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FREARI (Ancient demos) ATTICA

Themistocles

Themistocles (Themistokles). A celebrated Athenian, the son of Neocles and Abrotonon, a Thracian woman, and born about B.C. 514. In his youth he had an impetuous character, and displayed great intellectual power combined with a lofty ambition and a desire for political distinction. He began his career by setting himself in opposition to those who had most power, among whom Aristides was the chief. The fame which Miltiades acquired by his generalship at Marathon made a deep impression on Themistocles; and he said that the trophy of Miltiades would not let him sleep. His rival Aristides was ostracized in B.C. 483, to which event Themistocles contributed; and from this time he was the political leader in Athens. In 481 he was Archon Eponymus. It was about this time that he persuaded the Athenians to employ the produce of the silver mines of Laurium in building ships, instead of distributing it among the Athenian citizens. His great object was to draw the Athenians to the sea, as he was convinced that it was only by their fleet that Athens could repel the Persians and obtain the supremacy in Greece. Upon the invasion of Greece by Xerxes, Themistocles was appointed to the command of the Athenian fleet; and to his energy, prudence, foresight, and courage the Greeks mainly owed their salvation from the Persian dominion. Themistocles. Upon the approach of Xerxes, the Athenians, on the advice of Themistocles, deserted their city, and removed their women, children, and infirm persons to Salamis, Aegina, and Troezen; but as soon as the Persians took possession of Athens, the Peloponnesians were anxious to retire to the Corinthian isthmus. Themistocles used all his influence in inducing the Greeks to remain and fight with the Persians at Salamis, and with the greatest difficulty persuaded the Spartan commander Eurybiades to stay at Salamis. But as soon as the fleet of Xerxes made its appearance, the Peloponnesians were again anxious to sail away; and when Themistocles saw that he should be unable to persuade them to remain, he sent a faithful slave to the Persian commanders, informing them that the Greeks intended to make their escape, and that the Persians had now the opportunity of accomplishing a noble enterprise, if they would only cut off the retreat of the Greeks. The Persians believed what they were told, and in the night their fleet occupied the whole of the channel between Salamis and the mainland. The Greeks were thus compelled to fight; and the result was the great and glorious victory, in which the greater part of the fleet of Xerxes was destroyed. This victory, which was due to Themistocles, established his reputation among the Greeks. On his visiting Sparta, he was received with extraordinary honours by the Spartans, who gave Eurybiades the palm of bravery and Themistocles the palm of wisdom and skill. The Athenians now began to restore their ruined city, and Themistocles urged them to rebuild the walls and make them stronger than before. The Spartans sent an embassy to Athens to dissuade them from fortifying their city, for which it is hard to assign any motive except national jealousy. Themistocles, who was at that time prostates tou demou, went on an embassy to Sparta, where he amused the Spartans with lies, till the walls were far enough advanced to be in a state of defence. It was upon his advice also that the Athenians fortified the port of Piraeus. The influence of Themistocles does not appear to have survived the expulsion of the Persians from Greece and the fortification of the ports. He was probably justly accused of enriching himself by unfair means, for he had no scruples about the way of accomplishing an end. A story is told that, after the retreat of the fleet of Xerxes, when the Greek fleet was wintering at Pagasae, Themistocles told the Athenians in the public assembly that he had a scheme to propose which was beneficial to the State, but could not be divulged. Aristides was named to receive the secret, and to report upon it. His report was that nothing could be more profitable than the scheme of Themistocles, but nothing more unjust: the Athenians were guided by the report of Aristides. It is difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile the statement in Arist. Ath. Pol. 25, that Themistocles intrigued for the overthow of the Areopagus, with the date of his exile from Athens. The attack upon the Areopagus was in 463; but in 471, in consequence of the political strife between Themistocles and Aristides, the former was ostracized from Athens, and retired to Argos.
