Highlights of Ancient Greek History: 480 BCE to 399 BCE

In 480 BCE, September brings defeat to Xerxes, as Themistocles uses advanced military strategies to best the Persians at the naval Battle of Salamis. In this article, you will learn how Themistocles was able to stay one step ahead of the Persians.

The Athenian politician and general Themistocles introduced Greece to a new crop of politicians that became influential during the early years of the Athenian democracy. In politics, Themistocles was known as a populist and gained the support of lower class Athenians. This generally placed him in the path of ire with many members of Athenian nobility.

In 493 BC, he was elected archon. He took this opportunity to increase the naval power of Athens, which was an exceptional help during his political career. During the first Persian invasion of Greece, he fought at the Battle of Marathon and was regarded as one of the best generals in the victorious battles.

The years that followed the Battle of Marathon brought the second Persian invasion and Themistocles was one of the most influential politicians in Athens at the time. He pushed for a stronger Athenian army and in 483 BC, he was successful in making the Athenians build a fleet of 200 triremes. With the second command, the naval forces played a significant role in victories and Themistocles was at the forefront of commanding the fleets.

After conflict subsided, Themistocles was seen as the best out of all the other Athenian politicians. However, this upset Sparta when he ordered Athens to become re-fortified. The Spartans saw this as an attempt to separate the two city-states and make the statement that the Athenians were better than the Spartans. By 472 or 471 BC, Themistocles was ostracized and went into exile in Argos.

With this move, the Spartans saw this as an opening to destroy the politician. They went on to accuse him in a treasonous plot of their own general Pausanias. As a result, Themistocles fled from Greece. He wound up in Asia Minor, where he found a job with the Persian king Artaxerxes I. With a newly found position as governor of Magnesia, he lived out the rest of his life outside of the country that he had done so much for.

Plutarch described Themistocles as being “the man most instrumental in achieving the salvation of Greece” from the Persian threat.

472 BCE: A play called “The Persians” is submitted to the annual drama competition by the playwright Aeschylus. The play illustrates the tale of the Battle of Salamis , from the Persians’ perspective.

469 to 399 BCE: One of the most famous philosophers of ethics lives during this time , Socrates.

Although Socrates is known as one of the most well known of philosophers in the ancient world, no written work has been left behind. He is seen as the protagonist of Plato’s dialogues. Socrates is credited as being one of the founders of Western philosophy. He was a man of intrigue whose life is told through the works of others, such as his students Plato and Xenophon.