Friday, February 19, 2010

Themistocles Lesson #1.2 Meet the Parents!

Ancient authors could not agree on where Themistocles' mother was from. Some say the wilds of Thrace. Others the cosmopolitan Halicarnassus. Still others say the western lands of Acarnania. Yet all agree she was a foreigner.

Euterpe of Halicarnassus

If Themistocles' mother was from Halicarnassus, she would have been raised in a very cultured and sophisticated city. The harbor town is located in modern day Bodrum, a charming and magical place that casts a spell on any who enter it. There, Euterpe would been caught up in the swirling tides of East and West. Oriental spices and fragrent herbs would be added to lamb and olives. The quays of the harbor would have been full crawfish and eel, a variety of fish, and even exotic sea creatures. She would have been exposed to a variety of cultures and classes. There were Persian soldiers and Phonecian sailors along the water's edge, Lydian merchants calling out their wares in the streets, and Cappadocian serving women swaying through the alleyways with water jugs and richly dyed robes for the mistresses. Euterpe would have struck Neocles as a rare gem, beautiful and irrisistable. He might have met her while on a trip to the city, or perhaps saw her gliding through the streets of Athens and vowed then and there to make her his bride.

Abrotonon of Thrace

The people of Thrace were exotic and dangerous to the Ancient Greeks. They were known for their startling red hair, fox-skinned caps and knee-high boots. They were also known to be excellent archers, able to shoot arrows from the back of a horse. Perhaps Abrotonon learned to do these things at her father's side. Or maybe she learned to weave the thick Thracian cloaks that granted protection against the icy winters. Did Neocles meet this exotic beauty while on campaign around the Black Sea? Was he enraptured by her firey hair and equally fiery temper? Or was she was servant in his household, sweet and innocent and with nobody to depend upon but him? In either case, she must have been very special.

??? of Acarnania

Acarnania is located in the mysterious wilds of Western Greece. Due to its strategic location and proximity to Italy, the cities of Acarnania were constantly entangled in wars. It is possible that this mysterious girl was a refugee, her family fleeing to Athens in the hopes of starting a new life, away from the constant battles. Neocles may have seen the fragile beauty in the countryside one day and offered her love and security, as well as a place to call home.

No matter where she was from, Themistocles' mother would have stood out. She probably spoke with a thick accent and was unfamiliar with the customs of Attica. She would have had to rely on her husband to teach her about local festivals (there were dozens) the beliefs and customs of his people and the land's history and politics.

In my story Themistocles knows very little about his mother. She dies in child birth and his father refuses to talk about her.


Carla said...

How interesting that it's known that she was a foreigner. Did the assorted chroniclers suggest that was somehow important to Themistocles' later career?

Meghan said...

It seems to have. Being half foreign would have put Themistocles at a disadvantage. Perhaps it's partially what motivated him to become so democratic.