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Freedom, Barbarism, and Triremes

Twenty-five hundred years ago this month, a Greek naval armada, composed largely of Athenian ships led by the brilliant statesman Themistocles, won a decisive victory over the massive navy of the Persian king Xerxes in the straits of Salamis. This victory effectively ended a decade of Persian efforts to subjugate the autonomous cities of ancient Greece to barbarian rule.

Commemorating this event is not antiquarianism. By preserving the freedom of the Greeks, the victory at Salamis made possible a period of human flourishing in the arts, sciences, philosophy, and politics that the world has rarely seen, one that would prove foundational to Western civilization and whose rival for significance might only be found in the Italian Renaissance. In remembering it, we remind ourselves of what makes the West both so distinct and so fragile.

When I, as a professor of political science, teach my students about an event so critical to our shared history, I try to show them how the texts of the ancient world convey both the dramatic urgency of political life and the human wisdom inherent in learning about its affairs. In reading accounts of the battle by Herodotus, Thucydides, Aeschylus, and Plutarch, I’ve often wondered about that morning two and half millennia ago—about what Themistocles was thinking in the hours and minutes leading up to a battle that he had engineered. After all, the placement and timing of this battle were largely his own doing; through subterfuge practiced on both the Persian king and his own allies he manufactured a battle on which the liberty of Greece rested.

Perhaps, as he stood on the deck of his trireme staring across the straits at an enemy intent on enslaving him, he thought of his own glory. As a master of foresight, Themistocles surely anticipated what a victory here would mean for the power and glory of Athens and himself. But not even such a far-seeing statesman could have known what Athens’s victory would mean for the centuries that followed.

Perhaps even more inconceivable for a man like Themistocles is how, 25 centuries later, a free people, reared amidst a civilization that his daring and wisdom helped make possible, could voluntarily surrender their liberty to a foe no less visible and every bit as dangerous as the Persians he vanquished. But such a surrender is precisely what America appears to be contemplating.   

The Battle of Salamis (ca. September 25, 480 BC)

The battle of Salamis was the turning point in the wars between Persia and Greece. In early 480 BC, the Persian king Xerxes began constructing a massive army from the farthest reaches of his empire. His hope was to avenge his father’s humiliating defeat at Marathon a decade earlier by Greek forces who had so insolently refused to bow before Darius. Because of his army’s enormity (Herodotus improbably reports it at over a million men), Xerxes’ advance went unopposed. Everywhere his army marched, previously free and independent Greek city-states offered up soil and water as a sign of their submission.

But the Athenians, like the famed Spartans to their south, found the prospect of willing slavery to the barbarian simply unacceptable. Unlike the cities of the Peloponnesus, however, which were protected by a thin isthmus that the Spartans claimed they and their allies could defend, Athens enjoyed no such geographic advantages. So the Athenians opted for something daring. At the behest of Themistocles, they decided to abandon their city to the Persians, send their women and children into hiding, and order all able-bodied men aboard their ships. The only hope of preserving their freedom and recovering their homes now lay in victory at sea.   

That the decisive battle would take place in the straits of Salamis was due partly to the fact that those Greeks who decided to resist the Persians suffered heavy losses at the battles of Thermopylae and Artemisium. While their infantry retreated, effectively conceding the rest of mainland Greece to the Persians, their naval forces regrouped at the island of Salamis just off the southern coast of Attica.

What mattered most at Salamis was not one’s wealth or birth, or the differences owing to custom or convention, but the respective daring, self-sufficiency, and capacity for civic spirit that nature bestowed on each Athenian.

But it was also due to the genius of Themistocles. Recognizing that his fellow Greeks were terrified of a Persian navy whose ships outnumbered them by about 2-1, and were thus likely to endorse a Spartan plan that counseled more retreat, Themistocles, pretending to betray the Greek cause, informed Xerxes that dissension among the Greeks gave him the perfect opportunity to conquer his enemy once and for all. Xerxes took the bait.

On the night of September 24, the Persian navy sailed into the straits of Salamis and tried to block both entrances. But the Greeks, now faced with no hope of escape, did not fold. Instead, embracing the daring to do what needed to be done, they attacked the Persians the next morning. There, in the straits’ cramped conditions, the Persian numbers proved an active hindrance. As Persian ships struggled to maneuver, they ran afoul of each other, allowing the numerically inferior, but more capable and more disciplined, Greeks to score a decisive victory, sinking or capturing in a single day at least 300 enemy vessels. Faced with such a blow to his logistical support, and “aided” with yet more subterfuge by Themistocles, Xerxes decided to retreat to Asia with much of his army.

