Battle of Mycale


Persian Wars


August, 479 BC


Mycale, Ionia


Greek victory


Greek city-states






About 50 000





Battle before

Battle after

Battle of Plataea

Battle of the Eurymedon

The Battle of Mycale was one of the two major battles that ended the Persian Wars and returned freedom to the Greek city-states. The battle took place on or about August 27, 479 BC outside the Ionian city of Samos. Mycale resulted in the destruction of the main Persian forces in Ionia, as well as their Mediterranean fleet. The Battle of Plataea on the same day on the Greek mainland was a victory as well, and the Persians were forced to leave both Greece and Ionia and retreat inland, thereby ending Persian rule. The battle is known to history through the writings of Herodotus of Halicarnassus.


In the spring of 479 BC various Ionian cities began the process of revolting against their Persian rulers. This did not go well at all, and soon they were forced to turn to the Greek mainland for help. A meeting was called in Athens, and ambassadors from several Ionian cities, Athens and Sparta met in the early summer. The meeting did not impress the commander of the Persian forces in Thessaly, Mardonius, so he sent terms to Athens demanding that they stay neutral. When they refused the Spartan delegation started for home to prepare for war. Meanwhile Mardonius' forces soon reached Athens, but the citizens had already retreated to nearby Salamis. Thinking the Athenians are ready to surrender, Mardonius again sent them terms, and was again refused.

While the Spartans prepared for war, eventually mustering a force of 5,000 and another 35,000 allies, a delegation from Samos arrived in Sparta asking for help. The Greek fleet of 110 ships set sail from Delos under the command of Leotychides, a Spartan.

The battle

Hearing of the Greek's approach, the Persians in Samos decide to face them on land. They sailed to the nearly peninsula of Mycale just to the east of the city, and formed a wall out of a number of their ships, dragging the rest onto the beach. When the Greek fleet arrived and found Samos empty, they started a pursuit thinking the Persians were running from battle. The Greeks soon came upon the Persians, already formed up in battle lines on shore. Leotychides yelled to the Ionians in the Persian camp:

"Men of Ionia - ye who can hear me speak - do ye take heed to what I say; for the Persians will not understand a word that I utter. When we join battle with them, before aught else, remember Freedom - and next, recollect our watchword, which is Hebe. If there be any who hear me not, let those who hear report my words to the others." (Herod. 9.98)

Realizing generally what was going on, the Persians disarmed the Samians and sent their enemies, the Milesians, to guard the roads to the rear. Meanwhile the Greeks unloaded their ships and formed up for combat. As usual the Spartans occupied the right wing, placing the Athenians on the left. The Athenians, walking along the beach, found a herald's scepter and thought that it is a divine sign, signifying that the other Greeks had been victorious on the mainland. They then charged forward to the attack alone, and after a short battle the Persians, led by Artaÿntes, were forced to retreat to the fort they had constructed further inland. The Athenians chased them and captured the fort as well. The Persian survivors fled, only to find that the Milesian rear-guard had turned against them as well, and few survived to eventually reach Sardis.

When the Spartans arrived the Persian camp was looted and their beached ships destroyed. Returning to Samos they then discussed their next moves. The Spartans proposed the evacuate the cities of the Ionian Greeks and bring the population to the Greek mainland, as they did not consider it worth their trouble to defend the Ionians everytime they were attacked. The Athenians, however, objected to losing their colonies, and accepted the Ionian Greeks in a league against Persia.


With the Persians defeated the Spartans returned to the mainland and went about their business. The Ionian cities were now in leauge with Athens however, forming what could only be considered an Athenian Empire. Previously beholden to Sparta, Athens started exerting an increasing amount of independence, eventually resulting in the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War.


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