|The Story of Greece|
|by Mary Macgregor|
| Stories from the history of ancient Greece beginning with mythical and legendary stories of gods and heroes and ending with the conquests of Alexander the Great. Gives short accounts of battles and sieges, and of the men who made Greece a great nation. Ages 10-14 |
ARISTIDES IS OSTRACISED
 FOUR years after the battle of Marathon, Themistocles and
Aristides were the two chief citizens in Athens.
Themistocles wished to make Athens a great sea-power, for he
was sure that some day the Persians would return. He
believed that if the Athenians were able to destroy the
Persian fleet, all would be well. The land forces of the
enemy would be powerless to conquer Greece.
But if Athens was to have a better fleet, Themistocles knew
that she must first have a better harbour. The one that the
Athenians used was at Phalerum, where the sea almost reached
the city. It was only an open roadstead, a place where
ships might ride at anchor, which would be of little use to
protect vessels from an enemy.
Themistocles knew a better site than Phalerum, where a
strong harbour might be built. This was the rocky peninsula
of Piraeus, which was about four miles from Athens.
By his advice three harbours were made here, into which the
largest vessels could enter. Yet the opening to all three
was such that it could be closed easily with chains and
logs, so as to prevent the entrance of an enemy. The
Piraeus soon grew into a large town, for those who did not
own land flocked to the port in the hope of finding work.
Not only did Themistocles persuade the Athenians to fortify
the Piraeus, but he also made Athens a great sea-power.
At this time there was money to spare in the public
treasury, for a rich bed of silver had been discovered in an
 old mine. This money was to be divided among the Athenians.
Themistocles was brave enough to risk the anger of the
people by proposing that it should not be given to them, but
should be used to build ships.
The Athenians were eager to conquer the people of Ægina who
for years had harried their coasts, and they agreed to his
proposal more readily than Themistocles had dared to hope.
With the money the State built two hundred ships, so the
people were able to conquer their enemy and were well
content. But it was Themistocles alone who wished to
prepare Greece for a great Persian invasion. Of this the
Athenians had no fear.
When the ships were ready, Themistocles saw that the
soldiers must be trained to manage the vessels, to become
indeed good sailors.
A wise Greek named Plato tells us that Themistocles "from
steady soldiers turned the Greeks into mariners and seamen,
tossed about the sea, and gave occasion for the reproach
against him, that he took away from the Athenians the spear
and the shield, and bound them to the bench and the oar."
Aristides and Themistocles were rivals. They were brought
up together, and when they were boys they usually took
different sides, just as they continued to do when they were
If you could have watched the boys in school or in the
playground you would have seen at once how different they
were. Themistocles was impetuous and bold, artful too, if
by being so he could gain his own ends. Aristides was
gentle and retiring, honest as the day, in work as in play.
Themistocles was not fond of lessons nor yet of games. But
he knew a great deal even as a boy of what was going on in
the city and in the State, and he was eager to know more.
While Aristides and his comrades were laughing and shouting
over their game of quoits, Themistocles was walking
 up and
down alone in a quiet corner of the playground. He was
rehearsing a speech, which he would soon begin to recite
Sometimes, in more friendly mood, he called his play-fellows
together and delivered his speech to the crowd of little
critics. It was usually about the affairs of the
State—about politics, as we would say.
His schoolmaster saw that although the lad did not love
lessons, he could be an earnest student if he were
interested in a subject. One day he said to him, "You, my
boy, will be nothing small, but great, one way or other, for
good or else for bad."
From his boyhood Themistocles was ambitious, and when he
grew up he accepted bribes, if by doing so he thought he
could reach a higher position in the State.
When he became a judge he showed favour to his friends, even
though to do so was unjust. One of them once said to him
that he would be a good judge, if he would give sentence
"without respect of persons." But in no way abashed,
Themistocles answered, "May I never sit upon the seat of
judgment where my friends shall not receive more favour from
me than strangers.
Aristides was in this, as in other things, the opposite of
his rival, for he was an honourable and upright judge. He
was ever ready to please or to help a friend, but to do so
he would stoop to no act of injustice. Once he accused one
of his enemies of a crime, and the people, with whom
Aristides was at that time a favourite, wished to condemn
the man without listening to his defence. But this
Aristides would not allow.
When he himself was judge, two people came before him, one
of whom was an enemy of his own. The other, knowing this,
felt sure that he would win his suit, and instead of telling
of what he accused the man, he began to remind Aristides
that it was an enemy of his own who stood before him. But
Aristides bade him be silent. "Tell me not," he said, "what
 injury he has done to me, but what harm you have suffered
from him, for I am trying your cause and not my own."
Themistocles not only took bribes, but he often tried to
make others accept them. Many of the Greeks did so, for
they could not easily resist gold, but Aristides was never
one of those who took money from Themistocles, or indeed
When Themistocles urged the Athenians to increase their
fleet, Aristides opposed him with all his strength. And he
did this, not because he disliked his rival, but because he
believed that it would be better for the State to increase
her army rather than to have a powerful navy.
About this, as about other important affairs, the two great
men disagreed so often and so long, that the people thought
the city would be governed better if one of the leaders was
So they assembled in the market-place, where each was given
an oyster-shell on which to write the name of the man he
wished to be banished from Athens.
As the citizens were busy writing on their shells, a rough
country fellow who could not write came up to Aristides and,
handing him his shell, asked him to put down the name of
Aristides. The countryman did not know that he was speaking
to Aristides himself.
"Has Aristides done you an injury?" asked the Athenian, as
he took the shell.
"None at all," answered the fellow, "neither know I the man,
but I am tired of everywhere hearing him called the Just."
Aristides did not answer the ignorant countryman, but he
quietly wrote his own name upon the shell and handed it back
to its owner.
The necessary number of votes being recorded against him he
was ostracised. As he left the city he lifted up his hands
to heaven and prayed that the Athenians "might never have
any occasion which should constrain them to remember
Aristides." And this he did although it was a
 bitter thing
to him to leave the city that he loved so well. In his
absence he knew that Themistocles would be able to carry out
his plans unopposed, and this added to his pain.
But Themistocles was wiser than Aristides when he urged the
Athenians to increase their fleet. For although the great
king Darius was dead, Xerxes his son was preparing to invade
Greece as his father had hoped to do. And without a large
and well-equipped fleet, the Athenians would have been
unable to meet the Persians at sea.
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