With one exception, Alcibiades's role in the war ended with his command. In fact, he roused them so much that they proposed to sail at once for Piraeus and attack the oligarchs in Athens. [4][5] Alcibiades' mother was Deinomache, the daughter of Megacles, head of the powerful Alcmaeonid family, and could trace her family back to Eurysaces and the Telamonian Ajax. The pretext for this expedition occurred in 416/415 BCE when Segesta, a city-state in the west of Sicily, asked Athens for help against local rival Selinus which was allied with Syracuse. According to Thucydides, the Athenian force was the largest ever launched by a Greek city. According to the oldest of these, the Spartans and specifically Lysander were responsible. The most enthusiastic supporter of the expedition was Alcibiades, the son of Cleinias; he was determined to oppose Nicias, who was always his political opponent and had just now spoken of him in disparaging terms. The commanders were Lamachus, Nicias, and Alcibiades. Cartwright, Mark. [147], Even today, Alcibiades divides scholars. At his urging, the satrap reduced the payments he was making to the Peloponnesian fleet and began delivering them irregularly. [48] Meanwhile, the Athenian force in Sicily, after a few early victories, moved against Messina, where the Generals expected their secret allies within the city to betray it to them. His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. [85], Presently Alcibiades sailed to Tissaphernes with a detachment of ships. Alcibiades was also the nephew of the great Athenian statesman Pericles, and he spent his childhood in the family home of his famous uncle. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Planning the Sicilian Expedition was not smooth sailing, especially since Alcibiades had to cooperate with two other military high-ups: Nicias and Lamachus. [14] Alcibiades was famed throughout his life for his physical attractiveness, of which he was inordinately vain. According to Thucydides, only one of the Athenian Generals at Samos, Phrynichus, opposed the plan and argued that Alcibiades cared no more for the proposed oligarchy than for the traditional democracy. [110] This was regarded as the unluckiest day of the year to undertake anything of importance. [56][57], In spite of these valuable contributions to the Spartan cause, Alcibiades fell out of favor with the Spartan government at around this time, ruled by Agis II. Once restored to his native city, however, he played a crucial role in a string of Athenian victories that eventually brought Sparta to seek a peace with Athens. After his disappearance at Thurii, Alcibiades quickly contacted the Spartans, "promising to render them aid and service greater than all the harm he had previously done them as an enemy" if they would offer him sanctuary. The same scholar underscores the fact that "his example of restless and undisciplined ambition strengthened the charge brought against Socrates". He said their anchorage was a bad one; the place had no harbor and no city, but they had to get their supplies from Sestos". The Athenians eventually turned the League of Delos into an Empire which was possible because Athens possessed the largest n… For only $5 per month you can become a member and support our mission to engage people with cultural heritage and to improve history education worldwide. In the ensuing fighting, Lysander gained an entire victory. [128] Though many of his details cannot be independently corroborated, Plutarch's version is this: Lysander sent an envoy to Pharnabazus who then dispatched his brother to Phrygia where Alcibiades was living with his mistress, Timandra. If accurate, this assessment underscores one of Alcibiades's greatest talents, his highly persuasive oratory. In effect then, Alcibiades was now commander-in-chief of the Athenian armed forces. [117] Antiochus's ship was sunk, and he was killed by a sudden Spartan attack; the remaining ships of the decoy force were then chased headlong back toward Notium, where the main Athenian force was caught unprepared by the sudden arrival of the whole Spartan fleet. Hermai (statues with a head of the god Hermes and a large erect phallus) were damaged across the city. The Sicilian Expedition was an Athenian military expedition to Sicily, which took place from 415–413 BC during the Peloponnesian War between the Athenian empire, or the Delian League, on one side and Sparta, Syracuse and Corinth on the other. Good-looking and rich, he was also notorious for his extravagant lifestyle and loose morals. Upon reaching Sicily, Lamachus favoured an immediate, direct attack on Syracuse. Some Rights Reserved (2009-2021) under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license unless otherwise noted. [30] The representatives agreed and, impressed with Alcibiades, they alienated themselves from Nicias, who genuinely wanted to reach an agreement with the Spartans. In ancient Greece, Alcibiades was a polarizing figure. [81] Plutarch claims that the army sent for Alcibiades so as to use his help in putting down the tyrants in Athens. In the aftermath of the Second Persian Invasion (480-479 BCE), Athens emerged as a great power