Then indeed it was that Themistocles, despairing of bringing the multitude over to his views by any human reasonings, set up machinery, as it were, to introduce the gods to them as a theatrical manager would for a tragedy, and brought to bear upon them signs from heaven and oracles. As a sign from heaven he took the behavior of the serpent, which is held to have disappeared about that time from the sacred enclosure on the Acropolis. When the priests found that the daily offerings made to it were left whole and untouched, they proclaimed to the multitude,—Themistocles putting the story into their mouths,—that the goddess had abandoned her city and was showing them their way to the sea.
Moreover, with the well-known oracle1
he tried again to win the people over to his views, saying that its
‘wooden wall’ meant nothing else than their fleet; and that the god in this oracle called Salamis
‘cruel,’ for the very reason that the island would sometime give its name to a great piece of good fortune for the Hellenes. At last his opinion prevailed, and so he introduced a bill providing that the city be entrusted for safe keeping
‘to Athena the patroness of Athens,’ but that all the men of military age embark on the triremes, after finding for their children, wives, and servants, such safety as each best could.
Upon the passage of this bill, most of the Athenians bestowed their children and wives in Troezen, where the Troezenians very eagerly welcomed them. They actually voted to support them at the public cost, allowing two obols daily to each family, and to permit the boys to pluck of the vintage fruit everywhere, and besides to hire teachers for them. The bill was introduced by a man whose name was Nicagoras.
Since the Athenians had no public moneys in hand, it was the Senate of Areiopagus, according to Aristotle, which provided each of the men who embarked with eight drachmas, and so was most instrumental in manning the triremes; but Cleidemus represents this too as the result of an artifice of Themistocles. He says that when the Athenians were going down to the Piraeus and abandoning their city, the Gorgon's head was lost from the image of the goddess; and then Themistocles, pretending to search for it, and ransacking everything, thereby discovered an abundance of money hidden away in the baggage, which had only to be confiscated, and the crews of the ships were well provided with rations and wages.
When the entire city was thus putting out to sea, the sight provoked pity in some, and in others astonishment at the hardihood of the step; for they were sending off their families in one direction, while they themselves, unmoved by the lamentations and tears and embraces of their loved ones, were crossing over to the island where the enemy was to be fought. Besides, many who were left behind on account of their great age invited pity also, and much affecting fondness was shown by the tame domestic animals, which ran along with yearning cries of distress by the side of their masters as they embarked.
A story is told of one of these, the dog of Xanthippus the father of Pericles, how he could not endure to be abandoned by his master, and so sprang into the sea, swam across the strait by the side of his master's trireme, and staggered out on Salamis, only to faint and die straightway. They say that the spot which is pointed out to this day as
‘Dog's Mound’ is his tomb.