Themistocles is the Best Jerk In History

Everybody loves wars
they cost a lot of money and people get killed
it’s super important to do
that’s why we do it so much
but my friends
what if I told you that I knew about a war
that was like
THE MOST IMPORTANT WAR EVER
would you say HOLY SHIT OVID
TELL ME ABOUT THIS WAR?
God I hope so
because that’s what I’m going to do.

So back in oldetimes BC there is this king named Xerxes
he is king of a place called persia
and I guess persia is getting pretty boring
because one day he decides he’s gonna burn down Greece
so he puts together the biggest army ever
there are like a billion dudes
and elephants
and weird deformed priests on crazy chariots and shit
trust me, i read it in a comic book
or actually, i just saw the movie that was based on the comic book
PRIMARY SOURCE

so greece sees all this shit coming
and they’re like oh no
what do we do
what do we do
and Themistocles is like I’LL TELL YOU WHAT WE DO:
WE NUT UP
OR WE SHUT UP
AND I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU GUYS
BUT I DON’T PLAN ON EVER SHUTTING UP EVER
SO IT’S NUTS OR BUST UP IN HERE

whoa whoa whoa
who is this Themistocles guy though?
WELL I’M GLAD YOU ASKED
(I’m just assuming you guys are saying all KINDS of shit today.
And yes I have been working out
thanks for noticing.)
Themistocles is a dude who lives in Athens
and Athens has a straight up, no-bullshit democracy
which means any crazy asshole can be president
and Themistocles is just the crazy asshole for the job
he doesn’t want to be president though
unless you mean president of ALL THE GUNS
in fact for the five or so years preceding the persian invasion
he’s just been standing in the middle of the senate house
yelling BUILD MORE SHIPS
WE NEED MORE SHIPS
and he is such a good yeller
that people have been DOING IT
and now Athens has more ships than anybody else
and Themistocles is taking advantage

so immediately he starts telling all the other greek cities what to do
because he has all the boats and he figures that makes him king shit
his plan is to gather everybody’s boats together
and then be king of all the boats
and then win the war somehow?
but one of those greek cities he’s trying to tell what to do is Sparta
whose motto is “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA”
and they are taking absolutely NO sass from this puffed-up senator
and Themistocles is like okay fine guys
I’ll make you a deal
We do what I say
and in exchange, I’ll pretend like one of your dudes is in charge of the boats
and
AND
you get to send all your best warriors on a suicide mission to this narrow ravine up north
where we can maybe bottleneck the persians and kill them one by one
which will force them to get on boats and sail into my army of boats
after totally not killing all of you
how does that sound?
and Sparta is like AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

But sparta isn’t the only city Themistocles has to convince to do something really really stupid
he also has to convince this other city
called ATHENS
yeah that’s right
he goes back to his own city and he’s like GUYS
LITERALLY ALL THE GUYS
I NEED YOU ALL TO GET ON BOATS
ABANDON YOUR LOVED ONES IN OUR TOTALLY UNDEFENDED CITY
AND SAIL WITH ME SO I CAN BE KING OF ALL THE BOATS
YOU NEED TO DO THIS BECAUSE I’M REALLY PERSUASIVE
HOW DOES THAT SOUND?
And all the Athenian dudes are like RHETORIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIC

so everybody gets convinced
and the plan goes off without a hitch
except for the hitch where the entire land army trying to bottleneck the persians is slaughtered
and the hitch where the boats are forced to retreat
and Athens is burned to the ground
and the fleet is cornered in a series of narrow sea passages
that are the last barrier between Xerxes and EVERYTHING ELSE IN GREECE

But everyone is still really impressed with Themistocles
because, maybe I didn’t make this clear enough
but this guy is REALLY good at talking
and he is also basically THE sneakiest bastard

see, what he does
is while the ships are retreating
he stops at every port where Xerxes might stop to get water
and he leaves a note like
“DEAR EVERY GREEK SOLDIER WHO HAS BEEN FORCED INTO THE PERSIAN ARMY
PLEASE DO A REALLY BAD JOB OF FIGHTING
LOVE, THEMISTOCLES”
the reason he is doing this, you see
is so that Xerxes will begin to distrust all the greek dudes in his army
which begs the question
WHY DOES THAT GUY EVEN HAVE GREEK DUDES IN HIS ARMY?
THAT’S LIKE MAKING A SUIT OF ARMOR OUT OF INWARD-FACING SWORDS

