63 Facts About Themistocles


Themistocles was one of a new breed of non-aristocratic politicians who rose to prominence in the early years of the Athenian democracy.


Themistocles continued to advocate for a strong Athenian Navy, and in 483 BC he persuaded the Athenians to build a fleet of 200 triremes; these proved crucial in the forthcoming conflict with Persia.


The Spartans now saw an opportunity to destroy Themistocles, and implicated him in the alleged treasonous plot of 478 BC of their own general Pausanias.


Themistocles was made governor of Magnesia, and lived there for the rest of his life.


Themistocles's reputation was posthumously rehabilitated, and he was re-established as a hero of the Athenian, and indeed Greek, cause.


Themistocles's mother is more obscure; her name was either Euterpe or Abrotonum, and her place of origin has been given variously as Halicarnassus, Thrace, or Acarnania.


Plutarch indicates that, on account of his mother's background, Themistocles was considered something of an outsider; furthermore the family appear to have lived in an immigrant district of Athens, Cynosarges, outside the city walls.


However, in an early example of his cunning, Themistocles persuaded "well-born" children to exercise with him in Cynosarges, thus breaking down the distinction between "alien and legitimate".


Plutarch further reports that Themistocles was preoccupied, even as a child, with preparing for public life.


Themistocles left three sons by Archippe, daughter to Lysander of Alopece: Archeptolis, Polyeuctus, and Cleophantus.


Themistocles had many daughters: Mnesiptolema, the product of his second marriage, married her step-brother Archeptolis and became priestess of Cybele; Italia was married to Panthoides of Chios; and Sybaris to Nicomedes the Athenian.


Themistocles grew up in a period of upheaval in Athens.


Themistocles began building up a support base among these newly empowered citizens:.


Themistocles began to practice law, the first person in Athens to prepare for public life in this way.


Themistocles's archonship saw the beginnings of a major theme in his career; the advancement of Athenian sea-power.


Themistocles seems to have realised that for the Greeks to survive the coming onslaught required a Greek navy that could hope to face up to the Persian navy, and he therefore attempted to persuade the Athenians to build such a fleet.


Themistocles proposed that the silver should be used to build a new fleet of 200 triremes, while Aristides suggested it should instead be distributed among the Athenian citizens.


Themistocles avoided mentioning Persia, deeming that it was too distant a threat for the Athenians to act on, and instead focused their attention on Aegina.


Aristides refused to countenance this; conversely Themistocles was not pleased that only 100 ships would be built.


In what has been characterized as the first referendum, Aristides was ostracised, and Themistocles's policies were endorsed.


Indeed, becoming aware of the Persian preparations for the coming invasion, the Athenians voted for the construction of more ships than Themistocles initially asked for.


The Spartans claimed the command of land forces, and since the Greek fleet would be dominated by Athens, Themistocles tried to claim command of the naval forces.


However, the other naval powers, including Corinth and Aegina refused to give command to the Athenians, and Themistocles pragmatically backed down.


Themistocles's proposals accepted, Themistocles issued orders for the women and children of Athens to be sent to the city of Troezen, safely inside the Peloponnesus.


Themistocles was then able to travel to a meeting of the Allies, at which he proposed his strategy; with the Athenian fleet fully committed to the defence of Greece, the other Allies accepted his proposals.


Themistocles himself took command of the Athenian contingent of the fleet, and went to Artemisium.


At this point Themistocles accepted a large bribe from the local people for the fleet to remain at Artemisium, and used some of it to bribe Eurybiades to remain, while pocketing the rest.


From this point on, Themistocles appears to have been more-or-less in charge of the Allied effort at Artemisium.


However, Themistocles tried to convince them to remain in the Straits of Salamis, invoking the lessons of Artemisium; "battle in close conditions works to our advantage".


Themistocles appears to have been aiming to fight a battle that would cripple the Persian navy, and thus guarantee the security of the Peloponnesus.


Themistocles sent a servant, Sicinnus, to Xerxes, with a message proclaiming that Themistocles was "on king's side and prefers that your affairs prevail, not the Hellenes".


