Dan Carlin's Hardcore History - Show 57 - Kings of Kings II

Episode Date: March 20, 2016

From Biblical-era coup conspiracies to the horrific aftermath of ancient combat this second installment of the series on the Kings of Achaemenid Persia goes where only Dan can take it. For better or w...orseā€¦

Transcript
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Starting point is 00:00:00 What you're about to hear is part two of a multi-part series on the Achaemenid Persian Empire, and especially its dealings with the Greeks. I suggest getting part one and listening to that first before you dive into this, but listen, I'm not here to tell you how to live your life. You do anything you want. I would like to point out that this is the Dan Carlin version of this story, which is always what you get with me, which may or may not correspond to the traditional way these things are told, so please listen at your own risk, and if it sparks an interest in the subject, I'd be very happy about that. Nonetheless, without further ado, and with proper warnings in place, this is Kings of Kings, part two. December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy. The events. One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
Starting point is 00:01:17 I take pride in the words, Ish bin, I'm the Elina. Mr. Robachoff, the drama. Paired down this wall. Eight-sixty-and-a-half-courts, nine-six. Number two has had a major explosion and what appears to be a complete collapse in the entire area. I welcome this kind of examination because people have got to know whether or not their president's a crook, but I'm not a crook. If we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. It's hardcore history.
Starting point is 00:02:05 How many people out of a hundred that you could name, either people that you knew or people that you've heard of or read about? How many people out of a hundred do you think could handle absolute power without totally losing their mind? And if you could handle it initially, if you could find that well-balanced person who could deal with it initially, what about dealing with it for the long haul? Because, you know, history shows that there are a lot of people that, you know, the power gets to you over time. It eats at you slowly. I mean, if you could handle absolute power initially, could you handle it for 10 years or 20 years or 30 years? Those of us in democratic systems tend to assume, because it's kind of built into the thinking of our political systems, that nobody can handle absolute power. Or that it's certainly an unbelievably small number, right? Absolute power corrupts absolutely. How long have we all heard that term? And we assume it's a truism. I know I do.
Starting point is 00:03:07 And yet I can prove myself wrong pretty easily by looking back at the past and realizing that by that sort of rationale, shouldn't every emperor and king throughout history that had either close to or de facto absolute power, shouldn't they all be crazy? Shouldn't they all lose their minds? And while you could certainly say most of them probably lost perspective of, for example, what life was like for normal people, the vast majority of them didn't go crazy, which might be more interesting than assuming the opposite. Although we all know of the high-profile examples, don't we? And, you know, I'll use the classic one, so why not go right to Godwin's Lime and look at Hitler? You could say maybe it was a form of Parkinson's disease or maybe the doctor feel-good drugs he was being shot up with.
Starting point is 00:04:00 At the same time, by the end of his rule, he's exhibiting the classic symptoms of megalomania and paranoia that come with the absolute power sort of stereotype. Look at a guy like Alexander the Great. I mean, he's almost another kind of Godwin's law, isn't he? Especially with this program. By his early 30s, he's as paranoid and as megalomaniacal as Hitler is. And again, maybe some of that's connected to what a lot of historians would call rampant and terminal, maybe, at the point he was at alcoholism. Who knows? It's difficult to separate. But Alexander seemed to be able to handle power initially and then somewhere along the line, he couldn't. And the sources at the time, by the way, write about this growing megalomania and paranoia. Not very fair sources, maybe, too. Let's acknowledge that. When the near legendary and enormous historical figure of Cyrus the Great that we talked about in the first part of the story, when he dies or is killed in 530 or 529 BCE,
Starting point is 00:05:04 he bequeaths to his son the most dangerous inheritance I can imagine. He leaves in the empire that he had just won. And by doing so, he both creates an immense challenge for his son to overcome. Absolute power or something very close to it and what that can do to him. But also he hands his son something that is so valuable that immediately other entities are going to be tempted by it. It's like leaving him gold and jewels, which, you know, in effect he really did leave him, and then sending him out at two in the morning to walk down the most crime-ridden street in town. You're always going to be looking over your shoulder, and there may be other people very tempted by what you have. Cyrus the Great's oldest son was named Cambyses. Officially it's Cambyses II.
Starting point is 00:06:00 As part of what made Cyrus such a visionary ruler, he paid a lot of attention before his death to making sure that there would be a smooth transition of power from him to his, you know, designated successor. This is an era in human history where this was a very precarious affair a lot of the time. I mean, we take for granted in our democratic systems today that the transfer of power will be relatively smooth, and we consider it a really big deal in a constitutional crisis if, you know, we can't name the winner at the end of the day, you know, on an election day, and if it has to go to a court, and if there's challenges to, you know, ballots in this state, or that's it, that's a huge deal. In the ancient Near East, in West Asia, in the period we're talking about here, all kinds of nightmares happened,
Starting point is 00:06:47 and any king or ruler would have known about them. There would be revolutions and coups and assassinations, and sons would kill their parents and go to war with each other. I mean, my favorite story about these kinds of affairs, and it's a classic case, I guess you could say. The rule-proving classic case is the Assyrian king Sennacherib, who famously destroyed Babylon and then lost his life supposedly while praying at the hands of at least one and maybe two of his sons. And in one tradition, by the way, killed with a statue that represented Babylon, so you get that wonderful, you know, ancient history tie-in that the authors from ancient times all like, where, you know, there's a certain karmic justice here, you destroyed Babylon and then the god of Babylon gets back at you,
Starting point is 00:07:32 and then his sons go to war with each other, the tale tells, and a third son maybe comes in, defeats both of them, and then takes over the throne. Sounds perverse, but not that unusual, and a guy like Cyrus the Great would have understood, you know, the pitfalls, right, there's gonna be a ton of entities out there that want the power that you just created. Remember, Cyrus is a guy who in a space of a single reign, admittedly long reign, took his people from a geographical backwater on the world stage and made them the masters of the greatest empire the world had ever seen. A guy whose initial title when he came to the throne was King of Anshan,
Starting point is 00:08:09 and whose titles when he died were things like King of the World, King of the Four Corners of the Earth, King of the Universe. As we said in the first part of this show, that's a heck of a promotion in one lifetime. And while it's hard enough for the self-made individual that makes that progress in the space of a lifetime, how much harder might it be for people who simply have that handed to them? The second generation or the third generation who begins to live a lifestyle that's different and expects these sorts of things. And you can see Cyrus training his son for years before his demise to make him, you know, ready, essentially on-the-job training. He's gonna hand over the family business to his son, and so his son gets to be the Viceroy of Babylon for a while,
Starting point is 00:08:55 gets to hang out with the army for a while, do this, do that. He's learning how to be the King of Kings. I wonder if that somehow increases your chances that you can do so without losing your mind and your perspective. Cyrus also brokers an important deal because he has more than one son. And, you know, if you look back at even recent history, a guy like Cyrus would have been able to notice how much of a problem you have when you have more than one possible inheritor to the throne. Cyrus, in addition to his oldest son, Cambyses, has another one known by multiple names. The most common, probably to be mispronounced by yours truly, is Bardia.
Starting point is 00:09:34 He's the younger son. And according to the ancient sources, take this for what it's worth. When Cyrus is crafting essentially his will, his inheritance, the deal, he makes Cambyses the next King of Kings, but he gives sort of a consolation prize to the younger brother, right? You lose out on the fruits of empire, but here's your runner-up gift. He gives to him a large territory in Central Asia to govern, and apparently says that unlike all the other territories that are being governed in the name of the King, you can keep the taxes and the tribute, you know, from your places.
Starting point is 00:10:09 You still are beholden to your older brother, but you have a nice little, you know, place to call your own, sort of, and keep the money. And initially this seems to work rather well, because when Cyrus dies, the transition to his chosen successor seems to be relatively seamless. And then things begin to get corrupted. So corrupted, in fact, that you actually have to look at the end of Cambyses's reign and then work backward to the beginning, because what happens at the end changes, corrupts, and alters all that we know about the reign. Cambyses II's reign is going to be like a game of clue. Did you ever play that game where, you know, you have to figure out the murder mystery and the weapon and what room it happened? It was Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick trying to figure out the reign of Cambyses and who this guy was
Starting point is 00:11:08 is a little like trying to figure out the who done it of the game of clue, because something happens to Cambyses. And it might be that he goes insane because he can't handle the amount of absolute power he has. That's what the ancient sources indicate, right? Herodotus basically says Cambyses lost his mind. But a lot of modern historians don't buy that at all. They see a cover-up, a conspiracy, something that would not be unfamiliar to people who read things about the John F. Kennedy assassination and conspiracy tales about that, because there's something about the demise of Cambyses that looks a lot like one of those John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy books or several of them. What's more, the people that may have gotten the King of Kings, the founder of the Persian Empire's son out of the way
Starting point is 00:12:01 may have been the ones who got to then decide how the history about him was written. And that has colored everything we know about the second ruler of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. A guy who had the very unenviable task of trying to follow a legend. I mean, who could follow Alexander the Great? Well, nobody. They ripped his empire apart and started fighting over it rather quickly. Who could follow Adolf Hitler if his dreams of a thousand-year Reich even partially came true? You can't even imagine it can. Hitler's personality and DNA was entwined all throughout the idea of the Third Reich.
Starting point is 00:12:44 You can't even imagine anyone succeeding him in any sort of a realistic way, right? It was to, you know, Admiral Donuts who succeeds him for a couple days to sign the peace agreement. Who could succeed Napoleon? Cambyses II is in an unenviable position. But if modern historians are to be believed, and I shouldn't see why they shouldn't be, he did a pretty good job for the time he had available to him. Was he insane? That's a much harder one to figure out.
Starting point is 00:13:16 It depends on who you believe. But if he was, sure wouldn't be hard to imagine why. How many people that you know out of a hundred could handle absolute power. The idea that Cambyses was insane and that he did all these crazy things was one that took hold way back in ancient times and persisted up until really like the 1960s or 1970s. Will Durant in 1935, a great historian writing an outdated history, did a wonderful job, and by the way, taking it at face value,
Starting point is 00:13:54 giving you the traditional Cambyses story. And it's a litany of horrors, but it's fascinating as heck. I mean, if you're Herodotus, and we've described the ancient Greek historian as an ancient screenwriter or script runner. If you're Herodotus, don't you want a nice half-mad Persian king to play around with? Because think about the possibilities inherent in that, right? Here's the way Will Durant describes this in 1935. Again, taking the entire story at face value,
Starting point is 00:14:21 but essentially giving you the story as it was understood and believed to have happened for thousands of years. He writes starting to talk about Cyrus, Cambyses' father, and contrasting and comparing them. He says, quote, One great defect had sullied his character, meaning Cyrus' character. Occasional and incalculable cruelty. It was inherited, unmixed with Cyrus' generosity, by his half-mad son.
Starting point is 00:14:49 Cambyses began by putting to death his brother and rival. He means Bardia, he says, Smeridus. I told you the guy had a lot of names. By putting to death his brother and rival Smeridus, then, lured by the accumulated wealth of Egypt, he set forth to extend the Persian Empire to the Nile. He succeeded, but apparently at the cost of his sanity. Memphis was captured easily,
Starting point is 00:15:11 but an army of 50,000 Persians sent to annex the oasis of Amun, perished in the desert. And the expedition to Carthage failed, because the Phoenician crews of the Persian fleet refused to attack a Phoenician colony. Cambyses lost his head and abandoned the wise clemency and tolerance of his father. He publicly scoffed at the Egyptian religion
Starting point is 00:15:33 and plunged his dagger derisively into the bull, revered by the Egyptians as the god Apis. He exhumed mummies and pried into royal tombs, regardless of ancient curses. He profaned the temples and ordered their idols to be burnt. He thought in this way to cure the Egyptians of superstition. But when he was stricken with an illness, apparently epileptic convulsions,
Starting point is 00:15:54 the Egyptians were certain that their gods had punished him, and that the theology was now confirmed beyond dispute. As if again to illustrate the inconveniences of monarchy, Durand writes, Cambyses, with a Napoleonic kick in the stomach, killed his sister and wife, Roxana, slew his son, Prosaspis, with an arrow, buried twelve noble Persians alive,
Starting point is 00:16:16 condemned Crises to death, repented, rejoiced to learn that the sentence had not been carried out, and then punished the officers who delayed in executing it. On his way back to Persia, he learned that a usurper had seized the throne and was being supported by widespread revolution. From that moment he disappears from history. Tradition has it that he killed himself.
Starting point is 00:16:36 End quote. If you're the ancient screenwriter that is Herodotus, you love this guy as a story element. But is it true? Trying to investigate, you know, what happened here is like going into a crime scene and being an investigator. I've often thought that history is like a crime scene. And, you know, I am not a historian,
Starting point is 00:17:00 I'm an admirer from afar, and I love those moments where historians are put into the, sort of the Joe Friday, the Sergeant Joe Friday, or the, as I said, Colombo mode, and go into the game of clue and start investigating what happened. And the guys from Durant's era and earlier, they're sort of like old-timer investigators. They go out there, they interview the witnesses,
Starting point is 00:17:20 and they try to figure out what happened, and they give you the story as they understand it. But they don't have modern-day techniques, right? It's like investigating the Kennedy assassination, you know, with techniques from the early 1960s or being able to have it happen today and investigate it with DNA evidence and modern-day ballistics and, you know, in audio samples and cameras on every street corner.
Starting point is 00:17:40 I mean, the difference is, you know, astonishing. And when modern-day historians go back and examine this case, they break it down to the same sorts of things you would if you were Sergeant Joe Friday going into the scene. You'd start looking at the physical evidence, right? The blood spatter and the fingerprints. That's the archaeological stuff. And you start comparing that to the stories you got
Starting point is 00:18:01 from the witnesses and the different people around, you know, the neighborhood. They're the, you know, written sources and the stuff that's come down to us. And you start compiling sort of a, you know, a composite of what the person, the victim, was like. And then maybe you send investigators down to the city hall and you start looking at the paper trail
Starting point is 00:18:19 and see if there's any, you know, records on this person, arrest records, real estate transactions, anything like that. Those are the, you know, ancient sources like the Babylonian tablets that they've found. And you try to compile some sort of a semblance of what happened based on, you know, the total view of the evidence. The story of the Cambyses is insane,
Starting point is 00:18:41 comes from some of the, you know, witnesses at the crime scene. And they may have been giving you the information second-hand, and it may have come from biased sources. But if you're investigating, you know, this crime scene, you'll start with just the facts, as Sergeant Joe Friday might have said. The facts of Cambyses, the second reign that you can say, with certainty, is that he, you know,
Starting point is 00:19:10 ruled for about eight years from about 530 BCE to about 522 BCE. He was the king that first really gave the Persian Empire a naval capability, and this may not sound like a big deal, but really it made them the first of the powers that were based in Mesopotamia and that area of the world to have any sort of significant naval capability ever. People like the Assyrians might have had the tribute
Starting point is 00:19:39 and the nominal allegiance of some of these coastal cities on the Mediterranean may have even been able to operate some coastal forces or forces in freshwater areas, but the Persians become the first of these people to have a fleet which is significant on the Mediterranean naval world stage, and it should be. They take over the one that was probably the best
Starting point is 00:19:57 in the Mediterranean up until that time. They start absorbing Phoenician cities with the fabulous Phoenician navies, and the way the Persians governed, they didn't create their own navy or they didn't take the Phoenicians and make them as a base to start their own. They simply went in there and sort of subcontracted it
Starting point is 00:20:13 and said, well, listen, what you have to offer the Empire militarily speaking is, you know, you already have a fleet, so when we need a fleet, your fleet is our fleet and you'll run it and you know what you're doing and there'll be a bonus in it for you if you do well. The Assyrians would have said something like you perform well or else the Persians probably said something like,
Starting point is 00:20:28 you know, you perform well and there'll be a little something extra at the end of the year. So Cambyses is the guy that does that, and that makes a huge difference in the story that's about to happen because if the Persians don't have any naval power, well, a lot of the things that, you know,
Starting point is 00:20:43 occur in the rest of their history can't. For example, the other thing, Cambyses is absolutely known for and that's a physical fact and that's that he's the king of kings that takes over Egypt. Something that requires, by the way, this navy in order to do
Starting point is 00:20:58 and that completes the conquest of his father. Remember his father, you know, when he first started off conquering things, there were four kind of superpowers in the world at that time or their version of the world. Cyrus conquered three of them. His son conquered the remaining one. And Egypt was a great state, pretty much always.
Starting point is 00:21:18 They were no pushover, although not a lot is known about, you know, the fighting and the battles and all that sort of stuff. There were some decent stories. One of the more perverse that one of the ancient sources wrote, you know, probably totally false, but said that the Persians took advantage
Starting point is 00:21:38 of the ancient Egyptians' reverence for cats and strapped cats to their shields so that the Egyptian archers would be, you know, unsure of how to react to that. That would be exactly the kind of, you know, image that a Herodotus-type character would love to share with an audience. That's a colorful anecdote, isn't it?
