The Persian preparations for war were hastened by news that all the Ionian cities had rebelled. These were, as you remember, Greek colonies founded on the coast of Asia Minor. They had little by little fallen into the hands of the Persians; but, as they hated to submit to foreign rule, they had long planned a revolt.
The Athenians, who knew that the Persians were talking of coming over to conquer them, now offered to help the Ionians, and sent some troops over to Asia Minor. These joined the rebels, and together they managed to surprise and burn to the ground the rich city of Sardis, which belonged to Darius.
A messenger was sent in hot haste to bear these tidings to The Great King; and when he heard them, he was very angry indeed. In his wrath, he said that he would punish both rebels and Athenians, and immediately sent his army into Ionia.
The first part of his vow was easily kept, for his troops soon defeated the Ionian army, and forced the rebels to obey him once more. When Darius heard this, he was very much pleased; and then, sending for his bow, he shot an arrow in the direction of Athens, to show that the punishment of the Athenians would be his next care.
As he was afraid of forgetting these enemies in the pressure of other business, he gave orders that a slave should appear before him every day while he sat at dinner, and solemnly say, “Master, remember the Athenians!”
When the preparations for this distant war were ended, the Persian army set out for Greece. In order to reach that country, it had to march a long way through the northern part of Asia Minor, cross a narrow strait called the Hellespont, and pass along the coast of the Aegean Sea, through Thrace and Scythia.
In these countries the Persian army met the fierce and warlike Scythians mounted on their fleetfooted horses, and was nearly cut to pieces. The Persians were so frightened by the attack of these foes, that they refused to go any farther, and even beat a hasty retreat.
The Persian fleet in the mean while had sailed along bravely. It soon came to the promontory formed by Mount Athos, a tall mountain which sometimes casts a shadow eighty miles long over the sea. Here a terrible tempest overtook the fleet, and the waves rose so high that six hundred vessels were dashed to pieces.
All the rest of the Persian vessels were so damaged by the storm, that it was soon decided that they had better return home. The soldiers of The Great King were of course greatly discouraged by these misfortunes; but Darius was more than ever determined to conquer Greece, and at once began to gather a second army and to build a second fleet.