    After the discovery of the treasonable correspondence of Pausanias with the Persian king, the Lacedaemonians sent to Athens to accuse Themistocles of being privy to the design of Pausanias. Thereupon the Athenians sent off persons with the Lacedaemonians with instructions to arrest Themistocles (466). Themistocles, hearing of what was designed against him, first fled from Argos to Corcyra, and then to Epirus, where he took refuge in the house of Admetus, king of the Molossi, who happened to be from home. Admetus was no friend to Themistocles, but his wife told the fugitive that he would be protected if he would take their child in his arms and sit on the hearth. The king soon came in, and, respecting his suppliant attitude, raised him up, and refused to surrender him to the Lacedaemonian and Athenian agents. Themistocles finally reached the coast of Asia in safety. Xerxes was now dead (465), and Artaxerxes was on the throne. Themistocles went up to visit the king at his royal residence; and on his arrival he sent the king a letter, in which he promised to do the king a good service, and prayed that he might be allowed to wait a year and then to explain personally what brought him there. In a year he made himself master of the Persian language and the Persian usages, and, being presented to the king, he obtained the greatest influence over him, and such as no Greek ever before enjoyed--partly owing to his high reputation and the hopes that he gave to the king of subjecting the Greeks to the Persians. The king gave him a handsome allowance, after the Persian fashion; Magnesia supplied him with bread nominally, but paid him annually fifty talents. Lampsacus supplied wine, and Myus the other provisions. Before he could accomplish anything he died; some say that he poisoned himself, finding that he could not perform his promise to the king. A monument was erected to his memory in the Agora of Magnesia, which place was within his government. It is said that his bones were secretly taken to Attica by his relations, and privately interred there.
    Themistocles undoubtedly possessed great talents as a statesman, great political sagacity, a ready wit, and excellent judgment; but he was not an honest man, and, like many other clever men with little morality, he ended his career unhappily and ingloriously. Twenty-one letters attributed to Themistocles are spurious.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Themistocles (Themistokles), was the son of Neocles, not one of the most distinguished among the Athenians, though he was allied to the Lycomedae. The name of his mother was Abrotonon, a Thracian woman, according to some authors, but others call her Euterpe, and say that she was a Carian; and Neanthes adds that she was of Halicarnassus. As his mother was not an Athenian, Themistocles belonged to the class of nothi (Plut. Themist. 1, compare Pericl. c. 37). Themistocles was born about B. C. 514 as it is conjectured. In his youth he had an impetuous character; he displayed great intellectual power combined with a lofty ambition and desire of political distinction. In his hours of relaxation he did not join in the ordinary amusements of the boys, but he practised himself in making speeches on imaginary subjects. His master used to say to him "My boy, you will not be any thing little, but certainly something great, good or bad". He had not much taste for the usual branches of learning and for accomplishments, but be showed a decided liking for all studies which strengthened the understanding and had a practical object. There is a story that his father who saw his ambitious turn of mind, wishing to divert him from a political career, pointed out to him some old gallies thrown on the shore and neglected, and he told him that this was the way that "the many" treated popular leaders, when they were no longer of any use. The remark, though true, did not keep Themistocles from his course, nor will it keep others.
  The ambition of Themistocles was to be the first man in Athens, and he began his career by setting himself in opposition to those who had most power, among whom Aristides was the chief. We cannot infer from the words of Plutarch whether Themistocles was in the battle of Marathon (B. C. 490) or not; but if he was born so early as B. C. 514, he must have been old enough for military service in B. C. 490. The fame which Miltiades acquired by his generalship at Marathon made a deep impression on Themistocles; he became thoughtful, and avoided his usual company; and in reply to the remarks of his friends on the change in his habits, he said, that the trophy of Miltiades would not let him sleep. Others thought that the victory of Marathon had terminated the Persian war; but Themistocles foresaw that it was only the beginning of a greater struggle, and it was his policy to prepare Athens for it.
  His rival Aristides was ostracized in B. C. 483, to which event Themistocles contributed; and from this time he was the political leader in Athens. In B. C. 481 he was Archon Eponymus. The chronology of the early part of the life of Themistocles is uncertain. It was perhaps before his archonship, or it may have been in that year that he persuaded the Athenians to employ the produce of the silver mines of Laurium in building ships, instead of distributing it among the Athenian citizens (Herod. vii. 144; Pint. Themist. c. 4). The motive which he suggested was that the fleet of Athens should be made a match for that of Aegina, with which state Athens was then at war; but his real object was to prepare Athens against a future attack from the Persians. It was the policy of Themistocles to draw the Athenians to the sea, as he was convinced that it was only by their fleet that Athens could repel the Persians and obtain the supremacy in Greece. The number of ships which were built at the suggestion of Themistocles was two hundred, according to Herodotus; and they were not employed against Aegina, with which state Athens made peace, but against the Persians; and thus, as Plutarch remarks, the policy of Themistocles saved Greece. Either at this time or somewhat later he persuaded the Athenians to pass a decree that twenty new ships should be built every year.
