Ion says that, coming from Chios to Athens as a mere stripling, he was once a fellow-guest with Cimon at a dinner given by Laomedon, and that over the wine the hero was invited to sing, and did sing very agreeably, and was praised by the guests as a cleverer man than Themistocles. That hero, they said, declared that he had not learned to sing, nor even to play the lyre, but knew how to make a city great and rich.1
Next, Ion says, as was natural over the cups, the conversation drifted to the exploits of Cimon, and as his greatest deeds were being recounted, the hero himself dwelt at length on one particular stratagem which he thought his shrewdest. Once, he said, when the Athenians and their allies had taken many barbarian prisoners at Sestos and Byzantium and turned them over to him for distribution, he put into one lot the persons of the captives, and into another the rich adornments of their bodies, and his distribution was blamed as unequal.
But he bade the allies choose one of the lots, and the Athenians would be content with whichever one they left. So, on the advice of Herophytus the Samian to choose Persian wealth rather than Persians, the Allies took the rich adornments for themselves, and left the prisoners for the Athenians. At the time Cimon came off with the reputation of being a ridiculous distributor, since the allies had their gold anklets and armlets and collars and jackets and purple robes to display, while the Athenians got only naked bodies ill-trained for labour.
But a little while after, the friends and kinsmen of the captives came down from Phrygia and Lydia and ransomed every one of them at a great price, so that Cimon had four months' pay and rations for his fleet, and besides that, much gold from the ransoms was left over for the city.