However, when they learned by messengers from Thermopylae to Artemisium that Leonidas was slain and that Xerxes was master of the pass, they withdrew further down into Hellas, the Athenians bringing up the extreme rear because of their valor, and greatly elated by their achievements. As Themistocles sailed along the coasts, wherever he saw places at which the enemy must necessarily put in for shelter and supplies, be inscribed conspicuous writings on stones,
some of which he found to his hand there by chance, and some he himself caused to be set near the inviting anchorages and watering places. In these writings he solemnly enjoined upon the Ionians, if it were possible, to come over to the side of the Athenians, who were their ancestors, and who were risking all in behalf of their freedom; but if they could not do this, to damage the Barbarian cause in battle, and bring confusion among them. By this means he hoped either to fetch the Ionians over to his side, or to confound them by bringing the Barbarians into suspicion of them.
Although Xerxes had made a raid up through Doris into Phocis, and was burning the cities of the Phocians, the Hellenes gave them no succour. The Athenians, it is true, begged them to go up into Boeotia against the enemy, and make a stand there in defence of Attica, as they themselves had gone up by sea to Artemisium in defence of others. But no one listened to their appeals. All clung fast to the Peloponnesus, and were eager to collect all the forces inside the Isthmus, and were building a rampart across the Isthmus from sea to sea.
Then the Athenians were seized alike with rage at this betrayal, and with sullen dejection at their utter isolation. Of fighting alone with an army of so many myriads they could not seriously think; and as for the only thing left them to do in their emergency, namely, to give up their city and stick to their ships, most of them were distressed at the thought, saying that they neither wanted victory nor understood what safety could mean if they abandoned to the enemy the shrines of their gods and the sepulchres of their fathers.