After the death of Miltiades, Themistocles and Aristides became the most prominent men among the Athenians.
With feelings of bitter indignation against their faithless allies, the Athenians saw themselves once more compelled to remove to Salamis. Mardonius took advantage of his situation to endeavour once more to win them to his alliance. Through a Hellespontine Greek, the same favourable conditions were again offered to them, but were again refused.
Happy was it for Greece that the ambitious Persian did not then seek its conquest, as Democedes, his physician, had suggested. The Athenians, then under the rule of the tyrant Pisistratus, were not the free and bold people they afterwards became, and had Darius sought their conquest at that time, the land of Greece would probably have become a part of the overgrown Persian empire.
The character and conduct of the insidious and unscrupulous intriguer were forgotten in his promises. The Athenians were simply cheated. They then sought to make peace with Sparta, which was declined. The army at Samos heard of these changes with exceeding wrath, especially the cruelties which were inflicted on all citizens who spoke against the new tyranny.
VII. The construction of these vessels, the very sacrifice of the citizens, the general interest that must have attached to an undertaking that was at once novel in itself, and yet congenial not more to the passions of a people, who daily saw from their own heights the hostile rock of Aegina, "the eyesore of the Piraeus," than to the habits of men placed in a steril land that on three sides tempted to the sea all combined to assist Themistocles in his master policy a policy which had for its design gradually to convert the Athenians from an agricultural into a maritime people.
All the Greek states were soon in arms, siding with the Athenians or with the Spartans; and the contest continued until everybody was weary of fighting. There was, besides, much jealousy among the people themselves, and even the laurels of Agesilaus were envied.
Nor did I depart anywhere, nor did I ever take my eyes off from the republic, from the day on which we were summoned to meet in the temple of Tellus, in which temple, I, as far as was in my power, laid the foundations of peace, and renewed the ancient precedent set by the Athenians, I even used the Greek word, which that city employed in those times in allaying discords, and gave my vote that all recollection of the existing dissensions ought to be effaced by everlasting oblivion.
Although the vessels employed by the Athenians both for war and commerce were small compared with those of modern days, and their merchant ships even much smaller than those of the Phoenicians, if we may judge by the description given by Xenophon of a Phoenician merchant vessel in the Piræus, yet the expence attending their equipment was very great.
The metopes of the Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi, discovered during the excavations now in progress, are of extraordinary interest and importance; but only two or three of them have yet been published, and these in a form not suited for reproduction.
But Alcibiades had promised too much, the satrap having no idea of lending aid to Athens, and yet he extricated himself by such exaggerated demands, which he knew the Athenians would never concede to Persia, that negotiations were broken off, and a reconciliation was made between Persia and Sparta. The oligarchal conspirators had, however, gone so far that a retreat was impossible.