|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 |
THEMISTOCLES DECEIVES THE SPARTANS
 AFTER the battle of Plataea, the Athenians brought their wives and
children back to the city, which the Persians had again left
in ruins. Not only were the temples and the houses burned,
but of the city wall scarce a trace was to be found.
Themistocles encouraged the citizens to rebuild the city,
and this they did with good will. More beautiful temples,
better houses, soon sprang up under the eager hands of the
The wall they determined to make so strong and so high that
they would be able to defend their city against any attack
rather than be compelled again to forsake her.
But Sparta was alarmed at her neighbour's industry; she was
more than alarmed, she was suspicious and angry. Athens was
making herself too strong, the Spartans murmured in
The wall had risen but a little way from the ground when the
Spartans sent to ask the Athenians not to go on with their
work. The reason they gave was a selfish one, for they
said, "If the Persians return and take a strongly walled
town so near to Peloponnesus, our cities will not be safe."
They then promised to offer shelter to the Athenians, should
they again be forced to leave their city, but only on
condition that they would stop building a wall around
Athens. They even asked the Athenians to help them to
destroy the walls that already surrounded the other cities
The Athenians were in a dilemma. They were
deter-  mined to
finish the wall, yet they dared not anger the Spartans, lest
they attacked their city while the wall was still
In their perplexity they turned to Themistocles, who had
before now saved them by craft when open defiance threatened
to ruin them.
Themistocles was not long in solving the difficulty. He
said that he would go as an ambassador to Sparta to talk
over the matter. Other ambassadors were to follow him only
when the walls were nearly complete, and meanwhile men,
women and children, all must work day and night, so that the
wall might grow apace.
When Themistocles reached Sparta, he at once said to the
council that he could do nothing until his fellow
ambassadors arrived, and he pretended that he expected them
He refused to attend the council alone, and when the
Spartans grumbled, he assured them that the Athenians were
not going on with the wall. When they grew impatient he
amused them so well by his clever speeches that they forgot
for a little while to be angry with him.
But when day after day passed and still the other
ambassadors did not come, the Spartans did not hide their
suspicion that they were being deceived. When a rumour
reached them that the Athenians had never ceased to build
the wall, which was now nearly complete, they were angry
indeed, and going to Themistocles they demanded that he
should tell them the truth.
He still denied that the citizens had been building the wall
in his absence, but if they doubted his word, he bade them
send ambassadors to Athens, that they might see for
themselves whether he was deceiving them or not.
So the Spartans sent ambassadors to Athens, and then
Themistocles bade his colleagues join him, for he knew that
now both he and they would be safe. The Spartan ambassadors
would be hostages for their lives.
 The first thing the Spartans saw as they approached Athens
was a high, strong wall. Then they knew that they had been
deceived, and they sent a messenger to tell their countrymen
that Themistocles had played them false.
Themistocles was no coward. He went into the council and
boldly told the Spartans that it was true he had deceived
them, so that the walls of Athens might be built before they
Indignant as the Spartans were and ashamed of their own
folly in being deceived by the crafty Athenian, they dared
not harm the ambassadors lest their own messengers should
not return in safety.
So they sent them away, and Themistocles and his fellows
returned in triumph to Athens.
Soon after this the city wall was finished, and Themistocles
then urged the people to build another great wall round the
Piraeus. When this was done, Athens had the largest and
safest harbour in Greece.
The other states now appointed her to be the head of the
allied fleet, and no one was more proud of this than
Themistocles. For it was he who had first persuaded the
Athenians to make themselves into a great sea-power.
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