Herodotus, Book IV
The Fourth book is largely taken up with Herodotus’ intriguing account of the Scythians and with Darius’ ill-advised expedition against these strange people. The Scyths were a people of Iranian stock, probably very similar to the Medes and Persians before they entered the Middle East and found themselves subjected to the constraints of civilization. They were nomadic horsemen, fearless warriors, and hard to govern. While Darius claims one reason or another for holding a grudge, it would seem that Herodotus regards the expedition as an instance of megalomania.
In dramatic terms, the expedition against Scythia is a dress rehearsal for Darius’ two expeditions against Greece. As lord of everywhere, he regards any rebuff to his authority to be an act of injustice, and nothing infuriates him so much as a people who defend themselves. He refuses good advice even when it comes from close relatives, and is lucky to escape with his life. Scythia, the point is made, lies in Europe, and Dareius (pronounced, by the way, Duh-rye-us) has a bridge constructed to facilitate the passage of his troops, and this bridge should have been broken down, as the Scythians request, by the Ionian Greeks, but they prefer to follow the timid counsels of Histiaeus, the tyrant of Miletus. He understands—as do most of the Greek tyrants installed by the Persians—that his personal wealth and power depends upon his support from the Persians, and if their power is broken, he will, at the very least, go back to being just another Greek.
Support for tyrants is the Persian policy, because the King can depend upon the loyalty of these stooges. Of course, it will be Histiaeus himself who plots the Ionian Revolt. It is not that he has fallen out of favor with Darius. On the contrary, Darius has smiled on his request of territory in which to build a city, but, when an advisor warns the King that Histiaeus may be getting too big for his britches, Darius calls him to the Persian court because, as he claims, he values his advice. This is, in fact, true, but the Milesian tyrant feels himself a prisoner, and, quite apart from losing the sense of power, he longs to be back in Greece. There are several stories told of Greeks being held in Persia and plotting an escape. Why? Because living as a Greek was for them more important than all the wealth and luxury they were enjoying in Persia.
So, Histiaeus favors guarding the bridge, while the tyrant of the Hellespontic Chersonese, Miltiades the Athenian, strongly advises destruction. Miltiades will be driven out of his territory by the Persians, ally himself with wealthy Thracians, and his nephew and namesake will return to Athens and lead the Athenians to victory at Marathon. What a coincidence one might think, but it is not coincidence that a Greek ruler, used to commanding men in battle even against Persians, will be the one Athenian who will know how to defeat them.
I am happy to say more about this book in response to queries.