The following year the battle of Plataea concluded the Persian wars. But it was the Athenian-led victory at Salamis that broke the fighting spirit of the barbarians in Greece.  

The Legacy of Periclean Athens

This stunning victory is critical to the life of the West because it was critical to the transformation of Athens over the next century. And to speak of the Athens that grew out of the remarkable victory Themistocles engineered is to call to mind the great Pericles.

As an influential Greek statesman, orator, and general during the period between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars, Pericles is most associated with the golden age of Athenian democracy. Indeed, his influence on Athenian society was so profound that Thucydides, his contemporary, acclaimed Pericles as “the first citizen of Athens”; when Pericles talked, people listened. It is fitting then that we remember Pericles as much for what he said as for what he did. And no speech of Pericles is as memorable—or as emblematic of the Athens that Themistocles “created”—as what tradition calls his Funeral Oration.

At the start of the Peloponnesian war in 431 BC, Pericles, as the leading man in Athens, was required to deliver a eulogy over those men who were the first to die in battle. There Pericles famously remarks of Athens that “as a city we are the school of Greece.”

Athens is the school of Greece because, according to Pericles’ lustrous praise, her citizens are generous, versatile, open to others, supremely confident in their abilities, and gracefully refined without sacrificing the manly virtues needed to defend their city. They are leisured, loving philosophy without becoming soft, and they are ambitious without being crudely self-seeking; they are daring and enterprising but just as comfortable discharging public duties as they are pursuing private interests; and their reason informs and moderates their passions without paralyzing their ability to act for the city. Such virtues explain why Pericles concludes that they “have forced every sea and land to be the highway of our daring, and everywhere . . . have left imperishable monuments behind us.”

These are no idle boasts. In the span of less than a century this little city, whose territory and population were no larger than the central Massachusetts town where I teach, produced the treasures at the heart of Western civilization. In the structures adorning her Acropolis, in the famed sculptures of Phidias, and in the tragedies and comedies of its playwrights, Athens laid the foundations for Western art, architecture, and literature.

By becoming the home of Herodotus and Thucydides, Athens proved the birthplace of history. Through the golden words of her statesmen, Athens taught oratory to the Romans whose example, in turn, shaped the rhetoric of leaders like Edmund Burke, Winston Churchill, and John F. Kennedy. And as the world’s most famous direct democracy, Athens strove to combine the example of political freedom and equality at home with an energetic, daring, and powerful maritime empire abroad. Finally, during this period Athens gave us Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle, men whose works made possible philosophy, that reasoned and joyful quest for the truth that has informed Western intellectual, moral, and political life for millennia.   

Such an explosion of human vitality in so short a period becomes all the more impressive when one contrasts it with the artistic and cultural contributions of America in the 244 years since our colonists declared independence from England. While our scientific and industrial innovations would baffle the leading lights of classical antiquity, America’s long-lasting contributions to the humane arts simply pale in comparison to its Athenian predecessor. What allowed the Athenians to do this? The key to unlocking the puzzle of their dynamic energy lies in understanding how the Athenians defeated the Persians 50 years before Athens’ “golden age.” 

Triremes, Democracy, and Human Nature

Themistocles knew what the Greeks, and especially his fellow Athenians, could achieve at Salamis because he understood how their fleet of triremes could amplify the Athenian character. The acme of maritime power, triremes derived their name from the three banks of rowers, 170 souls in all, used to generate each ship’s ramming speed. This meant that at Salamis, where Athens contributed nearly 200 ships, she had almost 34,000 citizens afloat on the wine-dark seas. This amounted to almost their entire free male population.

The experience of the whole city cramped together within the hot and stinking hulls of their ships, sweating and working away in silence as they kept their oar-strokes timed to the sound of a piper, proved critical to the formation of Athens’ democratic psychology. Not only did it bring together the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, in the service of a well-defined and genuinely common good. It also amplified the animating spirit of democratic freedom and equality. For what mattered most at Salamis was not one’s wealth or birth, or the differences owing to custom or convention, but the respective daring, self-sufficiency, and capacity for civic spirit that nature bestowed on each Athenian.

