Themistocles decree - 480 B.C.

A stone table was discovered at some point around 1959 by a farmer at Troezen, in Attica. It was later donated to a local schoolteacher for displaying at a coffeehouse. There it was seen by a university professor and its real importance discovered.

It's authenticity has been debated ever since, but if the tablet is true, it shows a chilling window into what was going on in Athens at the time of the foreign invasion and reflects the genius political mind of Themistocles.

Our main source from that time comes from Herodotus, and from the way he writes his 'Histories' the Thermopylae-Artimisian line was the place where Greece was to make their last stand, and Athens going into panic once the pass was breached and Thermopylae lost. This now has to come into question, because if the tablet is real then Athens was already on notice to evacuate the city before the battle was to take place. Many Athenians dragging their feet never imagining that the Persians would ever get into the city and insuring a mad rush to the ships when the invaders reached Attica.

Another source that confirms this is the Delphic oracle in which Salamis was specifically named in saying a slaughter would take place. The oracle was given before the Battle of Themopylae! Which suggests that Themistocles plans was already well known in Athens at least. The importance of this is that the Peloponnesians were always going to retreat to the Isthmus line if the Artemisian-Themopylae line was lost. So it adds incredible weight to the brilliance of Themistocles, who was already in full swing of organising Athens for a 'last-ditch' battle at Salamis, even though the Artemisian-Themopylae line was publicised as the place for the 'last-ditch' battle and being fully aware that the Peloponnesians had orders to retreat to the Isthmus should they fail. He must of known that Athens stood no chance of beating a much larger Persian fleet in the straights of Salamis without Peloponnesian help. To have organised battle plans for Salamis under these circumstances means he had great belief in his ability at a later date to pursuade the Peloponnesians into their aid in the Salamis battle.


What does the Themistocles Decree translate to?

Resolved by the Boule and the People.
Themistocles son of Neocles of Phrearrhioi made the motion.

The city shall be entrusted to Athena, Athens' protectress, and to the other gods, all of them, for protection and defense against the Barbarian on behalf of the country.

The Athenians in their entirety and the aliens who live in Athens shall place their children and their women in Troezen, [to be entrusted to Theseus ?] the founder of the land. The elderly and movable property shall for safety be deposited at Salamis. The treasurers and the priestesses are to remain on the Acropolis and guard the possessions of the gods.

The rest of the Athenians in their entirety and those aliens who have reached young manhood shall embark on the readied two hundred ships and they shall repulse the Barbarian for the sake of liberty, both their own and that of the other Greeks, in common with the Lacedaemonians, Corinthians, Aeginetans [1]and the others who wish to have a share in the danger.

Appointment will also be made of captains, two hundred in number, one for each ship, by the generals, beginning tomorrow, from those who are owners of both land and home in Athens [2] and who have children who are legitimate. They shall not be more than fifty years old and the lot shall determine each man's ship. The generals shall also enlist marines, ten for each ship, from men over twenty years of age up to thirty [3], and archers, four in number. They shall also by lot appoint the specialist officers for each ship when they appoint the captains by lot. A list shall be made also of the rowers, ship by ship, by the generals, on notice boards, with the Athenians to be selected from the lexiarchic registers, the aliens from the list of names registered with the polemarch. They shall write them up, assigning them by divisions, up to two hundred divisions, each of up to one hundred rowers, and they shall append to each division the name of the warship and the captain and the specialist officers, so that they may know on what warship each division shall embark.

When assignment of all the divisions has been made and they have been allotted to the warships, all the two hundred shall be manned by order of the Boule and the generals, after they have sacrificed to appease Zeus the All-powerful and Athena and Victory and Poseidon the Securer. When they have completed the manning of the ships, with one hundred they shall bring assistance to the Artemisium in Euboea, while the other hundred shall, all around Salamis and the rest of Attica, lie at anchor and guard the country.

To ensure that in a spirit of concord all Athenians will ward off the Barbarian, those banished for the ten year span shall leave for Salamis and they are to remain there until the people decide about them. Those who have been deprived of citizen rights are to have their rights restored [4]."

also see, The Themistocles Gambit

return to with the Preperations at Themopylae



Note#1: The island of Aegina gets special mention here as they had been at war with Athens for sometime and called a truce specifically because of the Persian invasion.

Note#2: The policy that captians of the ships come from a lot of land holders is a policy that would survive the ages even up to England's battles with France lead by Napoleon. While it worked well in ancient times, as the captains had their own personal wealth at stake and fought accordingly, in the future it became detrimenal, mainly because the best man for the job wasn't always a landholder.

Note#3: The Athenians, the first to fully utilise marines, here ask of them to be between the ages of 20 and 30. The cream of the hoplite force who would have had some experience in war and youthful energy needed to board enemy vessles and cause havoc.

Note#4: This clause is specifically for Xanthippus.

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