I. The pedigree of Alkibiades is said to begin with Eurysakes the son of Ajax, while on the mother's side he descended from Alkmaeon, being the son of Deinomache, the daughter of Megakles. His father Kleinias fought bravely at Artemisium in a trireme fitted out at his own expense, and subsequently fell fighting the Boeotians, in the battle of Koronea. Alkibiades after this was entrusted to Perikles and Ariphron, the two sons of Xanthippus, who acted as his guardians because they were the next of kin. It has been well remarked that the friendship of Sokrates for him did not a little to increase his fame, seeing that Nikias, Demosthenes, Lamakus, Phormio, Thrasybulus, and Theramenes, were all men of mark in his lifetime, and yet we do not know the name of the mother of any one of them, while we know the name even of the nurse of Alkibiades, who was a Laconian, named Amykla, and that of Zopyrus, his paedagogus, one of which pieces of information we owe to Antisthenes, and the other to Plato. As to the beauty of Alkibiades, it is not necessary to say anything except that it was equally fascinating when he was a boy, a youth, and a man. The saying of Euripides, that all beauties have a beautiful autumn of their charms, is not universally true, but it was so in the case of Alkibiades and of a few other persons because of the symmetry and vigour of their frames. Even his lisp is said to have added a charm to his speech, and to have made his talk more persuasive. His lisp is mentioned by Aristophanes in the verses in which he satirises Theorus, in which Alkibiades calls him Theolus, for he pronounced the letter r like l. Archippus also gives a sneering account of the son of Alkibiades, who, he said, swaggered in his walk, trailing his cloak, that he might look as like his father as possible, and
"Bends his affected neck, and lisping speaks."
II. His character, in the course of his varied and brilliant career, developed many strange inconsistencies and contradictions. Emulation and love of distinction were the most prominent of his many violent passions, as is clear from the anecdotes of his childhood. Once when hard pressed in wrestling, rather than fall, he began to bite his opponent's hands. The other let go his hold, and said, "You bite, Alkibiades, like a woman." "No," said he, "like a lion." While yet a child, he was playing at knucklebones with other boys in a narrow street, and when his turn came to throw, a loaded waggon was passing. He at first ordered the driver to stop his team because his throw was to take place directly in the path of the waggon. Then as the boor who was driving would not stop, the other children made way; but Alkibiades flung himself down on his face directly in front of the horses, and bade him drive on at his peril. The man, in alarm, now stopped his horses, and the others were terrified and ran up to him.
In learning he was fairly obedient to all his teachers, except in playing the flute, which he refused to do, declaring that it was unfit for a gentleman. He said that playing on the harp or lyre did not disfigure the face, but that when a man was blowing at a flute, his own friends could scarcely recognise him. Besides, the lyre accompanies the voice of the performer, while the flute takes all the breath of the player and prevents him even from speaking. "Let the children of the Thebans," he used to say, "learn to play the flute, for they know not how to speak; but we Athenians according to tradition have the goddess Athene (Minerva) for our patroness, and Apollo for our tutelary divinity; and of these the first threw away the flute in disgust, and the other actually flayed the flute player Marsyas." With such talk as this, between jest and earnest, Alkibiades gave up flute-playing himself, and induced his friends to do so, for all the youth of Athens soon heard and approved of Alkibiades's derision of the flute and those who learned it. In consequence of this the flute went entirely out of fashion, and was regarded with contempt.
III. In Antiphon's scandalous chronicle, we read that Alkibiades once ran away from home to the house of one of his admirers.
Ariphron, his other guardian, proposed to have him cried; but Perikles forbade it, saying that, if he was dead, he would only be found one day sooner because of it, while if he was safe, he would be disgraced for life. Antiphon also tells us that he killed one of his servants by striking him with a club, at the gymnasium of Sibyrtus. But perhaps we ought not to believe these stories, which were written by an enemy with the avowed purpose of defaming his character.
IV. His youthful beauty soon caused him to be surrounded with noble admirers, but the regard of Sokrates for him is a great proof of his natural goodness of disposition, which that philosopher could discern in him, but which he feared would wither away like a faded flower before the temptations of wealth and position, and the mass of sycophants by whom he was soon beset. For no one ever was so enclosed and enveloped in the good things of this life as Alkibiades, so that no breath of criticism or free speech could ever reach him. Yet, with all these flatterers about him, trying to prevent his ever hearing a word of wholesome advice or reproof, he was led by his own goodness of heart to pay special attention to Sokrates, to whom he attached himself in preference to all his rich and fashionable admirers.
He soon became intimate with Sokrates, and when he discovered that this man did not wish to caress and admire him, but to expose his ignorance, search out his faults, and bring down his vain unreasoning conceit, he then
"Let fall his feathers like a craven cock."
He considered that the conversation of Sokrates was really a divine instrument for the discipline and education of youth; and thus learning to despise himself, and to admire his friend, charmed with his good nature, and full of reverence for his virtues, he became insensibly in love with him, though not as the world loveth; so that all men were astonished to see him dining with Sokrates, wrestling with him, and sharing his tent, while he treated all his other admirers with harshness and some even with insolence, as in the case of Anytus the son of Anthemion. This man, who was an admirer of Alkibiades, was entertaining a party of friends, and asked him to come. Alkibiades refused the invitation, but got drunk that night at a riotous party at his own house, in which state he proceeded in a disorderly procession to Anytus. Here he looked into the room where the guests were, and seeing the tables covered with gold and silver drinking-cups, ordered his slaves to carry away half of them, and then, without deigning to enter the room, went home again. Anytus' guests were vexed at this, and complained of his being so arrogantly and outrageously treated. "Say rather, considerately," answered Anytus, "for although he might have taken them all, yet he has left us the half of them."
V. In this same way he used to treat his other admirers, with the exception, it is said, of one of the resident aliens, a man of small means who sold all that he had and carried the money, amounting to about a hundred staters, to Alkibiades, begging him to accept it. Alkibiades laughed at him, and invited him to dinner. After dinner he gave him back his money, and ordered him next day to go and overbid those who were about to bid for the office of farmer of the taxes. The poor man begged to be excused, because the price was several talents, but Alkibiades threatened to have him beaten if he did not do so, for he had some private grudge of his own against the farmers of the taxes. Accordingly the alien went next morning early into the market-place and bid a talent. The tax farmers now clustered round him angrily, bidding him name some one as security, imagining that he would not be able to find one. The poor man was now in great trouble and was about to steal away, when Alkibiades, who was at some distance, called out to the presiding magistrates, "Write down my name. I am his friend, and I will be surety for him." On hearing this, the tax farmers were greatly embarrassed, for their habit was to pay the rent of each year with the proceeds of the next, and they saw no way of doing so in this instance. Consequently they begged the man to desist from bidding, and offered him money. Alkibiades would not permit him to take less than a talent, and when this was given him he let him go. This was the way in which he did him a kindness.
VI. The love of Sokrates, though he had many rivals, yet overpowered them all, for his words touched the heart of Alkibiades and moved him to tears. Sometimes his flatterers would bribe him by the offer of some pleasure, to which he would yield and slip away from Sokrates, but he was then pursued like a fugitive slave by the latter, of whom he stood in awe, though he treated every one else with insolence and contempt. Kleanthes used to say that Sokrates's only hold upon him was through his ears, while he scorned to meddle with the rest of his body. And indeed Alkibiades was very prone to pleasure, as one would gather from what Thucydides says on the subject. Those too who played on his vanity and love of distinction induced him to embark on vast projects before he was ripe for them, assuring him that as soon as he began to take a leading part in politics, he would not only eclipse all the rest of the generals and orators, but would even surpass Perikles in power and renown. But just as iron which has been softened in the fire is again hardened by cold, and under its influence contracts its expanded particles, so did Sokrates, when he found Alkibiades puffed up by vain and empty conceit, bring him down to his proper level by his conversation, rendering him humble minded by pointing out to him his many deficiencies.
VII. After he had finished his education, he went into a school, and asked the master for a volume of Homer. When the master said that he possessed none of Homer's writings, he struck him with his fist, and left him. Another schoolmaster told him that he had a copy of Homer corrected by himself. "Do you," asked he, "you who are able to correct Homer, teach boys to read! One would think that you could instruct men."
One day he wished to speak to Perikles, and came to his house. Hearing that he was not at leisure, but was engaged in considering how he was to give in his accounts to the Athenians, Alkibiades, as he went away, said, "It would be better if he considered how to avoid giving in any accounts at all to the Athenians."