Starting point is 00:21:58 But Herodotus himself says he actually saw bone fields in Egypt from some of these battles and that would have been, you know, 75 years after the fact or something. So it would be very interesting. It's not like Herodotus to lie about what he actually sees or what he actually talks to somebody about seeing. Herodotus tells a story from the fighting
Starting point is 00:22:20 that says that the Persians at one point, and this would be very like them, by the way, because didn't we talk about in the last program that they essentially did this with the Greeks and with other peoples? They sent envoys to the Egyptian defenders at one point, probably trying to offer them a typical Persian deal, you know. You give up this fight, we'll all benefit, blah, blah, blah.
Starting point is 00:22:37 It'll be great, you know. And it must have been a sizable delegation because Herodotus says that the Egyptians seized the delegation and tore them limb from limb. And pretty much at any time in history, just about anywhere you go, envoys and ambassadors and whatnot are untouchable. I mean, there are usually very strong reasons
Starting point is 00:23:02 to not abuse the envoys of another country and the Persians are no example. And as we said in the last episode, the Persians are very lenient empire, sort of graded on a curve, but they could be just as nasty as their predecessors in the region when they decided they wanted to send a message. And the Persians were very good at knowing who to send it to.
Starting point is 00:23:22 Herodotus tells a story, who knows if it's true or not, about what the Egyptian punishment was when they lost the war and someone had to pay for the treatment of those envoys who were so horribly abused. Herodotus has Cambyses right after he captures Egypt, summoning the Egyptian elite to the capital at Memphis to watch a demonstration of what happens to people who break the law.
Starting point is 00:23:51 And I keep trying to imagine what a scene like this is like. It must have been, you know, intense enough with an oral historian like Herodotus talking about it to an audience. I can't imagine what the big screen modern-day blockbuster movie would be like. But here's what Herodotus says, and you try to imagine, you know,
Starting point is 00:24:13 what the sound of 2,000 parents watching their children being executed is like. Herodotus says, quote, Nine days after Cambyses had taken control over Memphis, he seated Semenotus, king of Egypt, who had reigned six months and other Egyptians in front of the entrance to the town as an insult, and he tested the spirit of Semenotus in this way.
Starting point is 00:24:41 He had the daughter of the former king dressed like a slave and sent out carrying a jug to get water, along with other girls, selected daughters of the most eminent men, and all dressed in the same way as the daughter of Semenotus. As the girls walked past their fathers, they cried out and wept, and all the other fathers seeing their children so degraded
Starting point is 00:25:03 answered their cries and wept with their own. But Semenotus, after seeing and recognizing his daughter, only bent down in silence to the ground. Herodotus continues, quote, After the girls had gone by with their water, Cambyses sent out the son of Semenotus with 2,000 other Egyptians the same age, bound with ropes around their necks and bits in their mouths.
Starting point is 00:25:27 They were being led in this manner in order to pay the penalty for the Egyptians' destruction of the middleenians and their ship at Memphis, and for the decision of the royal judges, was that for each member of the ship's crew, 10 eminent Egyptians should be put to death in return. Semenotus saw them passing by and realized that his son was being led to his death.
Starting point is 00:25:47 But while the other Egyptians seated around him were crying and openly expressing their anguish, he behaved just as he had in the case of his daughter. End quote. I try to imagine that scene. The parents watching their children put to death and the slavery thing might not hit home until you think about, you know, these girls were probably dressed extremely scantily.
Starting point is 00:26:10 These are formerly the noble women, you know, of the realm, and they're dressed in a way that would be provocative to, let's just say, the male population looking for slaves for more than just menial labor. We tend to forget that element of slavery over time, but it's undoubtable that sex was an integral part of the attraction of having someone that you owned available at any time.
Starting point is 00:26:35 And if you're the parent watching your daughter in that situation, the anguish and then to watch your son being executed in front of you and then seeing, you know, the other people in your situation are right next to you in this crowd seeing that, I mean, what's that sound like? What is this allegation true? There you begin to ask questions that are part of investigating, you know, the crime scene.
Starting point is 00:27:02 I'll tell you this, if it was true, it's not hard to imagine that Cambyses might have made a few enemies in Egyptian society and might not have the greatest reputation in Egypt, because this is where you can start the investigative process. Herodotus is very open about where he was getting his information about these events, which happened about 75 years before, you know, he's writing.
Starting point is 00:27:28 He says he got information from Persians and Egyptians. Well, the Egyptians might not have been too happy with Cambyses to begin with, and by the time Herodotus is talking to them, they're having problems with Persia and they're very happy and they've had some revolts, and there's every reason to believe that Herodotus' Egyptian sources that he used
Starting point is 00:27:46 were particularly anti-Persian and particularly anti-Cambyses. And the Persian sources were too, which is a much harder question to answer. You know, why is the son of Cyrus not more highly thought of amongst his own people? There's a lot of allegations against Cambyses. And we'll use the legal terms, right, alleged,
Starting point is 00:28:10 as though the lawyer is piling up the historical charges against him. He's alleged to have, you know, killed the children of those prominent Egyptians. He's alleged to have lost an entire 40 or 50,000-man army in the desert on the way to conquer an oasis, and supposedly a sandstorm blows up,
Starting point is 00:28:30 buries the whole army, and they're still there. Most historians and articles I've read do not believe they're still there, but it's an intriguing enough thing to capture the hearts of archaeologists about every 10 or so years who set out for expeditions or start talking about the, you know,
Starting point is 00:28:48 likelihood of finding the lost army of Cambyses. Then supposedly, in his rage and haste, he's supposed to have attacked the people to the south of Egypt. The vile Kush the Egyptians called them once upon a time. The black African Egyptians, you know, if you will. When people think of, you know, dark sub-Saharan African pharaohs,
Starting point is 00:29:13 they're thinking of the Kushites, and the Kushites dominated Egypt for, you know, the time period, for example, around the Assyrian time period, where you literally had black pharaohs, and the culture of this area down south of Egypt was Egyptian also. You know, the ancient sources say that Cambyses didn't prepare for this, and as generals told them,
Starting point is 00:29:33 they had to have supplies, and he didn't care, and the army starts starving in the field. And they draw lots, the ancient sources say, and you pick a lot, and the guy who gets the short end of the straw, one out of 10 of the Persian soldiers, has to sacrifice themselves for the army and into the pot they go. And then the same sources say that Cambyses,
Starting point is 00:29:52 you know, bringing his cannibalistic, decimated army back up to Egypt, gets there and sees the Egyptians celebrating. And so Cambyses assumes that the celebration is a celebration of his misfortune, and he starts getting crazy and killing priests and interrogating them, and then he does the thing that is the most sacrilegious in the tradition,
Starting point is 00:30:13 and he picks up a dagger and he stabs the apus bull. If that's true, there's very little that would have upset the Egyptians more than that. The apus bull is a sacred Egyptian symbol. They are venerated, treated with a huge amount of care and respect, and so for Cambyses to deliberately injure or hurt it would have been a huge religious transgression and shocking to the people
Starting point is 00:30:40 of Egypt. And once upon a time, the early investigators of this historical crime scene accepted that Cambyses killed the apus bull, and a lot of other things followed from that. Not hard to see that he's got bad press and his portrait is insane. Herodotus straight up says he is,
Starting point is 00:31:01 and the killing of the apus bull is one of the best pieces of evidence that proves it, but the modern-day investigators, the Columbos, the Joe Fridays, have more tools at their disposal and more information at hand than the early investigators did. They might have had to rely on, you know, witness testimony back in the day of Will Durant in 1935, but by about the 1960s and 1970s,
Starting point is 00:31:26 the records were becoming available, and modern-day historians could look at the equivalent of fingerprints and the blood spatter evidence, and they found out through Egyptian records that that apus bull didn't die because it was killed. Not only did it die a normal death and was interred with the other apus bulls from previous times, but the Persian king of kings, Camp Isis,
Starting point is 00:31:52 as Pharaoh conducted all the normal sorts of religious rites and sacraments you would have expected a native-born Pharaoh to do. He behaved exactly as you would have expected him to if he was keeping a continuous policy, you know, the sort his father used to employ of tolerance, and having the Persian king assume the legitimate mantle of the religious beliefs in the governments
Starting point is 00:32:18 of all these countries and fit in perfectly. This is part of what began to make modern-day historians suspicious of the official story. So who was propagating the official story? Is this all based on, you know, Greek writers like Herodotus, who had all sorts of undercurrents of other things he was writing about,
Starting point is 00:32:41 including, you know, the idea of the growth of Persian decadence and how, you know, from the greatness of Cyrus, he was already beginning to fall one son into it, who's drinking himself to death, spending too much time in the harem and losing his mind, and it's all downhill from there, to themes of oriental weakness and decadence
Starting point is 00:32:58 and indulgence that have continued up until the present day. So you take everything he says with a grain of salt, but there's an influential Persian that sort of takes a swipe at Camp Isis and adds fuel to the conspiracy fire when he says Camp Isis killed his brother and kept it a secret.
Starting point is 00:33:22 Quote, Camp Isis had a brother, Bardia by name, of the same mother and the same father as Camp Isis. Afterwards, Camp Isis killed Bardia. When Camp Isis had killed Bardia, it did not become known to the people that Bardia had been killed. End quote.
Starting point is 00:33:41 Those ancient allegations are more than 2,500 years old. They were carved into the rock face of a sacred mountainside, along which the old heavily traveled royal road used to run. I've always thought of it as kind of one of the most successful examples of a roadside billboard ad ever, although I don't think it was very easy to see from the road. They put a garden around it and stuff,
Starting point is 00:34:08 maybe more like a rest stop, and it contained a carving showing a scene involving human figures, and then in three different languages and narration. The narration is the story of how one of the greatest kings in the Achaemenid Persian Empire, probably number two on most people's top ten list,
Starting point is 00:34:25 behind Cyrus the Great, hard to knock the founder of the empire off the top job usually, but this other guy named Darius, or Darius the Great, I use both pronunciations interchangeably, that I apologize. I'm hopeless sometimes.
Starting point is 00:34:41 Nonetheless, this is the story of how he gets the job of King of Kings, as told by Darius the Great himself. It's an autobiography of sorts, but for that reason, it's a little self-serving. This is a guy who, by the way, would seem to have every quality you want in a perspective great King of Kings,
Starting point is 00:35:04 except for one thing, legitimacy. And this story that he tells on the mountainside, amongst other places, seems to be a quest to explain to you, the reader, why he should have and deserves the top job, including the normal sorts of qualifications that the God wants him to have it. Ahura Mazda being the God,
Starting point is 00:35:27 and this is a sort of a change in emphasis in religion for the Persian Empire, which is too complicated for me to understand, but fascinating. Says Ahura Mazda is behind him and gives him all these great gifts and makes him the king and wants him to have the job.
Starting point is 00:35:46 Goes into his lineage and all the blue blood that's in his veins. These are standard justifications anyone would expect. But then his story veers into the weird. The weird and wonderful and conspiratorial and fantastic. What's funny about this is this is the official story, and the official story is twisted. Darius the Great is an interesting person
Starting point is 00:36:10 to get this information from, because Darius the Great in our historical crime scene is like Colonel Mustard in the Game of Clue. He's a potential suspect, because somehow this guy, who is not directly connected to the royal line, will end up in the top job. How does that happen?
Starting point is 00:36:31 Well, it's an interesting story, and Darius the Great carves it alongside a mountain to explain it to you, and it starts off with Cambyses killing his brother and keeping it a secret. And the reason this is important is because apparently Cambyses had no heirs. So what happens if the son of Cyrus,
Starting point is 00:36:47 the king of kings were to die? Who's the only other person, logically, that you give that job to? Well, the other son of Cyrus, right? Bardia. It's an escalation prize of empire. You've heard the line, Cyrus's sons were the heir, Cambyses,
Starting point is 00:37:04 and the spare. Bardia, if something happens to Cambyses, you turn to the spare, don't you? So how does Darius have the job? Why didn't the spare get the job? Well, funny you should ask, Cambyses killed the spare, and then he didn't tell anybody about it,
Starting point is 00:37:20 and then he led the army to conquer Egypt, and Darius the Great, and the spare, which is an official position. Think of like a person on the general staff, or something, I think he was like 28 years old. Part of that increasingly nasty veteran Persian army that conquers Egypt. And according to Darius, while they're away,
Starting point is 00:37:41 or while they're on their way home, one or the other, they get the word that the throne has been seized by a usurper. A usurper claiming to be Bardia. But according to Darius, Bardia was dead. The problem, of course, is by not telling anyone, as he says Cambyses didn't, the people didn't know that Bardia wasn't alive anymore.
Starting point is 00:38:08 Darius says that the name of the imposter on the throne was Galmata, or Galmata, and he identifies him as a magus. One of the magi. Our modern word magician is related to that. And I didn't realize this until Tom Holland, the historian pointed it out in his book Persian Fire. But there may be a connection to the fact
Starting point is 00:38:30 that this is a really sort of hard to believe story. But now it has someone who could be considered to have potential supernatural powers involved, which explains away all kinds of story holes, doesn't it? When you have a problem, you just say, listen, the guy's a magus. You don't know what those people can do. Oh yeah, that explains it.
Starting point is 00:38:52 But after this Galmatas, he's as the throne, the empire starts to come over to him. Darius admits on his rock carving that the people began to go over to this false Bardia. Bardia seemed to be popular, by the way, too. I compare it to the line that's well known among football fans, that the backup quarterback is the most popular player on the team, because you can invest all your hopes in that.
Starting point is 00:39:18 You don't know how that person would play. But you know you're not so happy with the starting quarterback. Camp Baisey's is the starting quarterback. And there were a lot of historians thinking that there were policies that Camp Baisey's was a part of, for example, cutting down the amount of money to the Egyptian priesthood, eliminating or reducing the power of clan leaders and local nobles
Starting point is 00:39:39 so that they could consolidate it in the central government. All these sorts of things, tax policy, he may not have been too popular with a lot of people, whereas this Bardia guy, well, you know, he's the backup quarterback. I think he'd play better if you just gave him the job. So Darius says he was getting a lot of support. It was becoming a big problem.
Starting point is 00:39:57 And he's with Camp Baisey's at the time. Herodotus tells this wonderful story, again, another movie scene, where he has the representative from the new king showing up, you know, in front of the army and Camp Baisey's while they're out in the field and proclaiming in front of the army that there's a new king on the throne
Starting point is 00:40:18 and that they should no longer, you know, heed the orders of the very king who's with them, you know, visible. Those are great stories. And then somehow in this story in 522 BCE, Camp Baisey's dies. And a bunch of historians will say, you know, suspiciously, it's suspicious that we don't know what happened to Camp Baisey's.
Starting point is 00:40:41 According to Darius on his rock carving, he says he died his own death. For a while, that was also translated as by his own hand, which made us all think of suicide a while back, but more modern historians have pointed out that that's probably not the right translation and that even if you use the way the Greek writers say he died, you could interpret that as by his own hand
Starting point is 00:41:03 and not have it be a suicide question. For example, Herodotus says, Camp Baisey's will die after he jumps on his horse and stabs himself with his sword because the tip of the scabbard had come off and that the leg wound will get infected and he will die several days later. And by the way, because Herodotus has to tie this story up
Starting point is 00:41:23 in a wonderful bow, he says he stabs himself right at the spot on his thigh where he stabbed the apus bull in Egypt. So he, once again, karma. Herodotus is a big karma guy, a lot of the ancient writers aren't, they just don't call it that, but you get your just desserts, right? In another Greek author's tale,
Starting point is 00:41:42 which is strangely similar in its own way, he says Camp Baisey's was whittling a piece of wood with his sword and he slipped and he cut himself on the thigh, and same thing, infected, dies a few days later. So he died by his own hand, but that's not suicidal. Nonetheless, no one knows how he died and there's a decent number, maybe I'd say 20% of the historians you read,
Starting point is 00:42:03 think that the guy probably was a victim of assassination by his underlings, one of whom was Darius the Great and suspiciously the one who becomes the next big king. If you're at the historical crime scene, this Darius the Great guy is the one who's going to get all the stuff of the murder victim. He's Colonel Mustard, he's a potential suspect here and so his whole story has to be taken with a grain of salt
Starting point is 00:42:31 because of what happens next. According to Darius, after Camp Baisey's dies, he organizes what maybe you could call a hit team or an assassination squad, an oligarchic hit team. And he will set out to kill this person who is impersonating the dead brother of Camp Baisey's, right? Because if you believe Darius's official story, when he and his six assassination cohorts go out to do this deed,
Starting point is 00:43:04 both of the sons of Cyrus are dead. Now the story, as told by Darius on the mountainside at Bihistan or Bizzatun, that's what the inscription's called, is in its own way dramatic enough, although it's pretty bare bones, once Herodotus the screenwriter slash historian gets his hands on it, it becomes this wonderful tale, fully modern and probably the precursor to several repetitive movie themes
Starting point is 00:43:31 we've all seen a hundred times, but if that's the case, Herodotus is the guy who started this. In his hands, this assassination move is like a force 10 from Navarone type movie, where you have the assassins or the commandos, but they're working for the good guys and they'll go to this heavily armed Nazi island to take out the head of the Gestapo
Starting point is 00:43:56 or something through all these guards with lots of explosions and all these things. That's a little like what the story sounds like. Herodotus says that Darius and his compatriots go to a fortress where the false king, the Magus, is staying and that they get past the guards because of their lofty status in the regime, right? These are the pillars of the regime, the aristocracy.
