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Ghost Experience Podcast – Themistocles
Joe Giordano Joe Giordano
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Austin, TX
Friday, August 12, 2022


Beau Hogan: Welcome viewers to the Ghost Experience Podcast. Today, I’m speaking with Themistocles, who has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Perhaps you can read the inscription on his T-shirt: Up your Ostraca. What’s that about?

Themistocles: [chuckling] Khairete!. Greetings everyone. We Greeks receive credit for the birth of democracy, philosophy, and medicine but not for inventing the cancel culture. Americans think you started it, which is emblematic of my complaint. In your minds, this is the most important moment in world history, and you are the most important people. Narcissism on steroids. That’s why you don’t give us ancients our due. By the way, we also invented Narcissus. Beau, to answer your question, the ostraca were bits of broken pottery inscribed with the name of someone you wanted banished. If enough people agreed, ciao bello.

Beau Hogan: You fell victim to that.

Themistocles: [scoffing] Tell me about it. Great accomplishments trigger more envy than accolades. My engineering of the Greek victory over the Persians at Salamis in 480 B.C. changed the course of world history. Nonetheless, within a decade, I was on the run, in fear of my life.

Beau Hogan: You had a particular reason for wanting to come on the show.

Themistocles: As some sort of anti-war protest, university professors no longer teach about battles. As a result, my accomplishments are fading from collective world memory. Bad enough I was ostracized in my time, I resent being struck off by the modern world. So, I’m speaking out.

Beau Hogan: Ostracism became part of the democratic movement in Greece.

Themistocles: Social revolutions loosen stones that start avalanches. After devouring opponents, the founders are often eaten as well. Because Americans ignore history, you’re about to relearn this lesson.

Beau Hogan: Aristotle categorized you a democrat for championing the huge expansion of the Athenian navy that gave the lower classes public jobs as rowers on the triremes.

Themistocles: For Aristotle, everyone was either an oligarch or a democrat. Nuance wasn’t his forte.

Beau Hogan: So, you deny being a democrat?

Themistocles: Thucydides considered political labels as disguises, masking eternal man’s quest for power. I was ambitious and found practical means to advance. Elites clothe themselves in democracy to steer the will of the people as it suits them. Sound familiar? In Athens, the aristocratic clans ran things and managed public forums to support their policy. Only if they disagreed, were outcomes opened for lower class influence. As I wasn’t a member of a powerful family, appeal to the people was often my only option. Ironically, the aristocracy who created democracy never anticipated how the system would be turned on themselves.

Beau Hogan: I wouldn’t label you an elitist.

Themistocles: My mother was an immigrant, so I was considered of mixed race and relegated to a school outside town. I convinced several sons of good families to join me, eliminating the discrimination. [smiling] I learned the art of persuasion from an early age. Persuasion and compulsion became my gods. Of the two, persuasion was the more satisfying.

Beau Hogan: Your father advised against entering politics.

Themistocles: My father wasn’t political, which made him a sort of non-person in Athens. Like a myriad of sons before and after me, I didn’t listen to parental advice.

Beau Hogan: You won popular support for the dramatic increase in the Athenian navy over the objections of powerful men like Miltiades and Aristides.

Themistocles: Miltiades was the Marathon Man, the hero of our victory over the Persians. I fought as a hoplite. [smiling] Exhilarating. You can’t imagine. The element of surprise and Persian ineptitude won the day. Many believed the Persians would never return. Naïve. Strategically, we needed an advantage and trireme spear ships were the answer. Aristides and Miltiades thought I was trading the sword for an oar. Old school.

Beau Hogan: Preparing for the war, you masterfully united the Greeks by ceding the Spartans military leadership against the Persians.

Themistocles: [shrugging] The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Plus, pride couldn’t get in the way of defending Athens.

Beau Hogan: Convincing people that the Oracle of Delphi’s prophesy – “wooden walls only shall not fail” – referred to ships was crucial.

Themistocles: The people were petrified by the Persian invasion, particularly after Leonidas and the Spartans fell at Thermopylae. They thirsted for confident leadership. Like now. Like always. The instinct to survive trumped holding onto things, so Athenians agreed to abandon the city and take to the ships. Although the Persians destroyed the Acropolis temples, they were subsequently rebuilt better than ever.

Beau Hogan: The Parthenon, for example. But victory didn’t sustain you personally for long, and you were ostracized within a decade of Salamis.

Themistocles: My enemies appeased their jealousy and were delighted to bring me down.

Beau Hogan: You were accused of shabby practices, like ransacking the luggage of Athenians as they fled, for money to pay the rowers at Salamis.

Themistocles: Political hit pieces. Like today. People believed or discarded stories depending on how they felt about me.

Beau Hogan: You were accused of using politics to become rich.

Themistocles: From where I’m sitting, your modern politicians have perfected the art.

Beau Hogan: [nodding] In the end, you fled to the Persians, taking the risk that they’d simply murder you in revenge for past deeds against them.

Themistocles: The king was the last place I could turn. When you have only one option, taking it isn’t a risk.

Beau Hogan: One last question. When the King of Persia insisted that you help him repel the Greek invasion of Egypt, did you take your own life, or did you die of natural causes?

Themistocles: [smiling] What I’d like your viewers to remember, is that despite my treatment by the Athenians, I never raised my hand against them.


Published by Theme of Absence, August 2022

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