But in the third year thereafter,1
when Xerxes was marching through Thessaly and Boeotia against Attica, they repealed their law of ostracism, and voted that those who had been sent away under it might return. The chief reason for this was their fear of Aristides, lest he attach himself to the enemy's cause, and corrupt and pervert many of his fellow-citizens to the side of the Barbarian. But they much misjudged the man. Even before this decree of theirs, he was ever inciting and urging the Hellenes to win their freedom; and after it was passed, when Themistocles was general with sole powers, he assisted him in every undertaking and counsel, although he thereby, for the sake of the general safety, made his chiefest foe the most famous of men.
Thus when Eurybiades wished to abandon Salamis, but the Barbarian triremes, putting out by night, had encompassed the strait where he lay round about, and had beset the islands therein, and no Hellene knew of this encompassment, Aristides came over to them from Aegina, venturously sailing through the enemy's ships. He went at once by night to the tent of Themistocles, and called him forth alone.
‘O Themistocles,’ said he,
‘if we are wise, we shall at last lay aside our vain and puerile contention, and begin a salutary and honorable rivalry with one another in emulous struggles to save Hellas, thou as commanding general, I as assistant counsellor, since at the very outset I learn that thou art the only one who has adopted the best policy, urging as thou dost to fight a decisive sea-fight here in the narrows as soon as may be.
And though thine allies oppose thee, thy foes would seem to assist thee; for the sea round about and behind us is already filled with hostile ships, so that even our unwilling ones must now of necessity be brave men and fight. Indeed, no way of escape is left.’
To this Themistocles replied:
‘I should not have wished, O Aristides, to find thee superior to me here; but I shall try to emulate thy fair beginning, and to surpass thee in my actions.’ At the same time he told Aristides of the trick that he had contrived against the Barbarian, and entreated him to show Eurybiades convincingly, inasmuch as he had the greater credit with that commander, that there was no safety except in a sea-fight.
So it happened in the council of generals that Cleocritus the Corinthian declared to Themistocles that Aristides also was opposed to his plan, since he, though present, held his peace. Aristides at once replied that he would not have held his peace had not Themistocles counselled for the best; but as it was, he kept quiet, not out of any goodwill to the man, but because he approved of his plan.