Themistocles, (582?–460? B.C.), an Athenian statesman. He was the leader most responsible for the Greek victory in the Persian Wars and for establishing Athens as a great power among the Greek city-states.

Themistocles rose to prominence after the Greek victory over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon (490 B.C.). Foreseeing future Persian attacks, he urged that the revenue from Athens' silver mines be used to build a powerful navy. In this he successfully opposed Aristides, who favored expansion of the army. Themistocles also transferred Athens' port from Phalerum to Piraeus, which he began to fortify.


Themistocles 
Themistocles

When the Persians returned in 480 B.C., they defeated the Greeks at Thermopylae and captured and burned Athens. Themistocles persuaded the Athenians and their allies to assemble their ships in a narrow strait off the island of Salamis. He then lured the Persians into attacking the Greek fleet, which won a brilliant victory.

After the retreat of the Persians in 479 B.C., Themistocles was the most influential man in Athens. Regarding Sparta as Athens' main rival and probable enemy, he had the city walls rebuilt and the fortifications of Piraeus completed. These measures protected Athens from Spartan aggression for many years. About 472 Themistocles was ostracized (banished) by political enemies. He went into exile and in time reached Asia Minor, where he died.