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Title: Alkibiades, a tale of the Great Athenian War

Author: Charles Hamilton Bromby

Release Date: March 9, 2022 [eBook #67593]

Language: English

Produced by: Carlos Colon, Barry Abrahamsen, Princeton University and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This book was produced from images made available by the HathiTrust Digital Library.)



A Tale of the Great Athenian War


On the whole it may be doubted whether there be a name of antiquity which comes down with such a general charm as that of Alkibiades. Why? I cannot answer. Who can?

Lord Byron



My husband, although he completed the composition of this work in his lifetime, passed away before he had fully revised and prepared it for the press, and the privilege of finally revising and editing it has, consequently, devolved upon me. This, from the nature of the subject, has been a task of some difficulty, but I have spared no pains to accomplish it to the best of my ability.

As regards the orthography of Greek proper names, I have thought it right to adhere, in most cases, to the views of my husband, who was strongly of opinion that the original spelling of the words in Greek should, so far as practicable, be followed and reproduced when they were expressed in English characters.

I should also mention that his reasons for using the name of ‘the Great Athenian War’ to describe the long contest usually known as ‘the Peloponnesian viWar’ are given at the beginning of Chapter XXIX. at page 415 of the book.

It was a source of great delight to my husband to compose this story of the life and times of Alkibiades, and it is hoped that many of its readers will feel, at any rate in some degree, a like pleasure from perusing it.

It will remind many who loved him of that brilliant talk, that refined sensitiveness, that freshness of wit and humour which went to make up his unusual personality.

All Saints’ Vicarage, Clifton,
June, 1905.




Book I


‘Whence can we know that which is to be?
Veiled in deep darkness is the life of mortals.’

In the early morning of a spring day in Greece, under a heaven of such a blue as one can seldom see elsewhere, leaning from a window of one of the noblest houses in Athens, looking sometimes down on the town that lay beneath—awaking to its daily life of work and thought and happiness—or gazing up at the pure sky, with the just finished Parthenon standing out against it, imagine a boy of more than even Grecian beauty. His light and slightly curling hair was blown back from a lofty forehead, his clear-cut, perfect features, and the healthy hue upon his cheeks, resembling the pure white marble of the temple and the glow of the resplendent morning.

2He was only a boy, but in his gaze was something more than ordinary childish wonder. An earnest, wistful look, unsatisfied, told of a soul which already sought to penetrate the things to be, the mystery of the life that lay struggling in the city at his feet—a longing for wings with which to rise beyond the arching canopy above him, if he could not find an answer here.

His earliest recollection was of a high-born gentleman, a nobler man than any he met now, a stalwart warrior, his father Kleinias. He could just remember how that father used to tell him they traced their long descent up through a line of heroes—through Ajax, son of Telamon, who went with twelve great ships to the Siege of Troy, and was the strongest, biggest of all the leaders there. How Telamon was son of Aiakos, judge of those dark regions somewhere underground, in which the simple-minded soldier still believed; and Aiakos, as all men knew, was son of Zeus himself. Divine Achilles also, Peleus’s son, was of his blood, for Peleus too was son of Aiakos.

One day his father, dressed in the heavy armour of the Grecian soldier, had come to him, and having prayed the gods, with more than even his usual deep reverence, to watch over and protect his son, and make him worthy of 3their race, had left him sorrowfully, and the child heard soon afterwards an unwonted stir in the great courtyard, and then the sound as of tramping soldiers in the street, and the women took him to the window, and he saw his father marching at the head of them.

So Kleinias, honoured of all men, went to fight for Athens, and his son saw him again no more. He died by his general’s side at Koroneia, and oftentimes in after-years the fervent words of his last prayer came vividly before the mind of Alkibiades.

His mother Deinomaché at first took charge of him. She loved to tell him of the great men through whom she was descended; how Amphiaraos, who went with Jason on board the Argo to seek the fleece of gold, was her ancestor; of his son Alkmeon, who was married to the lovely nymph; and of the great ruler Megakles and his grandson, who, years ago, was crowned conqueror at the Pythian games.

Then of that Kleisthenes who raised the great temple at Delphi from its ruins, turned out the tyrant race of the Peisistratidai, and made Athens free for ever. How Megakles’ brother, Hippokrates, had two children: one of them, also called Megakles, was her father; the other, wife 4of the general Xanthippos, who beat the Persians at Mykale, was mother of the splendid Perikles.

Perikles was by the will of Kleinias appointed tutor to his son. So Alkibiades, when he was thirteen, was taken by his paidagogos, Zopyros, from his mother’s house to live in the bustle and excitement of the great establishment of Perikles.

The brave Deinomaché tried hard to shed no tear as her son went off. ‘Better,’ she said, ‘for you, my child, to learn to lead the people, or to be a soldier like your father, with such a one as my kinsman Perikles, than to waste your boyhood here amongst old women.’ And indeed it did seem time some stronger will than his fond mother’s should rule the ardent, sometimes overbearing, boy. If he was gentle to her at home, he was impatient at the stupidity of other boys and of the guidance of his feeble paidagogos, and apt to show a proud contempt for those he held to be the meaner sort.

Yet he felt somewhat shy and sad at first when he found himself alone in the great house of Perikles. His father’s house was large and strong, and somewhat gloomy, but it was his home. The days and nights were quiet there. 5Besides his mother’s female friends, and the slave women, and Zopyros, he had seen little of the world. One day had passed in the big empty house much in the same way as the day before it, and as he supposed the next would do. Here, in the home of the chief man in Athens—here was a change indeed. Hurry and bustle all day long. Busy politicians coming at all hours with their cumbrous suggestions. Troops of poor petitioners in want of something, and the important Generals and Ministers of State, followed by their slaves, as at the appointed time they came to take counsel with the chief on the affairs of Athens. Hurry and scurry all day long, scarce a moment to himself, except on holidays, could the great man get.

But when the busy day was done, and the boy was taken by Zopyros to the chambers set apart for him, he heard the sound of the long revelry deep into the night, the echo of the songs, the murmur of the merry arguments, the coming and going of the well-dressed slaves as they bore the costly viands, the garnished dishes, the golden vases of the old Greek wine, to the table of their lord. And when the sound of revelry, which often roused him from his sleep, was done, and the lights in his part of the court were all gone out, 6the boy saw others twinkling in that other part where Aspasia lived with all her women.

