Over fifty years ago Michael Jameson published the editio princeps of an inscription from Troezen purported to represent a decree of the Athenian strategos Themistocles (Jameson 1960; rev. 1962). The text provides the evacuation orders for Athens before the arrival in Attica of Xerxes’ army and the subsequent Battle of Salamis in 480 BCE and makes clear reference to the preparations for a naval engagement off Artemesion. Because the text appears to conflict with the account of Herodotus (8.40.1-42.1), who situates the evacuation after Artemesion and Thermopylae, for over half a century scholars have struggled with the authenticity of this document.
Jameson, who read the text as an authentic version of a decree of Themistocles, nonetheless recognized that the letter-forms indicated that the inscription did not belong to the early 5th century BCE and dated it to the last quarter of the 4th century. Sterling Dow associated the letter-forms instead with the 3rd century BCE, possibly 275-250 BCE (Dow 1962), which most now accept. Then what is this document, with its anachronisms, garbled chronology, and later provenance? Is it a faithful or, alternatively, an inept Hellenistic copy of the original? or is it a forgery, a 3rd century attempt to reimagine the past for contemporary purposes? The current study proposes that the decree of Themistocles is an amalgam of documents from the 5th-3rd centuries, produced by the Troezenian polis as a means to underscore its long-standing relationship with Athens.
Most studies have focused on supporting (e.g., Hammond 1982) or refuting (e.g., Johansson 2001) the inscription as originating during the Persian Wars, while all assert it was inscribed on stone in the late Classical or early Hellenistic eras. Only one investigation (Robertson 1982) attempted to consider the document as a product of the 3rd century, and envisioned the decree as a Troezenian acknowledgement of the military superiority of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. Robertson understood the references in the decree to the Athenian fleets that engaged the Persians at Artemesion and Salamis as metaphorical recognition of the Ptolemaic control of the Aegean in the 3rd century. While the attempt to situate the decree in this period is logical, I propose a different setting, interpreting the inscription as part of a more comprehensive articulation of Troezenian-Athenian relations in the context of the Chremonidean War of the 260s. Troezen, the safe haven for the evacuated Athenian women and children during the Battle of Salamis, erected a statue group to honor these temporary refugees (Paus. 2.31.7) and possibly another inscription honoring Troezen’s relations with Athens (Mitsos 1970; Frost 1978). The period during or after the Chremonidean War until as late as 243, when Troezen joined the anti-Athenian Achaean League, provides the perfect context for the inscribing of a decree purported to be by Themistocles. The years 268-243 constituted a brief window in the Hellenistic age when Troezen would have wanted to underscore the aid it had provided Athens in 480 and it is in this context that I propose to locate the inscribed decree of Themistocles. I will review the critical evidence that situates the decree in the mid-3rd century, provide the context for Troezen’s long and varied relationship with Athens, and argue that Troezen had good reason to celebrate its connections to Athens in the period following the outbreak of the Chremonidean War.