Starting point is 00:44:18 This is the oligarchy walking in. Surely they're nothing to stop at the gates in fear. That's the way Herodotus portrays the story. So the force 10 from Navarone group get past the first level of defense. Then Herodotus has them encountering royal eunuchs in the courtyard, these royal messengers, he says. The Persians, like a lot of the regimes in that era,
Starting point is 00:44:40 had a lot of eunuchs and there's a lot of debate over whether or not they were sort of really castrated males taken as young boys to provide a governmental class for the Persians or whether castration had actually sort of become symbolic by that point and it was more of a title. It's hard to know. Probably the former though.
Starting point is 00:45:00 I tend to believe the weirdness when I can. And these eunuchs recognized that these seven aristocratic nobles are there for no good and challenged them and then a knife fighting shoes making a lot of noise in the courtyard. And again, when you're reading Herodotus at a moment like this, try to remember that a lot of historians think he was performing this live for an audience.
Starting point is 00:45:21 And if that's the case, this is a Herodotan action scene. And so all that's missing really are the explosions and the Lucas sound and the big score and the popcorn. And you can hear the courtyard sound effects as there's a lot of noise and Herodotus basically says that the Magi, and he's got two of them because why only have one supervillain in a story when you can double up?
Starting point is 00:45:42 So instead of just having the Joker in this movie, he's got, you know, the Riddler II, two of the Magi. And they look down in the courtyard, they can hear the commotion, so they arm themselves. And then after the Force X from Navarone Commandos get rid of the eunuchs, you know, they're running towards the stairs and you can hear, just imagine the music, right? I mean, this is a scene we've all seen, right?
Starting point is 00:46:03 They run up there and there's a swashbuckling fight with the two Magi and the Force X from Navarone Commando guys. One guy gets stabbed, people are wrestling. And then again, in a scene we've seen a million times, the one principal magis, the one who is the false Bardia, the one who's been sitting on the throne dressed as the king, takes off and breaks up out of the room to be followed by a guy named Gabraeus
Starting point is 00:46:27 and the soon-to-be-down-the-road king of kings, Darius. They take off, you know, after the one guy, down the hallway, through the door, into the darkened room. I mean, imagine the music and the tension. Go for your popcorn here, right? And then Gabraeus and the false king are wrestling in the dark room and Darius is sitting there with his sword, but he's afraid to stab because he's afraid of hitting his friend.
Starting point is 00:46:48 And Gabraeus says to him, Herodotus says, why are you hesitating? He goes, I don't want to hit you. And he says, stab us both, are you crazy? So he runs him through, but only gets the bad guy. Darius in his rock carving is a little bit more bare bones than Herodotus is about what happened after pointing out that the fake king had led
Starting point is 00:47:10 a reign of terror in Persia because he was wiping out anyone that could recognize that he was a faker, anyone who knew what the real bardia looked like he was getting rid of so he could consolidate his position and not be called out of fraud. So after explaining that the reign of terror was going on, Darius says on his mountainside, quote, no one dared say anything about Gaumata the Magus until I came.
Starting point is 00:47:36 Afterwards, I prayed to Ahura Mazda, Ahura Mazda brought me aid. In the month of Baga Yadish, ten days had passed and then I with a few men slew Gaumata the Magus and the men who were his foremost followers. A fortress, Sica Yavatish by name and a district, Nassia by name in Medea, there I slew him.
Starting point is 00:47:59 I took the kingship from him. By the favor of Ahura Mazda, I became king. Ahura Mazda bestowed the kingship upon me, end quote. Several historians have said in this entire account it does look a little bit like Darius' doth protest too much, doesn't it? The story of how he goes from simply being one of the assassins to the one that actually gets the top job involves a horse and it's not very good to talk about at breakfast
Starting point is 00:48:30 and it's a weird story and it makes no sense at all and there's no way anybody ever got picked to be a king that way. So it all becomes a little bit weird how Darius ends up at the throne and no wonder he feels a need to explain it. Here's the problem he faces. If you don't believe that Cambyses killed his brother, look at how this entire story changes.
Starting point is 00:48:51 If you're the crime scene investigator and you approach it from that way, well as historian Pierre Brion says, the entire structure collapses like a house of cards because if Cambyses didn't kill his brother, Bardia, what happened to Bardia? And this is where we get back to the game of clue where you're examining possibilities, scenarios, motives, things like that.
Starting point is 00:49:17 I mean, for example, scenario number one is that maybe Bardia led a rebellion. The very thing that Cyrus the Great was so worried about when he divided his empire and worried so much about giving Bardia the consolation prize to empire and avoiding that terrible thing that happened so often in the ancient world well, maybe it happened anyway. There are hints that the brothers may not have gotten along so well.
Starting point is 00:49:40 Bardia seemed to be very popular, had that backup quarterback thing going for him. Maybe he led a rebellion, in which case if Cambyses did kill him, that wouldn't have been some slam on his historical reputation. It would have been a pretty standard thing for a ruler to do and probably justifiable. I think by leaving out the specifics of Cambyses' motive,
Starting point is 00:50:03 Darius sort of slanders him for all eternity by letting your imagination or Herodotus' imagination fill in the blanks. Why did Cambyses kill his brother? Because he's insane, you know what I mean? Nonetheless, the idea that Bardia may have led a rebellion with local elites and people trying to preserve their power or pushing a different approach for the empire, all of that's very possible, in which case Bardia may have died
Starting point is 00:50:28 as a usurper, you know, killed by Cambyses. Another possibility has to do with, you know, a question of timing. When this Bardia character took the throne, right? If he took the throne when Darius says he took the throne, when Cambyses is still alive and well, well then that's a usurpation, right? He's a rebel, basically. But what if he takes it after Cambyses had died
Starting point is 00:50:54 and who knows how that happened, so we're whittling wood, we cut ourselves, we die ten days later from gangrene? Who does the empire go to? Well, if Cambyses really had no heirs, the way the ancient authors said, the empire should go to Bardia, shouldn't it? And things get really strange when you start asking the question about,
Starting point is 00:51:13 you know, if this was the real Bardia, because if Bardia wasn't killed by Cambyses, who is it that Darius and his hit team take out when they go, you know, and kill the magis? You know, the false Bardia, Gaumata? Well, if it's not the false Bardia, it's the real Bardia. When I think of the various scenarios out there,
Starting point is 00:51:37 I think of our historical crime scene investigator, you know, showing back up at headquarters and telling their superior officer, you know, the old gray-haired, cynical, veteran lieutenant, the official story that they got from the crime scene that this Darius character tells them, yes, I stabbed this guy dressed as the king who had a name tag on that said, I am Bardia,
Starting point is 00:51:58 the son of Cyrus, but he wasn't Bardia, and I saved the nation by killing this imposter, and the lieutenant, the grizzled veteran, looking at them like they're out of their mind and going, you don't really believe that crap to you. Let me tell you what probably happened. This Darius guy killed Cambyses, his king, and then went and killed his brother,
Starting point is 00:52:15 the guy who should have been the next king, and he was thrown for himself, case closed. Well, that might have happened, too. Historians just can't know, though, there's not enough information. It would tell you so much about what was going on to know the facts, but it's like the ultimate cold case file of all time, isn't it?
Starting point is 00:52:33 I like the way historian Mark Vandameru kind of sums up the situation and gives you the sense that it's suspicious, but we don't know what happened, and there's a lot of possibilities, he writes, quote, The main source of information about events is the description by the final victor, Darius, who was not a legitimate successor to the throne.
Starting point is 00:52:53 His account was carved in three languages, on a rock facade at Bayestun, in a Zagros mountain valley connecting Babylonia and Iran. It was also spread throughout the empire in Aramaic translation on papyri, and possibly Herodotus used one of these as the basis for the story he told in his histories. We have thus a severely biased description
Starting point is 00:53:14 by a usurper who justifies his actions in the text, and it is not easy to determine what really happened, end quote. But because it's so important, all these historians who don't like to stray very far from the data, but because there's so little data are forced to, he gives you his best guess here, quote. Cambyses' prolonged stay in Egypt gave his brother Bardia a chance to claim kingship at home.
Starting point is 00:53:39 The latter abolished taxes and military levies for three years in order to gain popular support. Cambyses returned from Egypt, but was probably assassinated, either by Bardia or by Darius, a high military commander who subsequently killed Bardia. End quote. There are other theories as well.
Starting point is 00:54:02 Heck, Risa Sargami in his book Discovering Cyrus says we shouldn't be so quick to throw out the official story. He's not specifically lining up with it, but he says, listen, if you look at a certain number of facts, history has been weirder than this. Maybe there was a Gaomata. Maybe he was impersonating the other son of Cyrus, and maybe Cambyses had killed him.
Starting point is 00:54:23 And of course, the final possibility is that it's partly true that Cambyses did go insane, and that he did kill his brother, and that he didn't tell anybody about that, but that eventually, you know, the oligarchy is confronted with a king of kings who's not in his right mind. You can't exactly impeach one of those.
Starting point is 00:54:42 So what's the logical alternative in a system, you know, to do away with an absolute ruler if the absolute ruler has lost his mind? Maybe in this case, Darius and, you know, the rest of the aristocracy was simply doing the logical common sense thing in that situation. Who knows? To those historians who suggest that what we may have here
Starting point is 00:55:08 when Darius comes to power is some sort of an oligarchic coup, he writes in the inscription on the side of the mountain, quote, Darius the king says, these are the men who at that time were there when I slew Gaomata, the magus, who called himself Bardia. At that time, these men cooperated as my followers, and he goes on to name specifically, you know, six co-conspirators, the other members of the assassination hit team,
Starting point is 00:55:38 one by one, and then he says, quote, you who shall be king hereafter, protect well the offspring of these men, end quote. How many descendants over a hundred years, let's just say, although the Persian Empire existed closer to 200, how many people can be the offspring of those six original conspiratorial force 10 from Navarone comrades? The descendants of the assassins may have ended up being
Starting point is 00:56:13 like an oligarchy in the Persian Empire, or maybe a better way to phrase it is like an oligarchy on top of the already existing oligarchy. Kremdela Krem, the descendants of the hit team members. In Greek literature, they will usually be referred to as the seven, and being one of the seven may have been the equivalent of having your place in Persian society literally carved into stone by one of the greatest kings the Persian Empire ever produced.
Starting point is 00:56:51 I've always seen the seven, you know, Darius and his six co-conspirators, a little like the initial investors in a assassination-related startup company, in this case a startup company devoted to assassinating a ruler and taking the throne over. And if that's the case, and it really did put those people into a permanent different class, well, that's a heck of a long-term dividend return that paid off
Starting point is 00:57:19 until basically the end of the Empire, not a bad deal. Historian Pierre Breonde is one of some of the newer ones who question the entire idea behind this special class, by the way. Some of the newer historians suggest that these six Persians that were the co-conspirators, that that number might have been chosen for religious reasons, that they maybe weren't six or more than six or less than six. Also, that it just so happens that these people
Starting point is 00:57:47 may simply represent the powerful, you know, noble clans of Persia anyway. So the people that already were kind of the oligarchy in Persia just get their status reaffirmed. Doesn't matter which one of these scenarios, though, that explains, you know, this weird period between the end of Cambyses's reign and the beginning of a reign of a guy
Starting point is 00:58:09 who doesn't seem to have any connection to the royal family, Darius, doesn't matter which one of those scenarios are true. And by the way, we only scratched the surface on the many that are out there. They're all pretty darn wild and woolly. All of them would make a good film. Personally, I think the best one is, you know, this events version of, like, the Warren Commission report,
Starting point is 00:58:30 the official narrative of Darius makes the best movie, if you ask me. Get Herodotus to do the screenplay. Oliver Stone to direct it. Make sure there's some Lucas sound. I'm in. It's stuff like this that make this maybe the best two-day task slash assassination slash regime change conspiracy story out there.
Starting point is 00:58:49 I mean, it's fantastic. Doesn't matter which one of them turns out to be true, though. By 521 BCE, the end result is this guy, Darius, is on the throne. And he's got, maybe you could say, a legitimacy deficit. Maybe the only thing he's lacking. And it causes him problems right away. He's very open about this in this autobiographical account, you know, carved into the mountainside.
Starting point is 00:59:18 He lists all the places that rebel against his rule. He has to fight. He says 19 battles in a year and a half to three years to quell all of the uprisings. And these places in Persia that are rebelling are some of its most important provinces, large places, right? Egypt, for example. And they're not rebelling so that they can band together
Starting point is 00:59:41 and support some sort of rival claimant to the throne because historians think there might have been a bunch of people in the empire that thought they had as much of a connection to the throne as this Darius guy. It looks instead like they're all kind of going rogue at the same time. Like they want their independence back. They all seem to have kings that sprout from nowhere that are claiming royal descent from the last independent line
Starting point is 01:00:05 and all these places had, right? And in the same way that Darius on the mountainside inscription says that Gaumata lied about being Bardia. Remember, the Persians have this thing about lying. Basically number one on their cultural naughty list at this point. And so when he says they lied, that's pretty bad. But then he goes on to say that all of these kings in all of these provinces that have rebelled that are claiming descent
Starting point is 01:00:30 from the old royal family that used to exist there before the Persians showed up, they're all lying. Historians refer to all these kings as the Liar Kings. Darius would have to go from place to place to place fighting battle after battle after battle. He would send his generals to go fight some of these battles too. Had to conquer Babylon more than once. You'll love this.
Starting point is 01:00:51 One of the Liar Kings that pops up also claims to be Bardia. So this would be the second Bardia that shows up on the scene. This is the zombie now, other son of Cyrus, that cannot be killed. And I love the way, by the way, Darius on the mountainside inscription gives the orders to his forces to go quell these rebellions. He says the same thing every time, which probably means it's ritualized and somewhat, but it's still wonderful, you know, old school, ancient stuff, terminology.
Starting point is 01:01:22 He says, quote, go forth and defeat the rebellious army, which will not call itself mine. End quote. And then as he captures these, you know, rebel leaders, the ones who tie themselves to the old, you know, royal family from long ago, he treats them all pretty darn badly. Sometimes they only show up in pieces. The Elamites, when they find out he's basically on the way,
Starting point is 01:01:47 they kill their own independent king themselves and send body parts to Darius. That's sort of like saying, oh, we're sorry. But when he gets his hands on the whole liar king one at a time, he treats them like this. This involves one that rebelled in Medea named Freyortes, which is a Greek version of a name that's famous in Medea in history. So rooted in the old royal family.
Starting point is 01:02:13 And then Darius got his hands on him. He writes on the business and inscription on the mountainside quote. Darius the king says, afterwards Freyortes fled with a few horsemen. There is a district in Medea, Raga by name, and there he went. After that I sent an army in pursuit. Freyortes was seized and led to me. I cut off his nose, ears, and tongue, and I put out one of his eyes. At my gate he was kept bound, and all the people looked at him.
Starting point is 01:02:43 After that I impaled him at Ekbatina. And in the fortress at Ekbatina I hanged the men who were his foremost followers. I executed his nobles, a total of 47. I hung their heads inside Ekbatina from the battlements of the fortress. End quote. Now we said the Persians were more tolerant than a lot of the earlier empires in the region, but that's graded on a curve. This is still the ancient period where the sorts of treatments
Starting point is 01:03:14 of prisoners and captives and people on the other side of justice, for example, more resembles the stuff that the very worst of the terrorists in our world today do. That's often part of the legal codes of these early societies. You know, I'm fascinated by the extremes of the human experience, and when you go far back in time you see them everywhere. I mean, I was reading, for example, the process by which impalement as an execution is carried out in some places and sometimes. I think in our heads we just think there's a sharpened stake sticking out of the ground.
Starting point is 01:03:51 You throw the victim up, they land on the stake, impalement done, no must, no fuss. Well, basically. But instead I'm reading about, you know, a whole thing where they use a razor blade in advance and some of these places they would then put something on to stop the bleeding, fix you up a little bit so it went the way they wanted, greasing the stake. I mean, things that just doesn't make any sense to the modern mind, and you think about the people who did this,
Starting point is 01:04:19 and you think that they almost sound like a different species, don't they? But they're not. We could take a little newborn baby out of a modern hospital, put him in a time machine, send him back to ancient Persia, hand them off to a childless couple there and go back in 20 years to check on how the modern kids doing being raised in the ancient world, and they'll probably be able to explain to you the logical common sense, moral rationale behind impaling people.