Aspasia! He had heard that name muttered in his mother’s house in such a way he thought it must be something bad—a name his mother’s women hardly dared to speak aloud. But here Aspasia, he found, when she deigned to grace the board of Perikles, was treated as a queen. A queen to him, indeed, she seemed to be—so fair, so tender, so generous; and as she looked with kind affection on the growing boy, son of the worthy Kleinias, who had left him the orphan pupil of her friend, he fell in love with her at once, and thought he had never seen so beautiful a lady.

‘What dost thou gaze at now, oh son of Kleinias?’ a strong voice said, as a firm hand was placed upon his shoulder, ‘and what art thou thinking of this bright holiday? Shall not thy paidagogos take thee to the palaistra, or wilt thou rather stay and talk with me a while? It is seldom I can see thee, child, or hear how thy books agree with thee.’

‘I was thinking, Perikles, of all the men and women there below. Art thou indeed their governor, and canst thou do whate’er thou wilt with them?’

7‘Not I, forsooth, my boy; all citizens are free and equal by the laws of Athens.’

‘Dost thou not make their laws?’

‘No; not so, indeed. They make their laws themselves. I do but counsel them, and, as long as they permit, I see the laws are carried out, and those are brought to trial and to punishment who may transgress them.’

‘But what dost thou mean by laws, Perikles?’

‘Whatsoever the people, met together in their Assembly, ordain, that we all must do.’

‘Do! whether good or bad?’

‘No; good, of course. Dost thou suppose the people would decree that we should do the bad?’

‘Has every state its own assembly, then?’

‘No; thou knowest well in Sparta, and in other states, a few great ones make the laws, and not the people. Hast thou not yet learnt that at school?’

‘Yes; I remember now. But what I want to know is this: supposing a few great ones decree what all must do, wouldst thou call that a law?’

‘Of course I should, if the oligarchy was in power.’

‘But, then, suppose a tyrant, such as my mother told me my great ancestor Kleisthenes of 8Sikyon was, one who took by force the power from the people—if such a one makes a decree, is that a law?’

‘Yes, in truth it is, since it is made by one who has the power to make it.’

‘But if a tyrant came and upset our laws, and then by force, and not by trying to persuade the people, decreed that they must obey his will, whether it was good or bad, would that be a law?’

‘No, child; that would be a breaking of the laws. I ought not to have said the orders of a tyrant were laws, if they were made by force, and not persuasion.’

‘If, then, some oligarchs should make decrees without consulting anyone, would they be laws?’

‘Whoever makes decrees, if they be founded upon force, and not persuasion, I call that rather an injustice than a law.’

‘Then, if the Athenians should impose their will upon the rich without consulting them, would not that be an injustice too, or would it be a law?’

‘Now, my good Alkibiades, go off and do thy exercises. Boys of your age are always asking questions. Where is Zopyros?’

‘Oh, Zopyros is a fool! he tells me nothing; and when I wish to talk to the wise men, who 9know the things I want to learn, he holds me back. Other boys talk to them after their exercises at the palaistra, and why not I?’

‘There is no reason why thou shouldst not, child.’

‘Thank you, Perikles! Thou art so busy all day long I can scarcely ever speak of these things to thee. And then there is that funny-looking man who always stares at me with his great eyes whenever I come near him; and sometimes nearly all day long he follows me about, but never speaks to me, and if I look at him Zopyros hurries me away. May I not talk to him? Other boys do, and they say, though he looks so ugly, with his small snub nose and big mouth, and his red face, if you hear him talk you forget how ugly he is; and he tells them everything they want to know, and they love to hear him talk.’

‘Dost thou mean Sokrates, the wisest man in Greece?—at least, so the Oracle at Delphi said he was.’

‘Yes, it is Sokrates I mean. When I was wrestling yesterday with Antiochos he sat and watched us all the time, but when I went to sit upon the bench by him, he got up and went away. Zopyros calls him a corrupter of the 10Grecian youths, and an evil-minded sophist, and I know not what besides. Something tells me I should love to talk to him.’

‘Oh son of Kleinias! that Sokrates can tell thee more than I have ever dreamt of, and when Perikles shall be no more, and all his care for Athens, and all the battles he has fought and won, forgotten, that strange philosopher will still be known, through all the ages that shall come—not here in Greece alone, but far away in other lands which he, and you, and I, know nothing of.’



‘Chè in la mente m’è fitta, ...
La cara e buona imagine paterna
Di voi, quando nel mondo ad ora ad ora
M’ insegnavate come l’uom s’eterna.’
Dante: Inferno, xv.

‘For in my mind is fixed ... your dear and good paternal form, when in the world from time to time you taught me how man can make himself eternal.’

A year and a month have passed away. On a warm June afternoon, escaping from Zopyros, the boy we attempted to describe in the last chapter had wandered by himself a short way out of Athens. He was altered somewhat since we saw him last. The high forehead had a more thoughtful air, the look was more disdainful. The face, which had given one joy to look at from its perfect purity, now, if very slightly, had become a little sensual. But the wonder in the eyes was still the same—intensified. The questioning and baffled look was there. The desire, the determination to know, the strong 12will, shone out through them—‘If I don’t know now I will some day.’

Wrapt in admiration as he lay upon the grass, gazing up to heaven and the white clouds which passed slowly across the sky, half lulled to sleep by the gentle gurgling of the Ilissos, in a waking dream, a voice of deep and tender earnestness came suddenly upon his ears.

He half raised himself in haste, awakening from his reverie, and looking round, saw Sokrates. A deep flush came on the boy’s face when he found himself alone before the man he had so often, sometimes for fun indeed, but often in earnest, declared that he would know. As he felt his gaze fall full upon him—a look in which he saw love, pity, admiration, all together—he blushed with a sense of happiness, and felt a consciousness of shame he had never known before.

‘Oh, son of Kleinias and Deinomaché, have I thus come upon you wondering when you will get wings to fly away beyond the clouds, and thinking you can make them for yourself, and teach yourself to use them? Oh, foolish Daidalos, have I not found out your thoughts?’

‘Indeed you have, Sokrates!’

‘And if I tell you how you may make these wings to grow, what will you do for me?’

13‘I think, Sokrates, I would do anything you asked.’

‘But if, when you have got your wings, you know not how to fly with them: what then?’

‘I would do still more for you if you will teach me how to use them.’

‘But if the way to use them is so difficult it would take you days and nights to learn it, and require you to give up many things you love, and make you work and toil to get this learning, could you do all that, think you?’

‘Indeed I do, if it be not too hard for me to learn.’

‘Which, now, gives you greater pleasure to look upon—Perikles’ marble statue of Apollo, or a heap of dirt?’