It is in this space for and openness to nature that we see more clearly the roots of Athens’ amazing vitality. In deciding to abandon their city and take to their ships, the Athenians, who took their civic religion seriously, had to surrender to the barbarian, at least temporarily, their sacred temples and olive groves, the graves of their heroes and their ancestors, and the temples that housed the rites of their gods.

In this momentary separation from their particular traditional and religious authorities, they made possible for themselves a magnificent discovery. On that fateful September morning, when the Athenians, relying on their own native genius, won a nearly miraculous victory against a vastly superior foe, they discovered for themselves the potential of human self-assertion. Through their revolutionary daring, they came face to face with the beauty and dynamism of mankind’s natural independence.

Too many of those who benefit from the innovation, freedom, and love of excellence at the heart of Athens and America offer mindless support of a social movement that seeks a fundamental transformation of American life.

This encounter with human nature changed the basis on which Athens would operate over the next century. For in their daring at Salamis, the Athenians, acting out of a jealous concern for one’s own freedom, showed the world a willingness to sacrifice those moral and political verities that are merely given. As such, they anticipated the willingness to question tradition, ancestral authority, and conventional wisdom in pursuit of genuine human autonomy, an aspect of their civic character that would define life in Periclean Athens. And it is this capacity for self-critical reflection, undertaken in a spirit of generosity, that would become the hallmark of the cultural and intellectual flourishing in Western political communities for centuries.

It is true that the battle of Salamis resulted in great power for Athenians. But it also opened them to a standard of human health, a standard independent of the love of one’s own, that could inform the responsible use of that power and point the way to genuine human excellence.  

Salamis and America Today

We Americans owe no small debt to the Athenians who fought at Salamis. A similarly radical love of freedom rests at the heart of our own political experiment. It inspired a revolutionary enterprise that sought to ground political institutions dedicated to freedom and equality not on accident and force but on our own reflection and choice. It guided American generosity through wars fought for human rights at home and abroad. And it served our country’s efforts to work tirelessly toward the fulfillment of those aspirational principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence. In doing so, it gave rise to a nation whose capacity for self-criticism and self-correction has no equal in the modern world.

But today this capacity for self-reflection has become unmoored from any notion of nature, objective truth, or moral integrity. Nature is called into question by an identity politics in which “essential” characteristics of race and gender precede and defy the genuine differences and limits that nature might authorize. Absent a grounding in human nature, our civic polity lacks the basis by which we might hope to evaluate fairly our regime or even chart a responsible course for the future.  

Meanwhile, the concern for an objective truth that makes possible common deliberation and allows us to identify falsehood has been replaced by unthinking ideological commitments that assign right and wrong along the lines of a perverse kind of tribal politics. As for moral integrity, the lawless rule of the mob, sanctioned by the media and large parts of the American government, has replaced the standards of decency that once informed the basis of civilized life.   

The kind of self-respect and manly independence that inspired the Greeks to resist the Persians against seemingly insurmountable odds are viewed today as unconscionable affronts to a majority that demands total conformity with its views. Those who, out of a dispassionate concern with the truth, interrogate the assertion that a community long-dedicated to the rights of mankind is systemically racist risk getting cancelled. From the perspective of today’s barbarism, the discourse by which one might prudently judge competing political claims is only seen as another claim to power. To merely question the prevailing wisdom is to announce one’s self an enemy to the cause of social justice.   

Too many of those who benefit from the innovation, individual freedom, and love of excellence at the heart of Athens and America—that is, our educators, our corporations, our professional athletes, and our elected representatives—offer mindless support of a social movement that seeks nothing less than a fundamental transformation of American life. Like the timid city-states of ancient Greece, they render up their own form of soil and water in the hopes that the mob will spare them its outrage. And unlike our Athenian forebears, they do not hope to return from their “battle” to rebuild the “temples” burned by the barbarians or resurrect the traditions they tried to destroy.

Without a “Themistocles” capable of piloting our own ship of state, the prospects for American freedom seem bleak. Fortunately, his example and the examples of his fellow Athenians live on in the great texts of classical antiquity. While the liberal education that preserves such texts is imperiled by the very barbarism that makes them necessary, we can take heart in the fact that Xerxes’ massive force was defeated by a relatively small group animated by a fierce love of freedom.

It is then to those institutions who have yet to surrender the cause of liberal education—those “happy few,” a motley “band of brothers” indeed—that the 2500th anniversary of the battle of Salamis is properly dedicated.

