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Themistocles

Civilization:Greek: Athens
Era: Persian War
525–462 BCField of Renown:military: General
themistocles
 Themistocles stands before Artaxerxes I.

Themistocles is one of the most interesting, and complicated characters of Ancient times. He is often compared to Aristides, and as far as personal qualities of honesty and nobility of spirit, the comparison is unfavorable. But there is no character that did more to promote the interests of Athens and all of Greece during the Persian War era, through far-sighted judgment, courage, and patriotism. Like Miltiades, his contributions to the good of the state so far outweigh his somewhat ignoble ending, that he is remembered overwhelmingly as one of Athens greatest heroes.

Themistocles was born in relatively humble circumstances, and rose to influence entirely through personal qualities of intelligence and bravery. He distinguished himself at the Battle of Marathon, and in the years after the first Persian invasion, increased his influence until he was elected Archon in 483 B.C., the same year he arranged for his political rival, Aristides, to be ostracized. Themistocles saw clearly that Athens needed to be a first rate naval power in order to thrive economically and politically, and pushed Athens to take steps to build up its navy, and fortify its harbors. By the time the Persian invasion actually occurred, Athens had by far, the largest navy of the Greek allies, and many of the best pilots.

Although the Spartan Eurybiades was nominally in charge of the united fleet, Themistocles was at all times, the master-mind of the Greek navy, and the architect of its great victory of at Salamis. But the true historical interest in this great battle lies not only in the David vs. Goliath aspect, of a small determined navy overwhelming an far larger fleet, but in the human interest details of the war-room politics. Far from being a united group of like-minded patriots, the Greeks captains were at each others throats and hotly disputed strategy at every step, and Themistocles figured enormously in all aspects of the plots, persuasions and machinations that went on behind the scenes.


Key events during the life of Themistocles

Year Event
490 BC Fought at the battle of Marathon.
489 BC Miltiades dies, leaving Aristides and Themistocles as rival political leaders.
483 BC Themistocles succeeds in having Aristides ostracized.
482 BC Themistocles elected Archon: convinces Athens to build a navy of 200 ships and fortify harbors.
480 BC Themistocles is an Admiral in Naval battles of Artemisium and Salamis.
480 BC Themistocles is reconciled with Aristides.
479 BC Persians are driven from Greece after the battle of Plataea.
478 BC Athenians start to rebuilt their city. They build a wall against the wishes of Sparta.
477 BC Foundation of Delian league.
476 BC Charges of bribery and corruption are levied against Themistocles.
471 BC Themistocles is ostracized and retired to Argos.
  Spartans levy more charges against Themistocles. He flies to Corcyra, and then to Asia Minor
465 BC Themistocles arrives in Persia; meets with Artaxerxes.
  Retires to Megnesia in Asia Minor.
460 BC Dies in exile.

 

Story LinksBook Links
Battle of Salamis  in  Xerxes  by  Abbott
Wooden Walls  in  Pictures from Greek Life and Story  by  Church
In the Straits  in  Helmet and Spear  by  Church
Of the Greeks at Salamis and of the City of Athens  in  Story of the Persian War  by  Church
Savior of Athens  in  Children's Plutarch: Tales of the Greeks  by  Gould
Battles of Salamis and Plataea  in  Story of the Greeks  by  Guerber
Themistocles  in  Famous Men of Greece  by  Haaren
How Themistocles Saved Greece  in  Greek Gods - Heroes - and Men  by  Harding
Themistocles  in  Statesmen and Sages  by  Horne
Themistocles  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Kaufman
Themistocles  in  Stories from Greek History  by  Lemon
Battle of Artemisium  in  Story of Greece  by  Macgregor
Wooden Walls of Athens  in  Historical Tales: 10—Greek  by  Morris
The Wooden Walls  in  Stories of the Ancient Greeks  by  Shaw
Great Persian Invasion  in  Story of the Greek People  by  Tappan
Traitor or Patriot  in  Pictures from Greek Life and Story  by  Church
Of the Preparations of the Greeks  in  Story of the Persian War  by  Church
Of the Battle of Thermopylae (cont.)  in  Story of the Persian War  by  Church
Preparations for Defense  in  Story of the Greeks  by  Guerber
Themistocles Deceives the Spartans  in  Story of Greece  by  Macgregor
Four Famous Men of Athens  in  Historical Tales: 10—Greek  by  Morris
Themistocles  in  Plutarch's Lives  by  Weston

Image Links
Themistocles: From a bust in the Vatican.  in Pictures from Greek Life and Story Themistocles  in Story of the Greeks Celebrated Greeks—II.  in Greatest Nations: Greece
Themistocles  in Statesmen and Sages Themistocles and the Greek Captain in Stories from Greek History Ship dashed against ship, till the Persian dead strewed the deep like flowers.  in Story of Greece
He stood silent before the king.  in Story of Greece Themistocles at the Persian Court in Plutarch's Lives


Contemporary Short Biography
Eurybiades Head of Spartan Fleet during the Persian War.
Xerxes Raised an enormous army for Persian invasion of Greece. Defeated at Battle of Salamis.
Artemisia Queen of Halicarnassas and Cos. One of Xerxes most trusted advisors and Generals.
Aristides Athenian General and Statesman. Fought at Marathon, Salamis; created Delian League.
Pausanias Spartan General who led Greece against Mardonius at the Battle of Plataea.
Sicinnus Servant of Themistocles who delivered his messages to the Persian Admiral.