‘Why, how could it be but to look upon the statue, Sokrates?’

‘And you would rather gaze on Aspasia’s face than on the wrinkled skin of your old paidagogos?’

‘Of course I would.’

‘Then tell me, is it not because in Aspasia’s face and in the statue of Apollo you see more beauty than in Zopyros or in the dirt?’

‘Yes, by Zeus, it is!’

‘And for the soldier—is it more beautiful in 14him to die fighting for his country, or to run away and live?’

‘To die, of course. I would gladly do that, if that is all.’

‘And for the statesman—is it not more beautiful in him to endeavour to persuade the people to make wise laws, and to induce them to do wise things, though he knows they will not love him for it, but perhaps turn on him, and thrust him from his power, and destroy him? Or is it better to let them do those foolish things he knows they love, and will admire him for advising, and so perhaps keep him a long time in power?’

‘By Herakles! the first seems to me to be more beautiful.’

‘And these things that seem beautiful, are they not good things too to do?’

‘They must be good as well as beautiful. And if I had the power I would make the people do what is wise and beautiful.’

‘Yet you have said the statesman who would rather lose his power than persuade the people to the worse course was good.’

‘I know I did.’

‘Then the beautiful and the good are one?’

‘It seems so, Sokrates.’

15‘Now I will tell thee, son of Kleinias, the wings you long for only come to those who love and do the beautiful and good. And they give us pain and trouble as they try to burst forth from the body. If you would get these wings you must ever look upon the beautiful and do the good, and, as I think your wish will be to lead the people, and be chief among them, you should first learn what is the good, and how you may persuade them to it—and this is difficult. To do this you must get Wisdom first yourself, and she is hard to find. You must work at many toilsome things. Like Herakles, you must go through many labours, and give up much of what seems pleasant to you now, and be content at last if, after all this trouble, the foolish people turn you out of power, and banish you from Athens, and perhaps sentence you to death as a reward for all your pains.’

‘Oh Sokrates, these things seem hard you tell me of. Is there no other way?’

‘Yes, you can flatter and cajole them—you can tell them to make war when you see the war spirit swarming like a swarm of bees among them, though you know it is not for their good, and will end only in a disgraceful peace; you can advise them to ally themselves with states 16they happen to be fond of, though you know that others are the true friends of Athens. Then will the changing people love you, and look upon you as a wise counsellor, and for some time, perhaps, you will be chief man in Athens.’

The boy had risen up, and the two were walking by the river-side towards the town, a cloudy look of disappointment on the young one’s face.

‘Now I will ask you one thing more, Sokrates—a thing I have often thought about, but never spoken it to anyone. If I could get the wings you tell me can only be got by pain and suffering, and by giving up the things that I care most about, what would they do for me when I had got them?’

‘Did you not say you longed to rise above the earth, and see the things beyond the sky? When I came to you were you not feeling tired of the earth, and yearning some day to reach the dwellings of the gods?’

‘Yes, Sokrates, there it is, and this is what I mean. Who are these gods really, and where in heaven do they dwell? My teachers tell me of Zeus, father of Aiakos, and I am of the race of Aiakos. But they cannot tell me where he is, nor the old gods before him. And yet they were immortal too. I often wonder 17whither they are gone. Poems of Homer that I love to read and hear recited say Zeus dwells on Mount Olympos; why cannot men go there and find him, and see the banquets of the gods? I think these things be but idle tales, and only Homer’s poetry, before men had our wisdom. And if Athene really lives in the Parthenon, why cannot I see her? Where are the great gods, Sokrates?’

‘They dwell not in the clouds, nor on Olympos’ top, lovely son of Kleinias! That was, but Homer’s image. They dwell around us, and within us, all day long. And when you feel the strong desire to find them out, and a yearning of your soul to see and know the gods, it is the gods themselves within you struggling against your lower passions, striving to give you wings with which to fly above your small desires.’

‘Oh, oh, oh! hah, hah, hah! So have we found you, Sokrates, alone with Alkibiades. And has your daimôn thus at length permitted you to speak to him, or is it that only now for the first time you have found an opportunity?’

‘Hush, Kritias and Sikias, hush! See how you have angered Alkibiades, and sent him off blushing and frowning in a rage.’

‘Oh, wisest of the Greeks, seek not to make 18it seem it was our coming that has angered Alkibiades. What were you telling him when we came up and interrupted you? We have been looking for you all the afternoon. Hippokrates has a great feast to-night. Harmonidas of Skios will be there, and a new flute-player from Delos, and we know not who besides—but all the greatest wits in Athens. He tells us to bid you to his house.’

‘Oh, Sikias! I have feasted here already, and at a finer feast than your Hippokrates can make. But tell me, Kritias, or you, Sikias, son of Sikias, would not a feast of thistles seem more sumptuous to an ass than all the dainties of Hippokrates?’

‘Doubtless it would, Sokrates.’

‘And the harsh croaking of a frog, does not that seem more melodious to him than the flute-playing of Harmonidas?’

‘Perhaps it does. Why do you ask such questions?’

‘But one more. Tell me, Kritias, to the male frog does not his female seem more beautiful than the face and form of Alkibiades?’

‘I believe it does, Sokrates.’

‘Then are these things really beautiful, or do they only seem so according to the eyes with 19which we look, or the ears we listen to the sounds withal?’

‘I should say, Sokrates, to the frog the ugly female seems more beautiful, because he is a frog; as to the ass, the thistle seems the better fare, because of his dull bestiality.’

‘Just so, Kritias! To the dull asses who appear to us as men the converse of the soul with soul will ever seem a fitting theme for jest and ridicule.’



‘Vivere, Lucili, militare est.’—Seneca.

During the fifty years which immediately preceded the period at which we now arrive Athens had risen from a level little higher than that of many of her neighbour towns to be the chief, the queen, of Hellas. Through an undiscoverable something in her people, through an innate power lying hid within her, through a succession of great men to lead her, through hard work and self-sacrifice, she had shot ahead of all her rivals. And while boundless enterprise, which sent her merchant vessels beyond Ionian and Aigaian Seas, enriched her coffers, she was protected seaward by a navy which had become a match for all the other Grecian states together, and landward by a solid force of soldiers, each of them a self-relying, self-governing citizen, believing the fate of home depended on his own peculiar strength, courage, and obedience; and all this 21compact mass by sea and land was led by Generals not unworthy of the warriors they commanded.

