyrant of the Chersonese, is in agreement. Histiaios, though, points out the fact that the tyrants owe their positions to appointments which have been made by Darius. If he is killed by the barbarians, his successor may not be too impressed with them.

fl c.513 - 499 BC


Nephew. Tyrant of Miletus. Revolted against Persia. 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 recognised an opportunity to rid himself (and his now-detained uncle, Histiaios) of Persian control.

Darius the Great of Persia
The central relief of the North Stairs of the Apadana in Persepolis, now in the Archaeological Museum in Tehran, shows Darius I (the Great) on his royal throne (External Link: Creative Commons Licence 4.0 International)

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. Histiaios, returned to lead the revolt, is executed in 493 BC.

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, 'a man of distinction' (but not the contemporary famous philosopher), but Darius the Great kills the men of the city and enslaves its women and children, ensuring that the city is deserted (almost certainly an exaggerated report). For its part in the revolt, Athens will soon face the first of two Persian invasions of Greece itself.

499 - 494? BC


Tyrant of Miletus. Post terminated by Darius?

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.

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

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.

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 and lose many of the coastal cities on the Aegean, including Miletus.

Coins issued by Evagoras
Shown here are the two sides of a silver coin which was issued by the Cyprian Greek King Evagoras during his Athenian-supported rebellious reign of Salamis

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 Lykia 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 - 386 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 once it is reincorporated into the Persian empire from 386 BC, at least in principle.

Greek theatre of Miletus
The Greek theatre of Miletus was constructed between about 250-225 BC, although it was subsequently remodelled several times, gaining some Roman influences along the way (External Link: www.yollardan.com, in Turkish)

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.

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 which had been brewing for generations, and his victory in battle near the river sent shockwaves through the Persian empire

Sparda surrenders, but Karkâ's satrap, Orontobates, holds out in the fortress of Halicarnassus with the Persian General Memnon. The fortress is blockaded, the garrison at Miletus is defeated, and Alexander moves on to fight the Lykian 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. Balacrus, the new Greek satrap of Cilicia, is forced to come to the aid of Miletus in 332 BC when a unit of Persians is temporarily able to reoccupy the city.

323 - 320 BC

With the sudden death of Alexander the Great his two successors are retained as figureheads while the empire is governed by his powerful generals. Perdiccas, the leading cavalry commander, is the first general to take a commanding role, carrying the title 'Regent of Macedonia', first with Meleager, head of the infantry officers, as his lieutenant, but alone after he has him murdered. Assander, long-time satrap of Lydia, is granted control of Caria and its key city of Miletus, to be confirmed by Antipater.

Eumenes of Cardia
Eumenes of Cardia, Macedonian general and one of Alexander the Great's 'successors' between whom a series of wars were fought

320 - 301 BC

A new agreement with Antipater in 320 BC makes him regent of the Macedonian (Greek) empire and commander of the European section. Antigonus remains in charge of Lycia and Pamphylia, to which is added overlordship of Lycaonia, Syria, and Phoenicia, making him commander of the Asian section.

His main task is to defeat Eumenes. Ptolemy retains Egypt, Lysimachus retains Phrygia and Thrace, while the three murderers of Perdiccas - Seleucus, Peithon, and Antigenes - are given the former Persian provinces of Babylonia, Media, and Susiana respectively. Caria - and therefore Miletus - also appear to become part of the Antigonid holdings.

301 - 281 BC

The Fourth War of the Diadochi has broken out (in 308 BC), although Seleucus has already dealt Antigonus a decisive defeat in 309 BC to fully secure his hold on Babylonia. Ptolemy (from Egypt) and Cassander (from Macedonia) face Antigonus and Demetrius in this conflict, with Syria being the prize that Ptolemy especially desires.

Antigonus is killed at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC, ending his Antigonid hold over Caria. The region is transferred to the rule of the Lysimachian empire during the subsequent division of the spoils, which holds it at least until the death of its ruler in 281 BC.

279 BC

Ptolemy Philadelphus of Egypt is constantly seeking routes into Anatolia with an eye to dominating the entire eastern end of the Mediterranean. In this year he captures Miletus from the Seleucids and a vassal tyrant is put in place to govern the city. Whether or not he replaces another tyrant is not clear.

Battle of Ipsus
The Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC ended the drawn-out and destructive Wars of the Diadochi which decided how Alexander's empire would be divided

279 - 258 BC

Timarchus / Timarch

Tyrant of Miletus. Vassal of Egypt. Killed.

261 - 256 BC

The interference by Ptolemy II 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.

It is likely that Timarchus is the very last of the tyrants, with the city remaining an Egyptian possession until the end of the century. Roman domination follows as the Greek states crumble.

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