Summary: Ancient Greek patriarch and military commander
Date: Born c. 520-530 BC; died 468 BC
Location: Athens, Greece
Family: Father: Lysimachus
- Introduction -
Mystery surrounds his birth, family status and death, but certainly know that Aristides was one of the great men of Athens. He lived during one of the most exciting and glorious chapters in Greek history and was one of those who stood to defy the unstoppable Persian Empire. His true fame however, is remembered not by the way he faced death, but by the way he lived life. Herodotus described him as “the best and most just man among the Athenians.”
- Life and Work -
Not much is known about Aristides early life. He was born in Athens somewhere between 520-530 BC. It is said that even as a child he displayed excellent character. One of his friends was Themistocles, who would later become his greatest rival. Themistocles was bold, intelligent and impetuous and often got into trouble. Aristides however, tried to be faultlessly honest and just. The two friends often disagreed with each other and while Aristides became a member of the Aristocratic party, Themistocles thought that becoming popular with the ordinary people was the path to power.
Aristides and Themistocles fought for Athens against the Persian empire in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. The Athenians had chosen ten generals to command their army. Each was to lead the army for a day. This strange arrangement was designed to distribute the power between the generals. Aristides was chosen as one of the ten however he decided to give his turn to one of the other generals, Miltiades. The other eight commanders followed his example and Miltiades was made head general which united the Athenian forces them under a single leader. Miltiades led the Athenians to a stunning victory and Greece was for the moment, saved from Persia. After Marathon Aristides fortune changed. Themistocles and Aristides were both very popular but they couldn’t cooperate. This led to Aristides’ ostracisation in either 485 or 482 BC.
By spring 480 BC the Persians under the command of Xerxes, were once again marching on Greece. This time however they had mustered the largest army the ancient world had ever seen. Aristides was called back from exile to help with the defence of Athens. The Persian ships prepared to crush the united Greek fleet at Salamis. Before the conflict, Aristides successfully seized the enemy controlled island of Pysttaleia so that the Greeks who ran ashore there would be safe. Due to the clever tactics of Themistocles, the Greek fleet was victorious. After Salamis, Aristides commanded the Athenian contingent in the battle of Platea where the Greeks won another great victory ending the invasion. Following the Persian wars Aristides continued to work with Themistocles and when the Athenians accused Themistocles of treason, Aristides refused to revenge himself by calling for Themistocles’ exile. Aristides died in 468 BC having poured out his life in service to his country.
During Aristides turbulent lifetime free Greece was brought to the brink of destruction and then catapulted to the height of it’s glory. Despite his military prowess Aristides true legacy was his character which stayed solid and true from his childhood to old age. To this day he is still called “Aristides the Just.”
Researched and Written By
"Aristides the Just" was a military commander who was part of the defence of Greece from the Persians. He is notable for his virtuous and consistent character.