But he heard of this in advance, and crossed over to Corcyra, where he had been recognized as a public benefactor of the city. For he had served as arbiter in a dispute between them and the Corinthians, and settled the quarrel by deciding that the Corinthians should pay an indemnity of twenty talents, and administer Leucas as a common colony of both cities. Thence he fled to Epirus, and being pursued by the Athenians and Lacedaemonians, he threw himself upon grievous and desperate chances of escape by taking refuge with Admetus, who was king of the Molossians,
and who, since he had once asked some favour of the Athenians and had been insultingly refused it by Themistocles, then at the height of his political influence, was angry with him ever after, and made it plain that he would take vengeance on him if he caught him. But in the desperate fortune of that time Themistocles was more afraid of kindred and recent jealousy than of an anger that was of long standing and royal, and promptly cast himself upon the king's mercy, making himself the suppliant of Admetus in a way quite peculiar and extraordinary.
That is to say, he took the young son of the king in his arms and threw himself down at the hearth; a form of supplication which the Molossians regarded as most sacred, and as almost the only one that might not be refused. Some, it is true, say that it was Phthia, the wife of the king, who suggested this form of supplication to Themistocles, and that she seated her son on the hearth with him; and certain others that Admetus himself, in order that he might give a religious sanction to the necessity that was upon him of not surrendering the man, arranged beforehand and solemnly rehearsed with him the supplication scene.
Thither his wife and children were privily removed from Athens and sent to him by Epicrates of the deme Acharnae, who, for this deed, was afterwards convicted by Cimon and put to death, as Stesimbrotus relates. Then, somehow or other, Stesimbrotus forgets this, or makes Themistocles forget it, and says he sailed to Sicily and demanded from Hiero the tyrant the hand of his daughter in marriage, promising as an incentive that he would make the Hellenes subject to his sway; but that Hiero repulsed him, and so he set sail for Asia.