Gateway to the Classics: The Story of Greece by Mary Macgregor
The Story of Greece by  Mary Macgregor

The Sandal Sewn by Histiaeus

Now when Darius heard that Sardis had been destroyed, he sent for Histiaeus and said to him, "O Histiaeus, I hear that the man to whom thou hast given thy city has been doing strange things. He has brought over men from Europe to help the Ionians whom I shall punish. . . . How can all this seem good to thee? And without thy counsel how could such a thing be done? See that thou bring not thyself into blame afresh."

Histiaeus tried not to think of the slave whose head he had shaved and whom he had sent to Aristagoras, as he told the king that he had had nothing to do with the revolt in Ionia. He begged to be allowed to go to help Artaphernes to put down the rebellion. He would do even more to show his loyalty; he would seize the rich island of Sardinia to add to the possessions of the great king.

"Yea, I swear by the gods whom the king worshippeth," he cried, "that I will not put off the tunic in which I shall go down to Ionia, before I bring under thy power the mighty island of Sardinia."

It was not difficult to persuade Darius that Histiaeus was innocent, for since the Greek had tarried for him at the bridge of boats the king was ever ready to believe in his loyalty. So to his great delight, Histiaeus was bidden to go to Sardis and help Artaphernes to put down the revolt.

But Artaphernes was less easily deceived than the great king. No sooner had Histiaeus arrived at Sardis than the Persian accused him of treachery.

"Why did the Ionians rebel against the king?" he asked the Greek in a stern voice.

"I cannot tell," answered Histiaeus. "I have marvelled at all the things which have happened."

"O Histiaeus," said Artaphernes, "thou hast thus much to do with these matters. Thou didst sew this sandal and Aristagoras hath put it on."

Then at length Histiaeus was afraid lest his deceit had been discovered, and lest he should be punished. So when night came he stole out of the city and went as speedily as might be to the sea. From that time he became a sea-robber or pirate, seizing any vessel from which he could hope to get booty, whether it belonged to Greek or to barbarian.

After a long time he was take prisoner by the Persians. Artaphernes ordered that he should be crucified and that his head should be sent to Darius.

But the great king was displeased that his general had not sent the Greek to him alive.

"If Histiaeus had been sent away alive to King Darius," says Herodotus, "he would not, I think, have suffered any harm, but his trespass would have been forgiven him."

Even as it was, Darius was determined to show what honour was yet possible to his faithless servant. For he ordered his slaves to "wash the head and adorn it well, and to bury it as the head of one who had done much good to himself and to the Persians."

In 494 b.c. , four years after the Athenians had sailed to the help of the Ionians, the revolt was crushed. Miletus, where the rebellion had begun, was punished more severely than the other rebellious cities.

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