While yet a lad he served in the campaign of Potidaea, where he shared the tent of Sokrates, and took his place next him in the ranks. In an obstinate engagement they both showed great courage, and when Alkibiades was wounded and fell to the ground, Sokrates stood in front of him, defending him, and so saved his life and arms from the enemy. Properly, therefore, the prize for valour belonged to Sokrates; but when the generals appeared anxious to bestow it upon Alkibiades because of his great reputation, Sokrates, who wished to encourage his love for glory, was the first to give his testimony in his favour, and to call upon them to crown him as victor and to give him the suit of armour which was the prize. And also at the battle of Delium, when the Athenians were routed, Alkibiades, who was on horseback, when he saw Sokrates retreating on foot with a few others, would not ride on, but stayed by him and defended him, though the enemy were pressing them and cutting off many of them. These things, however, happened afterwards.
VIII. He once struck Hipponikus, the father of Kallias, a man of great wealth and noble birth, a blow with his fist, not being moved to it by anger, or any dispute, but having agreed previously with his friends to do so for a joke. When every one in the city cried out at his indecent and arrogant conduct, Alkibiades next morning at daybreak came to the house of Hipponikus, knocked, and came to him. Here he threw off his cloak, and offered him his body, bidding him flog him and punish him for what he had done. Hipponikus, however, pardoned him, and they became friends, so much so that Hipponikus chose him for the husband of his daughter Hipparete. Some writers say that not Hipponikus but Kallias his son gave Hipparete to Alkibiades to wife, with a dowry of ten talents, and that when her first child was born Alkibiades demanded and received ten more talents, as if he had made a previous agreement to that effect. Upon this Kallias, fearing that Alkibiades might plot against his life, gave public notice in the assembly that if he died childless, he would leave his house and all his property to the State.
Hipparete was a quiet and loving wife, but was so constantly insulted by her husband's amours with foreign and Athenian courtesans, that she at length left his house and went to her brother's. Alkibiades took no heed of this, but continued in his debauchery.
It was necessary for her to deliver her petition for separation to the magistrate with her own hand, and when she came to do so, Alkibiades laid hold of her, and took her home with him through the market-place, no one daring to oppose him and take her from him. She lived with him until her death, which took place not long after Alkibiades sailed for Ephesus. In this instance his violence does not seem to have been altogether lawless or without excuse, for the object of the law in making a wife appear in person in public seems to be that she may have an opportunity of meeting her husband and making up her quarrel with him.
IX. He had a dog of remarkable size and beauty, for which he had paid seventy minae. It had a very fine tail, which he cut off. When his friends blamed him, and said that every one was sorry for the dog and angry with him for what he had done, he laughed and said, "Then I have succeeded; for I wish the Athenians to gossip about this, for fear they should say something worse about me."
X. It is said that his first public act was on the occasion of a voluntary subscription for the State. He did not intend doing anything of the sort, but as he was passing he heard a great noise, and finding that voluntary subscriptions were being made, went and subscribed. The people cheered and applauded him, at which he was so much delighted as to forget a quail which he had in his cloak. When it escaped and ran about bewildered, the Athenians applauded all the more, and many rose and chased it. It was caught by the pilot Antiochus, who restored it, and became one of Alkibiades's greatest friends. Starting with great advantages from his noble birth, his wealth, his recognised bravery in battle, and his many friends and relatives, he relied upon nothing so much as on his eloquence for making himself popular and influential. His rhetorical powers are borne witness to by the comic dramatists; and the greatest of orators, Demosthenes, in his speech against Meidias, speaks of Alkibiades as being most eloquent, besides his other charms. If we are to believe Theophrastus, who has inquired more diligently into these various tales than any one else, Alkibiades excelled all men of his time in readiness of invention and resource. However, as he wished not merely to speak to the purpose, but also to clothe his thoughts in the most appropriate language, he did not always succeed in combining the two, and often hesitated and stopped, seeking for the right word, and not continuing his speech until it occurred to him.
XI. He was renowned for his stud, and for the number of his racing chariots. No other person, king or commoner, ever entered seven four-horse chariots for the race at Olympia except Alkibiades. His winning the first, second, and fourth prizes with these, as Thucydides tells us, though Euripides says that he won the third also, excels in glory any other successes by other persons in these races. The poem of Euripides runs as follows:
"Son of Kleinias, thee I sing,
In truth it is a noble thing,
First, second, and third place
To win in chariot race,
To hear the herald thrice thy name proclaim,
And thrice to bear away the olive crown of fame."
XII. His success was rendered all the more conspicuous by the manner in which the various States vied with one another in showing him honour. Ephesus pitched a magnificent tent for his accommodation, Chios furnished his horses with provender, and himself with animals for sacrifice; and Lesbos supplied him with wine, and every thing else necessary for giving great entertainments. Yet even at this brilliant period of his life he incurred discredit, either by his own fault or through the spite of his enemies. The story is that an Athenian named Diomedes, a respectable man and a friend of Alkibiades, was desirous of winning a victory at Olympia. Hearing that there was a chariot and four which belonged to the city of Argos, and knowing that Alkibiades had great influence and many friends in that place, he persuaded him to buy the chariot for him. Alkibiades, however, bought the chariot and entered it for the race as his own, leaving Diomedes to call upon heaven and earth to witness his ill-treatment. It appears that a trial took place about this matter, and Isokrates wrote a speech about this chariot in defence of the son of Alkibiades, in which Tisias, not Diomedes, is mentioned as the prosecutor.
XIII. When, as a mere boy, Alkibiades plunged into political life, he at once surpassed most of the statesmen of the age. His chief rivals were Phaeax, the son of Erasistratus, and Nikias, the son of Nikeratus, the latter a man advanced in life, and bearing the reputation of being an excellent general, while the former, like Alkibiades himself, was a young man of good family, just rising into notice, but inferior to him in many respects, particularly in oratory. Though affable and persuasive in private circles, he could not speak equally well in public, for he was, as Eupolis says,
"At conversation best of men, at public speaking worst."
In a certain attack on Alkibiades and Phaeax, we find, among other charges, Alkibiades accused of using the gold and silver plate of the city of Athens as his own for his daily use.
There was at Athens one Hyperbolus, of the township of Peirithois, whom Thucydides mentions as a worthless man, and one who was constantly ridiculed by the comic dramatists. From his utter disregard of what was said of him, and his carelessness for his honour, which, though it was mere shameless impudence and apathy, was thought by some to show firmness and true courage, he was pleasing to no party, but frequently made use of by the people when they wished to have a scurrilous attack made upon those in power. At this time he was about to resort to the proceeding called ostracism, by which from time to time the Athenians force into exile those citizens who are remarkable for influence and power, rather because they envy them than because they fear them.
But as it was clear that one of the three, Nikias, Phaeax, and Alkibiades, would be ostracised, Alkibiades combined their several parties, arranged matters with Nikias, and turned the ostracism against Hyperbolus himself. Some say that it was not Nikias but Phaeax with whom Alkibiades joined interest, and that with the assistance of his political party he managed to expel Hyperbolus, who never expected any such treatment; for before that time this punishment had never been extended to low persons of no reputation, as Plato, the comic dramatist, says in the lines where he mentions Hyperbolus:
"Full worthy to be punished though he be,
Yet ostracism's not for such as he."
We have elsewhere given a fuller account of this affair.
XIV. Alkibiades was dissatisfied at the respect shown for Nikias, both by enemies of the State and by the citizens of Athens. Alkibiades was the proxenus of the Lacedaemonians at Athens, and paid especial court to those Spartans who had been captured at Pylos; yet, when the Lacedaemonians discovered that it was chiefly by Nikias's means that they obtained peace, and recovered their prisoners, they were lavish of their attentions to him. The common phrase among the Greeks of that time was that Perikles had begun the war, and Nikias had finished it; and the peace was usually called the peace of Nikias. Alkibiades, irritated beyond measure at his rival's success, began to meditate how he could destroy the existing treaty. He perceived that the Argives, hating and fearing Sparta, wished to break off from it, and he encouraged them by secret assurances of an Athenian alliance, and also both by his agents and in person he urged the leading men not to give way to the Lacedaemonians, or yield any points to them, but to turn to Athens, and await their co-operation, for the Athenians, he said, already began to regret that they had made peace at all, and would soon break it.
