And so, in the first place, whereas the Athenians were wont to divide up among themselves the revenue coming from the silver mines at Laureium, he, and he alone, dared to come before the people with a motion that this division be given up, and that with these moneys triremes be constructed for the war against Aegina.1
This was the fiercest war then troubling Hellas, and the islanders controlled the sea, owing to the number of their ships.
Wherefore all the more easily did Themistocles carry his point, not by trying to terrify the citizens with dreadful pictures of Darius or the Persians—these were too far away and inspired no very serious fear of their coming, but by making opportune use of the bitter jealousy which they cherished toward Aegina in order to secure the armament he desired. The result was that with those moneys they built a hundred triremes, with which they actually fought at Salamis2
And after this, by luring the city on gradually and turning its progress toward the sea, urging that with their infantry they were no match even for their nearest neighbors, but that with the power they would get from their ships they could not only repel the Barbarians but also take the lead in Hellas, he made them, instead of
‘steadfast hoplites’—to quote Plato's words,3
sea-tossed mariners, and brought down upon himself this accusation:
‘Themistocles robbed his fellow-citizens of spear and shield, and degraded the people of Athens to the rowing-pad and the oar.’ And this he accomplished in triumph over the public opposition of Miltiades, as Stesimbrotus relates.
Now, whether by accomplishing this he did injury to the integrity and purity of public life or not, let the philosopher rather investigate. But that the salvation which the Hellenes achieved at that time came from the sea, and that it was those very triremes which restored again the fallen city of Athens, Xerxes himself bore witness, not to speak of other proofs. For though his infantry remained intact, he took to flight after the defeat of his ships, because he thought he was not a match for the Hellenes, and he left Mardonius behind, as it seems to me, rather to obstruct their pursuit than to subdue them.