Reader Discussion

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on September 29, 2020 at 08:49:58 am

Xerxes might indeed be surprised to find out that he was a barbarian. A more even-handed historical treatment would allow that he was the leader of an empire spanning a fair piece of the known world, and fairly breathtaking in its complexity. Themistocles should know, he ended up moving there and working for them. And speaking from well below your ivory tower, I don't see "mindless support" from the educators, athletes and corporations you vilify as benefiting from the "innovation, individual freedom, and love of excellence at the heart of Athens and America" for those who struggle against injustices you have never felt. I see thoughtful and questioning people, the spark of your Athenian liberty still searching for air, stepping into the airless decks of their triremes and actually struggling to save the good that they see even in the ashes of their Athens.

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Michael J Grey
on September 29, 2020 at 16:29:55 pm

Thank you.

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Robin Chiang
on September 29, 2020 at 18:57:54 pm

In substance, Xerxes would not be surprised in the least. He wasn't so much a leader as he was a tyrant and oppressor who enslaved and subjugated his peoples. This in contrast to the idea of a leader, of leadership as statesmanship wherein coercive force is minimized and in its stead reason, moral suasion and classical liberal institutions are founded and maintained, however imperfectly, in support of natural rights. The Greek city-states, in contrast to Xerxes subjugated realm, were a loose and motley federation of states, of more or less freely chosen forms of self-governance.

And how oppressive were the Persians in antiquity? There are various indicators but one is the extraordinarily cruel forms of torture and execution they imposed upon their subjects who failed to conform to expectations, scaphism being merely one such method - a method sure to instill not any sense of free-born liberty among subjects but instead enslavement of heart and mind and spirit and will. Breathtaking? Yes, though breathtaking less in its "complexity" than in its simple, methodical administration of cruelty to the point of depravity, all in the service of power and oppression, and ever more power-seeking and oppression.

Yet this is what and whom you would have us respect and admire. Likewise, I see you would lecture us on the need for empathy as well. Classic. Stunted in terms of your knowledge, your empathy and your human awareness in general - self-blinkered and self-blinded and content to be and remain so. Yet wont to lecture and instruct others.

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Michael Bond
on September 29, 2020 at 08:50:49 am

Nice piece, among the very best that have appeared here at L&L. Very nice. But I do think it's a real possibility that our current electorate will give it all up. We live in a stunted era, dumbed down and proud-born to a stunning degree. But hopefully this is all wrong. There are some good indicators as well.

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Michael Bond
on September 29, 2020 at 09:34:27 am

“Athens laid the foundations for Western art, architecture, and literature”; but only Christianity can save civilization, thus “Who do you say that I am”, is the question that must be answered correctly for all those who desire Liberty and a Happy Death.

Imagine, if through a True Ecumenism, that does not serve to compromise The Word Of God, but serves to affirm Christ, and thus, Through The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, affirm The Ordered Complementary Essence Of The Truth Of Love, Who Dwelt Among us, we desired to answer Christ’s Eucharistic Prayer for Unity Through The Holy Ghost:

“[21] That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. ... [22] And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one: ... [23] I in them, and thou in me; that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me. ... [24] Father, I will that where I am, they also whom thou hast given me may be with me; that they may see my glory which thou hast given me, because thou hast loved me before the creation of the world. ... [25] Just Father, the world hath not known thee; but I have known thee: and these have known that thou hast sent me.

... [26] And I have made known thy name to them, and will make it known; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me, may be in them, and I in them.“ - Jesus The Christ

“It is not possible to have Sacramental Communion without Ecclesial Communion”, due to The Unity Of The Holy Ghost; For It Is “Through Christ, With Christ, And In Christ, In The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, that Holy Mother Church exists.

“When God Is denied; human Dignity disappears.”- Pope Benedict XVI

And when human Dignity is denied, all hell breaks out.

Our Lady Of Fatima, Destroyer Of All Heresy, Who Through Your Loving Fiat, Affirmed The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, (Filioque), Hear Our Prayers And Intercede For Us, Through Your Son, Jesus The Christ.

“Behold Your Mother.” - Jesus The Christ

“St. Maximilian Kolbe, the Franciscan priest-martyr of Auschwitz, expounded so clearly this unfathomable oneness between the Holy Ghost and the Virgin of Nazareth.” He said:
“So, while their union is not of the same order as the hypostatic union linking the human and the divine natures in Christ, it remains true to say that Mary's action is the very action of the Holy Ghost.  For Mary as the Spouse of the Holy Ghost is raised to such a height of perfection above all creatures that she accomplishes in everything the will of the Holy Ghost Who dwelt in her from the first instant of her conception.”

