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Themistocles (Hardback)

The Powerbroker of Athens

Ancient History Biographies Military

By Jeffrey A Smith
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 312
Illustrations: 16 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526790453
Published: 5th March 2021



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This is an exciting new biography of Themistocles of Athens, architect of the Greek victory over the Persian invasions of 490 BC and 480 to 479 BC. While his role in the Persian wars is naturally a major theme, Themistocles' career before and after those conflicts is also considered in detail. Themistocles was a leading exponent of a new kind of populist politics in the young democracy of Athens, manipulating the practice of ostracism (exile) to get rid of his political rivals. Jeffrey Smith explains Themistocles' rise to a position of virtual hegemony which allowed him to institute his far-sighted policy of preparation against the growing Persian threat. In particular he strengthened Athens' fleet and thereby secured the support of the poor thetes, who found employment as rowers.

During the first invasion, Themistocles fought, and possibly held joint command, at the decisive battle of Marathon. When the Persians struck again in 480, he commanded the fleet at Artemisium and Salamis. The latter battle he won by subterfuge and secured Athens' liberation and survival. Ironically he was himself eventually ostracized by his fellow citizens and ultimately entered Persian service, ending his days as governor of Magnesia in Asia Minor.

If you want to know more about Themistocles, and even a simple understanding of the events he took part in, then you would be hard pressed to find a better book. It is such an easy book to read I now want to read another by Jeffrey Smith.

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Beating Tsundoku

Review as featured in

Journal of the Medieval Mediterranean

“Smith gives us a look at geopolitics and war making in the period and the complexities of Athenian and Greek society. A valuable read for anyone with an interest in the “Golden Age” of Greece, or the arts of state craft and leadership.”

The NYMAS Review

This is a biography of a hugely influential man and as such is also a history of the first two Persian invasions of Greece. Themistocles shaped Athens physically with the defensive wall named after him, militarily with his insistence on forming a strong navy, democratically with his expert manipulation of the voters and politically with his relations with the Greek world. The Classical world would have been very different without him. His legacy echoes on in modern politics.

Ashley Holt, The Hoplite Association

Enhanced for academia with the inclusion of a Note On Sources, a Chronoloy, an informative Introduction, a Conclusion (The Legacy of Themistocles), a glossary, a Character List, Notes, References, and an Index, "Themistocles: The Powerbroker of Athens" is a masterpiece of historical scholarship and an unreservedly recommended addition to community, college and university library biography collections in general.

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Midwest Book Review

No need for a classical education to enjoy Jeffrey Smith's biography of the architect of Athenean victory in the Persian wars. Hypermodern concepts such as information warfare sit remarkably comfortably alongside ancient Greek aesthetics, the heroes of the Illiad and the Pantheon of Greek Gods in this beautifully written account which charts the rise and fall of a man few may have heard of, but most indirectly owe their Democratic way of life to.

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Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

Review by Roger Barnes

The style of the book is crisp, lucid and at times, almost conversational. It should appeal to any non-specialist reader who is generally interested in the classical world and provides an excellent introduction to a man who, after Alcibiades, is probably the most intriguing and elusive citizen of ancient Athens.

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Classics for All

About Jeffrey A Smith

Jeffrey A. Smith has an undergraduate degree in religion, with a focus on the ancient world, from Dartmouth College (USA) and a master’s degree in history from the University of Birmingham (UK). He has taught humanities and ancient history at The Stony Brook School, a boarding school on the North Shore of Long Island, for the past decade.

Perfect Partner

Great Naval Battles of the Ancient Greek World (Hardback)

Naval warfare is the unsung hero of ancient Greek military history, often overshadowed by the more glorified land battles. Owen Rees looks to redress the balance, giving naval battles their due attention. This book presents a selection of thirteen naval battles that span a defining century in ancient Greek history, from the Ionian Revolt and Persian Invasion to the rise of external naval powers in the Mediterranean Sea, such as the Carthaginians. Each battle is set in context. The background, wider military campaigns, and the opposing forces are discussed, followed by a narrative and analysis…

By Owen Rees

Click here to buy both titles for £44.99
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