Starting point is 01:04:49 They might even explain to you that they enjoy watching it. Times change, of course, but we human beings are an interesting species, aren't we? Nonetheless, as horrifying as all that sounds, when you grade the Persians on a curve, they still come out as a rather lenient people by the standards of the place and time. The way that Darius handles the many revolts and uprisings and the need to placate whole areas and put in new structures and to keep fires from breaking out again
Starting point is 01:05:27 is the foreshadowing of what's to come when it comes to the ability of this figure, Darius, who will eventually be called the Great. His gifts, though, are a little bit unusual for the kings of kings, these heads of state, especially from the Persian tradition where they're always thought to be like warriors, like Cyrus the Great, these leaders on horseback continually pushing the empire at the head of their troops. Darius is a little bit more like a, you know, white collar worker, like a desk job guy. Herodotus says the Persians had a saying,
Starting point is 01:06:07 and they said that Cyrus was the father, Cambyses the tyrant, and Darius the shopkeeper. Which, if you believe what people like Herodotus have written about the Persians, and a lot of aristocratic peoples have felt this way over time, they sort of disdained as rather, you know, lower class by their standards, things like mercantilism, getting your hands dirty with money, business, commerce, anything like that. Of course, in the modern United States and much of the world,
Starting point is 01:06:42 well, that's maybe the most, you know, highly thought of profession, and in a way, shopkeeper, which sounds a little like a slam at Darius, if you think about the size of the shop Darius was running, he was running Walmart. We don't call those people shopkeepers, we call them CEOs, and when you look at Darius, that's what he looks like, a modern CEO, which does make you wonder, again, about how he gets the job, because he seems so suited to it, you can't help but think he's some sort of process of natural selection,
Starting point is 01:07:16 you know, as part of his cast, I mean, we were only choosing from the aristocracy, but that's a heck of a bigger talent pool than trying to choose from two sons of Cyrus. Isn't that always the problem with monarchy, right? Such a small talent pool to pick from. In some countries, you have to pick the oldest son, and then there's no chance at all, that's just a roll of the dice. Darius may have been the most capable amongst, you know, the nobility of Persia, because he seems exactly what the Empire needs at this time.
Starting point is 01:07:45 He is overly concerned with money as sort of the stereotype, but he thinks about profit and loss, and he's an administrator, and a person who organizes, today we would think of him as a consultant, who comes in and streamlines operations. I mean, he's credited, for example, with starting the satraps and the satraps, which probably isn't true, he probably didn't start it, but he certainly reorganized the Empire in a sort of a lasting way. He would handle things sometimes in a very cutthroat manner,
Starting point is 01:08:16 in a very innovative manner, and in other ways, in a very deft manner, weighing his options, you know, clever is what they would say about him, and some of the histories I've read when they wanted to be nice, but that could swing over into conniving, you know, when the pendulum moved too far in a different direction. You think about a guy like Steve Jobs, maybe, or some of those CEOs, not the ones who just go collect a paycheck, or the ones who get paid $123 million, and the stock's cut in half since I've been here.
Starting point is 01:08:44 You think about the people who really, you know, have something to them when you go, okay, I mean, I like this guy, or I may love this guy, but you can see that there's some genius there, and sometimes the genius is in things that maybe seem kind of mundane, you know? I mean, it's one thing to see an artistic or performance genius, it's another thing to see an administrative one. But when they're working their wonder sometimes, the benefits are incredible, and when you look at Darius and how he took the Persian Empire,
Starting point is 01:09:14 essentially you could call it a startup company at the beginning. This is when it goes public, and Darius is when it gets its first really high-level CEO who takes it to the next level. There's a lot that has to be done to make that happen, and a lot of people in the empire might not have liked it very much, which is another reason you have, you know, 19 battles you have to fight sometimes to quell all the fires that are springing up. But the difference between the empire when this guy takes over
Starting point is 01:09:40 and how he leaves it is profound. There's a reason a guy comes out of nowhere in terms of his royal lineage, ends up probably number two on the greatest Achaemenid Persian kings of all time. He's a highly energetic, highly competent, long-ruling figure who becomes important in the story as far as Westerners have been concerned for more than 2,000 years because he is the one that starts mixing it up with the Greeks. And supposedly, when I was growing up, Western civilization considered the Greeks the home team. This story is kind of a chance to highlight things from the visiting team's point of view
Starting point is 01:10:24 in the battle for Western civilization. Of course, as we pointed out earlier, that's pretty hard to do when you were working mostly with the equivalent of the home team's newspapers. And the way we've structured this story is to just do every king in the Achaemenid empire, one after another in order, as sort of the structure of this show. But so far, we've been dealing with kings that are so important, and the sources, especially the hometown newspapers and Western civilization, so full of things involving them that we've been able to go into them in loving detail.
Starting point is 01:10:59 There will be whole kings that we will almost fast forward through. And it isn't because they didn't do anything, it's because if they didn't do anything to or with the Greeks, we don't know a lot about them. And what you do have is mostly what archaeological evidence can show you and things like that. So there will be kings that might have done a bunch of things very interesting over off in India or up in modern-day Afghanistan or down in the area around southern Egypt today. And I suppose if the Greek sources didn't write about it, sometimes we don't know about it, in which case some of these kings are going to get short shrift indeed.
Starting point is 01:11:30 Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius, these are some of the heavyweights in the Achaemenid empire. And like a lot of empires, their leadership is sort of front-loaded, which is why it does so well for a while. If you can tie competent or inspired leadership to, you know, the good fortunes of an empire, at this point, the Persian empire is on the upswing and leadership is a large part of it. And Darius is perhaps in terms of a total competency overall, maybe the best they ever had. He concerns himself with the boring side of government, things like, you know, we would say today, monetary policy. He's very famous, for example, for instituting maybe the first metal coinage in the region outside of Lydia,
Starting point is 01:12:14 which is famous for having started metal coinage, certainly in that region. The gold coins will be called Derricks after him, Shekels will be the silver coin, and the Persian gold and the wealth of the empire will become an absolutely hallmark element of it. They're known for having a lot of money and they use it. And of course, there's nothing new, right, in using bribes and money as a foreign policy tool and all that sort of stuff. Nothing new about that, that goes back to time immemorial. And, you know, during the period we're talking about here, maybe only the Chinese, though, are doing it on a comparable level to what the Achaemenid Persian empire is doing.
Starting point is 01:12:59 And some of this plays into this CEO style of Darius too. Things are purely weighed on a profit and loss sort of criteria, and if, you know, we can solve this military problem without having to fight a war, let's do it that way, you know, that kind of an approach. He's concerned, for example, I mean, you can tell he's concerned like all Persian kings with the status of the office and protecting the authority and the reputation and all those kinds of things. But you know, I mean, if there's something that comes up where we can talk about some sort of a deal, I'm not, you know, totally closed-minded to it. There are empires that have come around that have much more of a machismo to them where we don't, you know, deal, what do you mean deal? Do what I say or else?
Starting point is 01:13:37 Whereas the Persians are kind of perennially open for business, if you will. I like, and let's be honest, there could be some ritualization to this, but I like what Darius himself has carved on his, you know, he's buried on a mountainside eventually and he will have a carving, sort of, you know, what he decided he wanted on his tomb. And he emphasized sort of the, you know, thinking man's approach to running an empire. On the tomb of Darius it says, quote, I am not hot-tempered. What things develop in my anger I hold firmly under control by my thinking power. I am firmly ruled over my own impulses. I have a strong body. As a soldier, I am a good soldier.
Starting point is 01:14:19 I see who will rebel and who will not. First I will think, then I will act. End quote. There's an ancient line that money is the sinew of war. And the Persians were not dominant militarily at everything, and in the areas where they lacked something, the ability to come up with a ton of cash as needed could compensate for a lot of those shortcomings. And believe me, a guy like Darius understood that better than anyone. Historian Pierre Briont runs down Darius' qualities a bit and then points out how, you know, much of a change the period that he inaugurates in Persian history is.
Starting point is 01:15:02 He says in a chapter subheading entitled, A New Foundation for the Empire, quote, The ways and means of Darius' accession to power, to the extent that we can reconstruct them, a testimony to the new king's energy and decisiveness. Darius was undeniably an exceptional personality, but he also proved to have organizational ability. During the same time that he was reorganizing the entire tribute system, other projects were carried out in various regions, construction of new capitals, the conquest of Samos, expeditions from the Indus to the Nile. In the year 518, he also commissioned the satrap, Ariandis, to gather Egyptian sages to collect the quote, end quote, Egyptian laws.
Starting point is 01:15:46 Other measures affecting Jerusalem were affected at the same time. What is striking, he writes, is the care with which the king planned for the long term, end quote. Then discussing the era that he inaugurates due to his energetic efforts to, you know, create the support system long term for something, Breon writes quote. Without in the least deprecating the work accomplished by his predecessors, we may thus assert that the advent of Darius marks the foundation of a new dynastic and imperial order. In this regard, the first years of his reign definitely represented a decisive period in Achaemenid history, end quote. One of the revisions to the structure of things that Darius works out is the succession.
Starting point is 01:16:35 And he tries to create the conditions so that the way he came to power will never happen again. One of the first things he did, this is a traditional thing, by the way, to do after a coup or a toppling of an old regime in the Middle East. You want to marry into the previous royal family, because remember, this is all about sort of genetic blue blood. Even if a king is a bad guy or the regime is overthrowable and it would be a good thing, doesn't mean you don't want that blue blood in your lineage. It can go back to like, you know, pulling the sword out of the stone type legendary beginnings. You want to have that in your bloodline. So Darius takes care to marry two daughters of Cyrus the Great and his granddaughter. Some of these the previous wives of Cambyses, by the way.
Starting point is 01:17:19 So in a way, I think of like the Ford Motor Corporation and Henry Ford, the big founder, maybe he's like Cyrus the Great. And then, you know, Henry Ford's son takes over the company. And then by hook or by crook, Colonel Mustard may intervene. Who knows? All of a sudden you have this guy who wasn't in the family tree, not the direct one anyway, maybe a second cousin or something. And he's running the Ford company. And then all of a sudden he marries, you know, the daughters and granddaughter of Henry Ford. Maybe one of these was married to Henry Ford's son, who knows, but eventually, you know,
Starting point is 01:17:49 some guy from outside the direct line of the Ford family is running Ford Motor Company. Here's the thing though, he may not be a member of the Ford family, but his kids will be. So that's how you tie yourself back into the early royal line. You may change a few statues and, you know, hide your tracks a little bit too in your building projects. Historians are starting to think that they see more and more, that the entire lineage of Darius, connecting him to the great Cyrus of old, may have been sort of forged in reverse, reverse legitimacy as we called it earlier. Once again, smart.
Starting point is 01:18:25 Darius becomes the king that expands Persian authority more to the east of the empire, which is territory that because the Greeks didn't know much about, you don't hear much about. You know that it happens though, because soon you'll have satraps in the east that are Indian, essentially. What's now modern day Pakistan is the part of India that the Persians conquered one way or another. And as far as the ancient Greeks were concerned, that was like the end of the known world. They didn't know about anything maybe that existed past that. That could be dragons, unicorns, or, you know, hostile barbarians as far as the eye could see. Maybe the Persians knew, but they weren't telling Herodotus.
Starting point is 01:19:04 Darius will do some more conquests, you know, in northeastern Africa. But this is kind of like, it's almost like the blob a little bit. I mean, he just, the Persian empire goes from these amazing, you know, startup company type growth rates to a steady, you know, healthy growth rate where the empire is expanding nicely. Thank you very much, but not so fast that we can't incorporate everything nicely. And absorb everything appears to be the inevitable long term outcome of things. If you're looking at a map of this region, you know, in 515, 514, 513 BCE, because the Persian empire looks like, you know, the 1950s horror movie blob,
Starting point is 01:19:44 slowly, you know, advancing in all directions and spreading out and just, you know, naturally absorbing everything on the fringes. And while there are certainly natural limitations an empire could run into, might reach the limits of communication, for example, or run into climate and environmental things you can't deal with. I mean, I'm sure the Persian army in this period can defeat the Indian army in the interiors of India, but can you deal with the jungles and the snakes and the weather and all that? Ask Alexander in a couple of hundred years how much of an impediment that's going to be.
Starting point is 01:20:17 You know, can you deal with transportation questions? And of course, revolts are always a threat, especially the larger you get. But who's going to act as any kind of a military counter force to the great king and the Persians as things stand, you know, around 515, 514 BCE? Look at a map. Who's there? There's no one to have World War III with. The Chinese, they'd be a fun fantasy matchup, but they're on the other side of the world in their own little civilizational bubble.
Starting point is 01:20:49 If at all aware of the Persians, simply probably through, you know, some traders who actually make the long journey, but who knows? So those armies aren't fighting. So who is going to stop the blob from taking over literally everything until they reach their natural limits? Well, that's what makes this story so compelling. That's what sets it up for the movie that Herodotus is going to give you when he explains to you how, you know, this David will beat this Goliath,
Starting point is 01:21:19 how someone will stop the blob, and by the way, thereby save everyone. Like so many other people who've been interested in the Persian army from this period, I became interested in them because I was interested in the Greeks. And the Persians are the uber adversary, the arch nemesis, right, of the Greeks from the, you know, classical era. And after a while, you know, you become a little curious about these people that, you know, the classical authors mostly portray, but, you know, you even get this up until the modern time as sort of zombies or orcs
Starting point is 01:21:55 who only are formidable because of their numbers, but their numbers are so huge that they're massively formidable. Millions of them, they drink rivers dry, there are so many of them. And you become kind of curious about these people, you know, once you get past these numbers after a while, you get into it, the Persians become so fascinating because they're the final installment of the ancient military system of the Near East, the final development.
Starting point is 01:22:25 And that doesn't really mean the apex of its development because it's possible that that happened during Assyrian times, but the last of the armies fielded on principles that were developed in Sumeria and nurtured by peoples like the Assyrians and the Babylonians before them inheritors to a 2,500-year-old military tradition, is what historian Nigel Tallis says. And once you get rid of the very large numbers that the classical authors give you, turning them into orcs, you realize how good they must have been at what they did.
Starting point is 01:23:01 I mean, if there weren't millions of them, look how nasty the smaller numbers of them were. Look what they did, look what they conquered. If you believe the ancient authors and you're thinking, well, of course they conquered all of them. There were millions of them. They swarmed over the defenders. But if there weren't millions of them,
Starting point is 01:23:19 if there were roughly equal numbers, then all of a sudden the fighting quality of these Persian armies, which had always assumed to be relatively low, gets increased, you know, by a lot. And the quality begins to look like the kind of quality you would have to have to win an empire like this and to hold it. And we told you in the first part of this story, when we were talking about Cyrus the Great,
Starting point is 01:23:43 and he was doing all these conquests with his army, and we kept talking about his army, but we couldn't really discuss what that army was like, because they didn't really know. It's a shame, too, because that's an army worth knowing about, right? Look what that did. But by the time of Darius the Great, sort of the mists part a little bit,
Starting point is 01:24:01 and give you a look into the military organization and the equipment and whatnot of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. And by Darius, I don't know if you could say it's the height of military development, but they're still fighting at a very high level. They are a veteran army that fights a lot, so they have a lot of actual practical real-world experience. And the army is relatively unbeaten. They have a setback here or there sometimes,
Starting point is 01:24:27 but by and large, you know, the places they want to conquer, they conquer. Good luck, though, getting any agreement amongst modern-day historians concerning exactly how they did this. Because just because they've, you know, done away with those crazy numbers from the ancient sources, the two million men type things, doesn't mean that they've figured out any better ones automatically than everyone agrees upon.
Starting point is 01:24:51 The numbers that the Persian armies brought to the battlefield, not the entire number available to the empire, if they mustered everybody, but these battles that are famous that involve the Persian army, how many men were there? Well, when you see that it ranges from a low of like 12 to 15,000 men, and a high of like 250 or 300,000 men, you begin to see what a huge difference, you know,
Starting point is 01:25:19 these different peoples have on how this army operated, just to give you one example. It's well known that a corps, you would call them maybe guards today, existed in this army, 10 to 12,000 men strong. You know, when you incorporate the extra super royal guards, and that these troops were superior in general to most of the other troops on the battlefield. They were what you would call today regulars,
Starting point is 01:25:45 they may have been drilled, right, the best troops in the army. If your army is 300,000 men, and 10 to 12,000 of them are these guys, well, you might not even be able to call them the tip of the spear in an army that large, they may just be the king's guard. If on the other hand, these armies are closer to 25 or 30,000 men strong in reality, well, then a guard of 10 to 12,000 regular drilled troops
Starting point is 01:26:11 is a third to half your entire army. That's a huge difference, isn't it? That's a much better army. So right there, that would impact, you know, the impression of how these armies did what they did. I will say that as a fan of the Persian army, it's been wonderful over the last 20, 25 years to really see a more modern view of how the army fought
Starting point is 01:26:33 and was organized, crystallize, very exciting. And this could change, by the way, down the road. I mean, this is just the latest interpretation of the evidence. It should also be pointed out that when I talk about the Persian army, this is an empire that stretched over 200 years. The army will change and evolve and become different, you know, from the start of the empire to the end of the empire. We are freeze-framing a moment in time here,
Starting point is 01:26:59 but it's a moment that, according to the Greek sources, pretty much determined whether or not western civilization would continue, so it's worth focusing on. It's also worth focusing on because the majority of historians for more than 2,000 years have pinpointed the reason that history went the way it did down to a question of weapons systems on the battlefield and how they interacted. As strange as that sounds, I know, because we normally think of
Starting point is 01:27:27 the things that impact history as being either massive sort of forces, like industrialization, mixing with colonization, mixing with a newly unified and very nationalistic Germany, looking for their place in the sun. All those things together. Boom. You have a history-changing moment, right? Or maybe it's the extraordinary individual who comes along at just the right time
Starting point is 01:27:47 and catches a few breaks here or there. And boom, you have Genghis Khan or Julius Caesar, Oliver Cromwell, or Tecumseh. And most of the time, obviously, it's a combination of things, right? The extraordinary individual showing up just at the time. The colonization is going the way it's going and Germany needs its place in the sun, right? All those things working together. Boom. You have a historical moment.