The denial of The Unity Of The Holy Ghost (Filioque), is the source of all heresy; There Is only One Word of God, One Truth of Love Made Flesh, One Lamb of God Who Taketh Away The Sins of The World, Our Savior, Jesus The Christ, thus there can only be One Spirit of Perfect Love Between The Father and The Son, Who Proceeds from both The Father and The Son, in The Ordered Communion of Perfect Complementary Love, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity.
"4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

“Our Lady was the one who prevailed on her Son to work His first miracle at Cana in Galilee. She is still the one, through whose intercession He wants to perform miracles now, on earth, in our day. But there is one condition: We who have the faith, must believe. And we who have the grace, must use it to live lives of heroic virtue." Father John Hardon

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Nancy
on September 29, 2020 at 10:27:54 am

This is a spirited essay couched in a compelling story drawing an apt analogy, despite quibbling snark from the intellectual peanut gallery which, itself, epitomizes the suicidal malaise and destructive will of which Professor Dobski speaks, that which drives the relentless waves of wrathful assault now battering our great American civilization.

Why are Democrats so unhappy and so angry? What's the deranged psychology of a compulsion to meddle in everyone else's life? Why does wreckage so often follow in the wake of Democrats? Why can't Democrats put away their rage and instead of wreaking ruin build moral triremes or merely tend their gardens?

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paladin
on September 29, 2020 at 12:06:44 pm

"Quibbling snark from the intellectual peanut gallery" is in the finest tradition of our Greek and Roman intellectual and civic heritage. Please learn some history - starting with Diogenes and Socrates. An excellent essay, though.

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Diogenes
on September 29, 2020 at 14:12:59 pm

Mere snark from the peanut gallery, confusing ideological doctrine and political tactics with intellectual disagreement and debate. I know enough history, including that of classical antiquity, to recognize sophistry and pretense (yours) and to know the difference between authentic argument (that may hurt feelings) and disingenuous rhetoric aimed at social disintegration and the destruction of America civilization.
"Diogenes" as a pseudonym is well chosen, it would seem, for fans of Foucault on revolution.

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paladin
on September 29, 2020 at 13:53:03 pm

They are so unhappy and angry for the same reason that you are. Your pale slice of the world that sits as you think it should sit does not sit as they think it should. They snark for the same reason that you do, for what they see as common sense is not what you see as common sense. Perhaps wreckage follows all such failures at empathy. You should use your name in public debates. Can you imagine your much-upheld founders (who disagreed with each other just as vehemently as you do with those you paint as angry) using pseudonyms in published debates? It's inconceivable.

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Michael J Grey
on September 29, 2020 at 14:38:27 pm

Michael J (no period) Grey says: "Can you imagine your much-upheld founders (who disagreed with each other just as vehemently as you do with those you paint as angry) using pseudonyms in published debates? It's inconceivable."

To which I say: "HaHa! Michael, have you ever heard of Publius? Have you read the ratification debates, Michael? Do you know of the Federalists and the anti-Federalists?"
News flash, Michael! Just as Democrats in Red states and cities can safely put Biden stickers on their cars and posters on their lawns, Democrats can safely disclose their names on the internet. Conservatives will not assault them for expressing their opinions. Conservatives in Blue States states and cities lack such luxuries of our democratic republic. They cannot wear MAGA hats in the public square, place Trump posters on their lawns, put Trump stickers on their cars or disclose their identity on social media. That is all very dangerous because of the unhappy, angry Democrats, of whom I spoke earlier, who brook no dissent and punish (physically, financially, professionally) those and the families, including the children, of those who dare to disagree with the Revolutionary Democrat Party's ideology and destructive tactics (of which I spoke earlier.)

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paladin
on September 29, 2020 at 11:14:47 am

2500 years ago? No, only 2499. A small detail, but one a student of ancient history should be mindful of. The time from 480 BC to 2020 AD is not 2500 years, because there never was a Year Zero. Does that give us one more year to figure out our challenges?

