THE ATHENIANS TAKE SALAMIS
 SALAMIS, an island lying about a mile from both Athens and Megara,
was in the hands of the Megarians. Its position between the
two States made it an important one. So the Athenians
determined to proclaim war against the Megarians and try to
win Salamis for themselves.
But the war dragged on so long that the Athenians grew
weary, and although the Megarians still held the island they
longed for the war to end. The poor soldiers wished to go
home to plough their fields, the rich wished to escape from
the hardships of the camp to their own comfortable homes.
So at length peace was made, and a law was passed by the
Athenians forbidding any one either to say or to write, upon
pain of death, that Athens ought still to try to win
There were many citizens both indignant and ashamed that
such a law had been passed, yet lest they should be put to
death they did not dare to say what they thought.
Solon was away from Athens when this law was passed, and
when he came back from his journey and found that peace had
been made while Salamis was still in the hands of the
Megarians, he was much displeased.
Some time had passed since peace had been made, and Solon
knew that the Megarians were not now as strong as they had
been when the Athenians gave up fighting. So he determined
that he would rouse his countrymen to try again to capture
the island. Yet what could he do? He would be put to death
if he defied the law, which said that
 no one must say or
write that Athens ought still to try to win Salamis.
At length he hit on a strange plan. He pretended that he
was mad, and persuaded his own family to spread the report
that this terrible fate had befallen him. He then wrote
some verses, learned them by heart, and ran toward the
market-place, a cap upon his head. In those days a cap was
worn by a man if he were ill.
Solon soon attracted as much attention as he had hoped to do
by his strange gestures and by the words he shouted.
As the people crowded round him he jumped on to the platform
from which heralds were used to announce important tidings,
and began to recite the verses he had written.
"I came myself as a herald from lovely Salamis, but with
song on my lips instead of common speech," so began the
poem. It then went on to blame those who wished no longer
to fight, and bade them "Arise and come to Salamis to win
that fair island and undo our shame."
As the people listened they forgot that they believed Solon
was mad, and their hearts were stirred by his words.
From that day so strong became the desire of the people to
blot out their disgrace and win Salamis, that the law which
had so displeased Solon was repealed. No one had thought of
punishing the man who had broken it.
The Athenian forces were again mustered; Solon himself being
made commander of the troops. His cousin Pisistratus went
with him to battle, and it was he who succeeded in taking
the port of Salamis.
In those days Athens had no fleet. Solon sailed toward
Salamis in a ship, but his army followed him in a number of
When the Megarians caught sight of the Athenian ship, they
sent one of their own vessels to find out the strength of
the enemy's fleet.
Solon managed to capture this ship, and all on board were
taken prisoners. The captured vessel was then manned
Athenians, and the men were ordered to sail slowly and
quietly to the island.
Solon meanwhile reached the shore and, landing with his
army, at once attacked the Megarians. While the fight still
raged, the ship manned by Athenians sailed unnoticed to the
port. The soldiers leaped to the ground, sped swiftly to
the city, and took it almost before the citizens were aware
of the presence of the enemy.
The island was soon in the hands of the triumphant
Athenians, by whom it was held for many long years, until
indeed Philip of Macedon conquered Greece.
To celebrate the victory in after years, an Athenian ship
used to sail to the island just as the victorious one had
done on the actual battle day. When it reached the shore, a
soldier, armed as though for battle, jumped to the ground,
and with a loud shout ran toward the city, where he was met
and welcomed by his countrymen.
Close to the spot where Solon won this victory a temple was
built and dedicated to the god of battle.