Greece and Persia were never known for getting along well. In fact, Persia had an almost permanent hatred for Greece and tried to invade several times. The first Persian invasion of Greece took place in 492 BCE. The Greeks were able to defeat them although it took them two years to do so. The final battle of this invasion was the Battle of Marathon. Persia hated Athens and Eretria because they had helped support the cities of Ionia when they revolted against Persia.
One man who fought at the Battle of Marathon was the Athenian general and politician Themistocles. He lived from 524 BCE to 459 BCE. One of his main goals was to increase the naval power of Athens and began his campaign to do so after being elected to the position of archon in 493 BCE. It is believed that he acted as one of 10 Athenian generals during the Battle of Marathon.
After the Greeks defeated the Persians, there was a temptation on behalf of the Athenians to divert money away from the navy into other areas that needed funding. Themistocles didn’t agree with this plan. He wanted the Athenian navy to remain strong and managed to convince the Athenians that the people of Aegina were an ongoing danger to Athens. This wasn’t actually the case but because of this, the Athenians were willing to build a new fleet made up of 100 triremes which made them a powerful naval force that was very difficult to defeat.
Themistocles used subterfuge in order to give Athenians the advantage during the second Persian invasion, which took place from 480 BCE to 479 BCE. This time, instead of Darius trying to punish Athens and Eretria, the second invasion was an attempt by Darius’ son, King Xerxes I, to completely conquer Greece altogether. It was believed that Themistocles was sending messages to Xerxes. He claimed that some of Xerxes’ allies, the Ionians, were actually much less loyal than they actually were. He also sent messages to the Persians which stated that the allied Greek navy was in a much worse condition than it actually was.
Not only did Themistocles manage to cause problems within the Persian army, he was also able to find out important information that gave the Greek soldiers the advantage at the battle of Salamis. This gave the Greeks the upper hand and made it possible for them to eventually defeat the Persians at the Battle of Plataea that ended the second invasion.
After the second Persian invasion, Themistocles’ career began to go downhill. He continued to be an important political figure in Athens but in the process, he earned the hostility of Sparta, a sister state of Athens. He ended up alienating the people of Athens and was ultimately ostracized in either 471 BCE or 472 BCE. After that happened, he travelled to the Argos where he lived in exile. Ultimately, he ended up in the service of the Persians under King Artaxerxes I. He ended up becoming a governor of Magnesia, an ancient Greek city that was located in Anatolia. He ultimately died in 459 BCE of natural causes.