Themistocles claimed that the Allied commanders were infighting, that the Peloponnesians were planning to evacuate that very night, and that to gain victory all the Persians needed to do was to block the straits.


In performing this subterfuge, Themistocles seems to have been trying to lure the Persian fleet into the Straits.


Either way, the Allies prepared for battle, and Themistocles delivered a speech to the marines before they embarked on the ships.


Themistocles urged the citizens to build the fortifications as quickly as possible, then went to Sparta as an ambassador to answer the charges levelled by the Spartans.


Themistocles now returned to his naval policy, and more ambitious undertakings that would increase the dominant position of his native state.


Themistocles further extended and fortified the port complex at Piraeus, and "fastened the city [Athens] to the Piraeus, and the land to the sea".


Themistocles probably aimed to make Athens the dominant naval power in the Aegean.


Themistocles introduced tax breaks for merchants and artisans, to attract both people and trade to the city to make Athens a great mercantile centre.


Themistocles instructed the Athenians to build 20 triremes per year, to ensure that their dominance in naval matters continued.


Admetus allowed Themistocles to escape, giving him a large sum of gold to aid him on his way.


Themistocles then fled from Greece, apparently never to return, thus effectively bringing his political career to an end.


From Molossia, Themistocles apparently fled to Pydna, from where he took a ship for Asia Minor.


Desperate to avoid the legal authorities, Themistocles, who had been traveling under an assumed identity, revealed himself to the captain and said that if he did not reach safety he would tell the Athenians that he'd bribed the ship to take him.


Plutarch has the ship docking at Cyme in Aeolia, and Diodorus has Themistocles making his way to Asia in an undefined manner.


All three chroniclers agree that Themistocles's next move was to contact the Persian king; in Thucydides, this is by letter, while Plutarch and Diodorus have a face-to-face meeting with the king.


The spirit is the same in all three: Themistocles introduces himself to the king and seeks to enter his service:.


Thucydides and Plutarch say that Themistocles asked for a year's grace to learn the Persian language and customs, after which he would serve the king, and Artaxerxes granted this.


Themistocles's friends managed to send him many of his belongings, although up to 100 talents worth of his goods were confiscated by the Athenians.


Themistocles advised the king on his dealings with the Greeks, although it seems that for a long period, the king was distracted by events elsewhere in the empire, and thus Themistocles "lived on for a long time without concern".


Themistocles was made governor of the district of Magnesia on the Maeander River in Asia Minor, and assigned the revenues of three cities: Magnesia ; Myus ; and Lampsacus.


Themistocles was one of the several Greek aristocrats who took refuge in the Achaemenid Empire following reversals at home, other famous ones being Hippias, Demaratos, Gongylos or later Alcibiades.


From a second wife, Themistocles had a daughter named Mnesiptolema, whom he appointed as priestess of the Temple of Dindymene in Magnesia, with the title of "Mother of the Gods".


Themistocles had three other sons, Diocles, Polyeucteus and Cleophantus, the latter possibly a ruler of Lampsacus.


One of the descendants of Cleophantus still issued a decree in Lampsacus around 200 BC mentioning a feast for his own father, named Themistocles, who had greatly benefited the city.


Later, Pausanias wrote that the sons of Themistocles "appear to have returned to Athens", and that they dedicated a painting of Themistocles in the Parthenon and erected a bronze statue to Artemis Leucophryene, the goddess of Magnesia, on the Acropolis.


Themistocles was proud and vain, and anxious for recognition of his deeds.


Themistocles appears to have been corrupt, and was known for his fondness of bribes.


Themistocles was undoubtedly intelligent, but possessed natural cunning; "the workings of his mind [were] infinitely mobile and serpentine".


Themistocles was evidently sociable and appears to have enjoyed strong personal loyalty from his friends.


Themistocles died with his reputation in tatters, a traitor to the Athenian people; the "saviour of Greece" had turned into the enemy of liberty.


Undoubtedly the greatest achievement of Themistocles's career was his role in the defeat of Xerxes's invasion of Greece.


Themistocles seems to have deliberately set Athens up as a rival to Sparta in the aftermath of Xerxes's invasion, basing this strategy on Athenian naval power.