Starting point is 01:28:12 But another one of those areas where history can turn seems almost banal by comparison, but it can come down to a simple question of weapons systems on the battlefield. And remember, in this area we're talking about, the battlefield is like, you know, 2,500 yards long, maybe, just on average. And the decision point happens in a couple of hours
Starting point is 01:28:36 or an afternoon. And it can be determined by something, you know, if you go back to, well, the majority of historians, even now probably, but certainly the way Herodotus saw it, the question of something like, whether or not you're armed with a spear or a bow, or whether or not your weapon system includes a lot of body armor, or doesn't.
Starting point is 01:29:00 And if you think that that's a little kooky, well, if you think about one side having firearms and the other side not, you can see what a difference a weapon system differential could make to an outcome of a battle. And I don't have to convince you, do I, when battles and wars turn out, you know, have a huge impact on the way history goes,
Starting point is 01:29:20 right, imagine, if you lost the Second World War, it's going to look a little different, isn't it? So a great many historians, for more than 2,000 years, have boiled down to why things happen the way they happened to a question of how armies interacted with each other, Greek armies and Persian armies. So you have to understand the Persian army
Starting point is 01:29:39 that's going to go into these conflicts with the Greeks to understand what happened if those historians are right. Another thing to understand is that the Persian army, you know, to, to we ancient history war gamers, and I know you're out there, to us, this is the army you get when you like a lot of bow fire. I mean, like machine gun level bow fire. A buddy of mine once said that you could historically justify
Starting point is 01:30:01 giving every single person in the army during this time period a bow if you want to. But how many arrows does it take to blot out the sun during his story of the last stand of the 300 Spartans? Remember those Clint Eastwood types in bronze? Herodotus tells a story of a local person who goes up to one of the Spartans and says, you know, that the Persian archers are so numerous
Starting point is 01:30:27 that when they shoot their arrows, they hide the sun. And the famous one liner that comes back, you know, the bravado from the shore to die Spartan was something to the effect of, that'll be great because then we can fight in the shade. But it's indicative of what this Persian army was known for, archery. And is it hyperbole to suggest that they could blot out the sun with it? Don't you wish you had video of one of these ancient battles
Starting point is 01:30:58 to get some idea of what we're talking about here in the capabilities? I've said many times that if I ever get that time machine, I want to be, you know, transported into a hot air balloon floating about 100 feet over one of these ancient battlefields so I can see, you know, what's going on. I'll answer 100 questions in about a minute and a half. As soon as I can just visualize it, there's no video. It'd be very gory and awful if there were,
Starting point is 01:31:21 but I'd look at it just to try to get a picture of what we're talking about here. We haven't done this in so long, nobody knows what it was like. It's the same thing when I was studying western sword fighting techniques. Nobody knows that either. Everybody's trying to recreate how people did medieval sword fighting with a long sword based on still two-dimensional images from books because no one kept alive the art form,
Starting point is 01:31:47 say the way the Japanese did with their sword fighting techniques, right? That's alive and well, but nobody knows for sure, even with some pretty darn good recreations out there, how western sword fighting did it. You don't do something for a while, you don't have video of it, yet you lose the ability to understand it totally. Same thing with these ancient battles, right? Oftentimes, these ancient authors that you would use as your best pieces of evidence
Starting point is 01:32:11 to explain and colorize what it all looked like, leave out the most important parts of the story, because to them, it's just known stuff, right? I don't have to explain the most basic stuff. To you, everybody understands what happens when, for example, two blocks of human beings, you know, a thousand men strong, run into each other during a charge, right? Well, no, I don't know what happened there,
Starting point is 01:32:32 and neither do historians, and if I was in my hot air balloon a hundred feet over the battlefield, I would finally be able to answer the question, do those blocks of human beings actually run into each other? And go face to face, tooth to tooth, toe to toe in a claustrophobic, horrible scrum, you know, where people are so cramped together they can hardly use their weapons,
Starting point is 01:32:51 and the people in the front row are being squished to death by the people in the back and pushed onto the spears of their adversaries. Is that how it goes? Or is it more like other historians have theorized, where at the last second there's something inherent in human beings where they won't throw themselves on the weapons of their enemies, and they stop with a four or an eight foot gap
Starting point is 01:33:12 between the two blocks of human beings, a no man's land, if you will, where they're stabbing and throwing stuff across the gap, and champions are running out from each side and challenging each other in the no man's land, and other brave people are running across to the other side and grabbing somebody out of the ranks and pulling them back to their side. Is that how it was?
Starting point is 01:33:32 There's other historians who split the difference and say that the units run into each other for a second, and then, you know, over the first minute and a half or two minutes or whatever, slowly pull back from each other, creating that dead space in the middle. But nobody knows. Nobody knows if cavalry will charge infantry
Starting point is 01:33:48 or under what conditions. I mean, there's just stuff that's still debated by the experts, because how would we know? You could do some mathematics, though, if you're not terrible at math, and I'm not that good, but I was able to handle round numbers like this to try to get an idea of certain capabilities.
Starting point is 01:34:06 One of the wonderful things about ancient warfare is that even if you can't know what it was like, you can understand that there are certain realities to it, physical laws, if you will. Let's call it the physics of the battlefield in pre-gunpowder times that are limited by, you know, certain bedrock elements that don't change.
Starting point is 01:34:26 Human beings, for example, horses, other flesh and blood creatures, like camels and elephants that are often used in battles. There's a limit to human endurance. There's a limit to human morale. There's a limit to muscle power. And those sorts of, you know, constraints were operating in the armies of the Pharaoh
Starting point is 01:34:44 in ancient Egypt, all the way to the armies of Richard II, the Lionheart, you know, in the Holy Land during the Crusades. There's something about, you know, battle over the eras until gunpowder takes over, where commanders from different eras could have commanded armies from other eras
Starting point is 01:35:02 and not been too deep out of the water for them to understand, you know, what they were dealing with, because certain elements didn't change. When you're talking about the sorts of armies that these great states threw against each other, they generally included, you know, close-order infantry as sort of the rock
Starting point is 01:35:20 around which you built your army. The battle line, you would say, in some periods. A good estimate for a traditional set-piece battle with a Persian army might be a 2,500 or 3,000-yard or meter front. Think about, you know, 25 or 30 football fields long, and a solid line of men across a ton of that space. The battle line would generally make up maybe
Starting point is 01:35:46 if you wanted to just get it off the top of your head. Estimates say 70 to 75% of each army's side is made up of these phalanxes, units of men packed shoulder to shoulder next to each other, and keeping that packed nature of things staying together, and then multiple ranks behind them. The rank depth changed,
Starting point is 01:36:06 and if you had four ranks behind you, that's a pretty shallow formation. In the Hellenistic period, you'll get some Hellenistic phalanxes that'll go 72 men deep. The armies of this period near east tended to be organized decimally. So the smallest unit would be 10 men,
Starting point is 01:36:23 then up to 100, then 1,000. We're told the Persians had 10,000 man units. The tweak that the Persians are supposed to have made, modern historians think, to the age-old formations of the Assyrians and the Babylonians, has to do with how many ranks of archers they have versus how many ranks of spearmen. Historian Nigel Talis is one of many who points out
Starting point is 01:36:45 the Assyrians thought, and the Babylonians copied them, that you needed to have half of your units ready for hand-to-hand combat, and the other half could be armed with missile weapons. And so what they would do is pack the front half of the unit with the spearmen, and with a big spear, heavy, big shield, a helmet if you could, an armor if you could.
Starting point is 01:37:07 And so if you had a formation that was eight ranks deep, the first four in the Assyrian army would usually be the hand-to-hand combat guys, or the archers, and the archers would shoot over the head of the spearmen. It creates a very flexible formation. Any enemy that won't come to grips with you, you can strike from a distance.
Starting point is 01:37:25 Any enemy you want to advance on and close with, you can weaken before your spearmen have to engage in hand-to-hand combat. Anyone who just sits there, you can shoot for a while. And anyone who comes at your unit, you can kill on the way in, making an easier job for your spearmen when they finally get to you.
Starting point is 01:37:43 Historians think that the Persians tweaked that formation by taking out most of the ranks of close-order infantry, the spearmen, and replacing them with archers, often archers with little or no armor, and no shields. Most of these Persian units are going to have a front rank of spear-armed,
Starting point is 01:38:03 shielded, often armored, but not always, infantry that protect the archers behind them. They have a shield that's made of wicker, but that looks like a boogie board for you Americans, almost a man-sized, tall, wicker plank. Cut square. And it looks like when all the front rank decided to close together, those things
Starting point is 01:38:25 are going to fit together like a perfect wall. So imagine, you know, 70 to 75% of your 2,500 to 3,000-yard front has a wall of wicker shields in front of it, protecting, you know, your archers from any missile fire back, but your archers are shooting over the heads of those troops and just blowing people away.
Starting point is 01:38:45 So I did some calculations. Assuming loan numbers at every step. Imagine a 50,000-man Persian army, which would be a loan number, believe it or not. Imagine that in that battle line that the Persians have probably increased the firepower over Assyrian versions by, you know, 20 or 30% more.
Starting point is 01:39:05 Imagine that 20,000 archers are in that main battle line. Each archer fires about five arrows a minute, and their quivers carry 120, but just for the sake of argument, we'll say that they're not full, and we'll give them all 100 arrows each. That means that across that battle line, where these troops who are sitting behind
Starting point is 01:39:26 the wall of wicker shields are shooting, they're shooting 100,000 arrows a minute from the main battle line, you know, to a distance of about 200 yards in front of the army. Beyond that, they can shoot, but effective range is 175 to 200 yards. They can keep up this fire
Starting point is 01:39:48 for as long as their muscles will hold out, or until their arrows run out, which at that rate would be after about 20 minutes of shooting, and after 20 minutes of shooting, they would have fired two million arrows. Now, infantry with armor might be able to withstand that,
Starting point is 01:40:07 but if you're on a horse in front of that crowd, you're dead. If you're driving a chariot, you're gone. You don't get anywhere near the battle line, right? You're blown away at a distance. That's a great sort of military change that they made over the Assyrians. If you're fighting the kind of enemies
Starting point is 01:40:26 the Persians usually are, they improved those Assyrian formations, unless, of course, enemy hand-to-hand combat troops finally get to you. Here's the way historian Nigel Tallis talks about this change that the Persians did to tweak the traditional Assyrian formation. It is likely that a battle array of this kind
Starting point is 01:40:46 would be highly effective when facing the large mounted forces known in the Near East, since at least the 2nd millennium BC. A horse is a large and vulnerable target for archery. Well-equipped infantry is less vulnerable, as the Persians were to discover. It is probable that Achaemenid formations
Starting point is 01:41:02 followed the Elamite tradition of maximizing the number of archers in the infantry units, unlike the Assyrians, who seem to have maintained a 50-50 ratio of archers to shielded spearmen. End quote. Now, it's tempting to think of all this
Starting point is 01:41:17 as minutiae, right? Wargamer geek stuff. But if the majority of historians for more than 2 millennia are right, this is the kind of minutiae that determines why these battles we're about to talk about go the way they do. Now, whereas the majority of the Persians
Starting point is 01:41:33 in this time period are going to be in that battle line we just talked about, they're also going to have some cavalry, and the Persians had great cavalry. I've often thought of the Persian army in this period as a more, for lack of a better word, barbarized version of the Assyrian army
Starting point is 01:41:50 at its height. And I often compare it to like ancient Rome. If you look at the Roman Empire at their height, it's so tempting to see them almost as like the Nazi Germany era, where they're all marching in almost lockstep, goose step formation with intricate precision, immaculate drill.
Starting point is 01:42:06 You know, everybody's sleeping in the barracks, everyone's professional in the whole thing. And then I think of the Roman Empire, you know, a couple hundred years later, where the army's lost some of that spit and polish. And instead of having everybody or the majority of troops, you know, at the top being Roman, you have, you know, some barbarians,
Starting point is 01:42:24 the Romans would call them tribal peoples, more aristocratic. I mean, Hans Del Brooke calls the Persians from this period, the cavalry knights. So imagine, you know, a more barbarized version of the Roman Empire's army with Normans. And maybe that's a little like what the Persians are. I think the Persians could give the Assyrians
Starting point is 01:42:45 a run for their money, but there's not as much spit and polish. And there is more aristocratic tribal nobility, but their cavalry can fight like hell. And there's a lot of them. They fight a little bit like the Skithians and the Huns and the Mongols and those people. They shoot you, you know, from a distance
Starting point is 01:43:02 in small units with bows. Generally, it's thought that the big unit of cavalry would go over to near where it wants to attack, stay at a distance and then send out subunits, you know, smaller squadrons, who would then go up to where they want to attack, unleash all their javelins and arrows until they're out, ride back to the main body, and then another
Starting point is 01:43:21 smaller squadron comes and repeats the process until the unit that they're firing at begins to get all disorganized or their morale breaks, or they become so weakened that they're, you know, easy prey for the Persian infantry. Once they've run out of their two million missiles or however many it is to come and mop up, and of course, once an army broke and started
Starting point is 01:43:43 to run away, all that Persian cavalry becomes absolutely lethal. They do nothing better cavalry than running down, fleeing, routing troops. Now, this cavalry was one of the most feared elements of the Persian army, and it worked in conjunction with the infantry. In fact, it's tempting to make a case that the Persians might have rationalized
Starting point is 01:44:04 getting rid of all those close combat troops and replacing them with archers by suggesting that their overwhelming cavalry could make up for the difference and that their battle system required combining what the cavalry was probably doing on the flanks with what the infantry was doing in front and close cooperation would create a lethal combined arms sort of approach when it
Starting point is 01:44:24 worked. The Persians also had those guard units we talked about. They were called the immortals, also called the attendants or the attendees, probably armored, may have fought in a similar way to the rest of the normal troops, but just at a higher quality level. Also, the Persians used mercenaries and hired them more and more, by the way, as the empire went on. And lastly,
Starting point is 01:44:46 the empire could levy troops from its own empire, which is what it did with the main forces. The main forces are Persian and Median and Illumitan and the troops from the center of the empire, but they had all these provinces stretching from modern-day Pakistan to modern-day Libya up all the way to Afghanistan and down all the way to, like, practically
Starting point is 01:45:06 Saudi Arabia. It's a huge territory and they could levy troops from the entire thing. And when you read your Herodotus, by the way, he says that at least nominal units from all those areas showed up. The Persians ruled over, like, 80 different people. And Herodotus runs down more than 40 of them, you know, when he runs down the Persian army. So you
Starting point is 01:45:25 have all these people we just talked about, but then you have all the exotic people from the periphery of the Persian empire. And Herodotus talks about the Indian troops that are in the army. He talks about the troops from Africa who will paint half their body white and half their body red and tip their spears with antelope horn, black troops from
Starting point is 01:45:43 modern-day Sudan. He'll talk about what he calls the black Ethiopians from India, which modern historians think are probably Dravidians because they're dark, but they have straight hair and horsehair helmets. I mean, it's a wonderful exotic list and historians think that part of what the Persians were doing is showing the flag a little bit
Starting point is 01:46:00 to these people that they were fighting, basically saying, look at the breadth and scope of the people we can draw from. This is how big our empire is that we encompass all these groups and you're seeing just a small number of them. Imagine how many are back at home that we could call on if we needed them. Historians are unsure how much those
Starting point is 01:46:20 troops played a role in a typical set piece battle, but it just kind of shows the width and breadth of the Persian king of kings ability to call on troops, you know, as needed. And sometimes because of their specific skill, you know, I need this done, I need to call up the Ethiopians. I mean, for example, that's how the, you know,
Starting point is 01:46:40 Persians get the greatest navy in the world like overnight. When they take over the Phoenician cities that are on the coast, they essentially, I would say, subcontract, but there's no choice in the deal. It's like, you know, the CEO, Darius of Persia Corps announces the acquisition of the Phoenician navy.
Starting point is 01:46:59 And now the Phoenician navy is a division of Persia Corps, something like that. But that's how they are with everything, right? We take over the local institutions and we let you do things your way as much as possible. I mean, part of the fun of running a Persian army in ancient war gaming was that all these troops got to
Starting point is 01:47:15 fight in their own local style. Again, that was sort of a subsidiary of the Persians letting you do things your way. They kind of go up to you according to the way we used to think anyway and say, listen, what does it you do well? Well, we're very good at spear throwing. Okay, why don't you do that for us? You'll be
Starting point is 01:47:31 just like the Phoenician navy. They're really good at that. According to historian J. F. Lazenby, he lists the Persian armies real strong points and they're all sort of above the tactical level. He lists intelligence as something they do wonderfully. You know, reconnaissance
Starting point is 01:47:47 sending out diplomats and spies and merchants who report back. I mean, they usually know quite a bit about the territories around them. He cites diplomatic warfare as his number two thing that he says the Persians does have a huge advantage in. They're always ready to make a deal, measure
Starting point is 01:48:03 the profit loss, you know, that kind of thing. And if you weren't so willing to make a deal, you know, when the Persian army was a long way away, they send diplomats with the army so that, you know, they just check back with you to make sure you're sure on that deal decision, you know, when they have 30,
Starting point is 01:48:19 50, 100,000 men with them armed heavily. Lazenby says meticulous planning was one of their strong suits. And, you know, you would think that as inheritors of tradition, the greatest record keepers in the ancient world, right, the Babylonians and Sumerians and all those
Starting point is 01:48:35 people, you'd think that you inherited the ability to, you know, handle that sort of thing. Well, keep your records, keep your books and be organized. But that actually played into how far away from the homeland you could move your armies. Because if you weren't a meticulous planner, those armies
Starting point is 01:48:51 starve when they get a certain distance away. Every army is constrained by sort of a range of motion, you know, by how you could supply it. And the sheer fact that what we call the Greek and Persian wars will happen in Greece shows you, you know, how good the Persian planning was.
