The Classical Age - 500-404 B.C.
The mighty Persian Empire was one of the biggest ever seen in the world. However, it originated from humble beginnings in which there were many smaller Median tribes.
It was in 559 B.C. that Cyrus, a member of the Achaemenis family, who in turn were members of the Persian tribe, managed to persuade all the small Median tribes into one large one. Thus the Persian Empire was born. In about 519 BC the Archaemenid Darius restored order to the empire after several years of internal squabbling.
During 560 – 546 B.C. most of the Greek colonies in Asia Minor were conquered by Croessus, who was the king of Lydia. This did not actually harm the colonies who were mostly allowed to keep their independence, and with the introduction of coins, which were a novelty of Lydia, trade actually increased.
However, when Persia defeated Lydia, the Greek colonies became part of the Persian Empire. The people of these colonies were not imprisoned or forced into slavery, but they did have to pay taxes and supply men for the Persian army. More damaging was that they had to install tyrants to oversee them, and these tyrants were chosen by the Persian king. When the forces of Darius crossed the Bosporus in 512 B.C. to begin an expedition against the Scythes in southern Russia, the Greeks didn’t seem to be bothered at all.
The expedition was short lived and a large failure for Darius, though he did leave a part of his army when he forced a retreat. The orders of this small army was to conquer the coastal area of Thracy. Thracy was very close to Greece. If the Greek colonies in Asia Minor had not remained loyal to Darius, his army would have been slaughtered. This small event led to both sides coming to very wrong conclusions about each other. Darius believed that when needed, he could rely on help from the Greek colonies.
The Greek colonies however believed that the Persian Army was not as invincible as had been believed. This led to the Ionic revolt.