Mardonius, d. 479 B.C., Persian general; son-in-law of Darius I. Darius sent him (492 B.C.) to retaliate against Eretria and Athens for aiding the Ionians in the Persian Wars, but his fleet was lost in a storm off Mt. Athos, and a Thracian tribe destroyed a large part of his army. He helped Xerxes I plan his invasion of Greece. Xerxes returned (480 B.C.) to Persia after his defeat at Salamis and left Mardonius in command in Greece. Mardonius was defeated and killed at Plataea.
This page is about the historical figure; for the millipede genus, see Mardonius (genus)''
Mardonius (d. 479 BC) was a leading Persian military commander during the Persian Wars with Greece in the early 5th century BC.

Early Years

Mardonius was the son of Gobryas, a Persian nobleman who had assisted the Achaemenid prince Darius when he claimed the throne. The alliance between the new king and his friend was cemented by diplomatic marriages: Darius married Gobryas' daughter, and Gobryas married Darius' sister. Mardonius became the son-in-law of Darius I of Persia when he married Darius’ daughter Artozostra.

Persian Wars with the Greeks

Darius appointed Mardonius as one of his generals and, after the Ionian Revolt, sent him in 492 BC to punish the Greek city-state of Athens for assisting the Ionians. On his way to Athens, he used his army in the Ionian cities to depose the Persian tyrants and set up democratic governments, an action which surprised the Greeks at that time. Historians consider that he may have taken this action so that the Ionians would not revolt a second time after the Persian army had passed through. His fleet and army then passed across the Hellespont. The first victim of Persian aggression in Greece proper was Thasos, a Greek island which possessed important mines. It became a tributary of the Achaemenid empire. The navy and the army continued onto Macedonia, which was soon added to the Persian Empire.

However, after these victories, Mardonius’ fleet was destroyed in a storm off the coast near Mount Athos. According to Herodotus, the Persians lost 300 ships and 20,000 men. Around this time, Mardonius was commanding the army in a battle in Thrace. While Mardonius was wounded in the battle, he was victorious. Nevertheless, the loss of the fleet meant that he had to retreat back into Asia Minor. He was relieved of his command by Darius, who appointed Datis and Artaphernes to lead the invasion of Greece in 490 BC, and though they were subsequently successful in capturing Naxos and destroying Eretria, they were later defeated at the Battle of Marathon.

Mardonius came back into favour under Darius' successor Xerxes I, Mardonius' cousin and brother-in-law.. Xerxes was at first not interested in renewing the war with Greece, but Mardonius repeatedly tried to convince him that he must avenge Darius' defeat. This view was opposed by another of Xerxes’ advisors, Artabanus, who urged more caution in the matter. Herodotus, who portrays Mardonius as a somewhat evil adviser (as opposed to a number of other good advisers whose arguments are never followed), says that Mardonius simply wanted to become satrap (governor) of Greece.

He was present at the Battle of Thermopylae, and after the Persian defeat at the Battle of Salamis, he attempted to convince Xerxes to stay and fight yet another battle. This time Mardonius could not persuade Xerxes, but when Xerxes left he did become governor of those parts of Greece that had been conquered by the Persians. He subdued Macedon, ruled at that time by King Alexander I, but Alexander himself gave valuable information about Mardonius' plans to the Athenians, saying that, as a Greek, he could not bear to see Greece enslaved. Then Mardonius sacked Athens, which had been deserted before the Battle of Salamis. He offered to return Athens and help rebuild the city if the Athenians would accept a truce, but the Athenians rejected the truce and prepared for another battle.

Mardonius prepared to meet them at Plataea, despite the opposition from another Persian commander, Artabazus, who, like Artabanus, did not think that a much larger Persian army could automatically defeat the Greeks. Mardonius was killed in the ensuing battle (see Battle of Plataea).

In popular culture



  • Herodotus - The Histories, with an English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1920. OCLC: 1610641 ISBN 0674991303, 0674991311, 0674991338, 0674991346

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