Starting point is 01:49:07 They could project their power a long way. And finally, Lazenby says that they had an engineering expertise that he says was quote of a high order, end quote. Basically, the Greeks were, you know, blown away by the Persian ability to bridge
Starting point is 01:49:23 rivers, to dig canals, to knock down walls. And this is really key when you think about it. We've been comparing the Persian, you know, approach and conquest of territories and expansion to the blob. But you could also think about it like really slow, thick lava.
Starting point is 01:49:39 They just kind of, you know, when they have to reconquer territories, they just sort of go in there and one after another, slowly but surely knocked down, reliably knocked down the walls of the city. You take it, move on to the next city. And there's a very business-like approach to the whole thing.
Starting point is 01:49:55 And if you weren't good at that, you wouldn't have been able to do what the Persians did. Too many cities had walls and that was such a huge part of conquest. As I said before, I would love to see what this all looked like actually in battle. I actually go watch, by the way,
Starting point is 01:50:11 you know, some of the worst riots you've ever seen that are on the internet and everything because you'll see oftentimes police who have big shields that are like the Romans and they're kind of packed into formations and you'll see the rioters on the other side and flinging things and attacking sometimes and sometimes cavalry comes into it and you think to yourself,
Starting point is 01:50:27 okay, it's not really apples and apples at all but there's certain, we get back to the physics of the battlefield elements to it that make me think, okay, maybe this is a little what it's like. Look at how those two bodies of people move when they get close to each other. Look what happens when a horse enters the picture.
Starting point is 01:50:43 I mean, maybe you can just get the tiniest taste of what the physics of battle, that everybody up until the time period that gunpowder took over would have known instinctively or through experience or simply through common knowledge. According to ancient Greek authors, the Greeks had, especially before, you know,
Starting point is 01:51:01 the big tangle happened, a healthy respect, a very healthy respect for the great king's armies and capabilities. And as we said, up until this time, this is an army that basically wins. But then sometime between 515 and 510 BCE, Darius decides to give this army
Starting point is 01:51:24 one of those tests that are so difficult it would be a surprise if they didn't fail. Many great armies over history have failed a similar test, by the way. He decides to go invade the land occupied by the Central Asian Nomads
Starting point is 01:51:43 and becomes just another one of those, you know, leaders over time who found out that people who live on the wide open expenses of the steppe, whether in ancient times or 20th century versions of them have the option of simply retreating
Starting point is 01:52:00 into the interior and then you have to follow them. Ask Napoleon how well that can work. And that was in an era, by the way, Napoleon's time, when there were cities that could be burned down and taken, the secret weapon of these people Darius tries to conquer
Starting point is 01:52:17 is that there's nothing to conquer. They're nomads, there are no cities, there are no urban centers, and how do you, with your fantastic army, deal with them if their strategy to deal with you is to simply retreat in front of you and keep going and going and going while your supply lines get longer and longer and longer.
Starting point is 01:52:33 Because guess what? You aren't Central Asian tribal nomadic horse archers and you can't just supply a huge army, whatever that means, with lots of infantry and horses and camels and all sorts of things endlessly on a wild goose chaser, in this case, a wild centaur chase.
Starting point is 01:52:51 Now there are two reasons why this gets a ton of historical attention because Darius had actually had to quell a revolt against Central Asian people right when he came to power. This gets a ton of attention, though, for two reasons. One, Herodotus makes it a key scene in his narrative.
Starting point is 01:53:07 So when he's giving his performance, he has another opportunity to emphasize the wonderful, colorful nature of the Scythians. One of his favorite subjects, and let's be honest, one of mine, too, because if you're trying to entertain people, these people are the color. Brilliant historical color and fearsome
Starting point is 01:53:23 and nasty and scary and full of all sorts of exotic customs. They play the same role in his story that Native Americans play in the old dime novel Westerns, right? And there's a similar feel, by the way. Americans would recognize a lot of the same things because tribal people share
Starting point is 01:53:39 certain qualities, and in the same way, for example, that tribes would band together into confederations in the Americas, and we've always considered them fairly or otherwise to be the next level in state development when you go from individual tribes to confederacies banding together into supertribes
Starting point is 01:53:55 like the Iroquois confederation. Well, they did this in this entire world of the Central Asian nomads, and so the tribes that we actually know the names of are in fact confederations of many tribes. And it's a hard enough army to try to deal with.
Starting point is 01:54:11 When the Central Asian, the barbarian nomadic people from the steppe, that's the traditional we would say today, probably racist, culturally xenophobic, the million names to describe how Herodotus's views of the barbarians are. But it's one thing to try to deal with them
Starting point is 01:54:27 when they break into your territory. That's hard enough. Trying to deal with them in their territory. But let's put it this way, it won't be too long down into history where Macedonian armies from the period of Alexander the Great are leaving their bones on these desolate steppes
Starting point is 01:54:43 trying to chase down these armies of horse nomads. In Herodotus's story, there are wonderful scenes. He of course makes it a personal thing. He puts dialogue in people's mouths. And the Skithians, they play the Genghis Khan role
Starting point is 01:54:59 in this story. They are a combination of merciless and menacing. And by the way now, if you look at a map showing the route that Darius took he crosses that little strip of water that separates Europe from Asia
Starting point is 01:55:15 in modern-day Turkey, becoming an invader now from the ancient Near East stepping foot on European soil and then moves through the area east of modern-day Romania and up into the southern Ukrainian area. I mean, it's an enormously long
Starting point is 01:55:31 rotsia or raid. Burning, pillaging, looting, whatever there might be in an attempt to somehow bring these people to battle but they won't stop running. And Herodotus in his account writes, quote,
Starting point is 01:55:47 As there seemed to be no end of this pursuit which had gone on for a long time, Darius sent a horseman to Aydan Theirsos, king of the Scythians with this message. You extraordinary man, why do you keep fleeing when you could certainly do otherwise? If you think
Starting point is 01:56:03 you are able to challenge my power then stop your wandering and stand to fight it out. Or if you acknowledge that you are too weak for that course then you should stop running away. Bring gifts of earth and water to your master and enter into negotiations with him, end quote.
Starting point is 01:56:21 Sounds like a civilized kingly approach, right? Let's settle this here and now. But that's not how they did business on the Central Asian steps. And Herodotus has the reply from the very scary, you know, barbarian Central Asian, you know, tribal
Starting point is 01:56:37 leader. He writes, quote, To this Aydan Theirsos, king of the Scythians, responded This is my situation, Persian. I've never yet fled from anyone out of fear before and I'm not fleeing from you now. What I have been doing is, in fact,
Starting point is 01:56:53 no different from what I'm accustomed to do in times of peace. I'll tell you why I do not engage you now. It is because we have neither towns nor cultivated land to worry about being captured or raised, which might induce us to engage you in battle sooner. But if you really must come to battle
Starting point is 01:57:09 without further delay, know that we do have ancestral graves. So come on then, find them and try to destroy them and you will know whether or not we shall fight the graves. But before that, we shall not engage you in battle unless we see fit to do so.
Starting point is 01:57:25 He then says, quote, Instead of gifts of earth and water, I shall send you the kind of tokens you really merit. And in response to your claim to be my master, I tell you, Weep. That is your answer from the Scythians.
Starting point is 01:57:41 End quote. Weep. That's a great scene in Herodotus' history, isn't it? So is this one, as recalled by historian M.A. Dendemiyev, quote. The Scythians did not dare risk a decisive battle against the huge army of their adversaries.
Starting point is 01:57:59 They therefore resorted to their beloved scorched earth tactic. They retreated, taking with them their livestock, burning the grass and filling in the water pits. In addition, Scythian cavalry repeatedly attacked and destroyed small Persian hunting parties.
Starting point is 01:58:15 The Persians were worn out by their protracted pursuit of the Scythians deep into their own territory. When Darius was looking for a way out of this predicament, the Scythian leaders, in response to his demand that they would either come out for an open battle or submit voluntarily,
Starting point is 01:58:31 sent a messenger to the Persian camp. Subsequently, if Herodotus is to be believed, Darius was presented by the messenger with a bird, a mouse, a frog, and five arrows. Darius thought that the Scythians thus announced their submission. Gbryus, however, one of the
Starting point is 01:58:47 seven conspirators against Smyrtus, Bardia, gave a completely different explanation. If the Persians could not fly in the sky like birds, could not burrow into the ground like mice, or jump into the lakes like frogs, then they should expect to die by arrows."
Starting point is 01:59:05 There's a lot of different ways to interpret this. Generally, it's always been considered to be some kind of a loss, and the Persians come struggling back to Asia, lucky to make it over a bridge of boats held by Greeks. But modern-day historians look at this in a number of different ways. One of which is
Starting point is 01:59:23 that these leaders, people who were descendant from step tribes themselves, who dealt with them all the time, knew that you couldn't capture them or force them into battle, and so in effect, what they were doing was something like what the Chinese did for millennia to try to control
Starting point is 01:59:39 and punch at them. Just launch a raid, essentially, with a huge army go smack them around. Sometimes you can depose their leaders and put in a client king, because as Dandemiya points out, you can't actually, you know, put a Persian ruler, like a satrap,
Starting point is 01:59:55 to rule over these tribal peoples. They won't, you know, you can't. They have to have a tribal chieftain or something like that, but you can handpick that guy. So in other words, Darius might have just punched these tribes exactly what he wanted to, but the other thing that modern historians point out,
Starting point is 02:00:11 in which case you almost have to look at this as a victory, is that when King Darius comes home supposedly struggling with the Skithians close on his heels, he leaves a general in Thrace. Thrace is in the modern day Balkans. And this general's orders
Starting point is 02:00:27 are to continue the conquest and subject that entire area. That entire area is Europe, north of Greece. The northern part of the Black Sea. A place where cities like Athens depend on grain shipments that all of a
Starting point is 02:00:43 sudden are threatened by an army whose capital is located in modern day Iran. But these Persians are in the Balkans. This is the setup for what's about to happen.
Starting point is 02:01:01 And what's about to happen kicks off with a revolt in cities that are in modern day Turkey. Greek cities, but cities that were under Persian domination at this time. Many of these cities were in a province of
Starting point is 02:01:17 what's now modern day Turkey. Asia Minor called Ionia, so they're called Ionian Greeks and this revolt is called the Ionian Revolt. And it'll go from like 499 to like 493 BCE The Greeks were great colonizers.
Starting point is 02:01:35 It had cities all over the Mediterranean not just the coast of Turkey on the Aegean like these cities. They had many of the islands in that whole region were Greek. They had colonies on the North African coast. They had
Starting point is 02:01:51 one outside of Egypt. They had many on Sicily. They had some in Italy. They had some in southern France. They had colonizers. And so they have cousins all over the Mediterranean though. And it is to the mainland Greeks that the Ionians
Starting point is 02:02:07 go for help after they rebel and realize uh oh, you know, we're screwed. If we don't get some help here we're in terrible terrible trouble. So they send a guy named Aristogoras who's one of the leaders of this revolt back to mainland Greece to essentially make a pitch like a business proposition.
Starting point is 02:02:23 And I know this whole show has a sort of a corporate business feel, he's it. He actually has this guy going here with like a PowerPoint presentation first to the Spartans and has him acting as a clever businessman to try to sell Sparta on
Starting point is 02:02:39 intervention in their revolt against the Persians. And it's one of the great parts of Herodotus where, you know, essentially he has the story of Aristogoras first going to King Cleomenes of the Spartans. And remember the Spartans had two of them, two kings. In this case,
Starting point is 02:02:55 Aristogoras goes in there with his bronze tablet so you think of your, you know, laptop PowerPoint presentation and he sits down with the Spartan king and he starts giving him the rundown of all the good things you'll get if you invest in this, you know, Ionian revolt idea
Starting point is 02:03:11 that I have here for you today. This is from my Purvis translation and he translates as he should, by the way, the word Greeks as Hellenes. So when we say Hellenes we mean Greeks we mean Spartans, quote. According to the account
Starting point is 02:03:27 of the Lachodemonians, when he went to talk with Cleomenes, Aristogoras had with him a bronze tablet on which a map of the entire world was engraved, including all rivers and every sea. To begin the discussion, Aristogoras said, Cleomenes do not be surprised at my
Starting point is 02:03:43 urgency in coming here, for this is how matters stand, that the sons of the Ionians are slaves instead of free men as a disgrace for the most painful anguish to us. But also to you, especially of all the others, in as much as you are the leaders of Hellas. So now, by
Starting point is 02:03:59 the gods of the Hellenes, come rescue the Ionians from slavery. They're of the same blood as you after all. This will be easy for you to accomplish, since the barbarians are not valiant, while you've attained the highest degree of excellence in war. Since they fight with bows and shortspears
Starting point is 02:04:15 wearing trousers and turbans on their head, they're easily subdued. Further, the inhabitants of that continent possess more good things than all the other people of the world put together. To begin with, they have gold, as well as silver, bronze, colorful clothing, beasts of burden and slaves,
Starting point is 02:04:31 all of which could be yours if you really desired them. End quote. He then runs down every territory that the Persians have, at least the ones Herodotus knows about, and with each one he says what it has. This one
Starting point is 02:04:47 has a lot of gold and silver. This one has a lot of cattle. This one has a lot of slaves. In other words, he's running down the benefits of this business proposition of his. The leader of Sparta says go away, let me think about this for a couple of days, and I'll come back and give you my answer.
Starting point is 02:05:03 He comes back and he asks a simple question of this Aristogoras guy. He says, so how far is it from where we are now to where this king is? He wants to know how far it is to the Spartans, but how far do I have to go to win this war that you're trying to sell me on?
Starting point is 02:05:19 Herodotus says at this point this business proposition goes sour. When Aristogoras makes a key mistake when he takes the opportunity to not lie to the Spartans at this point. This is how Herodotus from my DeSellenkor translation puts it
Starting point is 02:05:35 right before they're supposed to meet again for the Spartans to give the answer as to how they feel about investing the whole thing, quote. That was as far as they got at the moment, but when the day came on which Cleomenes had agreed to give his decision
Starting point is 02:05:51 and they met at the appointed place he asked Aristogoras how far off Sousa was, Sousa the Persian capital and how many days it took to reach it from the Ionian coast. Up to this, Aristogoras had been clever and had led Cleomenes on with great success, but in answering
Starting point is 02:06:07 this question he made a bad mistake. If he wanted to induce the Spartans to invade Asia, he never ought to have told them the truth, but he did and he said it took three months, end quote. Herodotus, writing 2,500 years ago, I mean think this is
Starting point is 02:06:23 a great scene, right, that you almost think about him as the sort of the sleazy salesman type comes in here and tries to sort of put one over on the Spartan king and then all of a sudden falls into the trap and says three months is how long it's going to take to get to the Persian capital and Cleomenes basically says get the hell out of here.
Starting point is 02:06:39 He says be out of Sparta by sundown. Are you crazy? And sort of instantly understands that this whole time he's been led on and Herodotus says that Cleomenes goes back home and the sales guy follows him, tries to start bribing him to do the deal.
Starting point is 02:06:55 Come on, I'll give you 50 talents if you do it. I'll give you 100 talents if you do it, that kind of thing and Herodotus says a little Spartan boy, one of the sons of Cleomenes was in the room and said something like daddy you better get out of here because this man's going to corrupt you if things keep going the way they're going. It's another one of those stories about the uncorruptible Spartans.
Starting point is 02:07:11 Now, because he fails with the Spartans, this Aristogoras character then goes to the Athenians who have been a democracy now for 10, 15, 20 years. I mean it's a short new kind of system they're running with there and it's not like a democracy
Starting point is 02:07:27 you or I would recognize but as Herodotus points out instead of having to convince a king or two in Sparta to invest in your idea here you have to kind of convince the majority of whomever it is that makes the decisions here that they should invest in the idea
Starting point is 02:07:43 in other words voters whomever the heck that might be in an ancient democracy. This also from the Decellan court translation quote. It was at this moment when the Athenians had made their decision and were already on bad terms with Persia that Aristogoras of Miletus
Starting point is 02:07:59 who had been turned out of Sparta by Cleomenes arrived in Athens. He knew that Athens at this time was the next most powerful state in Greece accordingly he appeared before the people and made a speech in which he repeated the arguments he'd previously used at Sparta about all the good
Starting point is 02:08:15 things to be found in Asia and the Persian methods of warfare how they used neither shields nor spears and were easy to beat. In addition to this he pointed out that Miletus had been founded by Athenian settlers so it was only natural that the Athenians powerful as they were
Starting point is 02:08:31 should help her out in her need. Indeed so anxious was he to get Athenian aid that he promised everything that came into his head until at last he succeeded. Apparently it's easier to impose upon a crowd than upon an individual for Aristogoras who had failed to impose upon
Starting point is 02:08:47 Cleomenes succeeded with 30,000 Athenians. Once persuaded to accede to Aristogoras' appeal the Athenians passed a decree for the dispatch of 20 ships to Ionia under the command of Melantheus a distinguished Athenian.