  When news arrived of the immense armament of Xerxes, the Athenians deliberated about choosing a commander. Themistocles had no rival at Athens except Epicydes, who was strong with his tongue, but weak in spirit. Themistocles, fearing that matters would go ill if this incompetent man was elected commander-in-chief, bought off his opposition and was elected himself (Plut. Themist. 6). There can be no doubt that Themistocles was ambitious to have the command, and his ambition was justified by his talents. A body of men was sent by sea to Alus in Achaea, whence they marched to the pass of Tempe, under the command of Themistocles land Euaenetos, a Spartan, to make a stand against the army of Xerxes; but after a few days this force retreated to their ships in alarm before Xerxes had crossed over to Europe from Abydos (Herod. vii. 173; Plut. Themist. 7). The Thessalians being thus deserted, joined the Persians, and all Greece as far south as Boeotia also went over to them. Upon this the Greek confederates held a council at the isthmus of Corinth, in which it was resolved to snake a stand against the Persians at Thermopylae, and to send the fleet to Artemisium on the northwest coast of Euboea, where it could watch the operations of the forces at Thermopylae. Themistocles showed his magnanimity by offering to serve under Eurybiades, the Spartan, though the Athenians furnished a greater number of ships than the Spartans. The Persian fleet sustained great loss on the coast of Thessaly from bad weather (Herod. vii. 190), but at last it reached Aphetae. Eurybiades being alarmed at the approach of this great force meditated a retreat to Southern Greece (Herod. viii.4; Plut. Themist. 7); but the Euboeans, who were afraid of being deserted at this critical time, before they should be able to put their women and children in a place of safety, gave Themistocles thirty talents, part of which he gave to Eurybiades and to Adimantus, the Corinthian commander, and thus induced them to stay and hazard a battle. The Greeks had the advantage in the naval engagements off Artemisium, and the Persian fleet was damaged by another storm; but the Greek fleet also suffered in the battle, and half of the Athenian ships were disabled (Herod. viii. 18). The fights off Artemisium took place on the same days on which Leonidas and his little band fought with the Persians at Thermopylae. The Greek fleet retired to Salamis opposite the south-western coast of Attica. Before leaving Artemisium Themistocles cut on the rocks and on pieces of stone an address to the Ionians, who were in the fleet of Xerxes, hoping that either the Ionians might be detached from the cause of Xerxes, if what he had written should not become known to the king, or that if the king should be informed of what was written, he might suspect the fidelity of the Ionians and not let them engage in the sea-fights. (Herod. viii. 22.)
  It was the plan of the Peloponnesians to retire within the peninsula, and to build a wall across the isthmus,and the fleet had withdrawn to Salamis only at the entreaty of the Athenians to allow them time to remove their women and children from Attica. An answer of the oracle of Delphi had advised the Athenians to defend themselves with wooden walls, and Themistocles, who may have suggested the answer of the oracle, also gave it an interpretation, saying that they must take refuge in their fleet. Accordingly he recommended that Athens should be left to the care of its tutelary deity, and that the women, children, and infirm persons should be removed to Salamis, Aegina, and Troezen, which was done. The people of Troezen received most hospitably the fugitives, and provided for their maintenance at the public expense. The united fleet of the Greeks was now assembled at Salamis, consisting both of ships from Artemisium and the navy which was stationed at Troezen; in all three hundred and seventy-eight ships, besides penteconters (Herod. viii. 48). In the mean time the Persian army advanced through Boeotia, and entered Attica, destroying all before them. Athens also was occupied by them, and the Acropolis was burnt. The Greek confederates assembled at Salamis were alarmed, and many of them were preparing to escape in their vessels. In this emergency Mnesiphilus, a friend of Themistocles, hearing front him that the Greeks had resolved in council to withdraw to the Isthmus, and fight a naval battle there, urged him to prevent so fatal a step, and to induce Eurybiades to stay. Themistocles, who was of the same opinion as Mnesiphilus, prevailed on Eurybiades to hold a fresh council of war, in which Themistocles showed the consequences of the intended movement. Adimantus the Corinthian insolently told Themistocles to be silent, and said that a man who had no city ought not to speak in the council. Themistocles rated him soundly and his countrymen of Corinth too ; and added, that the Athenians had a larger country and city than the Corinthians, inasmuch as they had two hundred vessels, and that no Greek state could resist such a force if attacked by it. Then turning to Eurybiades, he told him that if he did not stay there, he would cause the ruin of Greece, for that all the power of the Greeks was in their fleet; and that if they would not fight at Salamis, the Athenians would sail off to Italy, and the Greeks being left alone would then remember what he had said. Eurybiades at last yielded, and it was determined to stay at Salamis.