When the Lacedaemonians made an alliance with the Boeotians, and delivered up Panaktus to the Athenians in a dismantled condition, not with its walls standing, as they ought to have done, Alkibiades exasperated the rage of the Athenians by his speeches, and raised a clamour against Nikias by the plausible accusation that he, when general, had hung back from capturing the enemy's forces which were cut off in the island of Sphakteria, and that when they had been captured by another, he had released them and restored them to their homes, in order to gain the favour of the Lacedaemonians. And for all that, although he was such a friend of the Lacedaemonians, he had not dissuaded them from forming alliances with Corinth and with the Boeotians, while he prevented the Athenians from becoming allies of any Greek State which might wish it, if the step did not happen to please the Lacedaemonians.
Upon this, while Nikias was smarting under these accusations, ambassadors arrived from Lacedaemon with instructions to propose reasonable terms, and announcing that they came with full powers to conclude the negotiations for peace on an equitable basis. The Senate received them willingly, and next day they were to appear before the people. Fearing that they would succeed, Alkibiades contrived to obtain a private interview with them, in which he addressed them as follows: "What is this that you do, men of Sparta! Do you not know that the Senate always treats those who appear before it in a kindly and reasonable manner, but the people are always full of pride and ambition? If you say that you have plenary powers, they will bewilder you by their violence and force great concessions from you. So come, cease this folly, if you wish to negotiate with the Athenians in a moderate way, and not to be forced into conceding points against your will. Discuss all the points at issue, but do not say that you have full power to decide them. I will do my best to assist you, as a friend to Lacedaemon." After these words he confirmed his promise by an oath, and thus completely detached them from Nikias and left them trusting him only, and admiring him as a man of remarkable sense and intelligence. On the following day the people assembled, and the ambassadors appeared before them. When they were politely asked by Alkibiades in what capacity they came, they said that they were not plenipotentiaries. Immediately upon this Alkibiades assailed them with furious invective, as though they, not he, were in the wrong, calling them faithless equivocators, who had not come either to speak or to do anything honest. The Senate was vexed at its treatment, and the people were excessively enraged, while Nikias, who knew nothing of the trick, was astounded and covered with confusion at the conduct of the ambassadors.
XV. The Lacedaemonian alliance being put an end to by this means, Alkibiades, who was now elected one of the generals of Athens, at once formed an alliance with Argos, Elis and Mantinea. No one approved of the way in which he effected this, but still the result was very important, as it agitated all the States in Peloponnesus, and set them against one another, brought so many men into line to fight the Lacedaemonians at the battle of Mantinea, and removed the scene of conflict so far from Athens, that the Lacedaemonians could gain no great advantage by victory, whereas if they failed, they would have to struggle for their very existence. After this battle the select regiment at Argos, called the "Thousand," endeavoured to overthrow the government and establish themselves as masters of the city; and with the assistance of the Lacedaemonians they destroyed the constitution. But the people took up arms again, and defeated the usurpers; and Alkibiades coming to their aid, made the victory of the popular side more complete. He persuaded the citizens to build long walls down to the sea, and to trust entirely to the Athenian naval forces for support. He even sent them carpenters and stonemasons from Athens, and showed great zeal on their behalf, which tended to increase his personal interest and power no less than that of his country. He advised the people of Patrae also to join their city to the sea by long walls; and when some one said to the people of Patrae, that the Athenians would swallow them up, he answered, "Perhaps they may, but it will be by degrees and beginning with the feet, whereas the Lacedaemonians will seize them by the head and do it at once."
However, Alkibiades ever pressed the Athenians to establish their empire by land as well as by sea, reminding them of the oath which the young men take in the Temple of Agraulos, and which it was their duty to confirm by their deeds. This oath is, that they will regard wheat, barley, vines and olives as the boundaries of Attica, by which it is hinted that they ought to make all cultivated and fruitful lands their own.
XVI. In the midst of all this display of political ability, eloquence, and statesmanlike prudence, he lived a life of great luxury, debauchery, and profuse expenditure, swaggering through the market-place with his long effeminate mantle trailing on the ground. He had the deck of his trireme cut away, that he might sleep more comfortably, having his bed slung on girths instead of resting on the planks; and he carried a shield not emblazoned with the ancestral bearings of his family, but with a Cupid wielding a thunderbolt. The leading men of Athens viewed his conduct with disgust and apprehension, fearing his scornful and overbearing manner, as being nearly allied to the demeanour of a despot, while Aristophanes has expressed the feeling of the people towards him in the line,
"They love, they hate, they cannot live without him."
And again he alludes to him in a bitterer spirit in the verse:
"A lion's cub 'tis best you should not rear,
For if you do, your master he'll appear."
His voluntary contributions of money to the State, his public exhibitions and services, and displays of munificence, which could not be equalled in splendour, his noble birth, his persuasive speech, his strength, beauty, and bravery, and all his other shining qualities, combined to make the Athenians endure him, and always give his errors the mildest names, calling them youthful escapades and honourable emulation. For example, he locked up Agatharchus the painter, and when he had painted his house let him go with a present. He boxed Taurea's ears because he was exhibiting shows in rivalry with him, and contending with him for the prize. And he even took one of the captive Melian women for his mistress, and brought up a child which he had by her. This was thought to show his good nature; but this term cannot be applied to the slaughter of all the males above puberty in the island of Melos, which was done in accordance with a decree promoted by Alkibiades.
When Aristophon painted the courtesan Nemea embracing Alkibiades, all men eagerly crowded to see it; but older men were vexed at these things too, thinking them only fit for despots, and considering them to be open violations of the laws. Indeed Archestratus spoke very much to the purpose when he said that Greece could not bear more than one Alkibiades. Once, when Alkibiades had made a successful speech in the public assembly, and was being conducted home in triumph by his friends, Timon the misanthrope met him, and did not get out of his way, as he did to every one else, but came up to him and took him by the hand, saying, "Go on, my boy, increase in glory; for your increase will bring ruin to all this crowd." Some laughed, some cursed him, but others took his words to heart. So various were the opinions formed about Alkibiades, because of the inconsistency of his character.
XVII. Even during the lifetime of Perikles, the Athenians had a hankering after Sicily, and after his death they endeavoured to obtain possession of it, by sending troops to the assistance of those cities which were oppressed by the Syracusans, and thus paving the way for a greater armament. It was, however, Alkibiades who fanned their desires into a flame, and who persuaded them to abandon these half-hearted attempts, to proceed with a great force to the island, and to endeavour to subdue it. He raised great expectations among the people, but his own aspirations were far more entensive; for he regarded the conquest of Sicily not merely as an end, but as a stepping-stone to greater things. While Nikias was dissuading the people from the attempt, on the ground that it would be a difficult matter to capture the city of Syracuse, Alkibiades was dreaming of Carthage and Libya; and after these were gained, he meditated the conquest of Italy and of Peloponnesus, regarding Sicily as little more than a convenient magazine and place of arms. He greatly excited the younger Athenians by his vast designs, and they listened eagerly to the marvellous stories of the old who had served in that country; so that many of them would spend their time sitting in the gymnasia and public seats, drawing sketches of the shape of the island of Sicily, and of the position of Libya and Carthage. It is said that Sokrates the philosopher, and Meton the astronomer, did not expect that the state would gain any advantage from this expedition; the former probably receiving a presentiment of disaster, as was his wont, from his familiar spirit. Meton either made calculations which led him to fear what was about to happen, or else gathered it from the art of prophecy. He feigned madness, and seizing a torch, attempted to set his house on fire. Some say that Meton made no pretence of madness, but that he burned down his house one night, and next morning came and besought the Athenians, after such a misfortune, to exempt his son from serving with the expedition. Thus he deceived his fellow citizens and carried his point.
XVIII. Nikias, much against his will, was chosen to lead the expedition. His unwillingness was in a great measure due to the fact that Alkibiades was to act as his colleague; for the Athenians thought that the war would be conducted better if the rashness of Alkibiades was tempered by the prudence of Nikias, because the third general, Lamachus, although advanced in years, yet had the reputation of being no less daring and reckless a soldier than Alkibiades himself.