So Athens was become the head of numerous allied, almost dependent, towns and tributary states, whose help she could call upon at need, whose tribute flowed a constant stream to swell her treasury. And all the time that this material prosperity had been increasing, her intellectual, her artistic growth had been as wonderful. It is generally noticed that only in the decline of nations an æsthetic, or subtle, sense of beauty is obtained, and arts are seen to flourish. So true has this been found in other states and peoples that from the one the other may often be inferred. Was this so with Athens? Had not her arts grown with her growth, and flourished in their full perfection as she grew? Was it not peculiar to Athens that they had not to wait until she was decrepit? However this may be, we find that a small town, as it seems to us in our days of unwieldy cities, centres of overpeopled provinces, a fifth-rate municipality, with a population, even at its highest, not much greater than that of many a modern watering-place, had bred amongst her citizens the purest taste, and highest 22genius, that marks a people as superior to ordinary men. And not in some only of the higher occupations of the mind was she ahead of others: she excelled in all. Her sculptors, her painters, her architects, her orators, her tragedians, her comedians, her statesmen, her philosophers, at that time were the marvel of the world, as it seems they will remain that marvel for all time to come.

If it is hard to realize the pre-eminence of Athens in genius, who amongst us hath an imagination large enough to realize her outward show? Who is so vain as to attempt to picture it to others?

The city was placed just near enough to the sea to catch its breezes and the zest of life sea-breezes bring with them, under a sky hung higher overhead than ours in the North appears to be; her streets a maze of beauty with innumerable gold and marble statues wrought by the finest sculptors that the world has seen; her temples, public halls and colonnades at noontide giving shade, at evening shelter, at all times free to all; her groves and gardens perfumed by the rich scent of orange-trees and gayest flowers, beautiful by day and perhaps more lovely still on moonlit nights. And overshadowing was seen from 23every point of view the towering Akropolis, where the maiden goddess, sprung from the brain of Zeus, emblem and patroness of wisdom, her calm brow half covered by her Grecian helmet, her mighty spear in hand, stood guard over her beloved city, its silent sentinel.

But then the thronging concourse in the streets, the busy markets, workshops, arsenals! If outward Athens was chaste classic quietude, what a bustling stream of life she did contain! She had just reached the zenith of her day—everything was prosperous. Her rival states had been left far behind. The league of Delos, counterplot to the Peloponnesian confederacy, had placed Athens at its head, and Perikles was still in power.

Whenever a people has by self-restraint and long determined toil, patience, and courage, raised itself to wealth and greatness, the old and simple thoughts and ways soon begin to seem too small for them, the frugal practices of their forefathers all too poor. So life at Athens in the heyday of her splendour was very pleasant.

It was at this time that the son of Kleinias—the noble, duty-loving Kleinias, who kept aloof from politics, and let his abler comrades rule, while he was happy to obey the laws which others 24made, and give his strength and substance and, at last, his life for Athens—it was at this time the son of Kleinias approached the dawn of early manhood. Gifted with a greater power to enjoy the sensuous pleasures of the world than most others have been, he had a larger intellect to understand, a stronger will with which to keep others in subjection. He had, too, a loftier ambition, and every apparent means to gratify his pride.

By accident he had been placed in the highest rank among the Athenians, if we can speak of rank where all are equal. It was not the vulgar rank which in our modern societies is marked by tinkling titles, but a position willingly conceded to the descendants of a line of heroes, sprung originally, as men believed, from the gods themselves.

His friends, his relations, were of the most powerful amongst the citizens. The chief man in Athens was the guardian to whose care his father had entrusted him. Scion of a line of frugal folk, whose wealth had long accumulated, he had enormous riches, and owned a vast and fertile territory. Thus he reached the golden age when every sense is keenest, when almost every experience brings a new delight, and each 25pulsation is a pleasure—an age we afterwards look back upon with fond regret, not quite unmixed with pride, and which we sadly recognise we shall never see again.

Small wonder, then, if Alkibiades threw himself without restraint into a whirl of pleasure. Vague longings of his boyhood were, if not forgotten, driven out of sight. The earnest hope of something higher lay buried underneath the intense enjoyment of the present.

He had seen little of the strange philosopher since they met, apparently by chance, on a sunny afternoon by the Ilissos. Sokrates was not a Puritan. He could make allowances. But he saw too plainly what the effect would be of constant excess and dissipation upon a mind like that of Alkibiades. He held aloof. He said his daimôn, that ever-present monitor, which told him what to do, and what to leave alone, prevented him. Alkibiades had many friends. Besides the sons of Perikles and other relatives of his own age with whom he associated, there were an abundance of parasites in Athens to pander to his wishes. He had his studies, too. These for the most part were in the military schools. Through his wealth he was bound, by the law of Athens, to serve as a knight in the 26cavalry of the Athenian army, so much of his time was taken up in learning the art of war and military tactics. If his ambition to excel in oratory, when he should be old enough to take his place upon the bema, in the great Assembly of the people, led him sometimes to the house of Protagoras, and to other Sophists, it was rather to learn the tricks of a quibbling debate than to gain a knowledge of that philosophy the Sophists pretended they were able to impart.

But all such pleasant things must have an end. The serene sky became overcast. Sparta, fearing for her independence, and encouraged by the Delphic oracle, determined to put her ‘whole strength into a war’ with Athens. Korinth was intriguing with the other states against her. Towns and islands where oligarchies ruled hated the democratic city, and joined in a confederacy against her.

The year 432 B.C. is ever to be remembered as the beginning of the long and tedious war. Potidaia, a Korinthian colony, on the Chalkidian coast, and subject to Athens, was encouraged by both Sparta and Korinth to rise against her suzerain.

In the beginning of this year an expedition was sent out by Athens, under Archestratos, with orders to act peaceably, if possible, and to bring 27back these refractory subjects at Potidaia rather by persuasion than by actual hostilities. Archestratos, finding peaceful overtures were of no avail, and his force too small to coerce the revolted town, sailed north, and made an attempt against the Makedonians, and met with some success there, while another larger army was prepared at Athens.

Here, then, was an opportunity for Alkibiades. He had not yet completed his twentieth year. By the law which regulated the military service of the Athenian citizens, youths from eighteen to twenty, though bound to serve, could not be called upon to leave their country; they with the old men formed a guard to protect the city and the frontiers. But Alkibiades, like other less fortunate young men, was burning with military excitement, and with the full force of his strong will he determined to go upon that expedition.