  On the arrival of the huge armament of Xerxes, consisting of twelve hundred vessels, in the Saronic gulf, the fears of the Greeks were renewed, and a fresh council was held, in which it was proposed by the rest of the Greeks to sail off to the Peloponnesus, while the Athenians, Aeginetae, and people of Megaris, still urged that they should keep their position (Herod. viii. 74). Themistocles, however, frustrated the plan of the dissentient Greeks. He sent a faithful slave, named Sicinnus, in a boat to the Persian commanders, with a message to this effect : that the Athenian commander, without the knowledge of the other commanders, inasmuch as he wished success to the king's cause, had sent him to say that the Greeks were alarmed, and intended to make their escape, and that the Persians had now the opportunity of accomplishing a noble enterprise, if they would only cut off the retreat of the Greeks. The Persians believed what they were told, and took their measures accordingly. They landed a large force on Psyttaleia, a little island in the channel which separates Salamis from the Attic coast, and about midnight the Persian fleet occupied the whole of the channel between Salamis and the mainland as far as Munychia, and thus the Greeks were hemmed in. (Herod. viii 76.)
  The Greek commanders were disputing in council, not yet being aware that their retreat was cut off. Aristides, who was still in exile, crossed over from Aegina to Salamis, and sending for Themistocles out of the council, told him that it was useless to discuss the matter of retreat any longer, for he had seen the enemy's fleet, and the Greeks were completely blockaded. Themistocles communicated to Aristides what he had done to bring this about, and asked him to inform the council of what he had seen. Though Aristides assured the council that retreat was now impossible, and urged them to prepare for battle, many of the commanders would not believe the intelligence until it was confirmed by a Tenian galley which had deserted from the Persians. In the morning the battle took place, in which the Greeks had the advantage of their position over the Persian fleet, which was crowded in too narrow a space. The battle was fought chiefly in the eastern strait. The Greeks gained a signal victory, in which the Aeginetae most distinguished themselves, and next to them the Athenians. Aristides did good service by landing on Psyttaleia with some soldiers from Salamis, and cutting to pieces the Persians who were on this islet. Xerxes, who watched the battle from the shore of the mainland, saw his mighty armament defeated and dispersed in the autumn of B. C. 480. The fleet of the Persians was pursued by the Greeks as far as Andros, and as they did not come up with it there, a council was held, in which Themistocles advised that they should pursue the enemy through the Aegean, and sail to the Hellespont to destroy the bridge of boats by which Xerxes had passed over. Eurybiades more prudently suggested that they should allow the immense army of Xerxes to move off as quick as they could, and should leave the bridge standing ; and this advice was approved by the other Peloponnesian commanders (Herod. viii. 107; compare Plut. Aristid. 9, Themist. 16). Themistocles pacified the Athenians, who were most eager to follow the Persians, by urging plausible arguments against the pursuit at present, and saying that in the following spring they might sail to the Hellespont and to Ionia. Herodotus attributes to Themistocles a treacherous motive in the affair, and says that his object was to secure a retreat to Persia, if any thing should befal him at Athens (Herod. viii. 109); and accordingly he sent some confidential persons to Xerxes, and among them the faithful Sicinnus, to tell him that Themistocles had prevented the Greeks from pursuing the Persian fleet, and destroying the bridge over the Hellespont, and he advised the king to move off. Xerxes retreated with his army, and left Mardonius with a large force behind him.
  While the Greek fleet was among the islands of the Aegean, Themistocles attempted to levy contributions on the islanders. The people of Andros were called upon to pay money in the name of two powerful deities, Persuasion and Necessity, but they answered, as other people may answer to the collector of imposts, that they possessed two invincible antagonist deities, Poverty and Want of means, whose powerlessness no power could vanquish. Themistocles, however, got money from the Carystians and Parians (Herod. viii. 111, &c.); and probably he filled his own pockets. The victory of Salamis, however, which was due to Themistocles, established his reputation among the Greeks; and it was only jealousy among the commanders which caused him to receive at the Isthmus the second prize of merit instead of the first (Herod. viii. 123). But on his visiting Sparta, he was received with extraordinary honours by the Spartans, who gave Eurybiades the palm of bravery, and to Themistocles the palm of wisdom and skill, with a crown of olive, and the best chariot that Sparta possessed. When he returned home, three hundred select Spartan horsemen accompanied him as far as the borders of Tegea (Herod. viii 124; Plut. Themist. 17).
