Everyone makes mistakes by saying hurtful things without considering the possible reaction of the other person or resulting consequences if the criticism reaches that individual. In most cases, the prudent thing to do is to remain quiet, keeping personal thoughts private unless the comments are well thought out. In the worst case, open criticisms can ruin friendships or cause deep seated anger, though it can usually be resolved. However, in the case of Aristagoras, a Persian satrap in the beginning of the 5th century BCE, it shaped the world as we know it. The ancient world at that time was organized much differently than it is today, and Persia was a dominant empire. While local conflicts were common and border skirmishes were an ongoing problem as different cultures tried to expand their holdings, these did not involve significant parts of the population; there were no major wars between empires targeted at bringing down an entire people. How the actions of Aristagoras changed this and how the series of conflicts that followed influenced the course of history are not often explored, but their effect is unmistakable. A few critical remarks started a chain of events that ultimately is why delegates to the United Nations wear suits and ties instead of turbans (Fawcett 1).
In the Mediterranean world in 499 BCE the main power was the Persian Empire. Persia was a very large domain consisting of twenty provinces called satrapies which were ruled by a governor, or satrap. The satrap was appointed by the king, who at that time was Darius I. The satrap’s duties included taxing the people, acting as a judge, and making important decisions for the satrapy. The farther the satrapy was from the capital, the more autonomous it was. As a result, the satraps on the far reaches of the Persian Empire acted as kings of their own satrapies and could, in general, do as they pleased while still benefitting from being part of a larger culture, as long as they stayed loyal to the king. This describes Aristagoras and his satrapy Miletus, located in the southwest corner of the empire.
While the rule of the different satrapies varied based on their location, they were all united with a uniform system of laws and judges. They shared abundant resources, and order was sustained. They were also all connected by a well maintained and patrolled system of roads, and cultural and technological exchange was ongoing. This existed in sharp contrast to the Greeks, who were divided in hundreds of different independent entities, called polis, ruled by tyrants. Though bound together by language, religion, and lifestyle, they were a resource poor region. As a result, each polis was fiercely jealous of independence and suspicious of their neighbors, with frequent conflicts erupting. While, collectively, they occupied a large area, they were not a dominant world force at that time. All this changed after Darius declared war, and the major polis came together and formed an alliance to counteract the Persian threat.
While it is difficult to fully document the intricacies that spurred the major events of such an early civilization, the work of the ancient historian Herodotus has provided significant detail that could not be learned through archaeological studies alone. Herodotus is known as the “Father of History” because he was the first person to not just record history but to interpret it as well. He travelled to many places of the world, including Greece and Persia, to gather information to accurately record the events that occurred in writing his nine books called the Histories. Also, what is extremely remarkable is the fact that his accounts are considered by most historians as accurate and relatively objective. Herodotus’ book is the only primary source on the Ionian Revolt, and it is because of his early work that a more complete understanding of the causes of the Persian Wars can be obtained.
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