Some say that Themistocles was an eager money-maker because of his liberality; for since he was fond of entertaining, and lavished money splendidly on his guests, he required a generous budget. Others, on the contrary, denounce his great stinginess and parsimony, claiming that he used to sell the very food sent in to him as a gift.
When Philides the horse-breeder was asked by him for a colt and would not give it, Themistocles threatened speedily to make his house a wooden horse; thereby darkly intimating that he would stir up accusations against him in his own family, and lawsuits between the man and those of his own household.
In his ambition he surpassed all men. For instance, while he was still young and obscure, he prevailed upon Epicles of Hermione, a harpist who was eagerly sought after by the Athenians, to practise at his house, because he was ambitious that many should seek out his dwelling and come often to see him.
Again, on going to Olympia, he tried to rival Cimon in his banquets and booths and other brilliant appointments, so that he displeased the Hellenes. For Cimon was young and of a great house, and they thought they must allow him in such extravagances; but Themistocles had not yet become famous, and was thought to be seeking to elevate himself unduly without adequate means, and so was charged with ostentation.
And still again, as choregus, or theatrical manager, he won a victory with tragedies, although even at that early time this contest was conducted with great eagerness and ambition and set up a tablet commemorating his victory with the following inscription:
‘Themistocles the Phrearrhian was Choregus; Phrynichus was Poet; Adeimantus was Archon.’
However, he was on good terms with the common folk, partly because he could call off-hand the name of every citizen, and partly because he rendered the service of a safe and impartial arbitrator in cases of private obligation and settlement out of court; and so he once said to Simonides of Ceos, who had made an improper request from him when he was magistrate:
‘You would not be a good poet if you should sing contrary to the measure; nor I a clever magistrate if I should show favour contrary to the law.’
And once again he banteringly said to Simonides that it was nonsense for him to abuse the Corinthians, who dwelt in a great and fair city, while he had portrait figures made of himself, who was of such an ugly countenance. And so he grew in power, and pleased the common folk, and finally headed a successful faction and got Aristides removed by ostracism.2