, the great preserver of Athens at the time of the Persian invasion, owed no part of his celebrity or influence to the accident of his birth. He was born about 530 B. C. his father being Neocles, an Athenian of no illustrious family, and his mother an obscure woman, a Thracian by birth (according to the best authorities), and not of the best character. His disposition was naturally vehement, yet prudent; and Plutarch says that he was pronounced Y er y early by his preceptor, to be a person who would bring either great good or great evil to his country. Some of the ancients have said that he was dissolute in his youth, and for that reason disinherited; but this is positively denied by Plutarch. His ardent but honourable ambition was soon discovered; and contributed to put him on bad terms with Aristides, and some other leading men. He pushed himself forward in public business, and seeing that it was necessary for Athens to become a maritime power, persuaded the people to declare war against JEgina, and to build an hundred triremes. In these ships he exercised the people, and thus t>ave them those means of defence and aggrandizement which they afterwards employed with so much success. Yet it happened that he had no opportunity of distinguishing his military talents in his youth, being forty years of age at the time of the battle of Marathon; after which he was frequently heard to say “that the trophies of Miltiades disturbed his rest.” As a judge, he was strict and severe; in which office, being asked by Simonides to make some stretch of power in his behalf, he replied, “Neither would you be a good poet if you transgressed the laws of numbers, nor should 1 be a good judge, if I should hold the request of any one more, sacred than | the laws.Themistocles had so much credit with the people, as to get his rival Atistides banished by ostracism. In the Persian war, it was he who first interpreted the wooden walls mentioned by the oracle, to mean the Athenian ships: by his contrivance the fleet of Xerxes was induced to fight in a most disadvantageous situation off Sulamis, where it suffered a total defeat. For his whole conduct in this action he gained the highest honours, both at home and in Sparta. This was in 480, ten years after the battle of Marathon.

The power of Themistocles in Athens was confirmed for a time by this groat exploit, and he earnestly pressed the rebuilding of the city, and the construction of new and more complete fortifications. The latter step gave alarm to the jealousy of Sparta; but Themistocles, employing all his prudence to deceive the Lacedaemonians, and even going to Sparta in person as an ambassador, contrived to gain so much time, that the walls were nearly completed before the negociation was settled. With equal vigilance, patriotism, and sagacity, he superintended the improvement of the Athenian port named Piraeus. After these, and other services to his country, Themistocles met with the return almost invariable in democratic governments, ingratitude. He was accused of aggrandizing his own power and wealth in a naval expedition, was finally implicated in the accusations proved against Pausanias in Sparta, and banished. He sought first the patronage of Admetus, king of the Molossi, and afterwards that of the king of Persia, by whom he was magnificently supported to his death, which happened about 465 years before our sera. His bones, in pursuance of his dying request, were carried into Attica, and privately buried there. The blemishes in the character and conduct, attributed to this great man, cannot, perhaps, with strict historical fidelity, be completely denied; yet much allowance must be made for that party spirit, by which political worth so frequently suffered in Greece. In abilities, and in his actions, he was certainly one of the greatest men whom that country ever produced. “The mind of Themistocles,” says the great historian Thucydides, “seems to have displayed the utmost force of human nature; for the evident superiority of his capacity to that of all other men was truly wonderful. His penetration was such, that from the scantiest information, and with the most instantaneous thought, he formed | the most accurate judgment of the past, and gained the clearest insight into the future. He had a discernment that could develope the advantageous and the pernicious in measures proposed, however involved in perplexity and obscurity; and he had, no less remarkably, the faculty of explaining things clearly to others, than that of judging clearly himself, Such, in short, were the powers of his genius, and the readiness of hU judgment, that he was, beyond all men, capable of directing all things, on every occasion.” He died, according to Plutarch, in his sixty-fifth year; leaving a large progeny, to whom the bounty of the Persian monarch was continued. Many of them were, however, restored to their country. It is very commonly said, and Plutarch favours the notion, that he died by poison voluntarily taken: but Thucydides does hot seem to credit the opinion, but rather to consider his death as natural. 1


Mitford’s Greece.—Plutarch.—Thucydides.