in Greece. As Alcibiades had suspected, his absence emboldened his enemies, and they began to accuse him of other sacrilegious actions and comments and even alleged that these actions were connected with a plot against the democracy. [93], After an interlude of several months in which the Peloponnesians constructed new ships and the Athenians besieged cities and raised money throughout the Aegean, the next major sea battle took place the spring of 410 BC at Cyzicus. [157] The initial decision of the ecclesia provided however for a reasonable military force, which later became unreasonably large and costly because of Nicias's demands. [170], Alcibiades has been depicted regularly in art, both in Medieval and Renaissance works, and in several significant works of modern literature as well. [34] An oration urging Alcibiades' ostracism, "Against Alcibiades" (historically attributed to the orator Andocides but not in fact by him), alleges that Alcibiades had a child by one of these enslaved women. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms. Paparrigopoulos, Konstantinos (-Pavlos Karolidis) (1925), This page was last edited on 13 January 2021, at 14:28. The Life of Alcibiades: The Idol of Athens, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. [140] Lysias, on the other hand, argued in one of his orations that the Athenians should regard Alcibiades as an enemy because of the general tenor of his life, as "he repays with injury the open assistance of any of his friends". He sailed from Sicily, allegedly to Athens, on his ship with the Salamis. Plutarch regards him as "the least scrupulous and most entirely ca… Alcibiades wasted no time in his new role and promptly negotiated an alliance between Athens, Argos, Ellis, and Mantineia, which would last 100 years. And we cannot fix the exact point at which our empire shall stop; we have reached a position in which we must not be content with retaining but must scheme to extend it, for, if we cease to rule others, we are in danger of being ruled ourselves. [62] Alcibiades next advised Tissaphernes to bribe the Generals of the cities to gain valuable intelligence on their activities. [98] According to Anthony Andrewes, professor of ancient history, the extravagant hopes that his successes of the previous summer had created were a decisive element in his downfall. The sailors of the Athenian fleet, like all sailors before and since, were a superstitious lot, and as Hermes was the patron of travellers, their confidence was badly affected by the attacks. In pursuit of these funds he traveled to the Thracian Chersonese and attacked Selymbria. [118], Responsibility for the defeat ultimately fell on Alcibiades, and his enemies used the opportunity to attack him and have him removed from command, although some modern scholars believe that Alcibiades was unfairly blamed for Antiochus's mistake. Ancient History Encyclopedia. [46] According to Thucydides, the Athenians were always in fear and took everything suspiciously. Alcibiades' Oration before the Sicilian expedition as recorded by Thucydides, (VI, 18]); Thucydides : disclaims verbal accuracy. Other victories included the defeat of the Persian Satrap Pharnabazos at Abydos and the taking of Byzantium. After their victory, Alcibiades and Thrasybulus began the siege of Chalcedon in 409 BC with about 190 ships. Meanwhile, the Athenian expedition in Sicily was a complete disaster with total defeat in 414 BCE and the loss of Nicias and the gifted general Demosthenes. [133] Diodorus and Demosthenes regard him as a great general. [136], Plutarch asserts that "Alcibiades was a most able speaker in addition to his other gifts", while Theophrastus argues that Alcibiades was the most capable of discovering and understanding what was required in a given case. [102], It was in the aftermath of these successes that Alcibiades resolved to finally return to Athens in the spring of 407 BC. [h] In any case, the Generals of the Athenians, "considering that in case of defeat the blame would attach to them and that in case of success all men would attribute it to Alcibiades", asked him to leave and not come near the camp ever again. Alcibiades argued that the mixed-race population and political instability in Sicily would make a strong and unified military response unlikely. ", "Our party was that of the whole people, our creed being to do our part in preserving the form of government under which the city enjoyed the utmost greatness and freedom, and which we had found existing. [g][96], The Spartan fleet suffered losses in the flight and reached the shore with the Athenians in close pursuit. [1] In the years when he served Sparta, Alcibiades played a significant role in Athens's undoing; the capture of Decelea and the revolts of several critical Athenian subjects occurred either at his suggestion or under his supervision. [55] By doing this, the Spartans cut the Athenians off entirely from their homes and crops and the silver mines of Sunium. Born in Athens in 450 B.C., died in 404; at his suggestion Athens undertook the Sicilian expedition, out of which came the military career of Alcibiades, during which he was assassinated in