Starting point is 02:09:03 Herodotus then says the sailing of this fleet was the beginning of trouble not only for Greece but for other peoples. End quote. That translation of that line differs book to book translation to translation but that's the shverpunk. That's the moment when
Starting point is 02:09:19 the Athenians decide to do something that's a little bit crazy because they essentially give in and Herodotus sort of blames democracy for this saying that one Spartan king could see the flaw in this dude's proposal from the get-go. Spotted the flaw
Starting point is 02:09:35 like the shark tank investor venture capitalist said get the heck out of here don't you try to cheat me. But 30,000 Athenian voters part of the electorate there, they could have the wool pull over their eyes by a clever salesman and the Athenians send 20 ships
Starting point is 02:09:51 to go help the Ionian Revolt but 20 ships is not enough to do anything except get you in trouble. These Athenian ships will join with other ships, they will disembark and join rebellious Ionian troops who will among other things
Starting point is 02:10:07 burn the provincial capital at Sardis maybe accidentally and then that army will get caught by one of the provincial Persian armies and crushed with heavy casualties. At this point the Athenians whose support for this Ionian Revolt
Starting point is 02:10:25 is kind of like not a little more than symbolic but quite a bit less than useful, they kind of pull back and go oh yeah we're not that into it anymore. We can kind of see echoes in an inconsistent policy where public opinion just sort of
Starting point is 02:10:41 changes right? There's no king here to say we're going to stay the course, the public wasn't sure anyway and all of a sudden maybe these Persians didn't look like the pushovers that the salesman for the Ionian Revolt said they'd be, yeah we're out and hopefully we'll just forget that this ever happened.
Starting point is 02:10:59 Of course Herodotus makes a point to say that Darius of course is not going to forget that it happened and one of Herodotus's great stories revolves around you know Darius trying to make sure that he didn't forget amongst all his problems
Starting point is 02:11:15 in his empire those people the Athenians Herodotus's story talks about after the burning of Sardis and Darius gets the news about that quote it is said that when Darius first heard this report he disregarded the Ionians
Starting point is 02:11:31 since he knew that they at least would not escape punishment for their revolts but he inquired as to who the Athenians were and after he'd been told he asked for a bow. He took the bow set an arrow on the string and shot the arrow toward the heavens and as it flew high into the air he said
Starting point is 02:11:47 Zeus let it be granted to me to punish the Athenians after saying this he appointed one of his attendants to repeat to him three times whenever his dinner was served. My lord remember the Athenians end quote that's how they did things back
Starting point is 02:12:03 in the analog era no word on whether the attendants name was Ciri nonetheless great story though it may be probably either just totally false or you know another way to look at it is that this Athenian problem of Darius this was so small he had to have someone remind
Starting point is 02:12:21 him every day three times at dinner otherwise he'd forget about it with all the things he had to deal with. To show you what a low priority this whole revolt is for the Persian Empire the great king himself doesn't even worry about the Ionian revolt he delegates it to an underling and the Persians like slow moving
Starting point is 02:12:37 lava methodically reduce these rebellious cities in Asia Minor and off the coast and it's often awful the retribution that these empires meet out to rebellious cities but let's understand that's that's something that in much of the world
Starting point is 02:12:53 is still treated rather harshly and in this time period standard operating procedure was an extreme human experience so for example the home city of Aristogoras the power point presenter of Herodotus he gets his city leveled
Starting point is 02:13:09 Miletus is the name of it for the most part killed but the boys were told are castrated and sent back to Persia to be eunuchs the girls and women sold into slavery and so if you don't look at Aristogoras the way Herodotus did like some clever
Starting point is 02:13:25 manipulator and instead look at him as someone who one way or another gets involved in this revolt but once you're in the stakes are everything I mean you see what happened to his home city when it got retaken by the Persians he knows what the stakes are
Starting point is 02:13:41 if you're thinking every man dies every boy gets castrated every woman and girl gets sold into slavery and your city's leveled wouldn't you do anything wouldn't you buy hooker by crook tell the Athenians anything that they needed to hear to get public opinion on your side enough to send help
Starting point is 02:13:57 and even though Herodotus sort of makes this Aristogoras and his movie version of events out to be a little like professor Harold Hill and the music man coming in to sell River City on the idea of a boy's band with instruments that'll never show up
Starting point is 02:14:13 and the people of Athens are at least a sizable percentage of their electorate as easily hoodwinked by professor Hill it's clear that for at least some Athenians this issue of Ionian freedom for Greeks in Asia Minor is big and passionate
Starting point is 02:14:29 and important historian Peter Green tells a story of a play that aired in Athens right after the Ionian revolt collapsed he says it may have been the first time that recent historical events as opposed to myths had been represented in the Athenian
Starting point is 02:14:45 theater and he writes quote in the early spring of 493 the dramatist Phrynaikus put on a play called the capture of Miletus vividly depicting the collapse of the Ionian revolt the effect was remarkable Phrynaikus saw his audience weep tears
Starting point is 02:15:01 of grief at patriotic shame stung into swift action the pro-Persian lobby got the play banned when in doubt Green writes fall back on censorship Phrynaikus himself was fined a thousand drachmas almost three years pay for the average working
Starting point is 02:15:17 man but the idea of subservience to Darius however reasonable it might be now rapidly lost ground end quote how modern does that sound public opinion altered by a popular portrayal
Starting point is 02:15:33 of events that were relatively current and while historian Peter Green writing in 1970 shares an attitude that we probably would share today living when and where we do that censorship is not a good thing
Starting point is 02:15:49 censorship of the arts is not a good thing and that public opinion should matter in a democracy or a republic it should matter and remember Athens is in what you could call the testing phase maybe of how this whole democracy thing is going to work there certainly must have been other
Starting point is 02:16:05 democratic experiments the world over but Athens is credited with being the quote end quote first democracy and they probably are given the scale you know first major attempt at the experiment that is democracy only 10 or 20 years old at this point and if you're watching
Starting point is 02:16:21 from the sidelines and you're a member of the conservative former but still powerful ruling class and you're looking at how public opinion is doing so far at trying to you know govern things intelligently they've already done something the Spartan king refused to do and got
Starting point is 02:16:37 involved in a revolt that tweaked the nose of the great king of Persia that never had a chance of achieving anything really meaningful with the small amount of people they sent but was just enough to get you into trouble you already did that and now this playwright is writing plays
Starting point is 02:16:53 that get them all fired up about confronting Persia because of all the injustices of Darth Vader and the evil star empire if this is the same thing as like remember the main was the newspaper campaign that fired up Americans in the Spanish-American war period to
Starting point is 02:17:09 you know go to war with Spain it's a little bit different because in that conflict you could argue about historical justice and all that kind of stuff but the United States was going to kick Spain's rear end so propaganda that got public opinion to support the idea of kicking Spain's rear end
Starting point is 02:17:25 is something that is not too detrimental to the country this is much more like the people in Latvia being encouraged and their passions roused and a war fever stoked
Starting point is 02:17:41 in order to confront the Russians or the Mexicans you know having the propaganda and the entertainment and public opinion and everything pushing towards you know going back and reconquering those states they lost to the United States a century and a half ago that's
Starting point is 02:17:57 something that in that case is public opinion leading you towards national suicide and they'd already shown a propensity to get you into trouble that's why you're on the you know great kings naughty list already it's no wonder that guy was fined
Starting point is 02:18:13 you know stoking those kinds of emotions at this time and at this place that's an existential threat to Athens at this point it is interesting the ability to portray the Persians in such an evil light though because if you actually look
Starting point is 02:18:31 you know at the Ionian revolt and how the Persians dealt with it afterwards they actually did so in a way that was just typical of their style they punished the rebellious cities horribly as we said but then went in and tried to figure out why the Ionians kept revolting
Starting point is 02:18:47 lowered some taxes in places changed some trade deals in others tried to alleviate the problem at its core and ironically enough because some of these cities that had revolted didn't like the tyrants that were ruling them this new fangled thing called democracy they wanted a piece of
Starting point is 02:19:03 that too the Persians let them have it remember they were known for allowing local customs you know to stay in place as long as things still worked out for them and if the local custom was going to be to elect your own leaders in your own city the Persians were fine with that as long as
Starting point is 02:19:19 the city stayed loyal to Persia so once again the Persians kind of look like the place we'd all like to live if we had to live back in those days in a you know absolute monarchy right on the ancient monarchy
Starting point is 02:19:35 scale you know they score very highly for leniency tolerance compassion common sense but if you're Greek you're not going to look at it that way at least not if you're Athenian the last thing you want to do is have a king you have a democracy
Starting point is 02:19:51 now and if you're Spartan you want a king but you want a Spartan king the last thing you want is some barbarian king so no people ever in the path of being conquered by any other people could see the upsides can you blame them
Starting point is 02:20:07 but you know I've always thought that if you were another city state in Greece remember Greece is not a unified place it's a bunch of competing often warring in some cases bitter enemy city states smart as a city state
Starting point is 02:20:23 Athens as a city state Thebes, Corinth a bunch of places Argos what the Athenian democracy did by sending those 20 ships to aid the Ionian revolt is take the great king of kings gays the most powerful
Starting point is 02:20:39 figure in the world and turn it into your direction and he doesn't just see Athens he sees everything over there what did the people in Argos do to deserve that they might have eventually been absorbed by the blob
Starting point is 02:20:55 who knows but the Athenians essentially declared war on Persia but lived in a neighborhood that the Persians couldn't help but trample on on their way to punishing the Athenians and this is partly why this story has magnified in terms of importance
Starting point is 02:21:11 for the people in Greece this is life or death to the Persians this is a frontier disturbance historian A.T. Olmsted has a chapter I love the title it's problems on the Greek frontier
Starting point is 02:21:27 historian George Cockwell entitled his whole book the Greek wars instead of the persian wars because the persian wars makes it sound like the Greeks are talking about it because to them that's what this was but to the rest of the world that was centered around Mesopotamia
Starting point is 02:21:43 these were the Greek wars something over on the frontier something that in no way you could ever imagine could threaten the empire the Athenians however were doomed and they knew it was coming during this whole period traditionally
Starting point is 02:21:59 there's a lot of focus on Athenian internal politics and the war party versus you know what the Athenians sometimes called collaborators they had a word for it based on you know it was the Persians and the Medes so they called it medizing when you were medizing you were talking about collaborating
Starting point is 02:22:15 or giving into the great king and so they had these different factions led by different powerful families you know sort of sparring and fighting it out and meanwhile you know the existential threat in 492 BCE gets going led by a son of one of the assassination
Starting point is 02:22:31 hit squad members who also happened to marry into the royal family so you know you can see how incestuous all this assassination hit squad thing is starting to be his name is Mardonius he's fascinating I wish we knew more about him he's an interesting Persian general
Starting point is 02:22:47 and he takes an army and a fleet working together in a way we would call land sea operations today and leaves Asia crosses the Dardanelles into Europe now nobody knows the size of this army
Starting point is 02:23:03 Herodotus says it was 300 ships take that with a grain of salt but it doesn't matter if it's half that big this is a mammoth operation for navies in the ancient world the Persians of course did not create their own navy they took over the best one in the world and then they tasked it with things it never
Starting point is 02:23:19 could have been tasked with before like okay we want you to support a 20 or 30 or 40,000 man army with your navy that's a new level of sophistication and operations and what the Persians are doing in this conquest of Greece which is something that they might have done in Egypt too
Starting point is 02:23:35 earlier but this is where you really get a chance to see it on display is a precursor to you know land sea operations today involving you know marine amphibious landings everything these fleets can be used to sit offshore and
Starting point is 02:23:51 follow an army that's marching along the coast and feed it extending operations nobody knows how many troops Maradona has had but he lands in this area controlled by Thracians the entire region around the Balkans during this time
Starting point is 02:24:07 period in this particular area of course is up in in sort of by where modern north eastern tip of Greece is you know up in that area all a bunch of Thracian tribes Herodotus labeled them the second most populous nation in the world after the Indians and extremely warlike
Starting point is 02:24:23 he said that they would have conquered the world if they didn't love fighting each other too much and they are you know you don't want to be so stereotypical about barbarians because all these people had wonderful cultures and values and religious beliefs and you know puberty rights I mean it's all a part
Starting point is 02:24:39 of it but you can't help but look at a Thracian and think there's your Hollywood casting director's idea of a barbarian they look a lot like a Skithian without the horse they got the war paint they got the tattoos they like you know carries several heads around with them when they're trying to intimidate their enemies
Starting point is 02:24:55 and they're tough and they like ambushes and they like to kill prisoners I mean they scare people and this area had submitted to Darius this whole area when he came along chasing those Skithians a while back but you know the Persian army then goes home
Starting point is 02:25:11 and they kind of you know get a little lax and yeah we haven't heard from him in a while and you know whatever and then the army comes back and says you know what we're just going to tighten that relationship a little bit more and made all of those areas that have been formally sort of just yeah we're your vassals kind of deal
Starting point is 02:25:27 into official provinces run by governors appointed by the Persian king one of these provinces is the next little kingdom I guess you could say on the way to Greece you go from Thrace to Macedonia
Starting point is 02:25:43 if the name rings a bell the king at the time will be harder his name is Alexander Alexander the first of Macedonia you know what he does when the Persian army under Mardonia shows up he submits becomes a governor under the control
Starting point is 02:25:59 of the Persians and some historians in a wonderful ironic twist of history say that if not for the stability and centralization and state building climate that Persian control you know gave Macedonia during this
Starting point is 02:26:15 period they may never have coalesced into a strong centralized state that would eventually evolve into something that could destroy the very people who made that centralized state possible oh and just for the fun of it do it under a king with the same name don't you just love history
Starting point is 02:26:33 nonetheless the Thracian tribes do get one good sucker punch in on Mardonius before they get crushed literally a tribe of them will ambush the Persian army at night and create great havoc
Starting point is 02:26:49 including wounding Mardonius right around the same time this fleet that is accompanying the Persian army will try to round a point called Mount Athos and Herodotus says as soon you know it's like going around the tip of
Starting point is 02:27:05 Florida think about it that way and as soon as the fleet hits the tip it gets hit by winds strong winds according to Herodotus and he says 300 ships sank and 20,000 men died here's what my purveys translation of Herodotus says
Starting point is 02:27:21 quote from Thassos the fleet crossed over and sailed close to the shore of the mainland up to Acanthos from which they set out in an attempt to round Mount Athos but as they were sailing around a strong north wind came up on them which was so impossible
Starting point is 02:27:37 to deal with that it battered them badly and wrecked many of their ships against the shore of Mount Athos in fact it is said that about 300 of their ships were destroyed with more than 20,000 men and since this sea is full of savage creatures some were snatched up and killed by them
Starting point is 02:27:53 while others were dashed against the sharp rocks some men perished because they did not know how to swim and still others died from the cold so that is what happened to the fleet there end quote I'm sorry in my head right now what did I think to myself
Starting point is 02:28:09 what did that look like 300 ships 20,000 men that is somewhere between 13 and 14 titanics going down in terms of lives lost if Herodotus's numbers are anywhere near correct
Starting point is 02:28:25 but even more from a visual standpoint is the idea of 300 ships wrecked all I mean are they all bunched together in one place or are they scattered around an entire coastline what is the visual on this if Herodotus is doing the movie
Starting point is 02:28:41 who's doing the cinematography on that and how much do we have to use CGI computer graphics because there's no way otherwise to show that scene how much would it cost to do that 1950s Elizabeth Taylor Richard Burton style right
Starting point is 02:28:57 analog have to get 300 fake ships I mean think about the visuals just all the people in the water I mean everything that people find so horrifying about going down in the titanic you have happening around Mount Athos
Starting point is 02:29:13 and you know when you think about the precariousness of maritime travel I mean bad storms will sink ships today as we all know well the farther back you go in history in general the more rickety these vessels become during this period they didn't even like to stray away from the coast very much
Starting point is 02:29:29 standard operating procedure was to beach these ships at night and then in the morning push them back out and they're big ships but you still beach them 140 guys I read it took to essentially lift a trireme onto the shore at night
Starting point is 02:29:45 so I wonder how much it took to actually give these these fleets trouble but the idea of 300 vessels going down when they rounded a cape it's just it boggles the mind and yet you can find historical examples all over the place I mean the most famous has to be the kamikaze
Starting point is 02:30:01 right? the divine wind when Japan was saved you know from the Mongol horde because the storm came up and battered the fleet sank all these ships scotched the invasion right? maybe this was Greece's own
Starting point is 02:30:19 version of a kamikaze but one thing that the Greeks knew is that this was not going to save them this kamikaze was not a deliverer it was a delayer and in a mere
Starting point is 02:30:37 two years Darius will have his next invasion force ready understand something 300 ships lost 20,000 men lost that will stop most ancient empires in their tracks the Persians
Starting point is 02:30:53 methodically just put together another one in 490 it's ready to go and it is bigger it is nastier it is going to be handled better and we're going to take into account everything we learned from the failures of the last expedition
Starting point is 02:31:11 and this time it is going to be aimed right at the heart of Athens and it's tempting to see Darius in his CEO role as already seeing that the odds are massively in his favor I mean in the celestial casino in the sky
