Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Themistocles The Persian?

If there's one thing that mystifies me about Themistocles of Athens, it's *SPOILER ALERT!* his eventual stay at the Persian court towards the end of his life.

This is the man who helped lead the Greeks to victory at the Battle of Salamis. This is the great statesman who convinced a skeptical populace that they should use their money to build a fleet of ships to protect their city-state. This is the man kept the Greeks together in the face of a massive Persian invasion. So when ancient sources report that he ended up in Persia with lands and titles, it's hard to except. How can that be?

Now, in my story I could run with the whole "bitter statesman decides to join the Persian ranks to snub his enemies at home," but after a bit of thought I realized there may be more to it than that. You see, twice in Herodotus the author hints at a bit of duplicity on Themis' part. The general sends his slave to make contact with the Persians twice, reporting the Greeks' plans and advising Xerxes on how to act. Could it be that Themistocles was hedging his bets? Or was he really just stringing the Persian king along? Or could it be that despite wanting freedom for the Greeks, he had an insatiable curiosity and even interest in Persian culture?

What say you, Gentle Readers? Would a push/pull relationship between Themistocles and Persia make for interesting reading? Or is it too far-fetched and even blasphamous to suggest that Themistocles was fascinated with the East in some capacity?