Episode 28 – When the Mede Came

“In winter, as you lie on a soft couch by the fire,
Full of good food, munching on nuts and drinking sweet wine,
Then you must ask questions such as these:
‘Where do you come from?  Tell me, what is your age?
How old were you when the Mede came?’” – Xenophanes of Colophon
The return of Harpagus to Anatolia signaled the end of Ionian Greek freedom.  After securing his third tyranny, Peisistratos brought stability and prosperity to Athens.  Fresh from a series of Eastern conquests, Cyrus II used propaganda and military might to overthrow Nabonidus and claim his third Near Eastern empire.

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6 thoughts on “Episode 28 – When the Mede Came

  1. Wow, another excellent episode! Thank you so much for all of this. 🙂 These Persians sure don't mess around! Kind of awesome to see that everyone is still somewhat awed by Babylon, a shame it's lost to us, must've been beautiful…

  2. Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! As for Babylon, I guess they managed to reconstruct the Processional Way (from original materials) in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, would love to get the chance to see it. But yes, overall, it must have been an amazing city.

  3. Just finished the first 28 in under a week. Great podcast. I was hoping for good info on the bronze age collapse and the pre-Persian near east and I was not disappointed. There were also a lot of bonuses I wasn't expecting so I'm glad I found this podcast.

    China, the Americas, Egypt and Rome weren't all that captivating as we've all been hearing about them forever. I was worried you would get bogged down by these but you didn't and I thank you for it. Assyria has been interesting. Lydia was fascinating, too.

    However, I must say that the Phoenicians are my favorite part of your podcast. They didn't get very much credit in the Ancient Greek History Open Yale Course many of us have listened to. Now I'm enjoying learning more about them. Awesome stuff.

    I'll stop rambling and ask 2 questions I hope you can answer for me.

    1. We've seen Phoenicians fleeing from east to west twice now to avoid Near East superpowers. Some Greeks have fled back to the mainland for the same reason. We've also seen the colonies in modern day Spain abandoned because of the silver market collapse. Where exactly do they go? Are they integrated into existing colonies or start fresh? How many are migrating and what are the effects of the migration? In some ways, it seems like an opportunity to consolidate the scattered and loose Phoenicians into a bigger player but this only happens at Carthage. The fleeing Greeks would also have an opportunity to merge with an existing city state on the mainland. Any info on all of this would be much appreciated.

    2. I didn't know anything about the 30k Greek mercenaries in Egypt. The 10k in Persia much later is more widely known but the 30k were much earlier. What made these Greek mercenaries better than existing armies? Did they have a professional phalanx this early in time? Seems hard to do with mercenaries compared to one formed from a polis. These 30k seem really intersting to me. Any other info would be nice.

    Sorry for rambling and thank you for making all of these. This series is excellent. Keep it going!

  4. Thanks, glad you're enjoying the series! Your questions sent me scrambling for my source material, especially since that Ionian/Carian mercenary count DID seem pretty high. It was pulled from the Wiki page on the Delta trading city of Naucratis, and apparently the original source for the head-count is Heroditus. The Wiki page states: "In 570 BC the Pharaoh Apries (Wahibre, reigned 589-570 BC) led the descendants of this mercenary army made up of 30,000 Carians and Ionians against a former general turned rebel by the name of Amasis. Although fighting valiantly they suffered defeat and Amasis II became Pharaoh (reigned 570-526 BC). Amasis shut down the "camps" and moved the Greek soldiers to Memphis where they were employed "to guard him against the native Egyptians."[3] Reference [3] is Heroditus 2, 154. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any additional information on how they fought (Greek phalanx vs. more traditional military formations, etc.) or why they were considered so formidable (the reputation must have come from somewhere!) If you find anything, please let me know! On the colonizing front, I know that the major colonization push (by both Greeks and Phoenicians) petered out around 580 BC, mainly since all the "best spots" had already been taken. My assumption is that the period afterward was mainly one of consolidation, i.e., refugees joined the populations already existing colonies, preferentially (with the Greeks) one founded by the same mother city. Moving into the 5th century BC, Carthage becomes a major Mediterranean player, so it was probably a big population magnet for the (urban and cultured) Levantine Phoenicians. Again, if you find anything else out, please let me know. Thanks! – Scott C.

  5. Scott,

    I stumbled across your podcast this week and have been listening every day. You do a great job organizing and synthesizing the material in a way that the listener doesn't feel lost. I hope you continue this podcast in some way in the future–maybe delving a little more deeply into the various cultures? Just a thought.

    Thanks for all the great work!


  6. Thanks, I'm glad you're enjoying the series! At this point, looks like 3 – 4 more episodes to go. Then, at least a long break. But I have a couple more ideas I may research for another series sometime down the road. Thanks for listening! – Scott C.

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