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Alcibiades (1) : In the populist democracy of 5th-century BC Athens, heroes fell as quickly as they rose.
Part one

With acknowledgements to Οι μεταβολές του όχλου (B) by Nektaria Karantzi.

After Pericles died, the Peloponnesian War with Sparta (431-404 BC) was carried on by other leaders in the radical democracy of Athens, including his nephew Alcibiades, and Nicias. Fighting a war and pleasing a people that brooked no failure in their heroes was not an easy matter.

WHILE Nicias was negotiating a delicate truce with Sparta, Alcibiades, a rival in the Athens Assembly, secretly met the Spartan envoys.

He urged them to temper their demands, promising to be their inside man. In the Assembly, however, he double-crossed them, mocking their modest terms, and casting himself as the strong leader Athens craved.

Sensing greatness for their city, the Athenians enthusiastically backed Alcibiades’s audacious plan for an assault on powerful Sicily in 415, in which Nicias was compelled to join.

After the fleet had sailed, however, rumours began that Alcibiades had been behind the vandalism of statues sacred to Hermes. He was summoned home to stand trial for sacrilege, but absconded from the Athenian fleet and defected to Sparta.

His insights into Athenian vulnerabilities and strategy (he was especially severe on Nicias’s reckless Sicilian campaign) were very helpful to his new masters, but in time he fell from favour - possibly after an affair with the King’s wife - and escaped east to Asia Minor.

With acknowledgements to Οι μεταβολές του όχλου (B) by Nektaria Karantzi.

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Classical History (25) Greek History (25) Peloponnesian War (1) History (405)

Picture: © Marie-Lan Nguyen, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. View original
A Roman copy of a 4th century BC Greek bust of Alcibiades, in the Hall of the Triumphs, Capitoline Museums, Rome.
Alcibiades Part Two

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