When the public assembly were debating about the number of the troops and the preparation for the armament, Nikias made another attempt to oppose the whole measure and to put a stop to the war. Alkibiades, however, took the other side and carried all before him. The orator Demostratus moved, that the generals should be empowered to demand whatever stores and war material they pleased, and have absolute power to carry on the war at their own discretion. This was agreed to by the people, and all was ready for setting sail, when unlucky omens occurred. The festival of Adonis took place at that very time, and during it the women carry about in many parts of the city figures dressed like corpses going to be buried, and imitate the ceremony of a funeral by tearing their hair and singing dirges. And besides this, the mutilation of the Hermae in one night, when all of them had their faces disfigured, disturbed many even of those who, as a rule, despised such things. A story was put about that the Corinthians, of whom the Syracusans were a colony, had done it, hoping that such an evil omen might make the Athenians either postpone or give up their expedition. But the people paid no heed to this insinuation, and still less to those who argued that there was no omen in the matter at all, but that it was the work of extravagant young men after their wine. They regarded the incident with feelings of rage and fear, imagining that it proved the existence of an organised plot aimed at greater matters. Both the Senate and the General Assembly met several times during the next few days, and inquired sharply into every thing that could throw any light upon it.
XIX. During this time, Androkles, a popular speaker, brought forward several slaves and resident aliens, who charged Alkibiades and his friends with mutilating certain other statues, and with parodying the ceremonies of initiation to the sacred mysteries when in their cups. They said that the part of the Herald was taken by Theodorus, that of the Torch-bearer by Polytion, and that of Hierophant by Alkibiades himself, while the rest of the company were present and were initiated, and were addressed by them as Mysts, which means persons who have been initiated into the mysteries. These are the charges which we find specified in the indictment drawn against Alkibiades by Thessalus the son of Kimon, in which he accuses Alkibiades of sacrilege against the two goddesses, Demeter (Ceres) and Proserpine. The people now became very much enraged with Alkibiades, and were still more exasperated by his personal enemy Androkles. Alkibiades was at first alarmed, but soon perceived that all the sailors of the fleet about to sail to Sicily were on his side, as were also the soldiers. A body of a thousand Argives and Mantineans also were heard to say that they were going to cross the seas and fight in a distant land all for the sake of Alkibiades, and that if he did not meet with fair play, they would at once desert. Encouraged by this, he appeared at the appointed time to defend himself, which disconcerted and disheartened his enemies, who feared that the people might deal leniently with him because they required his services. Matters being in this posture, they prevailed upon some of the orators who were not known to be enemies to Alkibiades, but who hated him nevertheless, to move before the people that it was an absurd proceeding for the irresponsible general of so great a force of Athenians and their allies to waste his time while the court was drawing lots for the jury, and filling water-clocks with water. "Let him sail, and may good luck attend him, and when the war is finished let him return and speak in his defence, for the laws will be the same then as now." Alkibiades saw clearly their malicious object in postponing his trial, and said publicly that it was very hard to leave such accusations and slanders behind him, and to be sent out in command of a great expedition with such a terrible fate hanging over him. If he could not prove his innocence, he ought to be put to death; and if he could clear himself of these charges, it was only just that he should be enabled to attack the enemy with a light heart, without having to fear false accusers at home.
XX. He did not, however, succeed in this, but was ordered to sail, and put to sea with his colleagues, having under their orders a fleet of nearly one hundred and forty triremes, five thousand one hundred heavy-armed troops, archers, slingers, and light-armed troops to the number of about thirteen hundred, and all other stores and provisions in proportion. After reaching Italy and capturing Rhegium, he gave his opinion as to the manner in which the war ought to be conducted; but as Nikias opposed him and was joined by Lamachus, he sailed over to Sicily and induced the city of Catana to join them, but did nothing further, because he was sent for at once to return and stand his trial at Athens. At first, as we have stated, Alkibiades was only vaguely suspected, and only the testimony of slaves and resident aliens could be obtained against him; but afterwards, during his absence, his enemies had worked hard to get up a case against him, and connected his sacrilegious conduct about the mysteries with the mutilation of the Hermae, which they argued were all the work of one body of conspirators, bent upon revolution and the destruction of the existing form of government. All those who were in any degree implicated were cast into prison without a trial, and they were much vexed they had not immediately brought Alkibiades to trial and obtained judgment against him on such grave charges as these. Any of his friends, relations, or acquaintances who fell into their hands received very harsh treatment.
Thucydides has omitted the names of those who impeached him, but others give their names as Diokleides and Teukrus, among whom is Phrynichus the comic dramatist, who writes as follows:—
"And, dearest Hermes, do not fall
And break your head; and, worst of all,
To some new Diokleides show the way,
By slander base to swear men's lives away."
And again Hermes says:
"I will not fall. I will not for my pains
Let Teukrus fatten on informers' gains."
Though really the informers brought no decided evidence forward for any important charge, one of them, when asked how he recognised the faces of the statue-breakers, answered that he saw them by the light of the moon: a signal falsehood, because it was done on the night of the new moon. This answer made the more thoughtful citizens unwilling to press the charge, but had no effect whatever on the people, who were as eager as ever, and continued to cast into prison any man who might be informed against.
XXI. One of those who was imprisoned was the orator Andokides, whom Hellanikus, the historian, reckons as a descendant of Odysseus (Ulysses). Andokides was thought to be a man of aristocratic and antipopular sentiments, and what made him particularly suspected of having taken part in the statue-breaking, was that the large statue of Hermes, near his house, the gift of the tribe Aegeis, was one of the very few which remained unbroken. Wherefore even at the present day it is called the Hermes of Andokides, and everyone speaks of it by that name in spite of the inscription on it.
It happened that Andokides, while in custody, formed an acquaintance and friendship for one of the other persons who were imprisoned on the same charge, a man of the name of Timaeus, of inferior birth and position to himself, but much cleverer and more courageous. This man persuaded Andokides to inform against himself and some few others, because, by a decree of the people, any one who acted as informer was to be given a free pardon, whereas no one could count upon the results of a trial, which the more prominent citizens had especial reasons for dreading. He pointed out that it was better to save his life by a lie than to be put to death with infamy as if he was really guilty; moreover, looking at the whole affair, it was best to sacrifice a few persons of doubtful character to the fury of the people, and thereby to save many good men from becoming its victims. Andokides was convinced by these arguments of Timaeus, and by informing against himself and some others obtained a pardon for himself, while all those whose names he mentioned were put to death, except such as had fled the country.
To procure greater credit to his information, Andokides even accused his own servants. However, the people did not abate their rage, but, ceasing to take any further interest in the statue-breakers, they turned savagely against Alkibiades. Finally, they despatched the Salaminian trireme after him, ingeniously ordering its officers not to use any personal violence, but to speak him fair and bid him return to stand his trial and set himself right with the people.
They were afraid of an outbreak, or even of a mutiny in the army in Sicily, which Alkibiades could have raised with the greatest ease, if he had wished to do so. Indeed, the soldiers became disheartened when he left them, and looked forward to long delays and periods of dull inaction under Nikias's command, now that he who used to spur matters on was gone. Lamachus, indeed, was a brave and skilful soldier, but his poverty prevented his opinions from carrying their due weight.
XXII. Alkibiades the moment he sailed away lost Messina for the Athenians. There was a party in that city ready to deliver it up, which he knew well, and by disclosing their intentions to the Syracusan party he effectually ruined the plot. At Thurii he landed, and concealed himself so that he could not be found. When one of his friends said to him, "Alkibiades, do you not trust your native country?" He answered, "Yes, in other matters; but when my life is at stake I would not trust my own mother, for fear that she might mistake a black bean for a white one." Afterwards hearing that the Athenians had condemned him to death, he said, "I will show them that I am still alive."
The indictment against him is framed thus:
"Thessalus, the son of Kimon, of the township of Lakia, accuses Alkibiades, the son of Kleinias, of the township of the Skambonidae, of sacrilege against the two goddesses, Demeter and Kora, by parodying the sacred mysteries and giving a representation of them in his own house, wearing himself such a robe as the Hierophant does when he shows the holy things, and calling himself the Hierophant, Poulytion, the Torch-bearer, Theodorus, of the township of Phegaea, the Herald, and addressing the rest of the company as Mysts and Epopts (Initiates and Novices), contrary to the rules and ceremonies established by the Eumolpidae, and Kerykes, and the priests of Eleusis." As he did not appear, they condemned him, forfeited his goods, and even caused all the priests and priestesses to curse him publicly. It is said that Theano, the daughter of Menon, the priestess of the temple of Agraulos, was the only one who refused to carry out this decree, alleging that it was to pray and not to curse that she had become a priestess.