When this busy schwärmerei is in the air it is wonderful how infectious it becomes. The call to arms resounded on all sides. Painting and sculpture were neglected. Sophistic quibbling was forgotten. Pursuit of pleasure for a time was laid aside. Luxurious banquets, lasting from evening far into the night, went out of fashion. The music heard was not the wailing 28of the Lydian flutes, but the trumpet calling to warlike exercise. All the world, though it knew it not, was preparing for a war the end and dismal consequence of which was to be terrible to Athens.

With flying pennants, with brave huzzas, and gaily-decked triremes, the force set out for Potidaia. Alkibiades had got leave to go. As cavalry would be of little use, at what the generals saw would most likely be a lengthy siege, none of the golden youths could go as knights. So many of them stayed at home. The son of Kleinias volunteered as an ordinary hoplite, or heavy-armed foot-soldier. And we can well imagine the pride, the joy, with which this scion of a stock like his would stand, with all his heavy armour on, upon the prow of the great ship moving grandly out to sea, as with its threefold banks of oars it breasted the Aigaian. What thoughts! what hopes! what exaltation! His late excesses had been but little more than youthful folly, and not much really cared for. Now the descendant of Homeric heroes felt himself heroic. Even before the Trojan War an ancestor of his had been in the mysterious strange voyage with Jason and the Argo, when all the adventurous of the time took part in that immortal voyage 29to Kolchis. He would not prove unworthy of his sires; he would rival, and perhaps surpass, them. He would leave behind him a fame which should astonish men for ever.

The Athenian army, with their allies, under the general Kallias, son of Kalliades, in forty ships of war, sailed up the coast as far as Makedonia, and there joining the army under Archestratos that had set out some time before, and coasting down the Shemaic Gulf, they landed near Beroia. Then, after three days’ marching along the shore, they encamped not far from Potidaia, and watched the movements of the enemy. While the army under Kallias were joining forces with Archestratos, the Korinthians had sent a strong detachment, under Aristeus, to help the Potidaians, and thus the Athenians, somewhat unexpectedly, found themselves confronted with Korinthians, as well as Potidaians and their Olynthian and Makedonian allies. Aristeus was made commander-in-chief of this formidable host. He placed the main body of his army at the entrance to the isthmus on which Potidaia stands, and posted the Makedonians beneath the walls of Olynthos, in position to attack the enemy in the rear on their first forward movement.

30Kallias, seeing this manœuvre, sent some of his allies against the Makedonians, and gave the signal to the main body to advance.

At the first onset Aristeus, with his left wing, drove back the Athenian right, and followed them too far as they retreated. The Athenian left wing and centre, in which was Alkibiades, raising their loud shout to the god of war, came on in splendid style against the Korinthian right. Then Greek indeed joined Greek, and fought with more ferocious hatred in their hearts than they had ever felt against a common foe, when, fighting side by side, they had sent the Persian home again.

Modern warfare consists, for the most part, in well-drilled marksmen shooting at a distant mass scarce visible, and in receiving leaden pellets from an unseen enemy. The tug and tussle of the old engagements, where man grappled with man, and the final victory depended more on the individual skill and courage of a few, is gone. Alkibiades rushed headlong into the fray. It was his first experience of real war. Forgetting everything in his excitement but the antagonists before him, he found the noblest and strongest youths among the foe, and astonished many on both sides as he felled opponents in his impetuosity.

31The Athenian attack was stubbornly resisted. Kallias, the young general, the pupil of Zeno, the philosopher of Elea, and a firm friend of Alkibiades, was slain. Each foot of ground was fought for vigorously, and fought for, sometimes, more than once, as now Athenian, now Korinthian, gave way, and rocked and swayed together.

The son of Kleinias, blind to dangers round him, fearless of thrusts or blows, strode in the front of the Athenian army. He had just felled a stalwart Korinthian, when a blow upon his helmet, glancing down upon his breastplate, brought him to his knees still fighting, till, with loss of blood, he bowed his head and fell prone upon the ground.

The battle raged around him as before. He heard the din of it confusedly—the calling on the gods, the cries of rage, the clanking of the swords and shields; no one seemed to notice him. Those who, just now, wondered at his courage were too much engaged to see his fall. His blood, although he knew it not, was pouring from his wound. A dim vision of his past life came before him—his father’s parting words, his hopes, his ambition; now all was over, ended at his first attempt to make a famous name. The great gods had struck him down in his pride. 32He recollected indistinctly his late excesses, and dread Aiakos, the Judge of Hell, he had been used to jest about as his old ancestor in his careless health and jollity; he trembled as he thought how soon he was to meet him. And then a sweet remembrance swam before his darkening eyes of a sunny afternoon by the Ilissos, and the pleasant voice and kindly words of that strange friend of his came back to him, like far-off music in his ears; then darkness, and then—nothing.

Presently a sound as of the same voice came over him again. That which had been indistinct and dreamy was now real and clear. His eyes opened, and he saw Sokrates striding across him, his big eyes shining with a rage which made them look almost beautiful; the ungraceful body trembled with a god-like energy, his whole countenance glowed as if inspired. With a blow he had brought to the ground a Potidaian, who, taking advantage of the young man’s helplessness, was about to slay him with his sword.

The Athenian army, everywhere victorious, chased the enemy into Potidaia, and left the young hoplite and the philosopher behind amongst the dead and dying. Neither of them 33spoke: one was too weak, the other only stood and watched him.

When some of their side returned, Alkibiades was taken to his tent, and his wound was dressed. Youth, vigour, and relenting Zeus soon did the rest.

Amidst rejoicing and loud hymns of triumph to the God of War, with which the Athenians celebrated their success, the generals deliberated, according to their wont, to whom the prize of valour should be given. They decided on the favourite Alkibiades, already celebrated for his wealth and beauty and now made famous by his prowess. Alkibiades refused, and with true generosity declared that Sokrates, the saviour of his life, deserved it more than he did. But the generals cared little for the philosopher, so Alkibiades was afterwards crowned with laurel and invested with a splendid suit of armour before the assembled host, as hero of the victorious day.

Meanwhile he was not ungrateful. He had made Sokrates come back with him and share his tent as long as he remained in the besieging camp. His wound, though quickly healing, left behind it a sense of lassitude he had never felt before. He had time to study the strange character, and many an occasion to marvel at 34the curious man who was living with him in the close confines of a soldier’s tent. He loved to gaze on the grotesque figure, and listen to his words, which had about them a charm unspeakable, and carried all away who listened to them.