  In the battle of Plataea, B. C. 479, in which Mardonius was defeated, Aristides, now no longer an exile, commanded the Athenians (Herod. viii. 28; Plut. Arist. 11). The name of Themistocles is not mentioned on this occasion by Herodotus or by Plutarch; nor on the occasion of the fight at Mycale, which took place on the same day. Neither does it appear clearly what he was doing all this time, except so far as may be collected from Plutarch's vague narrative (Plut. Themist. 18). It seems probable that his political influence declined very speedily after the affair which raised his reputation to the greatest height; and that his conduct to the Spartans on two several occasions contributed to his final downfall.
T  he Athenians began to restore their ruined city after the barbarians had left the country, and Themistocles advised them to rebuild the walls, and to make them stronger than before. The Spartans sent an embassy to Athens to dissuade them front fortifying their city, for which we can assign no motive, except a miserable jealousy. Themistocles, according to Theopompus, quoted by Plutarch, got over this opposition by bribing the Ephori, which is probable enough, and not inconsistent with the story told circumstantially by Thucydides of his deceiving the Spartans. He prevailed on the Athenians to dismiss the Spartan ambassadors, and to send him and others to Sparta on the matter of the fortifications. Themistocles went first, after advising the Athenians not to send his colleagues till the walls were far enough advanced to be in a state of defence. In the mean time he amused the Spartans with lies, and pretended that he was waiting for his colleagues in order to be enabled to enter on the business on which he was sent; and when the report of the progress of the walls was confirmed by fresh intelligence, Themistocles told the Spartans to send trusty persons to Athens to inquire, and not to trust to rumours. The Spartans despatched their agents, and Themistocles at the same time sent instructions to Athens, to detain the Spartans until he and his colleagues should return in safety, for his colleagues had now joined him. When he was informed that the walls of Athens were in a fit state for defence, he came before the Spartans, and told them plainly that Athens could now protect herself. The Spartans dissembled their resentment, and the ambassadors respectively returned from Athens and Sparta (Thucyd. i. 90, &c). It was also on the advice of Themistocles that the Athenians finished the fortifications of the port of Peiraeeus, which they had commenced during his archonship (Thucyd. i. 93; Diod. xi. 41); the position was exceedingly favourable, possessing three natural harbours, and as the Athenians had been made a naval power, the improvement of their ports would contribute to the increase of it. For Themistocles was the first who declared that the Athenians must make the sea their element, and he took the first steps towards this object. His policy was not to let the fortune of the Athenians depend on the fate of their city Athens; but if they were ever hard pressed, his advice was that they should leave it for the Peiraeeus, which he designed to make so strong that a few men could defend it, while the rest could embark in the fleet. The building of the walls which connected Athens with Peiraeeus and Phalerum was later, and accomplished about B. C. 456 (Thucyd. i. 107).
  The influence of Themistocles does not appear to have survived the expulsion of the Persians from Greece and the fortification of the ports. He was probably justly accused of enriching himself by unfair means, for he had no scruples about the way of accomplishing an end. A story is told by Plutarch in his Lives of Aristides and Themistocles, that after the retreat of the fleet of Xerxes, when the Greek fleet was wintering at Pagasae, Themistocles told the Athenians in the public assembly that he had a scheme to propose which was beneficial to the state, but could not be expounded to the many. Aristides was named to receive the secret, and to report upon it. His report was that nothing could be more profitable than tile scheme of Themistocles, but nothing more unjust; and the Athenians abided by the report of Aristides. His project was to burn the Greek fleet, and thus confirm the naval supremacy of Athens. Themistocles resisted the proposal of the Lacedaemonians to exclude from the Amphictyonic assembly those states which had not aided the Greeks against Xerxes, for such a measure, he argued, would put the whole power of the Amphictyonic federation in the hands of two or three of the chief states. He succeeded in defeating this scheme, and thus incurred the enmity of the Spartans, who supported his rival Cimon (Plut. Themist. 20). If this affair took place soon after the battle of Salamis, it will help to account for the disappearance of Themistocles from the stage. In B. C. 471 he was ostracised from Athens, and retired to Argos. He had now leisure to think of the old gallies and his father's lessons.