XXIII. While these terrible decrees and sentences were being passed against Alkibiades, he was living at Argos; for as soon as he left Thurii, he fled to the Peloponnesus, where, terrified at the violence of his enemies, he determined to abandon his country, and sent to Sparta demanding a safe asylum, on the strength of a promise that he would do the Spartans more good than he had in time past done them harm. The Spartans agreed to his request, and invited him to come. On his arrival, he at once effected one important matter, by stirring up the dilatory Spartans to send Gylippus at once to Syracuse with reinforcements for that city, to destroy the Athenian army in Sicily. Next, he brought them to declare war against the Athenians themselves; while his third and most terrible blow to Athens was his causing the Lacedaemonians to seize and fortify Dekeleia, which did more to ruin Athens than any other measure throughout the war. With his great public reputation, Alkibiades was no less popular in private life, and he deluded the people by pretending to adopt the Laconian habits. When they saw him closely shaved, bathing in cold water, eating dry bread and black broth, they wondered, and began to doubt whether this man ever had kept a professed cook, used perfumes, or endured to wear a Milesian mantle. For Alkibiades, among his other extraordinary qualities, had this especial art of captivating men by assimilating his own manners and habits to theirs, being able to change, more quickly than the chameleon, from one mode of life to another. The chameleon, indeed, cannot turn itself white; but Alkibiades never found anything, good or bad, which he could not imitate to the life. Thus at Sparta he was fond of exercise, frugal and severe; in Ionia, luxurious, frivolous, and lazy; in Thrace, he drank deep; in Thessaly he proved himself a good horseman; while, when he was consorting with the satrap Tissaphernes, he outdid even the Persian splendour and pomp. It was not his real character that he so often and so easily changed, but as he knew that if he appeared in his true colours, he would be universally disliked, he concealed his real self under an apparent adoption of the ways and fashions of whatever place he was in. In Lacedaemon you would say, looking at his appearance,
"'Tis not Achilles' son, 'tis he himself."
He was just such a man as Lykurgus himself would have trained; but if you examined his habits and actions more closely, you would say:
"'Tis the same woman still."
For while King Agis was away in the wars, Alkibiades seduced his wife Timaea, so that she became pregnant by him, and did not even deny the fact. When her child was born it was called Leotychides in public, but in her own house she whispered to her friends and attendants that his name was Alkibiades, so greatly was she enamoured of him. He himself used to say in jest that he had not acted thus out of wanton passion, but in order that his race might one day rule in Lacedaemon. King Agis heard of all this from many informants, but was most convinced of its truth by a computation of the time before the birth of the child. Terrified at an earthquake, he had once quitted his wife's chamber, and for ten months afterwards had never conversed with her. As it was at the end of this period that Leotychides was born, he declared that the child was not his; and for this reason he never succeeded to the throne.
XXIV. After the Athenian disaster in Sicily, ambassadors came to Sparta from Chios, Lesbos, and Kyzikus. The claims of the Lesbians were favoured by the Boeotians, and those of the people of Kyzikus by Pharnabazus; but, at the recommendation of Alkibiades, the Lacedaemonians decided to give the preference to the Chians. He himself sailed to that island, caused nearly the whole of the cities of Ionia to revolt from Athens, and injured the Athenian cause much by constantly assisting the Lacedaemonian generals. King Agis, however, was already his personal enemy, because of Alkibiades's intrigue with his wife, and now was enraged at his successes; for it was said that scarcely anything was done without Alkibiades. The other leading men in Sparta also hated Alkibiades, because he had thrown them into the shade; and they had sufficient influence with the home government to obtain an order for his execution, to be sent to the generals in Ionia.
Alkibiades received warning of this in good time. Alarmed at the news, he still continued to co-operate with the Lacedaemonians, but utterly refused to trust his person among them. To ensure his safety, he betook himself to Tissaphernes, the satrap or viceroy for the king of Persia in that province, and at once became the most important personage amongst his followers. The barbarian being himself a lover of deceit and of crooked ways, admired his cleverness and versatility; while no man's nature could resist the fascinations and charms of the society of Alkibiades, which Tissaphernes now enjoyed daily. Although he hated the Greeks as much as any Persian, yet he was so overpowered by the flatteries of Alkibiades, that he in his turn repaid him with compliments even more excessive. He decreed that the pleasantest of his parks, a place charmingly wooded and watered, with delightful walks and summer-houses, should be called "the Alkibiades;" and all men from that time forth spoke of it by that name.
XXV. Now that Alkibiades had determined that the Spartans were not to be trusted, and that he was in fear of Agis, their king, he began to speak evil of them to Tissaphernes, withholding him from assisting them thoroughly, and enabling them to conquer the Athenians, but advising him rather to starve the Lacedaemonians forces by insufficient supplies, so as to play one side off against the other, and thus encourage them to wear each other out, in order that in the end both might be so weakened as to fall an easy prey to the Persians.
Tissaphernes at once adopted this policy, and made no secret of his regard and admiration for Alkibiades, who was now looked up to by the Greeks on both sides, while the Athenians repented of their decrees against him. He also began to fear that if their city were to be utterly destroyed he would necessarily fall into the hands of his enemies, the Lacedaemonians.
The most important post in the Athenian empire at this time was the island of Samos. Here lay the greater part of their fleet, and it was from this headquarters that they sent out expeditions to recover the revolted cities of Ionia, and guarded those which they still retained, as, in spite of their great losses, they still possessed a fleet capable of holding its own against the Lacedaemonians. They were in great fear of Tissaphernes and the Phoenician fleet of a hundred and fifty sail of triremes, which was said to be on the point of arriving, because if it really came all would be over with Athens. Alkibiades, knowing this, sent a secret message to the Athenian leaders at Samos, holding out hopes of bringing Tissaphernes over to the Athenian side. He would not, he said, do this to please the populace of Athens, because he could not trust them, but he would effect it if the nobility would, like brave gentlemen, put an end to the insolent behaviour of the lower orders, and would themselves undertake to save the city and empire of Athens.
All were eager to adopt the proposal of Alkibiades, except Phrynichus of the demos or township of Deirades, who suspected the real truth, that Alkibiades cared nothing about the form of government which might be established at Athens, but was seeking for some excuse for being restored to his native country, and thought, by his harsh language about the people, to ingratiate himself with the nobles. He was, however, overruled; and, being now clearly marked as the personal enemy of Alkibiades, sent a secret message to Astyochus, the admiral of the Lacedaemonian fleet, bidding him beware of Alkibiades, who was playing a double game. However, he met his match in perfidy. Astyochus, desirous of gaining the favour of Tissaphernes, and seeing that Alkibiades had great influence with him, betrayed Phrynichus's letter to them. Alkibiades upon this at once sent persons to Samos to charge Phrynichus with this act of treason, and he, seeing that all men were shocked at what he had done, and were indignant with him, and being at his wit's end, endeavoured to heal one mischief by another. He sent a second letter to Astyochus, reproaching him for his betrayal of confidence, and promising that he would enable him to capture the fleet and camp of the Athenians. However, the treachery of Phrynichus did no harm to the Athenians, because of the counter treachery of Astyochus, who communicated this letter also to Alkibiades. Now Phrynichus, expecting a second charge of treason from Alkibiades, was beforehand with him, in announcing to the Athenians that the enemy were about to attack them, and advising them to keep near their ships, and to fortify their camp. This they proceeded to do, when there came a second letter from Alkibiades, warning them against Phrynichus, who meditated betraying the harbour to the enemy. This letter was not believed at the time, for men imagined that Alkibiades, who knew perfectly well all the movements and intentions of the enemy, was making use of that knowledge to destroy his personal enemy Phrynichus, by exciting an undeserved suspicion against him. Yet, when afterwards Hermon, one of the Athenian horse-patrol, stabbed Phrynichus with his dagger in the market-place, the Athenians, after trying the case, decided that the deceased was guilty of treason, and crowned Hermon and his comrades with garlands.
XXVI. The friends of Alkibiades being in a majority at Samos, now despatched Peisander to Athens to attempt the subversion of the republic, and to encourage the nobles to seize the government, and put an end to the democratic constitution. If this was done, they conceived that Alkibiades would make Tissaphernes their friend and ally, and this was the pretext and excuse put forward by those who established the oligarchy. When, however, the so-called Five Thousand, who really were the Four Hundred, were at the head of affairs, they paid but little attention to Alkibiades, and were very remiss in carrying on the war, partly because they distrusted the citizens, who were not yet accustomed to the new constitution, and partly because they thought that the Lacedaemonians, who were always favourable to oligarchical governments, would deal more tenderly with them on that account. The Athenian populace remained quiet, though sorely against its will, because of the terror inspired by the oligarchs, for no small number of citizens who had opposed the Four Hundred had been put to death; but the men of Samos, as soon as they heard the news, were indignant, and wished at once to sail to Peiraeus. They sent at once for Alkibiades, elected him their general, and bade him lead them on to crush this new despotism. Alkibiades on this occasion acted like a really great commander, and not at all as one would expect of a man who had suddenly been raised to power by popular favour.