Starting point is 02:31:29 the battle between Athens and the Persians is off the books they're not taking bets on that there are no odds there is no chance and Darius is still trying to get a little edge here or there he leaves no stone unturned planning wise
Starting point is 02:31:47 he sends out envoys in the year between you know the first expedition that founders off the rocks of Mount Athos and the one coming up he sends envoys to Greece and they go to all these Greek states and these Greek islands and they ask for earth and water remember earlier we said that was the
Starting point is 02:32:03 traditional token of submission and most of these places give it to them vast majority of the islands, a bunch of Greek states two notable holdouts though Athens who either throws Persian envoy into a pit that they usually have for convicts awaiting execution or throws them off a cliff
Starting point is 02:32:23 take your pick and the Spartans who in one of the famous moves of all time although some historians doubt it ever happened supposedly throw the Persian envoy into a well when he asks for earth and water and tells him he can get both of them down there that kills the Persian envoy
Starting point is 02:32:41 and puts both the Spartans and the Athenians if they really did that onto the ledger of you know, misdemeanors and high crimes that the Persians are keeping track of remember what happened to the Egyptians when they killed Persian envoys Cambyses got to sit there
Starting point is 02:32:57 and watch a thousand or two thousand of their kids executed and sold into slavery a bunch of Greek city states and islands chose what you probably have to see as the only realistic answer and submitted earth and water to the Persians as asked and instantly becoming
Starting point is 02:33:15 not just neutral in this struggle that Athens is about to engage in but adversaries I mean other city states in Greece all of a sudden were subjects of the great king that's like the slow moving lava on the other side of the Aegean all of a sudden launches
Starting point is 02:33:31 embers into the sky that dropped down on city states in Greece near Athens the great king is going to levy troops from these other Greek cities to use against the Athenians so if you already were going to crush poor little Greece
Starting point is 02:33:49 with your Persian forces well now he's isolated the Athenians for the most part the Spartans with them so now he's just going to crush that little part of Greece now he's going to add Greek city states to his side and their armies to his I mean this is a guy who really likes to load the dice
Starting point is 02:34:05 right and when you hear the scale of this attack and what it takes to launch it gives you an absolutely new appreciation for the capabilities of ancient peoples and you really do think to yourself could we do this today
Starting point is 02:34:21 if we had no computers and none of the modern stuff we normally use I mean you try to take let's just say a 50,000 stadium size crowd of people and transport it over water and land a long way
Starting point is 02:34:37 and not have it be a catastrophe historian Tom Holland you know has both of the generals of this expedition one guy's name is Artifranis and he's related to the royal family the others called Datus and he's a mead and they command this expedition and from their eyes
Starting point is 02:34:55 he has them see the preparations that were so large and massive and went on for a whole year and there's no doubt the Athenians knew this was going on Holland writes quote every day's journey westward brought them fresh evidence of the barely believable scale of the great king's resources
Starting point is 02:35:11 the labor gangs toiling to maintain the roads whole populations sometimes transplanted from the furthest reaches of the earth the guards stationed beside every bridge every flotilla of pontoons every mountain pass
Starting point is 02:35:27 the troops in their own rear not merely persians and meads from further east bactrians, sogdeans and axe wielding Sakha what was Athens to people such as these not even a name yet on they marched directed by the will
Starting point is 02:35:43 of their far off all seeing king and every evening no matter where they halted these men from the steppes from the mountains from the villages of Iran they would be provisioned out of monstrous depots supplied punctually with jugs of wine and loaves of bread and barley for their horses
Starting point is 02:35:59 and when at last having passed through the Syrian gates and descended into the plains of Kalikia on the southeastern coast of modern day Turkey they found their waiting for them an immense fleet of ships some built as weapons of war others as horse transports
Starting point is 02:36:15 end quote in the history of naval warfare what the persians are about to do here it's hard to find an earlier version it's hard to imagine that anyone moved tens of thousands of troops across the water and landed them in
Starting point is 02:36:31 like an amphibious assault situation what the persians are doing here is breathtaking and remember two years ago year and a half ago two years ago they lost 300 ships and 20,000 men doing something like this so they know what might happen
Starting point is 02:36:49 this time by the way they're going to go a much more direct route none of this going around the long way and supplying the army we're going to transport the army on the ships and we're going to island hop across the Aegean from Turkey to Greece take the islands on the way
Starting point is 02:37:05 if you are in Greece especially if you are in Athens it's hard to imagine those folks feeling a whole lot different than the British in the second world war after France fell and they knew they just knew okay brace yourself
Starting point is 02:37:21 the storm is coming and for the Athenians in 490 the storm breaks in the summer of 490 BCE the Persian expedition gets underway Herodotus says
Starting point is 02:37:37 it consists of 600 ships now modern day historians have done a great job poking holes in the ancient authors numbers whether we're talking ships or men but they have no real agreement about what numbers to plug in for them and there's broad disagreement
Starting point is 02:37:55 in fact historians are not even sure what the goal of this mission is is this a mission just to punish Athens and some of their small island friends and what not well if so you require one size force if on the other hand this is an expedition
Starting point is 02:38:11 with the intention to punish Athens and conquer the rest of Greece you need another size force so even trying to figure out how historians differ I've mentioned earlier that this operation is really a different sort of operation than what you saw before this period
Starting point is 02:38:27 the Persians as we said may have done this already a generation before when conquering Egypt but in earlier periods you always had naval warfare but it was something more like a glorified version of what the Vikings did than this what the Persians are doing
Starting point is 02:38:43 is really the precursor that will eventually evolve into say three day landings in June 1944 it's the father and mother of that because when the Trojan wars happen for example and the Mycenaeans come over from the area that's now
Starting point is 02:38:59 Greece and they invade and you have the Trojan wars they come over on ships too but they don't bring sophisticated horse transports and food carrying ships that do nothing but bring the supplies that keep everybody fed and watered that's a modern day operation
Starting point is 02:39:15 and when the Sea Peoples came to Egypt in ancient times they didn't bring horse transports and everything they needed to supply an army with them by sea in 1944 when the Allies crossed the English Channel they did and they did here too
Starting point is 02:39:31 by going island hopping when these islands in the Aegean are relatively close to each other the Persians can avoid having to cross like a large stretch of open water they can go from place to place to place you know most of the time probably just beach their ships at night
Starting point is 02:39:47 some cities get the destruction treatment the first one they go to is one called Naxos and they owed some payback to that one and so even though the population fled up into the mountains places got burned you know bad things happened but then they arrive at another island
Starting point is 02:40:03 one that is supposedly the birthplace of the god Apollo and the population runs away they're all scared and the Persians stop and they tell them to come back you have nothing to fear because that island didn't do anything you know they submitted then the Persian general goes up
Starting point is 02:40:19 to the altar of Apollo and burns an outrageous amount of frankincense sort of massively over tipping the god as a kind of a way to say listen you know when we're around this god's gonna get even more than he's used to you know when you were taking care of things I mean it's the carrot and stick approach
Starting point is 02:40:35 that the Persians always use then they go to another city to give it to shreds the city's name was Eritrea it was one of the two cities you know along with Athens that really supported the Ionian revolt so it's on the hit list for the Persians
Starting point is 02:40:51 and they take advantage of the divisions that seem to be in almost all these Greek cities maybe not Sparta but maybe even Sparta using their gold, their promises and this carrot and stick approach of theirs to essentially
Starting point is 02:41:07 tear the Greeks up from within to exploit divisions that already exist one of the great advantages the Persians have against the Greeks is they're united and the Greeks aren't but it's not just a division between this city-state you know Argos does not get along with Sparta it's divisions within city-states
Starting point is 02:41:23 for example here's how M.A. Dandemiev describes what happens when the Persians launch this expedition to the islands and begin to punish people quote on Naxos which was still independent they conquered the island and pillaged it
Starting point is 02:41:39 the majority of the people of the island fled to the mountains there upon the Persian army sailed to the town of Eritrea on Yubia at that time Eritrea suffered from the strong antagonism between two political parties the aristocrats wanted to defend their town
Starting point is 02:41:55 while the democrats were inclined to surrender the Eritreans offered resistance against the Persians for six days on the seventh day the democrats surrendered their city in the hope that the Persians would give them the power over Eritrea the Persians however burnt and destroyed
Starting point is 02:42:11 the city and its temples and led away its people into captivity they were deported to Sousa in modern day Iran and there upon by orders of Darius settled in the village of Adurica in the Elamite district of Qissia end quote
Starting point is 02:42:27 supposedly the great kings orders to his generals had been to reduce Eritrea and Athens to slavery and then to bring the slaves to him and I kind of always assumed that to be rhetorical he doesn't mean really like scoop up all the people
Starting point is 02:42:43 in the city state put them on the ships send the ships back to the asian mainland then march them three months to him in chains and Sousa does he and then I remember that people had been moving whole populations of other people since time began
Starting point is 02:42:59 and I wanted to couldn't you look at history through a lens of population movement and start by determining that there's two basic kinds voluntary population movement and involuntary population movement you know the movement of people who want to go elsewhere and the movement of people that somebody else wants
Starting point is 02:43:15 to go elsewhere Joseph Stalin was doing this kind of stuff in the 1950s wasn't he so maybe not that hard to believe and certainly if you were the Athenians you get worried about this Eritrean disaster and you get an idea of
Starting point is 02:43:31 what your very near future probably looks like and you have divisions within your city every bit as contentious as those that brought down Eritrea and you can't help but notice once again that in a very modern move the Persians
Starting point is 02:43:47 are taking advantage of this with them leading them guiding them and helping them on this expedition towards Athens a guy that used to run the place they're bringing back an old tyrant and I stress the word old because that's what Herodotus does
Starting point is 02:44:03 this is a guy who ruled the place before democracy broke out and the Persians are bringing him back they're interested we would say today in regime change and they're bringing a foreign army to back it but the assumption is that there's going to be a bunch of people in Athens
Starting point is 02:44:19 who welcome this from the other party if you will supposedly there are high signs and all kinds of other things that conspirators and those who want the regime to revert back to the old days I mean the city divisions in Athens are clear they're open
Starting point is 02:44:35 they're talked about by the primary sources and the Persians appear designing their strategy to take advantage of this it seems just like them doesn't it how are we going to rule this fractious very political place well let's bring somebody back in who knows the lay of the land and who has the support of the people already
Starting point is 02:44:53 and that faction in Athens is opposed by some of the most famous people in this story if you're looking at it from the traditional Greek point of view guys like Themistocles who a lot of historians compare to you know a Churchill figure in this story and
Starting point is 02:45:09 another one named Miltiades who will play a key general role in this upcoming you know face-off that we're about to happen according to Herodotus it is the former Athenian tyrant in between wheezing and coughing fits
Starting point is 02:45:25 that supposedly tells the Persians the best place to land for their amphibious operation a plane called Marathon about 25 miles outside the city of Athens you could call it a staging point for your amphibious operation right
Starting point is 02:45:41 unload everything get yourself all put together and then you can march on the city or you can just act as the incentive for Athens to change public opinion favoring more these people who are saying it would be great to have the old tyrant back and at the same time
Starting point is 02:45:57 we'll be realists about cutting our losses against the great king who now has an army 25 miles from here by the way did I mention that in a war party Themistocles Miltiades what are you gonna do about that and of course this leads now
Starting point is 02:46:13 to a famous encounter first of all the Athenians do the smart thing and they send a runner which boggles the mind when you think about how this is a life or death issue do we send a horseman no there had to be a reason why and I don't know what it is
Starting point is 02:46:29 we'll leave it to a historian to explain why somebody would run to Sparta but that's what they do they send a runner because they need help and you know who you're gonna call most of Greece is already working now the Persians and besides the Spartans could kick all their rearends in combat anyway
Starting point is 02:46:45 send the runner to the Spartans and begin to put your own house in order and get your soldiers together and this is where the story once again needs to focus a bit on the soldiers we described the Persian army earlier and we pointed out at that time that
Starting point is 02:47:01 there's a real importance to things happening on the battlefield level tactical questions that impact the rest of human history because remember this is an encounter that should be off the books at the betting casino the celestial casino I mean this is the great
Starting point is 02:47:17 Persian Empire encompassing most of Asia at least the part of Asia that anybody knows about all the way to India and Athens what is gonna make resistance anything other than completely feudal maybe the weapon systems it's kind of crazy
Starting point is 02:47:37 to think about when you realize how long military history has been happening in places like the Middle East right or China or any of those places they've already got thousands of years of military history under their belt
Starting point is 02:47:53 but in 490 really this era right that we're talking about BCE this is the emergence the beginning the entrance on the historical stage of European military history now obviously there's
Starting point is 02:48:09 as much European military history as there is anything else if you can if we had the tribal records from all the peoples that existed on what's now the European continent going back to 10,000 BCE but we don't historians can try to reconstruct
Starting point is 02:48:25 some sort of dark age or heroic period of Greek history during the time of the Trojan Wars but by and large the first records we have of European armies are these armies we're talking about right now in Greece the vast majority of them
Starting point is 02:48:41 made up of average everyday folks dressed and equipped and fighting as heavy infantry now because this is the earliest form of western military history you will have whole schools of historical thought
Starting point is 02:48:59 and they were dominant for the last 2,500 years most of the time that will assert that there are qualities in these Greeks either what makes them fight or how they fight or their theories behind how you should fight that have influenced maybe even
Starting point is 02:49:15 made western militaries dominant for the last 2,500 years I'm reciting a phrase you might hear from someone from the Victor Davis Hansen School of historical thought on these questions for example
Starting point is 02:49:31 the idea that the Greeks were people who believed in decisive battle and that we ourselves are the inheritors in the modern world of that same idea it's easy to get lost in the rabbit hole and I will leave it to the mainstream historians
Starting point is 02:49:47 you know Hansen's of provocative character but he gets a lot of pushback and there's a lot of great arguments for people like yours truly to watch but part of what makes the ancient period of warfare so fun for a guy like me is that you get to see
Starting point is 02:50:03 the most variation between cultures and peoples and societies and their influence on warfare than you see in any other period we're very standardized now if you look at a military from say modern day South America and compare it to one from modern day Asia
Starting point is 02:50:19 they're going to be dressed the same they're going to be using equipment they're going to be using very similar tactics I mean the difference between the two will be minimal it's standardized but the farther back in time you go especially to the ancient period
Starting point is 02:50:35 all of these cultures are in their most exuberant shall we say flamboyant maybe and distinctive sort of cultural incarnations for lack of a better phrase they all look very like their culture they fight in ways that are connected to their culture
Starting point is 02:50:51 organization everything the contrast is part of what I love about the period when the Persians and the Greeks first meet in this period that we're talking about right now this is a clash of cultures literally and that's part of what makes this such a
Starting point is 02:51:07 rabbit hole of stereotypes and motifs and everything like that to go down because it's been this west east dynamic ever since but you can't help but notice the wonderful distinctiveness for example the Persians are a combined arms army when we talked about them you have all these different things
Starting point is 02:51:23 you talk about first you talk about the cavalry then you talk about the light troops then you talk about the line infantry the Greeks don't have much of that during this time period they have heavy infantry hoplites if you were a wargamer it's part of what makes Greek armies from this period kind of boring
Starting point is 02:51:39 everything you get is a hoplite basically the hoplite is the quintessentially Greek heavy infantrymen and they're one of the examples that historians often look to to try to answer an unanswerable but fascinating
Starting point is 02:51:55 question you know especially from the pre-gunpowder you know period of military history as to why some people you know develop weapons types and weapons systems and soldiery that others can't imitate I mean why are there samurai in Japan why can't the Chinese
Starting point is 02:52:11 emperor just decide one day those samurai are really badass I want some samurai so I'm going to get a disgruntled samurai bring him over here let him train my guys I'll give them the same weapons and armor and soon I'll have samurai too well you can't do that can you there's something cultural right
Starting point is 02:52:27 the cultural carrots and sticks that are reinforced by the Japanese feudal society that you know you can't create samurai just because you want them in history when the Roman legionaries were reigning supreme during the Roman Empire period other commanders tried to imitate that they're known as imitation
Starting point is 02:52:43 legionaries by the way go get a couple of centurions by the same armor and weapons and I'll have legionaries too but they never quite measured up you just can't do that there have to be some of the cultural aspects that are very hard to reproduce same
Starting point is 02:52:59 thing with hoplites historian Victor Davis Hansen gives a remarkable statistic in his writing he says quote for nearly 300 years from 650 to 350 BC no foreign army
Starting point is 02:53:15 despite any numerical superiority withstood the charge of a Greek phalanx the battles at Marathon and Plataea demonstrate this clearly relatively small numbers of well led heavily armed Greeks had little difficulty in breaking right through
Starting point is 02:53:31 the hordes of their more lightly equipped and less cohesively ranked adversaries from the east end quote why? this is a fascinating question to ponder and it goes down roads that are unquantifiable and unmeasurable
Starting point is 02:53:47 you know when you start getting into questions of things like toughness how