Why is Themistocles important to Greek history?
He freed all the Greek slaves.
He led the Greeks to victory at the Battle of Hemius.
He led the Greek army against Xerxes.
He encouraged Greece to create a strong navy.
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An Athenian commander of the fleet at the Battle of Salamis against the Persians in 490 BC, Themistocles was to become an important political figure in ancient Athens after Miltiades had fallen.
When his opponent Aristides was expelled in 483 BC, he became the leading statesman. He convinced the Athenians to let the money from the silver mines of Attica be spent to construct a fleet of triremes. 200 ships were made, and Pireus was used for the first time as the harbour of Athens.
When king Xerxes I of Persia tried to invade Greece this fleet was to totally defeat the Persians at the Battle of Salamis. The oracle of Delphi had prophesized that only a wall of wood would protect Athens, and Themistocles interpreted this wall to be the Athenian fleet.
As a statesman, Themistocles opened Athens to merchants from abroad and also was one of the first to plan colonizations of the West.
Themistocles was said to be an arrogant man, with an inclination toward sly politics, and this led to his ostracization by the Athenians in 471 BC. Miltiades son Cimon was now the leader of the aristocratic party. Themistocles went to Argos, Corfu and eventually to Xerxes's son Artaxerxes I in Persia.
Ataterxes was so happy whith Themistocles arrival that he thanked the gods and gave Themistocles 200 talents. This, the Persian king said, was the ransom for whoever brought Themisticles before him dead or alive. He then made the Greek general governer over a few small cities in Asia Minor where spent the rest of his life.
According to different historians, he either died a natural death or committed suicide when faced with having to make war against Athens.