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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.


  • [A celebrated Athenian statesman and general; born about 514 B.C.; commanded the Athenians after the victory of Salamis, 480; banished, 471; was kindly treated by Artaxerxes, king of Persia, where he died, or killed himself, about 449.]
  • The trophies of Miltiades will not suffer me to sleep.

  • When asked why he did not join in the exultation at the victory of Miltiades over the Persians at Marathon, 490 B.C. His life had hitherto been devoted to pleasure; but now, seized with an insatiable ambition, he prepared himself and the Athenians for the struggle with Persia he saw approaching.—PLUTARCH: Life.
  • When asked whether he would rather be Achilles or Homer; “And pray,” he replied, “which would you rather be, a conqueror in the Olympic games, or the crier who proclaims who are conquerors?”—Ibid.: Apothegms.
  • Themistocles opposed the proposition of Eurybiades, the Athenian naval commander, to sail for the Isthmus, rather than await the Persian attack in the straits of Salamis: Eurybiades raising his stick, Themistocles exclaimed, “Strike, but hear me!” The latter’s counsels prevailed, and the victory of Salamis was the result.
  • He preferred an honest man that wooed his daughter, to a rich man. “I would rather,” he said, “have a man that wants money, than money that wants a man.”
  • When told that he would govern the Athenians well, if he ruled without respect of persons, Themistocles replied, “May I never sit on a tribunal where my friends shall not find more favor from me than strangers.”
  • Seeing a number of bracelets and golden chains upon some dead bodies cast up by the sea, he said to a friend, “Take them: you are not Themistocles.”—Ibid.: Life.
  • To him is attributed a mot which in an English form reads, “If one showed me two roads, one leading to the Devil, and the other to Parliament, I should choose the former.”
  • When asked to touch a lute, Themistocles replied, “I cannot fiddle, but I can make a small town into a great state.”