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THEMISTOCLES

THEMISTOCLES. Themistocles in his youth was much given to wine and women. But after Miltiades the general overcame the Persian at Marathon, Themistocles utterly forsook his former disorders; and to such as wondered at the change, he said, The trophy of Miltiades will neither suffer me to sleep nor to be idle. Being asked whether he would rather be Achilles or Homer,—And pray, said he, which would you rather be, a conqueror in the Olympic games, or the crier that proclaims who are conquerors? When Xerxes with that great navy made a descent upon Greece, he fearing, if Epicydes (a popular, but a covetous, corrupt, and cowardly person) were made general, the city might be lost, bribed him with a sum of money to desist from that pretence. Adimantus was afraid to hazard a sea-fight, whereunto Themistocles persuaded and encouraged the Grecians. O Themistocles, said he, those that start before their time in the Olympic games are always scourged. Aye; but, Adimantus, said the other, they that are left behind are not crowned. Eurybiades lifted up his cane at him, as if he would strike him. Strike, said he, but hear me. When he could not persuade Eurybiades to fight in the straits of the sea, he sent privately to Xerxes, advising him that he need not fear the Grecians, for they were running away. Xerxes upon this persuasion, fighting in a place advantageous for [p. 209] the Grecians, was worsted; and then he sent him another message, and bade him fly with all speed over the Hellespont, for the Grecians designed to break down his bridge; that under pretence of saving him he might secure the Grecians. A man from the little island Seriphus told him, he was famous not upon his own account but through the city where he lived. You say true, said he, for if I had been a Seriphian, I had not been famous; nor would you, if you had been an Athenian. To Antiphatus, a beautiful person that avoided and despised Themistocles when he formerly loved him, but came to him and flattered him when he was in great power and esteem; Hark you, lad, said he, though late, yet both of us are wise at last. To Simonides desiring him to give an unjust sentence, You would not be a good poet, said he, if you should sing out of tune; nor I a good governor, if I should give judgment contrary to law. When his son was a little saucy towards his mother, he said that this boy had more power than all the Grecians, for the Athenians governed Greece, he the Athenians, his wife him, and his son his wife. He preferred an honest man that wooed his daughter, before a rich man. I would rather, said he, have a man that wants money, than money that wants a man. Having a farm to sell, he bid the crier proclaim also that it had a good neighbor. When the Athenians reviled him; Why do you complain, said he, that the same persons so often befriend you? And he compared himself to a row of plane-trees, under which in a storm passengers run for shelter, but in fair weather they pluck the leaves off and abuse them. Scoffing at the Eretrians, he said, Like the sword-fish, they have a sword indeed, but no heart. Being banished first out of Athens and afterwards out of Greece, he betook himself to the king of Persia, who bade him speak his mind. Speech, he said, was like to tapestry; and like it, when it was spread, it showed its figures, but when [p. 210] it was folded up, hid and spoiled them. And therefore he requested time until he might learn the Persian tongue, and could explain himself without an interpreter. Having there received great presents, and being enriched of a sudden; O lads, said he to his sons, we had been undone if we had not been undone.

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