He refused to curry favour with the soldiery by carrying out their wishes, regardless of their having found him a homeless exile, and having made him the commander of so many ships and so many men; but he resisted their impulse, and by preventing their committing so great an error, without doubt saved the Athenian empire. For if the fleet had left Samos, the enemy could without a battle have made themselves masters of the whole of Ionia, the Hellespont, and the islands in the Aegean while Athenians would have fought with Athenians in their own city. All this was prevented by Alkibiades alone, who not only persuaded the populace, and pointed out the folly of such proceedings in public speeches, but even entreated and commanded each individual man to remain at Samos. He was assisted in this by Thrasybulus, of the township of Steiria, who was present, and spoke in his loud voice, which was said to be the loudest of any Athenian of his time. This was a noble achievement of Alkibiades, and so, too, was his undertaking that the Phoenician fleet, which the Lacedaemonians expected would be sent by the Persian king to help them, should either be won over to the Athenian side, or at any rate prevented from joining the Lacedaemonians. In order to effect this, he sailed away in great haste, and, although the Phoenician fleet was at Aspendus, yet Tissaphernes brought it no further, and deceived the Lacedaemonians. Both parties gave Alkibiades the credit of having detained it, and more especially the Lacedaemonians, who imagined that he was teaching the Persians to allow the Greeks to destroy one another, for it was perfectly clear that such a force, if added to either of the contending parties, must have made them complete masters of the sea.
XXVII. After this the government of the Four Hundred was dissolved, as the friends of Alkibiades eagerly took the side of the popular party. Although the Athenians now wished and even commanded Alkibiades to return to his native city, yet he felt that he ought not to come home emptyhanded, and owing his restoration to the good nature of the people, but rather to return after some glorious achievement. With this intention he at first left Samos with a few ships and cruised in the seas near Knidus and Kôs; then, hearing that Mindarus, the Spartan admiral, had gone to the Hellespont with all his fleet, and that the Athenian fleet had followed him, he hurried to the assistance of the Athenian commanders.
Sailing northwards with eighteen triremes he chanced to arrive towards evening, at the end of a sea-fight off Abydos, in which neither party had won any decided advantage. The appearance of his squadron caused very different feelings among the combatants, for the Athenians were alarmed, and the enemy encouraged. However, he soon hoisted an Athenian flag, and bore down upon that part of the Peloponnesian fleet which had been hitherto victorious. He put them to flight, compelled them to run their ships ashore, and then attacking them, disabled their ships, and broke them to pieces, forcing the crews to swim ashore, where Pharnabazus the satrap led a force to the water's edge to fight for the preservation of the vessels. In the end the Athenians took thirty ships, recovered those of their own which had been captured, and erected a trophy, as victors.
Alkibiades gained great glory by this splendid piece of good fortune, and at once went off with rich presents and a gorgeous military retinue, to display his fresh laurels to Tissaphernes. He met, however, with a very different reception to that which he expected, for Tissaphernes, whose mind had been poisoned against him by the Lacedaemonians, and who feared that the king might be displeased with his own dealings with Alkibiades, considered that he had arrived at a very opportune moment, and at once seized him and imprisoned him at Sardis; thinking that this arbitrary act would prove to the world that the other suspicions of an understanding between them were unfounded.
XXVIII. Thirty days afterwards, Alkibiades by some means obtained a horse, eluded his guards, and fled for refuge to Klazomenae. He gave out that he had been privately released by Tissaphernes himself, in order to disgrace that satrap, and at once sailed to the Athenian fleet in the Hellespont. Learning that Mindarus and Pharnabazus were both in the city of Kyzikus, he encouraged his soldiers by a speech, in which he told them that they would have to fight at sea, on land, and against the town walls too, for that if they were not completely victorious they could get no pay. He manned his ships and proceeded to Prokonessus, ordering all small vessels which they met to be seized and detained in the interior of the fleet, in order that the enemy might not learn his movements. It happened also that a heavy thunderstorm with rain and darkness assisted his design, as he not only was unseen by the enemy, but was never suspected of any intention of attack by the Athenians themselves, who had given up any idea of going to sea when he ordered them on board. Little by little the clouds cleared away, and disclosed the Peloponnesian fleet cruising off the harbour of Kyzikus. Alkibiades, fearing that if the enemy saw how numerous his own fleet was, they would take refuge on shore, ordered the other commanders to remain behind under easy sail, and himself with forty ships went on ahead to entice them to an engagement. The Peloponnesians, deceived by this manoeuvre, at once attacked these few ships, despising their small numbers. But the little squadron engaged them until the rest came up, when they fled ashore in terror. Alkibiades with twenty of the fastest sailing ships broke through the enemy's line, ran his ships ashore, landed their crews, and attacked the fugitives from the enemy's fleet with terrible slaughter. Mindarus and Pharnabazus now came to the rescue, but they were beaten back; Mindarus died fighting bravely, and Pharnabazus only saved himself by flight. By this battle the Athenians obtained possession of many dead bodies of their enemies, many stand of arms, the whole of the hostile fleet, and the town of Kyzikus, which they took by storm, putting its Peloponnesian garrison to the sword, as soon as Pharnabazus withdrew his troops. They now not merely obtained a firm hold on the Hellespont, but were able to drive the Lacedaemonians from the sea in all quarters. A despatch was captured, written in the Laconian fashion, informing the Ephors of the disaster. "Our ships are gone; Mindarus is slain; the men are starving; we know not what to do."
XXIX. The men who had served under Alkibiades were so elated by this victory that they disdained to mix with the rest of the army, alleging that the others had often been defeated, and that they were invincible. Indeed, not long before, Thrasyllus had received a defeat near Ephesus, upon which the Ephesians erected the brazen trophy to the disgrace of the Athenians; so that the soldiers of Alkibiades reproached those of Thrasyllus with this, glorifying themselves and their commander, and refusing to allow the others to make use of their places of exercise or their quarters in camp. However, when Pharnabazus with a large force of infantry and calvary attacked them while they were invading the territory of Abydos, Alkibiades led them out to fight him, defeated him, and, together with Thrasyllus, pursued him till nightfall. After this the soldiers fraternised with each other and returned to their camp rejoicing together. On the following day Alkibiades erected a trophy and ravaged the country of Pharnabazus, no one daring to oppose him. He even took priests and priestesses prisoners, but released them without ransom.
The city of Chalkedon had revolted from Athens, and received a Lacedaemonian harmost and garrison. Alkibiades was eager to attack them, but, hearing that they had collected all the property in their country and placed it in the hands of the Bithynians, a friendly tribe, he led his whole army to the Bithynian frontier and sent a herald to that people reproaching them for what they had done. In terror, the Bithynians gave up the property to him, and entered into an alliance with him.
XXX. He now completely invested Chalkedon, by building a wall reaching from sea to sea. Pharnabazus came down to raise the siege, and Hippokrates, the harmost of the city, led out his forces and attacked the Athenians at the same time. Alkibiades arranged his army so as to be able to fight them both at once, forced Pharnabazus to retreat with disgrace, killed Hippokrates, and put his force to flight with severe loss. He now took a cruise round the Hellespont, to raise contributions from the towns on the coast, during which he took Selymbria, where he, very unnecessarily, was exposed to great personal risk. The party who intended to betray the city had arranged to show a torch as a signal at midnight, but were compelled to do so before the appointed time, fearing one of the conspirators, who suddenly changed his mind. When then the torch was raised, the army was not ready for the assault, but Alkibiades, taking some thirty men with him, ran at full speed up to the walls, giving orders to the rest to follow. The city gate was opened for him, and, twenty peltasts having joined his thirty soldiers, he entered, when he perceived the men of Selymbria under arms marching down the street to meet him. To await their onset would have been ruin, while pride forbade a hitherto invincible general to retire. Ordering his trumpet to sound, he bade one of those present proclaim aloud that the Selymbrians ought not to appear in arms against the Athenians. This speech made some of the townspeople less eager to fight, as they imagined that their enemies were all within the walls, while it encouraged others who hoped to arrange matters peaceably. While they were standing opposite to one another and parleying, Alkibiades's army came up, and he, truly conjecturing that the Selymbrians were really disposed to be friendly, began to fear that his Thracian troops might sack the city; for many of these barbarians were serving in his army as volunteers, from a particular attachment they had to his person. He therefore sent them all out of the city, and did not permit the terrified people of Selymbria to suffer any violence, but, having exacted a contribution of money and placed a garrison in the town, he sailed away.
