|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 IS OSTRACISED
 FOR many years Themistocles had been a favourite with the
Athenians. But soon after the walls of the city were
complete he began to grow less popular.
Perhaps this was his own fault, for he tired the people by
boasting continually of the good he had done to the city.
It was known too that he did not hesitate to take bribes,
and the citizens were indignant that he should have grown
rich in this dishonourable way.
One day, as he was talking in public with Aristides, he
said, "The chief excellence of a statesman is to be able to
prove and frustrate the designs of public enemies."
Aristides answered, "Another very excellent and necessary
quality in a statesman is to have clean hands." And those
who listened applauded Aristides the Just, for they knew
well that he had never soiled his hands with the gold of his
In 471 B.C., the people determined to ostracise
Themistocles, so weary had they grown of the claims he made
upon their gratitude. At the time of Pausanias' death he
was living at Argos, which city lies south of Corinth.
When the papers of the traitor were read it was found that
Themistocles had written to him. There was nothing in his
letters to show that he had meant to help Pausanias to
betray his country, yet he was accused of treason.
When he heard of the charge that was brought against him, he
wrote to the council at Athens, "I, Themistocles, who was born
to command and not to serve others, could
 not sell myself,
and Greece with me, into servitude to the enemy."
These proud words only angered the Athenians the more, and
the council sent men to arrest him. But Themistocles did
not wait to be captured. He fled from Greece to Epirus,
where he hoped that King Admetus, whom he had once
befriended, would shelter him from his foes.
Admetus was not at home when the exile reached the palace,
so he threw himself upon the mercy of the queen.
She bade him take her little son in his arms and go sit by
the hearth until her lord returned.
Then, when the king arrived, Themistocles arose, and begged
Admetus to protect him, while the little prince stretched
out suppliant arms to his royal father.
This was the most sacred way to proffer a request, and
according to the custom of his country the king was pleased
to do as Themistocles asked. He refused to give him up to
the Athenians, and sent him in safety to the Persian court,
where Artaxerxes now reigned.
Themistocles begged one of the officers to take him to
Artaxerxes, saying that he was a Greek who had come to see
the king on important matters.
"If you will promise to prostrate yourself before the
monarch, as is the custom in my country, I will do as you
wish," answered the Persian.
Some Greeks would have refused to prostrate themselves
before any king, but it was easy for Themistocles to conform
to the customs of the country in which he found himself.
"I that come hither," he said, "to increase the power and
glory of the king, will not only submit myself to his laws
but will also cause many more to be worshippers and adorers
of the king."
"Who shall we tell him you are?" asked the officer, "for
your words signify you to be no ordinary person."
"No man," replied Themistocles, "must be informed of this
before the king himself."
 So at length the Athenian was brought into the presence of
Artaxerxes, and after having prostrated himself he stood
silent before the king.
He stood silent before the king
"Who art thou?" asked Artaxerxes.
"O king," answered the exile, "I am Themistocles the
Athenian, driven into banishment by the Greeks. I come with
a mind suited to my present calamities; prepared alike for
favours and for anger. If you save me you will save your
suppliant; if otherwise, you will destroy an enemy of the
Artaxerxes liked the courage the exile showed, but he gave
him no answer that day. At night, in his sleep, he was
heard to cry aloud for joy three times, "I have Themistocles
In the morning he commanded his courtiers and captains to
assemble in the hall, while the stranger was brought before
As the Athenian passed close to the captains, one of them
whispered to him. "You subtle Greek serpent, the king's
good genius hath brought thee hither."
Themistocles thought these were ominous words, but to his
surprise the king greeted him kindly.
A reward had been offered to whoever should bring the famous
Athenian to the court of the great king. This reward
Artaxerxes now declared should be given to Themistocles
The Greek besought the king to grant him a year in which to
learn the Persian language. He promised that when he could
speak without an interpreter he would tell Artaxerxes the
best way to subdue Greece.
Artaxerxes not only granted his request, but showed him
great kindness. For he gave to him three cities, and
ordered the inhabitants to supply him with bread, meat, wine
and whatever else he might need for himself and his family.
In Magnesia, one of these cities, the Athenian lived content
for many years. But at length Artaxerxes assembled
 an army
to invade Greece, and he sent for the Greek to come to lead
it into his own country.
But whatever promises he had made to ensure his own safety,
Themistocles had never really meant to harm the land he
loved so well.
So when the message of Artaxerxes reached him, the Athenian
invited his friends to a feast, and after bidding them
farewell he offered sacrifices to the gods. He then took
poison and soon after died.
Artaxerxes respected the Athenian, because he had died
rather than betray his country, and he ordered
his family to be
treated with kindness.
Themistocles was buried without the walls of Magnesia, and
the Magnesians erected a statue to him in their market
place, because he had been the "Saviour of Greece."
In 464 B.C., three years after the death of Themistocles,
Aristides died. The Athenians, both rich and poor, mourned
for his loss, because his rare justice, his true patriotism,
had made him to be loved and honoured by all who knew him.
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