Gongylos – Greek Ally to the Persians
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Gongylos was born in Ancient Greece on the Greek island of Evia, but not much is known about his early life. He was a controversial figure, however, because ultimately he took the side of the Persians during the Persian Invasion of Greece. After Greece defeated the Persians, he was forced into exile. His story, however, remains an essential part of history. Here’s more information about Gongylos, a Greek-born ally to the Persian Empire:
Military Loss and Exile
There Persian Empire invaded Greece twice, and both times, they were defeated and forced home. During these conflicts, some Greeks, or which Gongylos was one of them, decided to form an alliance with the Persians rather than the Greeks. However, after Persian defeat, Gongylos was forced to leave his home country and make his way in the First Persian Empire that he had represented during what become known as the Second Persian Invasion of Greece.
As the Second Persian Invasion loomed, Greek statesmen were uncertain about what to do. The city-state of Athens was convicted to fortify their navy, but no one was really sure if the Persian Empire would return and try again. After ten years, it became clear that those who believed they would return were correct. After the Persians lost, this caused problems for those who supported the Persians and they were forced into exile. During exile, Xerxes, the Persian Emperor, gifted Gongylos the region of Pergamon to rule over.
Thriving in Exile
Unlike others in history who have been exiled to foreign lands and then forgotten, Gongylos continued to thrive in his new environment. There is some evidence to suggest that he went on to marry Hellas, the daughter of Themistocles. What is known for certain is that Gongylos produced two sons who would one day become rulers themselves. Gongylos the Younger and his brother Gorgion became powerful figures in the towns of Myrina, Grynium, Palaegambrium and Gambrium. They continued to wield a great deal of influence in the area, and all the descendants of Gongylos appeared to enjoy a prestigious reputation for many years. The famous soldier and historian Xenophon spoke of visiting Pergamon and meeting Gongylos’s widow. Eventually, he would ask for the support of the statesman’s sons for a campaign — and he would receive it.
Although Gongylos and his direct descendants walked this earth and ruled Pergamon thousands of years ago, we still possess concrete evidence of their strong presence. On a coin from approximately 450 BCE, we see a portrait of a bearded man wearing a cap that appears Persian.
The coin is struck with letters that indicate it is from Pergamon region. It all lines up with Gongylos’s presence in the Achaemenid Empire, indicating that the portrait is most likely of the statesman himself — or perhaps one of his sons. On the other side of the coin, there is a portrait of the god Apollo. The coin, featuring such a wonderfully detailed portrait, is a poignant reminder of just how powerful and influential Gongylos was during his time.
Although Gongylos was considered a Greek traitor and forced into exile, his legacy could be felt throughout the ages.
Categorized in: Ancient Greek History
This post was written by GreekBoston.com