22. The Warrior who saved Ancient Athens from the Persians
When talking about ingratitude, few historic polities can rival ancient Athens, which was notorious for screwing over her heroes. Miltiades (550 – 489 BC) was one of the earliest examples of that unfortunate tendency. He was a formidable warrior and general best known for his victory at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, which took place a decade before the events depicted in the movie 300. It was an upset win against a numerically superior force, which saved Athens from Persian conquest.
Miltiades was born into a wealthy Athenian aristocratic family. So wealthy that it owned a private kingdom in the Chersonese (today’s Gallipoli Peninsula), which Miltiades inherited in 516 BC. When Persia’s King Darius I invaded the Chersonese in 513 BC, Miltiades surrendered and became a Persian vassal. In 499 BC, the Ionian Greeks of Asia Minor revolted against Persian rule. Miltiades marched against the rebels, but secretly supported their cause and helped funnel them aid from Athens. That set in motion a chain of events that led to the Battle of Marathon.