Phrygia, pierced by a volley of arrows. [78] This fiasco at the court of Tissaphernes, however, put an end to the negotiations between the conspirators and Alcibiades. [50] The Spartans granted this request and received him among them. The Ecclesia deposed Phrynichus and elected Pisander and ten other envoys to negotiate with Tissaphernes and Alcibiades. [51][52] In the debate at Sparta over whether to send a force to relieve Syracuse, Alcibiades spoke and instilled fear of Athenian ambition into the Spartan ephors by informing them that the Athenians hoped to conquer Sicily, Italy, and even Carthage. The men are starving. [83], At his first speech to the assembled troops, Alcibiades complained bitterly about the circumstances of his exile, but the largest part of the speech consisted of boasting about his influence with Tissaphernes. I focus on the Sicilian Expedition narrative in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War Books 6 and 7, but also use Plutarch’s Life of Alcibiades and Life of Nicias, plus the Life of Coriolanus. Political Career In ancient Greece, Alcibiades was a polarizing figure. The Ancient History Encyclopedia logo is a registered EU trademark. The pretext for this expedition occurred in 416/415 BCE when Segesta, a city-state in the west of Sicily, asked Athens for help against local rival Selinus which was allied with Syracuse. "Alcibiades." [88][90] The Persian satrap Pharnabazus, who had replaced Tissaphernes as the sponsor of the Peloponnesian fleet, moved his land army to the shore to defend the ships and sailors who had beached their ships. During this period, Alcibiades succeeded in raising money from Caria and the neighboring area, with which he was able to pay the rowers and gain their favor. Alcibiades was the expedition's leading proponent, and the leader of the war party, Nicias its leading critic and the leader of the peace party. Kagan argues that at Notium, Alcibiades committed a serious error in leaving the fleet in the hands of an inexperienced officer, and that most of the credit for the brilliant victory at Cyzicus must be assigned to Thrasybulus. [101] Although unable to attain a decisive victory or induce the city to surrender, Alcibiades was able to win a small tactical land battle outside of the city gates and Theramenes concluded an agreement with the Chalcedonians. In the aftermath of the Persian defeat, Sparta for internal reasons ended its participation in the war against the Persians. Evidently Alcibiades had gravely misjudged his standing with the satrap, and he was arrested on arrival. Alcibiades was the Athenian in charge of the expedition and a crucial character from here on out in the Peloponnesian War. [138] For Demosthenes and other orators, Alcibiades epitomized the figure of the great man during the glorious days of the Athenian democracy and became a rhetorical symbol. [163][164] Eupolis says that he was "prince of talkers, but in speaking most incapable";[33] which is to say, more eloquent in his private discourses than when orating before the ecclesia. [88] Within a month he would escape and resume command. In his native Athens in the early 410s BC, he advocated an aggressive foreign policy and was a prominent proponent of the Sicilian Expedition, but he fled to Sparta after his political enemies brought charges of sacrilege against him. Alcibiades however gained no credit, because Phrynichus had anticipated Alcibiades's letter and, before the accusations could arrive, told the army that he had received information of an enemy plan to attack the camp and that they should fortify Samos as quickly as possible. [8] After the death of Cleinias at the Battle of Coronea (447 BC), Pericles and Ariphron became his guardians. Given that punishment was the death sentence, it is perhaps not surprising that Alcibiades at this point fled to Sparta rather than face the music at home. Thucydides reprehends the Athenian statesman for his political conduct and motives. Most of the officers in the Athenian fleet accepted the plan and welcomed the prospect of a narrower constitution, which would allow them a greater share in determining policy. [9], According to Plutarch, Alcibiades had several famous teachers, including Socrates, and was well trained in the art of Rhetoric. Antiochus disobeyed this single order and endeavored to draw Lysander into a fight by imitating the tactics used at Cyzicus. Alcibiades encouraged Persia to keep on friendly terms with both Athens and Sparta, and yet at the same time Alcibiades attempted to convince the Athenian fleet based on Samos that he was the man to negotiate an Athenian-Persian alliance. The Sicilian Expedition to Magna Graecia was Alcibiades' idea but his enemies prevented him from commanding. Watch the complete documentary on the Famous Sicilian Expedition, carried out by Athens during the great Peloponnesian War! Isocrates asserts that Alcibiades was never a pupil of Socrates. Lastly, and most importantly, he told the satrap to be in no hurry to bring the Persian fleet into the conflict, as the longer the war dragged out the more exhausted the combatants would become. 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