Aristides was an intimate friend of that Cleisthenes who set the state in order after the expulsion of the tyrants. He also admired and emulated, above all other statesmen, Lycurgus the Lacedaemonian. He therefore favoured an aristocratic form of government, and ever had opposed to him, as champion of the people, Themistocles the son of Neocles. Some say that even as boys and fellow-pupils, from the outset, in every word and deed, whether serious or trivial, they were at variance with one another,
and that by this very rivalry their natures were straightway made manifest, the one as dexterous, reckless, and unscrupulous, easily carried with impetuosity into any and every undertaking; the other as established on a firm character, intent on justice, and admitting no falsity or vulgarity or deceit, not even in any sport whatsoever.
But Ariston of Ceos says that this enmity of theirs, which came to be so intense, had its origin in a love affair.
They were both enamored of Stesilaus, who was of Ceian birth, and in beauty of person the most brilliant of youths; and they cherished their passion so immoderately, that not even after the boy's beauty had faded did they lay aside their rivalry, but, as though they had merely taken preliminary practice and exercise in that, they presently engaged in matters of state also with passionate heat and opposing desires.
Themistocles joined a society of political friends, and so secured no inconsiderable support and power. Hence when some one told him that he would be a good ruler over the Athenians if he would only be fair and impartial to all, he replied:
‘Never may I sit on a tribunal where my friends are to get no more advantage from me than strangers.’
But Aristides walked the way of statesmanship by himself, on a private path of his own, as it were, because, in the first place, he was unwilling to join with any comrades in wrong-doing, or to vex them by withholding favours; and, in the second place, he saw that power derived from friends incited many to do wrong, and so was on his guard against it, deeming it right that the good citizen should base his confidence only on serviceable and just conduct.