Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

THE PEACE OF NICIAS.

133

to make alliance and friendship with Athens, because The

Spartan forsooth the Lacedæmonians might not happen to like em

bassy, it. Just when Nicias was by these arts brought into B.C. 420 disgrace with the people, ambassadors arrived from Lacedæmon, holding at once a satisfactory language, and adding that they had full powers to arrange all matters in dispute upon friendly and equitable terms. The council had received them, and the people were to assemble on the morrow to give them audience. Alcibiades got alarmed, and contrived to gain a secret conference with the envoys. When they were met, he said : “ What is it you intend, ye men of Sparta ? Can you be ignorant that the council always act with moderation and respect towards ambassadors, but that the people are full of ambition and great designs ? If you let them know what full powers you possess, they will urge

and press you to unreasonable conditions. Quit, therefore, this indiscreet simplicity, if you expect to obtain equal terms from the Athenians, and would not have things extorted from you contrary to your inclinations; and begin to treat with the people for terms of agreement, not avowing yourselves plenipotentiaries. And I will be ready to assist you out of good-will to the Lacedæmonians.” When he had said thus, he

gave them his oath for the performance of what he promised, and by this way

drew them from Nicias to rely entirely upon himself; and left them full of admiration of the discernment and sagacity they had seen in him. The next day, when the people were assembled and the ambassadors introduced, Alcibiades, with great apparent courtesy, asked them, With what powers they were come? They answered, Not as plenipotentiaries. Instantly, Alcibiades,

with

ades

with a loud voice, as though he had received and nct done the wrong, began to call them dishonest prevaricators, and to urge that such men could not possibly come to say or do anything that was sincere. The council also complained, the people were in a rage, and Nicias, who knew nothing of the deceit and the imposture, was in the greatest surprise and confusion at such

a change in the men. 15 So thus the Lacedæmonian ambassadors were utterly Alliance

rejected, and Alcibiades was declared general, who preArrosently united the Argives, the Eleans, and the people of

Mantinea, into a confederacy with the Athenians. And general, B.C. 419. though no man commended the method by which he

effected it, nevertheless it was a great political feat thus to divide and shake almost all Peloponnesus, and to combine so many men in arms against the Lacedæmonians

in one day before Mantinea; and, moreover, to remove of Mau. the war and the danger so far from the frontier of the B.C. 418. Athenians, that even success would profit the enemy

but little, should they be conquerors, whereas if they were defeated, Sparta itself was hardly safe. After this battle at Mantinea, the select thousand* of the Argives immediately set to work to overthrow the people in Argos, and make themselves masters of the city; and the Lacedæmonians came to their aid and abolished the democracy. But the people took arms again and gained the advantage, and Alcibiades came to their aid, and completed the victory, and persuaded them to build

Battle

* The select thousand were young men of the richer classes, enrolled in a separate military corps. The Spartans had won the day at Mantinea, and this encouraged the attempt.

BATTLE OF MANTINEA.

135

long walls, and by that means to join their city to the sea, and so to place it wholly within the reach of the Athenian power. To this purpose he procured them builders and masons from Athens, and displayed the greatest zeal for their service, and gained no less honour and power to himself than to the commonwealth of Athens. He also persuaded the people of Patræ to join their city to the sea, by building long walls ; and when some one told them, by way of warning, that the Athenians would swallow them up, Alcibiades made answer, Perhaps so, by little and little, and beginning at the feet, but the Lacedæmonians would begin at the head and do it all at once. Nor did he neglect to advise the Athenians to look to their interests by land, and to make good the oath which was put to the youths in the temple of Agraulos*, that they would account wheat and barley, and vines and olives, to be the limits of Attica; so instructing thein to claim a title to all land that is cultivated and productive.

But with all these words and deeds, and with all this 16 sagacity and high spirit, he intermingled exorbitant luxury and pride and wantonness in his eating and drinking and dissolute living; wore long purple robes like a woman, which dragged after him as he went through the market-place; caused the planks of his galley to be cut away,

that so he might lie the softer, his bed not

* Agraulos, or Agraule, from whom the township of Agraule took its name, was one of the daughters of Cecrops, who to fulfil an oracle, which promised victory on such a condition, threw herself from the rocks of the Acropolis. The people built her a temple, and here the young Athenians, on first assuming arms, took this oath.

being placed on the boards, but hanging upon girths. His shield, again, which was richly gilded, had not the usual ensigns of the Athenians, but a Cupid, holding a thunderbolt in his hand, was painted upon it. The sight of all this made the people of good repute in the city feel disgust and abhorrence, and apprehension also, at his high-handed living and his contempt of law, as things monstrous in themselves, and indicating designs of usurpation. Aristophanes has well expressed the people's feeling towards him :

They love, and hate, and cannot do without him.

And still more strongly, under a figurative expression,

Best rear no lion in your State, 'tis true;
But treat him like a lion if you do.

The truth is, his contributions of money, his public shows, and other munificence to the people, which were such as nothing could exceed, the glory of his ancestors, the force of his eloquence, the grace of his person, his strength of body, joined with his great courage and knowledge in military affairs, prevailed upon the Athenians to endure the rest patiently, to indulge many things to him, and, according to their habit, to give the softest names to his faults, attributing them to youth and good-nature. He kept Agatharchus, the painter, a prisoner till he had painted his whole house, but then dismissed him with a reward. He publicly struck Taureas, who exhibited plays in opposition to him, and competed with him for the prize. He selected for himself one of the captive Melian women, and had a

[blocks in formation]

child by her, whom he took care to bring up. This the Athenians called great humanity ; and yet he was the principal cause of the slaughter of all the inhabitants of the isle of Melos who were of age to bear arms, Capture having spoken in favour of that decree. When Aris- B. C. 416. tophon the painter had drawn Nemea sitting and holding Alcibiades in her arms*, the multitude were pleased with the piece, and thronged to see it, but older people disliked it, and looked on all these things as enormities, and movements towards tyranny. So that it was not said amiss by Archestratus, that Greece could not support a second Alcibiades. Once, when Alcibiades succeeded well in the assembly, and a crowd of people attended him home to do him honour, Timon, the misanthrope, did not pass by, nor avoid him as he did others, but met him, and taking him by the hand, said, “Go on, my son; and increase in credit with the people; you will one day bring them calamities enough.” Some that were present laughed at the saying, and some reviled Timon; but there were others upon whom it made a deep impression. So various was the judgment which was made of him, and so uneven his own character.

The Athenians, even in the lifetime of Pericles, had 17 already cast a longing eye upon Sicily; but did not The attempt anything till after his death. Then, under expedi

, pretence of aiding their friends, they sent succours upon B.C. 415.

* The picture was one of two made in honour of his victories in the games. In one of them the two deities of the Olympian and Pythian games were painted crowning him; the other represented himn thus embraced by Nemea, the goddess of the Nemean games.

« AnteriorContinuar »