Ep. 033 – A ‘Heraldless War’ and a Man Named Themistocles

In today's episode the curtain rises on a young man named Themistocles. He's always recognized for the role that he played at Salamis and in the Greek navy's stand against Persia, but today we go back to the earliest we know about his life. We ended last episode in 493 BCE when the Ionian Revolt was effectively ended at Lade, but in that same year Themistocles was made eponymous archon of Athens. Today we look at the early stages of the naval reforms he tried to institute in Athens, with a particular focus on the Athenian port of Phaleron. It was a weak port despite being the only port Athens had used in her history, so after looking at why it was weak, we then look at the location Themistocles proposed as an alternative, the Piraeus. A story that runs through the episode and probably shaped the views of a young Themistocles is one that involves an island rival of Athens, the mercantile power of Aegina. She'd become a naval power before Athens had, so today we look at an undeclared war that simmered between them, the naval focus of their conflicts, and why Aegina actually played an interesting role in the shaping up of the greater conflict with Persia. There's also a bit in there somewhere about Persia's first attempt to invade Greece and the storm that caused one of the biggest naval disasters to that point in ancient history. A meandering but interesting episode, I hope.


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Sources

  • Casson, Lionel, The Ancient Mariners: Seafarers and Sea Fighters of the Mediterranean in Ancient Times (1959).
  • Hale, John R., Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy and the Birth of Democracy (2009).
  • Herodotus, The Histories (Robert Strassler, Ed., Andrea Purvis, Transl., 2007).
  • Holland, Tom, Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West (2005).
  • Morrison, J.S., et al, The Athenian Trireme: The History and Reconstruction of an Ancient Greek Warship (2nd edition, 2000).
  • Paine, Lincoln, The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World (2013).
  • Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War.
  • Strauss, Barry, Salamis: The Battle that Saved Greece--and Western Civilization (2004).

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