XXXI. Meanwhile the generals who were besieging Chalkedon made an agreement with Pharnabazus, on these conditions. They were to receive a sum of money; the people of Chalkedon were to become subjects of Athens as before; Pharnabazus was not to lay waste the province; and he was to provide an escort and a safe-conduct for an Athenian embassy to the Persian king. On the return of Alkibiades, Pharnabazus desired him to swear to observe these conditions, but Alkibiades refused to do so unless Pharnabazus swore first. After this capitulation he proceeded to Byzantium, which had revolted from Athens, and built a wall round that city. Anaxilaus and Lykurgus, with some others, now offered to betray the city if the lives and property of the inhabitants were spared. Upon this Alkibiades put about a report that his presence was urgently required on the Ionian coast, and sailed away by daylight with all his fleet. The same night he landed with all his soldiers, and marched up to the walls in silence, while the fleet, with a great clamour and disturbance, forced its way into the harbour. The suddenness of this assault, entirely unexpected as it was, terrified the people of Byzantium, and gave those of them who inclined to the Athenian side an opportunity of admitting Alkibiades quietly, while the attention of every one was directed to the ships in the harbour. The town did not, however, surrender altogether without fighting; for the Peloponnesians, Megarians, and Boeotians who were in it drove the Athenians back into their ships with loss, and when they heard that the land forces had entered the town they formed in line and engaged them. A severe battle took place, but Alkibiades on the right wing, and Theramenes on the left, were at length victorious, and took prisoners the survivors, some three hundred in number. After this battle no citizen of Byzantium was either put to death or banished, those being the terms on which the conspirators had delivered up the city, namely, that they should suffer no loss of life or property.
Anaxilaus was afterwards tried at Sparta for having betrayed the city, and justified what he had done, saying that he was not a Lacedaemonian, but a Byzantine, and that he saw Byzantium, not Sparta, in danger, as the city was surrounded by the enemy's siege works, no provisions being brought in to it, and what there was in it being consumed by the Peloponnesians and Boeotians, while the people of Byzantium with their wives and children were starving. He did not, he said, betray the city to the enemy, but relieved it from the miseries of war, imitating therein the noblest Lacedaemonians, whose only idea of what was noble and just was what would serve their own country. The Lacedaemonians, on hearing this speech, were ashamed to press the charge, and acquitted him.
XXXII. Now, at length, Alkibiades began to wish to see his native country again, and still more to be seen and admired by his countrymen after his splendid series of victories. He proceeded home with the Athenian fleet, which was magnificently adorned with shields and trophies, and had many prizes in tow, and the flags of many more which he had captured and destroyed—all of them together amounting to not less than two hundred. But we cannot believe the additions which Douris the Samian, who says that he is a descendant of Alkibiades, makes to this story, to the effect that Chrysogonus, the victor at the Pythian games, played on the flute to mark the time for the rowers, while Kallipides the tragedian, attired in his buskins, purple robe, and other theatrical properties, gave them orders, and that the admiral's ship came into harbour with purple sails, as if returning from a party of pleasure. Neither Theopompus, nor Ephorus, nor Xenophon mentions these circumstances, nor was it likely that he should present himself before the Athenians in such a swaggering fashion, when he was returning home from exile, after having suffered such a variety of misfortunes. The truth is, he sailed to Athens with considerable misgivings, and on his arrival would not leave his ship until from her deck he saw Euryptolemus his cousin, with many of his friends and relatives, assembled to welcome him.
When he landed, the people seemed to have no eyes for the other generals, but all rushed towards him, and escorted him on his way, cheering him, embracing him, and crowning him with flowers. Those who could not get near him gazed upon him from a distance, and the older men pointed him out to the younger ones. Yet the joy of the citizens was mingled with tears in the midst of their rejoicings, when they thought of their past disasters, for they reflected that they would not have failed in Sicily, or met with any of their other terrible disappointments, if they had not parted with Alkibiades when in the full tide of prosperity. He had found Athens barely able to hold her own at sea, by land mistress of little more than the ground on which the city stood, and torn by internal strife; from which miserable and forlorn condition he had restored her so completely, that she was again not only omnipotent at sea, but also victorious everywhere on land.
XXXIII. Before his return a decree had been passed authorising him to do so, at the instance of Kritias, the son of Kallaeschrus, who himself alludes to it in his poems, mentioning the service which he performed for Alkibiades in the following verse:
"I moved your restoration by decree,
And that you're home again you owe to me."
Immediately on the return of Alkibiades, the people assembled in the Pnyx, where he addressed them. He spoke with tears of his misfortunes, for which he partly reproached his countrymen, though he attributed them chiefly to his own unlucky fortune, and he greatly raised their hopes by speaking encouragingly about their probable successes in the future. He was honoured with golden crowns, and elected sole general with absolute power both by sea and land. A decree was also passed by which his property was restored to him, and the Eumolpidae and Kerykes were ordered to retract the curses which they had invoked upon him at the instance of the people. When all the rest obeyed, Theodorus the hierophant excused himself, saying, If he has done the State no wrong, I never cursed him.
XXXIV. While Alkibiades was in this glorious career of prosperity, some persons in spite of his success foreboded evil from the day which he had chosen for his return home; for on the day on which he sailed into the harbour the statue of Athene on the Acropolis is stripped of its garments and ornaments, which are cleaned, while it in the meanwhile is covered up to conceal it from human eyes. This ceremony takes place on the 25th of the month Thargelion, which day is considered by the Athenians to be the unluckiest of all. Moreover, the goddess did not appear to receive Alkibiades with a kindly welcome, but to turn away her face from him and drive him from her presence. Be this as it may, all went well and just as Alkibiades wished. A fleet of a hundred triremes was manned, and placed at his disposal, but he with creditable pride refused to set sail until after the celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries. Since the permanent occupation of Dekeleia and of the passes commanding the road to Eleusis by the enemy, the procession had been necessarily shorn of many of its distinctive features, as it had to be sent by sea. All the customary sacrifices, dances, and other rites which used to be practised on the road, when Iacchus is carried along in solemn procession, were of necessity omitted. It seemed therefore to Alkibiades that it would both honour the gods and increase his own reputation among men, if he restored the ancient form of this ceremony, escorting the procession with his troops and protecting it from the enemy; for he argued that Agis would lose prestige if he did not attack, but allowed the procession to pass unmolested, whereas if he did attack, Alkibiades would be able to fight in a holy cause, in defence of the most sacred institutions of his country, with all his countrymen present as witnesses of his own valour. When he determined to do this, after concerting measures with the Eumolpidae and Kerykes, he placed vedettes on the mountains and sent an advanced guard off at day-break, following with the priests, novices, and initiators marching in the midst of his army, in great good order and perfect silence. It was an august and solemn procession, and all who did not envy him said that he had performed the office of a high priest in addition of that of a general. The enemy made no attack, and he led his troops safely back to Athens, full of pride himself, and making his army proud to think itself invincible while under his command. He had so won the affections of the poor and the lower orders, that they were strangely desirous of living under his rule. Many even besought him to put down the malignity of his personal enemies, sweep away laws, decrees, and other pernicious nonsense, and carry on the government without fear of a factious opposition.