Sometimes Sokrates remained lost in thought for hours—all the whole day together—undisturbed by the tumult of the camp, or by the wit and frolic of the younger men who thronged the tent. But Alkibiades cared less than heretofore for the gay society of his companions. He would often rather sit and learn, answering the perpetual questionings by which the sage, humblest of men himself, would show how ignorant men are, how puffed up only by conceit of knowledge, how appearances are taken by them for realities, how even those who pass for the wisest of mankind, when brought to book, give but the poorest explanation of the simplest things, how those only are truly wise who know their utter, necessary ignorance.



‘Alas! unnumbered sorrows do I suffer

A plague is on all our host, nor can thought find any weapon of defence.

One on another mayest thou see urged on like bird on well-plumed wing, swifter than the resistless flame, to the shore of the god of darkness.

By countless deaths the city is perishing; her sons death-bearing lie unpitied upon the ground, with none to make lament for them.’

Sophocles: Oid. Tyran.

Through all that winter, and long after it, the siege of Potidaia lasted. Sokrates showed superhuman power of endurance, keeping his watch by night barefoot amid the ice and snow, in his only dress, which he wore summer and winter, in heat and cold alike, in the pelting rain and bitter winds. He showed endurance, too, in striving to win his scholar to a higher life, to nobler aims.

But Alkibiades in time grew tired of the siege. It was very well to do heroic deeds before the eyes of men, but to sit down before a stubborn 36town, month after month to go through the same tedious duties, without a chance of honour or distinction, that was a different thing. The siege got wearisome. With returning health and strength he began to long for the pleasures he had left behind at Athens. Moreover, the pest broke out amongst the besiegers and besieged. So he got leave, like many others, to return.

When he got back an awful change had come over the gay city. He had left it in its glory, triumphing in bravery and beauty; he came back to find it a place of mourning. The pest had come there, too, making havoc among the citizens, whose numbers were swelled by almost the whole rural population of the state. For the Lakedaimônian invasion of Attika had forced the country people into Athens, where they lay huddled up together in miserable hovels, in temples, in the porticos and colonnades. And the plague raged amongst them.

Men and women, old and young, and helpless children, all alike—the plague spared none of them. Rich and poor were doomed to the same fearful suffering. A burning torture took possession of their bodies, and defied all remedies. Physicians’ skill was of no avail. The plague demon baffled every precaution. Those who 37could get away left Athens, and many of them fell victims as they went, unhelped, uncared for by panic-stricken friends. In the town those who were forced to stay sat down in grim despair, waiting their turn for torture and for death.

A black veil hung over the gorgeous city. Like a faded beauty who long ago had decked herself out with ornaments and shone resplendent in her youth, the ornaments were there, the beauty gone—it seemed for ever. The dismayed people, who were stricken with a fever the like of which had not been seen before, and which has passed, as the Greeks themselves have passed, from earth, wallowed in their pain. They rushed to pools, to streams, to fountains, and in delirious feebleness fell headlong in and died. The waters thus polluted were a source for propagating the disease. The very water, gift of purity and cleanliness, became the channel of a loathsome death. An internal fire ate out the very core of life. A scream for drink, more drink, to quench the unextinguishable flame, which burnt from head to foot, through all the limbs, but most through the more vital parts, was heard above the wails and groans—was heard unheeded.

Even when recovery was possible the terrible phenomenon was seen of human beings who had 38lost all memory of everything that had gone before, all remembrance of their friends, all consciousness of the continuity of their existence, of their own names.

The birds and beasts that prey on human bodies and thrive on such occasions disappeared, either through disgust and satiety, or killed by the infection. Even the women, tender nurses in distress, who know so well how to soothe our pains, when we can scarce tell what we want, whose constant care will watch and help when we are powerless—even women fled in horror from those stricken by that plague. There was none to help; there was little aid that could do any good. Nemesis, for all the too great pride and joy of Athens, poured forth the vials of her retribution.

Alkibiades had, indeed, an opportunity to show how he had profited by the lessons of his friend. He had no fear and great generosity. Among the few who rose above the degrading influence of the terrible contagion no one was more active or persevering than was he. Undaunted by the weight of woe with which he had to deal, he attacked the unseen enemy as resolutely as he had fought Korinthians at Potidaia. While most men slunk away in dread, and others, despairing of their lives, sought to 39enjoy the short time left them in unsatisfying dissipation, and affected to ignore the danger by an assumed carelessness or noisy drunkenness, he was unwearied in the aid he brought to the panic-stricken people. The rich who had not fled barricaded themselves in their large houses, hoping thus to escape the plague, and many expired there alone. It was not to these he came, but to the poor, who had no palaces in which to stand a siege, to the poor, crowded together in their small tenements, lying helpless on their straw.

The poorer Athenian was accustomed to spend the greater part of his day out of doors. As soon as he rose in the early morning, putting on his simple dress, he was out in the fresh air. His work was done there; there he enjoyed his mid-day rest. If he was summoned to take part in the Assembly of the state, it was in the open air he heard and voted. If he had to try a fellow citizen, it was in a court roofed only by the canopy of heaven. Or when, his work and duty done, he assisted at a play of Sophokles or the broad satire of a comedy, it was under the blue sky he listened and applauded.

It was in unaccustomed confinement that these Greeks lay dying when Alkibiades came, bringing 40consolation and the sunlight of his radiant happiness. How many in after-years, in the conflict of party strife, when it was their turn to vote for or against him, remembered the god-like youth, who in the flush of strength, and victory, and beauty, had come like Hermes to them in their agony?

When he returned from Potidaia, he found other troubles disturbing the democratic city. The people, dissatisfied with the conduct of the war, and maddened by the plague, turned on their best friend. Perikles, who had subdued the oligarchs, had raised the people to power, had endowed them with the privileges they enjoyed, and had for thirty years guided the popular government of the state so wisely and so strongly that most even of his oligarchic opponents were contented with his guidance, was now the object of the people’s anger.

We can imagine the thoughts with which the old man came home from the Assembly which decreed his degradation and his punishment. He had made Athens what she was. He had guarded her from foes without, the people from their foe within, ever ready to rob them of their rights. It was in his mind that had first risen up the idea of a great Hellenic empire, 41one confederation, which should include all the self-governing states and towns of Greek origin, with Athens at its head. It had been his hope to call together a pan-Hellenic congress, to consider the rights, the wrongs, the divergent interests, of them all, that they might proceed together, self-defended from barbarian attack, to higher intellectual and ethic greatness, to even nobler efforts in their arts and in their literature—a policy which, had he been allowed an opportunity to carry it out unto its end, must have gone near to realize the great ideal of his hopes, and would certainly have saved Athens and the whole of Greece from the catastrophe which was now about to be unfolded.

