After the sea-fight, Xerxes, still furious at his failure, undertook to carry moles out into the sea on which he could lead his infantry across to Salamis against the Hellenes, damming up the intervening strait. But Themistocles, merely by way of sounding Aristides, proposed, as though he were in earnest, to sail with the fleet to the Hellespont and break the span of boats there,
‘in order,’ said he,
‘that we may capture Asia in Europe.’
Aristides, however, was displeased with the scheme and said:
‘Now indeed the Barbarian with whom we have fought consults his ease and pleasure, but should we shut up in Hellas and bring under fearful compulsion a man who is lord of such vast forces, he will no longer sit under a golden parasol to view the spectacle of the battle at his ease, but he will dare all things, and, superintending everything in person, because of his peril, will rectify his previous remissness and take better counsel for the highest issues thus at stake.
We must not, then,’ said he,
‘tear down the bridge that is already there, Themistocles, nay rather, we must build another alongside it, if that be possible, and cast the fellow out of Europe in a hurry.’
‘Well, then,’ said Themistocles,
‘if that is what is thought for the best, it is high time for us all to be studying and inventing a way to get him out of Hellas by the speediest route.’
As soon as this policy had been adopted, he sent a certain royal eunuch whom he discovered among the prisoners of war, by name Arnaces, with orders to tell the King that the Hellenes had decided, since their fleet now controlled the sea, to sail up into the Hellespont, where the strait was spanned, and destroy the bridge; but that Themistocles, out of regard for the King, urged him to hasten into home waters and fetch his forces across; he himself, he said, would cause the allies all sorts of delays and postponements in their pursuit.
No sooner did the Barbarian hear this than he was seized with exceeding fear and speedily began his retreat. This thoughtful prudence on the part of Themistocles and Aristides was afterwards justified by the campaign with Mardonius, since, although they fought at Plataea with the merest fraction of the armies of Xerxes, they yet staked their all upon the issue.