And since he was already wealthy, Cimon lavished the revenues from his campaign, which he was thought to have won with honor from the enemy, to his still greater honor, on his fellow-citizens. He took away the fences from his fields, that strangers and needy citizens might have it in their power to take fearlessly of the fruits of the land; and every day he gave a dinner at his house—simple, it is true, but sufficient for many, to which any poor man who wished came in, and so received a maintenance which cost him no effort and left him free to devote himself solely to public affairs.
But Aristotle says1
that it was not for all Athenians, but only for his own demesmen, the Laciadae, that he provided a free dinner. He was constantly attended by young comrades in fine attire, each one of whom, whenever an elderly citizen in needy array came up, was ready to exchange raiment with him. The practice made a deep impression.
These same followers also carried with them a generous sum of money, and going up to poor men of finer quality in the market-place, they would quietly thrust small change into their hands. To such generosity as this Cratinus seems to have referred in his Archilochi
, with the words:—
Yes, I too hoped, Metrobius, I, the public scribe,
Along with man divine, the rarest host that lives,
In every way the best of all Hellenic men,
With Cimon, feasting out in joy a sleek old age,
To while away the remnant of my life. But he
Has gone before and left me.
And again, Georgias the Leontine says that Cimon made money that he might spend it, and spent it that he might he honored for it. And Critias, one of the thirty tyrants, prays in his elegies that he may have
the wealth of the Scopadae, the great-mindedness of Cimon,
and the victories of Arcesilaus of Lacedaemon.
And yet we know that Lichas the Spartan became famous among the Hellenes for no other reason than that he entertained the strangers at the boys' gymnastic festival; but the generosity of Cimon surpassed even the hospitality and philanthropy of the Athenians of olden time.
For they—and their city is justly very proud of it—spread abroad among the Hellenes the sowing of grain and the lustral uses of spring waters, and taught mankind who knew it not the art of kindling fire. But he made his home in the city a general public residence for his fellow citizens, and on his estates in the country allowed even the stranger to take and use the choicest of the ripened fruits, with all the fair things which the seasons bring. Thus, in a certain fashion, he restored to human life the fabled communism of the age of Cronus,—the golden age.
Those who slanderously said that this was flattery of the rabble and demagogic art in him, were refuted by the man's political policy, which was aristocratic and Laconian. He actually opposed Themistocles when he exalted the democracy unduly, as Aristides also did. Later on he took hostile issue with Ephialtes, who, to please the people, tried to dethrone the Council of the Areiopagus;
and though he saw all the rest except Aristides and Ephialtes filling their purses with the gains from their public services, he remained unbought and unapproached by bribes, devoting all his powers to the state, without recompense and in all purity, through to the end.
It is told, indeed, that one Rhoesaces, a Barbarian who had deserted from the King, came to Athens with large moneys, and being set upon fiercely by the public informers, fled for refuge to Cimon, and deposited at his door two platters, one filled with silver, the other with golden Darics. Cimon, when he saw them, smiled,
and asked the man whether he preferred to have Cimon as his hireling or his friend, and on his replying,
‘As my friend,’
‘Well then,’ said Cimon,
‘Take this money with thee and go thy way, for I shall have the use of it when I want it if I am thy friend.’