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What incentive does Aristagoras offer the Spartans for invading Persia? Do you think this would have appealed to the Spartans?

Here is Herodotus’ report of Aristagoras’ offer to Cleomenes. Read the selection below (Hdt. 5.49). You can Herodotus’s report by answering the following questions in your own notes. Then take the answer to what you think is the most interesting answer, and post it on the discussion board.

“It was in the reign of Cleomenes that Aristagoras the tyrant of Miletus came to Sparta. When he had an audience with the king, as the Lacedaemonians [Spartans] report, he brought with him a bronze tablet on which the map of all the earth was engraved, and all the sea and all the rivers. Having been admitted to converse with Cleomenes, Aristagoras spoke thus to him:

‘Do not wonder, Cleomenes, that I have been so eager to come here, for our present situation is such that the sons of the Ionians are slaves and not free men, which is shameful and grievous particularly to ourselves but also, of all others, to you, inasmuch as you are the leaders of Hellas. Now, therefore, we entreat you by the gods of Hellas to save your Ionian kinsmen from slavery. This is a thing which you can easily achieve, for the strangers [Persians] are not valiant men while your valor in war is preeminent. As for their manner of fighting, they carry bows and short spears, and they go to battle with trousers on their legs and turbans on their heads. Accordingly, they are easy to overcome.

Furthermore, the inhabitants of that continent have more good things than all other men together, gold first but also silver, bronze, colored cloth, beasts of burden, and slaves. All this you can have to your heart’s desire. The lands in which they dwell lie next to each other, as I shall show: next to the Ionians are the Lydians, who inhabit a good land and have great store of silver.’ (This he said pointing to the map of the earth which he had brought engraved on the tablet.)

‘Next to the Lydians,’ said Aristagoras, ‘you see the Phrygians to the east, men that of all known to me are the richest in flocks and in the fruits of the earth. Close by them are the Cappadocians, whom we call Syrians, and their neighbors are the Cilicians, whose land reaches to the sea over there, in which you see the island of Cyprus lying. The yearly tribute which they pay to the king is five hundred talents. Next to the Cilicians, are the Armenians, another people rich in flocks, and after the Armenians, the Matieni, whose country I show you. Adjoining these you see the Cissian land, in which, on the Choaspes, lies that Susa where the great king lives and where the storehouses of his wealth are located. Take that city, and you need not fear to challenge Zeus for riches. You should suspend your war, then, for strips of land of no great worth — for that fight with Messenians, who are matched in strength with you, and Arcadians and Argives, men who have nothing in the way of gold or silver (for which things many are spurred by zeal to fight and die). Yet when you can readily be masters of all Asia, will you refuse to attempt it?’ Thus spoke Aristagoras, and Cleomenes replied: ‘Milesian, my guest, wait till the third day for my answer.’”

How does Aristagoras misrepresent the strength and martial ability of the Persians?

What do you think the purpose of the map is? [there is an obvious purpose, but perhaps a less obvious one]

What incentive does Aristagoras offer the Spartans for invading Persia? Do you think this would have appealed to the Spartans?

How does Aristagoras compare the Messenian war with the invasion of Persia?

Overall how would you characterize Aristagoras in this episode?

Comment Herodotus’ use of sources? Do you think he had a verbatim account of Aristagoras’ visit to Cleomenes? If not why does he tell his story this way?

Please read above article and answer questions.

There is another resource you might use which is

“S.B. Pomeroy, S.M. Burstein, W. Donlan and J. Tolbert Roberts, 2008. Ancient Greece. A Political, Social and Cultural History. New York: OUP.”


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