It was as a symbol of imperial headship that he had caused Athens to be decorated with the splendid monuments that arose within the city in his time. And now, awakening from his dream of what she—what all Greece—might have been, he found Athens threatened upon every side, and himself marked by her people as the victim for their sacrifice.

Harder blows came on him nearer home. He had seen his old companions, his colleagues, pass away. The plague bore off his only sister, then his eldest son, and then his Paralos, his youngest, 42best beloved. As the old man placed the funeral wreath upon that head, the emotion he had mastered hitherto quite mastered him; he fell down, overwhelmed with woe. The human mass which ruled in Athens, even they were touched at that sad spectacle. The people recollected what he had done for them, for Athens; they called their leader back to power as suddenly as they had driven him away.

But Perikles was broken down. He felt his sun was setting. His far-reaching plans had failed. He longed for peace and for silent converse with his sorrow. Alkibiades, the bright, the rising sun, came to his old friend and tutor, whose glory was departing, and, after much persuasion, induced the old warrior and chief to return to lead the people.

Once more he heard the shouts of gratulation as he raised a trembling arm and swayed them as of old. Once more his eyes, grown dim with age and grief, saw the vast sea of faces gazing at him as he kept the huge concourse silent with his word. But the elasticity was gone. The heart within him rose not as it had used to do. His day was done. Within another year the greatest of Greek statesmen was taken, not reluctantly, to his last resting-place. And the 43world, save for the undying works he left behind him, went on as though he had not been.

Conflicting forces rose at once. Oligarchs and democrats, headed by Nikias and Kleon, contended for the prize the dead leader had abandoned.

Nikias, representing the rich old families, and supported by them, was of high birth and wealthy. He was timid, cautious, safe and superstitious, narrow-minded, honest, and respectable.

Kleon was of the middle, trading class. Many of this sort, during the last thirty years of prosperity, had become wealthy. He was the first who presumed to bid for power. It is one of the strange phenomena of nature that after pestilence comes great fecundity. This has often been observed, especially after the plague which ravaged Europe in 1348 and 1349 of our era. The air is cleared, as it were, by the storm which has passed over. Those who survive, too, get to themselves such courage they begin to imagine they are exempt from ordinary dangers. They become rich with the wealth of those who have died, and rejoice in a new and opulent existence. At Athens life burst out anew in the fulness of enjoyment.

None knew how to enjoy it more than Alkibiades. 44We need not dwell upon the life he led for the next few years. His mind, his ambition, was expanding. He was nearing the age when he should take his share in the government of the Athenian empire. He had enriched his mind with all the knowledge of the Greeks at the highest period of their culture. Nature had endowed him with a genius to discover the right course to take in every emergency, as if by intuition; so that, apparently without effort, he divined the course events would take. In him she joined courage and resource with a circumspect solicitude seldom found together with promptness in action.

She had given him besides a body of so much strength and beauty, and withal of so great grace, that sculptors, who, while he was a boy, had realized at sight of him the face and form of Eros, God of Love, now took him as their model when they strove to mould a Hermes, the wise, quick, strong, radiant messenger of Heaven.

If we dare not linger on the life he led at this time, if we can only speculate on some of the motives of his conduct, neither can we venture to describe his outward form, the perfect oval of his face, the thickly curling hair he allowed to grow so long, the large voluptuous eyes, now 45gazing with half-closed indolence, now flashing with the latent fire within, the faultless classic profile, the clean-cut nose, with nostrils that would sometimes dilate and tremble with excitement, above a mouth which often stayed half opened, careless in repose, and sometimes withering in its contempt.

Can we wonder if, in the graphic language of the Greek historian, ‘he was hunted by good women, as the hunter hunts his prey’? Ought we to be hard in our judgment on him if, living before the world had yet been taught a higher law, his life was not what we call virtuous? If we do not pardon him, we can make excuses. We cannot but remember the circumstances of his youth and bringing up in the house of Perikles and Aspasia; the licence of affection unsanctioned by the marriage tie, which even severe critics like Sokrates did not condemn. Of all this liberty he took his fill. None so sought after as he, none sooner weary of ordinary easy love. He astonished Athens by his erratic escapades. He had all there at his command. That was not enough. Hearing of renowned beauties far away, the difficulties of the pursuit lent enchantment to the search. At one time we hear of him, in disguise, at Korinth, at another at 46Abydos in the Hellespont, drawn thither only by rumour of the beauty of Medontis.

So three years went by as in a wanton dream. As Perikles had for his friend the learned and beautiful Aspasia, whose salon was frequented by the wit and genius of Greece, so his pupil formed a strong attachment to Timandra, and felt perhaps the truest love he ever felt for the fair Athenian. She, like Aspasia, was of the class which society at that time something more than tolerated. Doubtless she was fitter to become companion of the life and work of such a man, the confidante of his hopes and aspirations, than were the most part of the high-born Grecian ladies. We shall see how faithfully, through all his ills, she followed him unto the end. But the offspring of such alliances could not become their fathers’ heirs, except by special legislation, so Alkibiades must marry, and marry one of his own caste.

The rich and famous general Hipponikos, whose ancestors were among the most famous mythic heroes of the Greeks, whose family were the hereditary torch-bearers at the celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries, had an only daughter, Hippareté, whom he loved devotedly, and who was to share his wealth. Her hand was eagerly 47sought for by most of the young men of old descent. The fact that she was coveted by many enhanced her value in the eyes of Alkibiades. She whom so many were anxious to possess was worth pursuing. He found in that pursuit an opportunity to show how he could excel the other youthful heroes of the day in love as well as war.

Her mother had been separated from Hipponikos by the odious law which allowed a wife for little cause to change her husband for another—the bane and fruitful source of evil in the old societies. Released from her first husband, she had married Perikles, and became the mother of some of his children; but growing jealous of Aspasia, she was divorced from Perikles, and joined herself in wedlock to a third. It was the daughter of this woman and Hipponikos that Alkibiades wooed and won—perhaps too easily.




In the late autumn of 425 B.C., when the keen bright winter was just beginning to give warning that he was coming soon, Alkibiades brought his young bride home to his great house in the heart of Athens. First came the bearer of the marriage torch, which had been lighted by Deinomaché; then the chorus of youths and maidens dancing, and shouting to the shrill reedy music of the double oboes their thrilling and exulting cry, ‘Hymen O Hymenaie!’ then bride and bridegroom on the wedding-car, drawn by four white horses of his breed that was to become so famous.

