Mardonius (general)


July 5, 2022

Mardonius (in ancient Greek: Μαρδόνιος, Mardónios, in ancient Persian Marduniya, lit. "the mild one"; 6th century BC - Plataea, 479 BC) was a Persian general, first under Darius I, then under his son Xerxes I, during the two Persian wars.


Mardonius was the son of Gobria, a Persian noble who had favored the accession to the throne of Darius I, and of a sister of Darius himself. Later he also became Darius's son-in-law, having married his daughter Artozostra. In 492 BC. Darius I entrusted him with the task of leading the first expedition against Greece. Under his command were a land and a sea army. In Cilicia, Mardonius placed himself directly in command of the fleet, reaching Ionia from Asia, while he delegated the task of leading the land army in crossing the Hellespont to other commanders. Officially the purpose of the expedition was to re-subjugate Thrace and punish Athens and Eretria for the support they had given the Ionians during their revolt, but in reality the goal of the Persians was to conquer as many Greek cities as possible. Arriving in Ionia, Mardonius expelled the local tyrants and replaced them with democratic regimes. He later subdued the island of Thasos without opposition, while the land army conquered Thrace and part of Macedonia. the destruction of all ships (300 according to Herodotus), and the death of at least 20,000 men. The survivors, who had camped along the Macedonian coast, were victims of an ambush by the Brigi, who also wounded Mardonius himself. The Persian army still managed to subdue the Brigi, but, despite the various military operations successfully carried out, due to the numerous losses in his army, Mardonius was forced to return to Asia Minor, where he was exonerated from command. 490 BC a new expedition against Greece was organized, the command was given to Dati and Artaferne, while Mardonius was excluded. The aim of this expedition was to conquer the island of Naxos to dominate the Aegean, and from there launch a new offensive against Athens and mainland Greece. What became known as the First Persian War, however, ended with the Athenian victory at Marathon. After the death of Darius in 486 BC, Mardonius returned to vogue at the court of the new sovereign Xerxes I, son of Darius and cousin of Mardonius himself. On Xerxes I Mardonius seemed to exert a strong influence. Since Xerxes did not seem interested in resuming the war against Greece, Mardonius, driven by the desire to regain the esteem lost in previous years and eager to enrich himself and become a satrap of Greece himself, convinced Xerxes to organize a new expedition against the Greeks, reminding him episodes such as the fire of Sardis during the Ionian revolt and the setback suffered in Marathon, Xerxes finally decided to go along with the proposal of Mardonius, and with him began to plan the invasion of Greece in 480 BC. Mindful of what happened to Mardonius himself at Mount Athos, Xerxes opted for the construction of two major works of military engineering, the pontoon bridge over the Hellespont, to ferry the army, and the opening of a canal north of Mount Athos for the fleet, called the channel of Xerxes. The first phases of the war came to the Persians: in August 480 BC. Boeotia was subdued and later the Persians defeated the Greeks during the battle of Thermopylae, which saw Mardonius himself in command, and at the same time inflicted heavy losses on the Greek fleet in the battle of Cape Artemisio. Athens itself, abandoned by its citizens, was left in the hands of the Persians. At this point Xerxes consulted with his commanders to understand how to act Fr.