anyway I don’t know if that brilliant gambit works or not
because Xerxes and the rest of the persian boats make it to Salamis
which is the place where all the Greek ships are hiding
and also the plural of Salami
And everyone is like oh shit we are so boned
except Themistocles
who is like LET ME BONE THIS SHIT
so he sends Xerxes a really nice letter
the letter is like
Dear Xerxes
hey buddy
great war so far
I’m actually pretty tired
so I figure I’ll just join your team
these greek guys sort of suck
they are like
mega disorganized
totally attackable
probably all you need to do is rush in blindly with your ships
into a winding system of tiny sea passages that will make your large numbers useless
just some advice from one friend to another
enjoy the war!
love,
Themistocles
And Xerxes is like
OH MY GOD WHAT A GREAT IDEA

so he charges into the straits
and it turns out that the straits are actually pretty dire
and most of his ships get sunk
and he’s like fuuuuck
and runs away back to Persia
and the day is saved!
Thanks to lying!

But guess what, guys?
It turns out that a dude who is super good at lying to people
is not actually someone you want as a politician
it only takes Athens a couple of years to get COMPLETELY sick of his bullshit
and kick him out
and Sparta still has a bone to pick with him because of that whole suicide-mission thing
so they take the opportunity to kick him out of Greece entirely
so he’s like fuck
Guess i better go work for the persians.

AND THAT’S WHAT HE DOES
the dude who is primarily responsible for Greece’s survival in the Persian wars
goes ahead and joins the losing team
he gets MAD hookups, too
like 5 cities worth of loot, paid in installments
he is living the high life.
There’s only one problem though
when Greece decides to go to war with Persia again
the king of persia comes to Themistocles like yo
think you could help me murder all these greeks?
and Themistocles is like oh man
I feel like SUCH a jerk right now
I think I’m going to kill myself.

So he does
he totally drinks poison and dies
or, according to some people, he drinks bull’s blood
which is a pretty gross thing to do, and so i guess he dies from being too gross
unless “bull’s blood” is just a mistranslation of “red bull”
in which case he dies for the obvious reasons.
everyone thinks this is a really appropriate thing to do
because they’re fucking savages

so the moral of the story
once again
is that lying is totally overpowered
unless you wuss out and grow a conscience partway through

the end.

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10 thoughts on “Themistocles is the Best Jerk In History

  1. Dude! That was way better than the movie
    I didn’t even bother reading the comic because I was hoping an Ovidacious dude would write the story in a blog, I could access online from anywhere, in words that I can understand.
    So does that make me psychic?
    because every time I considered making the slightest of efforts to go get the comic and try and understand that shit, which i probly wouldnt comprehend in the least, i knew in my heart or somewhere like that inside me that an extremely Ovidical dude would put it down in a way could totally make sense of
    Or are you just awesome?
    I could really go for some self replicating cake right now mmmmm. I wanna see that myth retold.
    Take care homeslice and stay awesome!

  2. Finished The Histories earlier this year and agree that Themistocles is the best jerk. Thanks for relating this tale of a seriously sneaky bastard at a time when I needed some serious cheering- up.

    My favourite thing about Herodotus is that he made-up two chicks named Necrotis and a load of bullshit about Solon and then decided to stick with the interpretation of Themistocles as a venal prick anyway.

    Anyway The Histories is the best book ever. I love whoever divided the chapters. One of them ends with someone coming back from an successful mission of vengeance and being devoured alive by worms from the inside out, and H. is just like “Well, see. This proves that vengeance takes its toll in unexpected ways. Also, don’t drink the water”.

  3. *Nitocris.

    I am an idiot. But please talk about Nitocris of Babylon one day. I will sacrifice a delicious macaroni dinner to Eris in your name should you do so.

  4. Hey I had to say that was the most amazing, well written, easy to understand version of events my daughter and I found tonight. She has an exam on His Lordship Themistocles tomorrow, and the textbook versions just weren’t doing it for her. Thanks to you, the dude has become a real person and I think she’ll be just fine in her exam. Thanks :)

  5. Pingback: Pisistratus is Smarter Than the Government | Myths RETOLD

  6. So half a year after this post was written, ’300: Rise of an Empire’ is out, and when I watched it last night I thought “oh man, I hope Ovid has written about this.” And lo, he has!

    This account fits the 300 sequel pretty well, except in the movie Themistocles is all about FREEEDOOOOM and they leave out the bit where he gets kicked out of Greece and joins the Persians anyway (funny that). Also, they added a seduction (which Themistocles resists, but apparently he joined the Persians anyway sooo…)

    Which leads me to: it would be cool to see your take on the historical (or ‘historical’ since Wikipedia tells me our accounts are from Herodotus) Artemisia!

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