  Pausanias, being detected in a treacherous correspondence with the Persian king, lost his life, and the Lacedaemonians sent persons to Athens to accuse Themistocles of being privy to the designs of Pausanias (Thucyd. i. 135; Plut. Themist. 23). The Athenians, either convinced of his guilt or affecting to be convinced, sent off persons with the Lacedaemonians with instructions to arrest Themistocles wherever they should find him. (B. C. 466). But Themistocles, hearing of what was designed against him. fled from Argos to Corcyra, the inhabitants of which owed him some obligations; but as the Corcyraeans were afraid to keep him for fear of incurring the hostility of Athens and Sparta, they took Themistocles across to the main land. Being followed by his pursuers, he took refuge in the house of Admetus, king of the Molossi, who happened to be from home. Admetus was no friend to Themistocles, but his wife, at the entreaty of the fugitive, told him that he would be protected if he would take their child in his arms, and sit on the hearth. The king soon came in, and respecting his suppliant attitude, raised him up, and refused to surrender him to the Lacedaemonian and Athenian agents. He also sent him to Pydna on the coast of the Aegean, where Themistocles found a merchant vessel bound for Ionia. The vessel was carried by the weather close to the Athenian armament, which was blockading Naxos, on which Themistocles discovered himself to the master, and told him, that if he did not carry him off safely, he would inform the Athenians that he was aiding him to escape for a sum of money. The master kept his vessel tossing off the island a whole day and night to avoid the risk of landing, and at last safely reached Ephesus. Themistocles, who received money from his friends at Athens, and from Argos, where he had money, rewarded the master for his pains.
  Xerxes was now dead (B. C. 465), and Artaxerxes was on the throne. Themistocles went up to visit the king at his royal residence, in company with a Persian, and on his arrival he sent the king a letter, in which he told him that he had done the greatest damage to the cause of the king's father, when out of necessity he fought against him, but that he had done him still greater services, by which he meant his information as to the intended retreat of the Greeks from Salamis, and the not breaking down of the bridge over the Hellespont, the merit of which he falsely claimed : he said that he could do the king good service, and that his life was sought by the Greeks on account of his friendship to the king; he prayed that he might be allowed to wait a year, and then to explain personally what brought him there. Themistocles was too cunning to entrust his business to an interpreter. In a year he made himself master of the Persian language and the Persian usages, and, being presented to the king, he obtained the greatest influence over him, and such as no Greek ever before enjoyed; partly owing to the high reputation and the hopes that he gave to the king of subjecting the Greeks to the Persians. The king gave him a handsome allowance, after the Persian fashion; Magnesia supplied him with bread nominally, but paid him annually fifty talents. Lampsacus supplied wine, and Myus the other provisions. Before he could accomplish any thing he died; some say that he poisoned himself, finding that he could not perform his promise to the king. A monument was erected to his memory in the Agora of Magnesia, which place was within his government. It is said that his bones were secretly taken to Attica by his relations, and privately interred there. Themistocles was, according to Plutarch, sixty-five years of age when he died, and if he was born B. C. 514, he died in B. C. 449. He left several sons and daughters. The descendants of Themistocles enjoyed certain honours in Magnesia in Plutarch's time. A tomb called that of Themistocles existed in the Peiraeeus in the time of Pausanias (i. 1): Pausanias mentions also a portrait of Themistocles in the Parthenon: he says, it appears that the sons of Themistocles returned to Athens, and dedicated the painting in the Parthenon in which Themistocles was represented: it was probaby an historical piece, in which Themistocles appeared as an actor (Compare Paus. i. 26 and 37).
  The great abilities of Themistocles are thus briefly characterised by Thucydides (i. 138): " Themistocles was the strongest example of the power of natural talent, and in this respect is particularly worthy of admiration; for by his natural understanding, without any education originally to form it, or afterwards to strengthen it, he had the best judgment in actual circumstances, and he formed his judgment with the least deliberation; and as to future events he made, in the general, the best conjectures; whatever he took in hand, he was also able to expound; and on matters where he had no experience, he was not unable to form a competent judgment; and both of the better and the worse, while it was still in uncertainty, he had a most excellent foresight; and to express all in brief, by the force of his natural capacity, and the quickness of his determination, he was the most efficient of all men in promptly deciding what was to be done." Undoubtedly he possessed great talents as a statesman, great political sagacity, a ready wit, and excellent judgment: but perhaps he was not an honest man; and, like many other clever men with little morality, he ended his career unhappily and ingloriously, an exile and a traitor too. Some of the anecdotes about him deserve little credit; but an examination of them belongs to another kind of work.
  There is a life of Themistocles in the collection which goes under the name of Nepos. Plutarch has enlivened his biography with several curious stories about Themistocles, after his arrival in Asia. Diodorus (xi.), always a careless writer, is of little value for the biography of Themistocles. One and twenty letters attributed to Themistocles are spurious.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited July 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


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