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As Munro (Cl. Rev. vi. 333) has pointed out, there seem to have been two distinct systems of chronology for the life of Themistocles, differing by ten years. The confusion may have been caused by the fact that the two Persian invasions were just ten years apart, and the two Athenian expeditions to Cyprus and Egypt were also ten years apart. The fixed points in both are that Themistocles died at the age of sixty-five, and that he was archon suo anno, i.e. at the age of thirty. The better chronology runs as follows:

523 B.C. Themistocles born. He belonged to the old Attic family of the Lycomidae, but his mother was a Thracian or Carian (Plut. Them. 1).

493 B.C. Themistocles archon eponymus (Dion. Hal. vi. 34) begins the building of Piraeus (Thuc. i. 93; Paus. i. 1. 2).

490 B.C. Fought in command of his tribe at Marathon (Plut. Arist. 5).

483 B.C. Carried through the decree for the building of a great navy (ch. 144; Ath. Pol. 22); his chief rival Aristides (cf. viii. 79; Ath. Pol. 22) ostracized.

471 B.C. Ostracism of Themistocles (Diodorus, xi. 55; Cic. de Amicit. xii. 42; Meyer, iii. § 286 n.).

467 B.C. Flight from argos, since he goes up to Susa when Artaxerxes has just become king (νεωστὶ βασιλεύοντα, Thuc. i. 137), i.e. in 465 B.C. Later writers say Themistocles was introduced to Xerxes by Artabanus (Plut. Them. 27; Diod. xi. 56, following Ephorus). This mistake is best explained if Themistocles reached Asia while Xerxes was still alive, and Susa after his death, while Artabanus was still in power.

459-458 B.C. Death of Themistocles (Thuc. i. 138). The early tradition that he poisoned himself (Ar. Eq. 83. 4; Thuc. 1. 138), because he could not fulfil his promise of subduing Hellas, points to some such crisis as the Athenian expedition to Cyprus and Egypt. On the other hand, Plutarch (Them. 31; Cim. 18) connects the death of Themistocles with Cimon's expedition in 449, and since he gives his age at sixty-five, presumably placed his archonship in 483-482, a date modified by Busolt (ii. 642 n.) to 482-481, and the Ath. Pol. (ch. 25) represents him as still at Athens in 462 B.C., and presumably placed his ostracism in 462-461. But this date for Themistocles' ostracism has been proved impossible (Walker, Cl. Rev. vi. 95 f.), and that for his death is most unlikely.

The only difficulty in the chronology preferred, apart from νεωστὶ παριών (inf.), is the long separation between the fortification of Piraeus (493) and the building of the fleet (483). But we must remember that little may have been done at Piraeus for a time, since between 493-483 Athens had much to engage her energy and resources. Indeed, though Hippias had made a beginning at Munychia (Ath. Pol. 19), Phalerum was still the port of Athens in 490 B.C.; cf. vi. 116. In any case it is clear that a better port and dock than that open roadstead was a necessary preliminary to the creation of a great navy.

νεωστὶ παριών: the participle is an imperfect, ‘who had but lately come to the front’; cf. Dem. Phil. iii. 24 παρελθοῦσιν εἰς τὴν αὐτὴν δυναστείαν. The word νεωστί has been used as an argument for bringing down the archonship of Themistocles to 482 B.C, but the expression cannot be pressed in H. (cf. vii. 148. 2), or, if it were it might refer to the recent triumph of his naval policy and the ostracism of Aristides.

εἶχε ... εἰρημένον: according to Stein=εἴρητο; cf. iii. 48. 1 ὕβρισμα γὰρ καὶ ἐς τούτους εἶχε ἐκ τῶν Σαμίων γενόμενον. The expression seems to mean ‘that if the verse had been spoken of and really applied to’, unless with Krüger we bracket εἰρημένον.

μιν: neuter, referring to τὸ ἔπος (Stein); cf. vi. 82. 1.

ἀλλά (sc. ἐκέλευον, ch. 104. 5). The official interpreters tried to harmonize the two oracles by supposing that the second also recommended flight (e.g. to Siris, cf. viii. 62), only particularizing the ships as the means of flight and promising eventual safety. Very possibly this was the meaning primarily intended by the Delphic priesthood (Hauvette, p. 326), but the oracle could also be interpreted in Themistocles' sense, and was thus safe in either case.

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hide References (9 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (9):
    • Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians, 19
    • Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians, 22
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.1.2
    • Plutarch, Aristeides, 5
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.137
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.138
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.93
    • Plutarch, Themistocles, 1
    • Plutarch, Themistocles, 27
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