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cmcc_aus
on October 11, 2020 at 23:50:21 pm

Well, I'll be ... ! My initial reaction to your comment was "your mistaken", but thank you for "forcing" me to work out the details and discover you were correct after all. Initially I wrote:

"I find Professor Dobski's arithmetic to be more "accurate" than yours, presuming a "normal" calendar, setting aside changes from Julian to Gregorian calendars or whatever, the details of which escape me at the moment. From a nominal midnight of Dec. 31 of 1 BC/BCE or Jan. 1 of 1 AD/CE. , there are 480 years backwards to Jan. 1, -480 BC/BCE; and 2,020 years forward to Dec. 31, 2020 AD/CE. Thus 480 + 2202 = 2500."

It was at this point that I realized I was adding 9 months to the year -480 and 3 months to the year 2020, creating that extra year beyond 2499 that you identified. I do believe that "criticism is the only known antidote to error", but in this case the criticizer was more in error than the criticizee. The net reduction in (my) error was the same even so.

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R2L
on September 30, 2020 at 16:35:49 pm

My initial question is how does Bernard Dorseki's article apply to Athenian Constitutionalism? The immediate answer is that it does, but is more apparent in the battles of Marathon in 490 BC and at the decisive battle of Platea. Platea occurred, a year after the victory in the straits of Salamis of 480 BC, that finally removed the last of the over half million Persian Soldiers from Greece. Reflecting on the Battle of Salamis for continuing constitutional meaning is an antiquarian view. This mirrors My Lord Coke's own band of antiquarians who sought meaning in the Magna Carta's progeny 400 years after King John signed the document prepared by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of England. Another more appropriate version of the decisive battle is the Battle of Trenton of the American Revolution during 1776 in which the constitutional meaning of the new America survived as well and General Washington's band of brothers succeeded in many becoming lawyers to continue the role of Constitutionalism. At the battle of Trenton were future President James Monroe, the Chairman of the last two Northwest Territorial Ordinances and a French Citizen for help in writing the 1795 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Duties of Citizen's. Monroe's childhood friend, James Marshall, became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Alexander Hamilton, head of the artillery at Trenton, became our first Secretary of the Treasury, and Aaron Burr whose actions formulated our Twelfth Amendment and our understanding of Treason. Other figures of the battle and lasting until 1781 were George Washington's nephew William Washington and Light-horse Harry Lee of Lee's Legion. I would add the Marquis of Lafayette shortly after Trenton, the author of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, whose political acumen was to light the world for the next 60 years. He joined this band of future constitutional lawyers in 1777 and was at Valley Forge with the above social justice warriors whose military-political leader was our First Citizen, Gen. George Washington who projected the Roman Constitution of a Republic, written by Augustus Caesar in 27 BC, upon our 1787 Federal Constitution.
By 500 BC, Cleisthenes wrote the Greek Constitution creating population centers in demes and combining 10 or more geographically separated demes into ten tribes, each electing its leadership including one general. The training of its hoplites and their armor by age groups found the smaller groups joining the tribe as a significant force to move as one in a phalanx. In 490 BC, this grouping was put to the test. Horns and drums fed the beats to the marching movement. Before the beach at Marathon, their phalanx began a run that overcame the Persians now driven into the sea, as their boats could not help them on land. The coordination of the attack proved the vitality of Cleisthenes's new Greek man. Under Themistocles' leadership, the triremes were now built as probably a community venture. At the Straits of Salamis, these boats moved from a North-South position singing their pean for the defense of their wives and children as well as their right to equality and liberty under their God Apollo. The triremes rowed to face the East-West orientation of the Persians. Impulsively some ships in the one line order of battle charged the Persians, and the Allied fleet followed. All social classes fought at Salamis as rowers leading to a sense of greater community after the war. Plays such as The Persians are received with the joy that, in the end, the Persians are defeated. Today the same play is produced to cheers as the Greeks and Turkish navy are maneuvering over gas rights in the Mediterranean. Loyalty to the leadership of Themistocles occurs before, during and for years after the battle, for he had as a strategist and politician further cemented the Athenian Democracy.
Of course the words of Lord Byron are used to identify this battle Salamis that led to one of the world’s most decisive victory of Platea that drove the Persians out of lands of Greece.
A king sate on the the rocky brow
Which looks o’er sea-born Salamis:
And ships, by thousands, lay below,
And men in nations; – all were his!
He counted them at break of day –
And when the sun set where were they?
(Lord Byron: The Isles of Greece)
As I intimated, the words on Salamis were better used in describing Constitutionalism and decisive victories, such as a Trenton in 1776. Another gist of liberty and law is to find various methods to describe these ideas with their heroes and heroic acts.

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LEONARD FRIEDMAN
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