Battle of Thermopylae and Themistocles

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Assess Themistocles’ role in the Greek defeat of the Persians in 480-479 BC. Themistocles stands paramount above the rest of the Greek figures as the Athenian general, whose abilities as a tactician and strategist thwarted the Persian invasion force into mainland Greece. Described by ancient writer Thucydides as ‘an unmistakable natural genius… and deserves our admiration’, Themistocles was the most influential leader of the Athenian war effort against the Persians. He realised that the Persian threat was imminent, even after the battle at Marathon and it was his radical advancement of Athenian naval power which allowed the Greeks to defeat the Persians in the battles in 480-479 BC. Themistocles was one of the few who realized the threat of future invasions from the eastern power of Persia. While the first invasion had been repelled by the Greek hoplite forces, the Persians were still very much an active threat. Themistocles plan to defend the Greek mainland lay in the naval power which is why he strongly urged that the silver deposit discovered in the Laurium mines be used to strengthen and build the naval power of the city of Athens. Others opposed him, deciding it was best if the surplus silver be divided among the citizens but Themistocles persevered and persuaded that the Delphic Oracle’s advice of a ‘wooden wall’ was referring to the ships. One hundred triremes were built as a result (Herodotus says 200) and proved to be a vital decision in the upcoming battles, especially in the battle of Artemisium and Salamis which were primarily focused on naval attacks. During the time leading up to the battle of Thermopylae and Artemisium in 480 BC, it was Themistocles’ idea to relocate to Thermopylae instead of the Vale of Tempe, Thessaly as their northern line of defence. Herodotus reasoned that the discovery of alternative passes allowed the Persians access to the mountains and would therefore need to be contained in confined areas. The Greek strategy devised by...
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