XXXV. What his own views about making himself despot of Athens may have been we cannot tell; but the leading citizens took alarm at this, and hurried him away as quickly as possible to sea, voting whatever measures he pleased, and allowing him to choose his own colleagues. He set sail with his hundred ships, reached Andros, and defeated the inhabitants of that island, and the Lacedaemonian garrison there. He did not, however, capture the city, and this afterwards became one of the points urged against him by his enemies. Indeed, if there ever was a man destroyed by his reputation, it was Alkibiades. Being supposed to be such a prodigy of daring and subtlety, his failures were regarded with suspicion, as if he could have succeeded had he been in earnest; for his countrymen would not believe that he could really fail in anything which he seriously attempted. They expected to hear of the capture of Chios, and of the whole Ionian coast, and were vexed at not at once receiving the news of a complete success. They did not take into account the want of money which Alkibiades felt, while warring against men who had the king of Persia for their paymaster, and which made frequent absences from his camp necessary to provide subsistence for his troops. It was one of these expeditions, indeed, which exposed him to the last and most important of the many charges brought against him. Lysander had been sent by the Lacedaemonians to take the command of their fleet. On his arrival, by means of the money paid by Cyrus, he raised the pay of his sailors from three obols a day to four. Alkibiades, who could with difficulty pay his men even three obols, went to Caria to levy contributions, leaving in command of the fleet one Antiochus, a good seaman, but a thoughtless and silly man. He had distinct orders from Alkibiades not to fight even if the enemy attacked him, but such was his insolent disregard of these instructions that he manned his own trireme and one other, sailed to Ephesus, and there passed along the line of the enemy's ships, as they lay on the beach, using the most scurrilous and insulting language and gestures. At first Lysander put to sea with a few ships to pursue him, but as the Athenians came out to assist him, the action became general. The entire fleets engaged and Lysander was victorious. He killed Antiochus, captured many ships and men, and set up a trophy. When Alkibiades on his return to Samos heard of this, he put to sea with all his ships, and offered battle to Lysander; but he was satisfied with his previous victory, and refused the offer.
XXXVI. Thrasybulus, the son of Thrason, a bitter personal enemy of Alkibiades, now set sail for Athens to accuse him, and to exasperate his enemies in the city against him. He made a speech to the people, representing that Alkibiades had ruined their affairs and lost their ships by insolently abusing his authority and entrusting the command, during his own absence, to men who owed their influence with him to deep drinking and cracking seamen's jokes, and that he securely traversed the provinces to raise money, indulging in drunken debauches with Ionian courtezans, while the enemy's fleet was riding close to his own. He was also blamed for the construction of certain forts in Thrace, near Bisanthe, which he destined as a place of refuge for himself, as if he could not or would not live in his native city.
The Athenians were so wrought upon by these charges against Alkibiades, that they elected other generals to supersede him, thus showing their anger and dislike for him. Alkibiades, on learning this, left the Athenian camp altogether, got together a force of foreign troops, and made war on the irregular Thracian tribes on his own account, thus obtaining much plunder and freeing the neighbouring Greek cities from the dread of the barbarians. Now when the generals Tydeus, Menander, and Adeimantus came with the entire Athenian fleet to Aegospotamoi, they used early every morning to go to Lampsakus to challenge the fleet of Lysander, which lay there, to a sea-fight. After this ceremony they would return and spend the whole day in careless indolence, as if despising their enemy. Alkibiades, who lived close by, did not disregard their danger, but even rode over on horseback and pointed out to the generals that they were very badly quartered in a place where there was no harbour and no city, having to obtain all their provisions from Sestos, and, when the ships were once hauled up on shore, allowing the men to leave them unguarded and straggle where they pleased, although they were in the presence of a fleet which was trained to act in silence and good order at the command of one man.
XXXVII. Though Alkibiades gave this advice, and urged the generals to remove to Sestos, they would not listen to him. Tydeus indeed rudely bade him begone, for they, not he, were now generals. Alkibiades, too, suspected that there was some treachery in the case, and retired, telling his personal friends, who escorted him out of the camp, that if he had not been so outrageously insulted by the generals, he could in a few days have compelled the Lacedaemonians either to fight a battle at sea against their will, or abandon their ships. To some this seemed mere boasting, while others thought that he could very possibly effect it by bringing many Thracian light-armed troops and cavalry to assault the camp on the land side. However, the result soon proved that he had rightly seen the fault of the Athenian position. Lysander suddenly and unexpectedly assailed it, and except eight triremes which escaped under Konon, took all the rest, nearly two hundred in number. Lysander also put three thousand prisoners to the sword. He shortly afterwards captured Athens, burned her ships, and pulled down her Long Walls. Alkibiades, terrified at seeing the Lacedaemonians omnipotent by sea and land, shifted his quarters to Bithynia, sending thither a great amount of treasure, and taking much with him, but leaving much more in his Thracian fortresses. In Bithynia, however, he suffered much loss at the hands of the natives, and determined to proceed to the court of Artaxerxes, thinking that the Persian king, if he would make trial of him, would find that he was not inferior to Themistokles in ability, while he sought him in a much more honourable way; for it was not to revenge himself on his fellow-citizens, as Themistokles did, but to assist his own country against its enemy that he meant to solicit the king's aid. Imagining that Pharnabazus would be able to grant him a safe passage to the Persian court, he went into Phrygia to meet him, and remained there for some time, paying his court to the satrap, and receiving from him marks of respect.
XXXVIII. The Athenians were terribly cast down at the loss of their empire; but when Lysander robbed them of their liberty as well, by establishing the government of the Thirty Tyrants, they began to entertain thoughts which never had occurred to them before, while it was yet possible that the State might be saved from ruin. They bewailed their past blunders and mistakes, and of these they considered their second fit of passion with Alkibiades to have been the greatest. They had cast him off for no fault of his own, but merely because they were angry with his follower for having lost a few ships disgracefully; they had much more disgraced themselves by losing the services of the ablest and bravest general whom they possessed. Even in their present abasement a vague hope prevailed among them that Athens could not be utterly lost while Alkibiades was alive; for he had not during his former exile been satisfied with a quiet life, and surely now, however prosperous his private circumstances might be, he would not endure to see the triumph of the Lacedaemonians, and the arrogant tyranny of the Thirty. Indeed this was proved to be no vain dream by the care which the Thirty took to watch all the motions of Alkibiades. At last, Kritias informed Lysander, that while Athens was governed by a democracy, the Lacedaemonian empire in Greece could never be safe; and if the Athenians were ever so much inclined to an oligarchical form of government, Alkibiades, if he lived, would not long suffer them to submit to it. However, Lysander was not prevailed upon by these arguments until a despatch came from Sparta bidding him make away with Alkibiades, either because the home government feared his ability and enterprise, or because they wished to please his enemy, King Agis.
XXXIX. Lysander now sent orders for his death to Pharnabazus, who entrusted their execution to his brother Magaeus and his uncle Susamithres. Alkibiades was at this time dwelling in a village in Phrygia, with Timandra the courtezan, and one night he dreamed that he was dressed in his mistress's clothes, and that she, holding his head in her arms, was painting his face and adorning him like a woman. Others say that he saw Magaeus in his dream cutting off his head, and his body all in flames. All, however, agree that the dream took place shortly before his death. His murderers did not dare to enter the house, but stood round it in a circle and set it on fire. Alkibiades, on discovering them, flung most of the bedding and clothes on to the fire, wrapped his cloak round his left arm, and with his dagger in his right dashed through the flames unhurt, not giving his clothes time to catch fire. None of the barbarians dared to await his onset, but as soon as they saw him they scattered, and from a distance shot at him with darts and arrows. After he had fallen and the barbarians were gone, Timandra took up his corpse, covered it with her own clothes, and, as far as was in her power, showed it every mark of honour and respect.
This Timandra is said to have been the mother of Lais, commonly called the Corinthian, who really was brought as a captive from Hykkara, a small town in Sicily. Some writers, although they agree in their account of the manner of his death, differ as to its cause, alleging that it was neither due to Pharnabazus nor to Lysander nor the Lacedaemonians, but that Alkibiades had debauched a girl of noble birth and was living with her, and that her relatives, enraged at this insult, during the night set fire to the house in which Alkibiades was living, and, as has been related, shot him as he leaped out through the flames
- PLUTARCH: Lives of the noble Grecians and Romans (Complete and Unabridged)
- Plutarch's Lives: Exploring Virtue and Vice by Timothy E. Duff (Oxford UP: 2002 pb) ISBN 0199252742.
- Albin Lesky, A History of Greek Literature , Hackett Publishing Company; Reprint edition (November, 1996)
Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans
Alcibiades and Coriolanus - Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar - Aratus & Artaxerxes and Galba & Otho
- PLUTARCH: Lives of the noble Grecians and Romans (Complete and Unabridged)
- Plutarch's Lives: Exploring Virtue and Vice by Timothy E. Duff (Oxford UP: 2002 pb) ISBN 0199252742.
- Albin Lesky, A History of Greek Literature , Hackett Publishing Company; Reprint edition (November, 1996)
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire