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Once when the Athenians were tired out with a war which they were waging against the Megarians for the island of Salamis, they made a law that no one in future, on pain of death, should move, in writing or orally, that the city take up its contention for Salamis. Solon could not endure the disgrace of this, and when he saw that many of the young men wanted steps taken to bring on the war, but did not dare to take those steps themselves on account of the law, he pretended to be out of his head, [2] and a report was given out to the city by his family that he showed signs of madness. He then secretly composed some elegiac verses, and after rehearsing them so that he could say them by rote, he sallied out into the market-place of a sudden, with a cap upon his head. After a large crowd had collected there, he got upon the herald's stone and recited the poem which begins:—

Behold in me a herald come from lovely Salamis,
With a song in ordered verse instead of a harangue.
1 [3] This poem is entitled ‘Salamis,’ and contains a hundred very graceful verses. When Solon had sung it, his friends began to praise him, and Peisistratus in particular urged and incited the citizens to obey his words. They therefore repealed the law and renewed the war, putting Solon in command of it. [4]

The popular account of his campaign is as follows. Having sailed to Cape Colias with Peisistratus, he found all the women of the city there, performing the customary sacrifice to Demeter. He therefore sent a trusty man to Salamis, who pretended to be a deserter, and bade the Megarians, if they wished to capture the principal women of Athens, to sail to Colias with him as fast as they could. [5] The Megarians were persuaded by him, and sent off some men in his ship. But when Solon saw the vessel sailing back from the island, he ordered the women to withdraw, and directed those of the younger men who were still beardless, arraying themselves in the garments, head-bands, and sandals which the women had worn, and carrying concealed daggers, to sport and dance on the sea shore until the enemy had disembarked and the vessel was in their power. [6] This being done as he directed, the Megarians were lured on by what they saw, beached their vessel, and leapt out to attack women, as they supposed, vying with one another in speed. The result was that not a man of them escaped, but all were slain, and the Athenians at once set sail and took possession of the island.

1 Only six more verses are preserved (Fragments 1-3, Bergk). They contain reproaches of the Athenians for abandoning Salamis, and an exhortation to go and fight for it.

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