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Themistocles(thəmĭs`təklēz), c.525–462 B.C., Athenian statesman and naval commander. He was elected one of the three archonsarchons
[Gr.,=leaders], in ancient Athens and other Greek cities, officers of state. Originally in Athens there were three archons: the archon eponymos (so called because the year was named after him), who was the chief officer of the state; the archon basileus,
..... Click the link for more information. in 493 B.C. In succeeding years many of his rivals were eliminated by ostracismostracism
, ancient Athenian method of banishing a public figure. It was introduced after the fall of the family of Pisistratus. Each year the assembly took a preliminary vote to decide whether a vote of ostracism should be held.
..... Click the link for more information. and he became the chief figure of Athenian politics. He persuaded the Athenians to build up their navy, foreseeing that the Persians, defeated at Marathon, would send another and stronger force against Greece (see Persian WarsPersian Wars,
500 B.C.–449 B.C., series of conflicts fought between Greek states and the Persian Empire. The writings of Herodotus, who was born c.484 B.C., are the great source of knowledge of the history of the wars.
..... Click the link for more information. ). Xerxes invaded Greece in 480, and military defense of Athens was impossible; Themistocles evacuated the city. Although the Greek fleet was entrusted to a Spartan, Themistocles determined its strategy, thus bringing about the decisive victory of Salamis (480) and the retreat of Xerxes to Persia. A purported copy of Themistocles' decree to evacuate Athens, discovered at Troezen in 1959, indicates that the evacuation, as well as the battle of Salamis, was not hastily planned but was a measure carefully conceived months before to trap the Persians at Salamis. However, many scholars question the authenticity of the document. Despite Themistocles's prominence, in 479 the chief commands went to his rivals, who had previously been recalled from exile to fight the Persians. Themistocles devoted himself to strengthening the navy and the fortifications, especially those of Piraeus. About 471, after his opponents came to power, he was exiled. Ultimately he lived in Persia, where King Artaxerxes made generous provision for him.
Born circa 525 B.C.; died circa 460 B.C. Athenian state figure and general during the Greco-Persian Wars of 500–449.
Themistocles was elected archon in 493 and subsequently held the posts of archon and strategus a number of times. By his political reforms in 487 and 486 he furthered the democratization of the Athenian state structure. He introduced the use of lots to select archons and made members of the hippeis, the second highest Athenian census class, eligible for the archonship. He also freed the college of strategi from the control of the Areopagus.
As leader of the naval party, Themistocles attempted to turn Athens into a sea power. He fortified the harbor of Piraeus and built a navy of 200 triremes. His party represented the interests of the merchants, the artisans, and the poor. Themistocles was responsible for the creation of the Delian League in 477. He played a decisive role in organizing the Greek forces to fight the Persians and in leading them to victory. His triumphs over the invaders included the victory at Salamis in 480.
As a result of intrigues by the Athenian aristocracy, Themistocles was ostracized in 471. He was later accused of consorting with the Persians and of communicating secretly with the Spartan general Pausanias. These charges led to his condemnation by the Greek states. After moving from one city to another, he finally took refuge with the Persian king Artaxerxes I. Themistocles died in Magnesia, one of a number of cities in Asia Minor placed under his rule by Artaxerxes.