A flight of steps led up to the wide portico, supported by six Ionic columns, crowned by its sculptured tympanum, on this day hung with garlands. The massive doors, covered with beaten bronze plates, were opened as the festive band approached, and showed a troop of slaves, 49young men and maidens, upon either side, awaiting the arrival of their lord. The bridal procession entered the great courtyard, which had been much changed and ornamented since the days of Kleinias. A colonnade of sculptured columns now ran all round it; the walls were painted with scenes from the Argonautic expedition by the young painter Mikôn. A graceful fountain rose and fell in the centre of the court as they passed through to the rooms beyond, painted for this occasion with hymeneal subjects by Aristophôn. There the women had prepared the nuptial couch.

Athens was astir that day. All the world knew Alkibiades, and had heard many things of the riches and the ancestry of the daughter of Hipponikos. Slaves and dependents, from the demesnes of either house, followed in their train. Hipponikos was proud at having for his son-in-law one who had proved his valour in the field, and bade fair by his talents to become a leading man in Athens. The people lined the streets to see the show, and cheered their favourite as he went by as heartily as they applauded when the actors, in their great masks, mouthed out licentious satires of him on the comic stage.

At the rich feast which Hipponikos gave, friends 50and relations of bride and bridegroom, and most of the great men of the state, were present. Kallias, the brother of the bride, of course was there, with his philosopher Protagoras, and others of his loquacious Sophist friends, and Sokrates, who never spoke a word. The banquet, gay and joyous, with its great dishes of sesame cakes, lasted late, and then the bride bid adieu to her old sire, and left her home of innocence and peace, happiest of them all, unmindful of the troubles that were to come with the new life.

She thought that she indeed had cause to be contented. She had gained the bravest, cleverest, most splendid of all the Greeks. Even his gallantries, of which her women told her, could not lessen the admiration that she felt, and all these gallantries, excusable in him till now, she knew he would abandon for the love of her. Had she not cause to be contented?

And he, as the epithalamium he had written for her was sung outside their chamber door by girls and boys, to the music of the harps and flutes—he, tired with the day’s excitement, as he laid him down by her, he too was happy, while Timandra—poor Timandra!—was almost forgot.

Lonely Timandra, who had given up all else 51for him, and loved him as only such a one as she can love, in her fair Grecian villa—far from the bustle of the town, she sat her down in dark despair and rage. The very luxury with which he had surrounded her grew hateful to her. The garden perfumes from the orange-trees, whose blossoms the late autumn winds had not yet shaken off, grew sickly. The shaded seats, where they had sat on summer nights, looked drear. The birds, which had so often sung to them in the bright springtime, on quiet cloudless evenings, their songs of love and endless happiness, were still. All, all, was desolate.

She had sometimes feared this end. And yet what fault was it of hers that she was not descended from as long a line of ancestors as this Hippareté? Was her rival any better for her trip to Samos, and all the other childish myths about her family? Perhaps her own forefathers—who could tell?—had been as great as that one’s. Her mother—and now she almost wept—her kind, fond, virtuous mother, who had died hardly forgiving her, she, at least, was better than that poor doll’s, with three husbands living at one time. She was more beautiful, she knew, than poor Hippareté, for he had often told her so; and she had wit and learning, and was more 52skilled in every art than any woman in her time, except, perhaps, Aspasia.

So the day passed with her. When the night came on, a maddening frenzy seized her soul, till the chill morning dawned, and then an evil smile crept over her disdainful mouth; she knew her time would come.

For a season Alkibiades became another man. He laid aside the flowing Persian robe in which he loved to scandalize the sterner Greeks. The long and curling locks, tokens of youth, were cut at last. His days again were given to military exercise, and sometimes he would even seek out Sokrates, and listen to his teaching. The faithful Sokrates had never ceased to follow him through all his dissipation, had never ceased to love him for his beauty and his understanding, nor ceased to mourn for him as over a great soul departing.

As the spring drew on there was greater martial stir than ever in the town of Athens. It was indeed a time for all who cared for her or wished to make a name to brace themselves for action. Besides Korinthian, Spartan, and other Doric enemies in the Peloponnesos, Boiotians to the north, Megarians on the west, were threatening her. Now was the moment come for struggle, 53if she meant to burst the toils that were closing round about her.

Like Venice afterwards, and another island in the north, Athens found her chief ally in the sea-waves. On the sea she still ruled despotic. The sea was Athens’ true divinity, the highway of her commerce and her armies, her protection from her enemies. To the sea, it was said, the tribune in her Assembly turned as to a deity.[1]

1.  The remains of it show this was not so.

A desultory warfare had been going on with varying success since the victory at Potidaia. Kleon, who had succeeded to something of the popularity and something of the political wisdom of Perikles, had, by a lucky chance, increased his reputation by vanquishing the Spartans and taking many of them prisoners at Sphakteria, when Nikias had refused to go there.

To prevent and put a stop for ever to the frequent ravages of Attika by Lakedaimôn, aided by Boiotian cavalry, it was determined to make a final stand, and by a sudden incursion on Boiotia to gain so strong a position within its borders that invasion thence should be impossible in future. A levy was made of nearly all who could bear arms, and the largest expedition 54ever yet sent out was ready to march, under Hippokrates, in September, 424.

Sokrates served with the heavy-armed. Hipponikos was placed over a portion of the force, while Alkibiades was foremost, gayest, best equipped of all the knights.

He was enthusiastic for the war, but Hippareté was plunged in terror as the time drew near for his departure; and, on the day before he left, she gave birth, too early, to their first-born son. Hipponikos was overjoyed at the event, doubled the large dowry he had given her, then bade farewell to the beloved daughter he was not to see again, and Alkibiades kissed tenderly the wife he had to part from in her weakness and foreboding.

Whatever solicitude he may have felt at leaving his young wife at such a time, it was soon forgotten as he rode off along the way the traveller still takes who journeys from Athens to the ruined Delion. Nor did the beauty of the road which goes through olive woods near home to the mountain passes of Pentelikos and Parnes, on to Oropos, and so, by the sea-shore, to where the temple of Apollo overhung, from its high rock, the surging sea below, make much impression on him then.

55When they arrived in the enemy’s country, three days were spent in fortifying the temple and throwing up entrenchments. This point was of great strategic value. If the Athenians could keep it, they would have a fortress on the frontier of Boiotia, inside their neighbours’ territory, whence so many invasions had of late years come upon them.

Hippokrates, having finished his entrenchments, and having placed there a small force of foot and horse for the defence of the newly-acquired fortress, ordered the main body to return to Attika. The light-armed went first, and had got safely across the frontier before the heavy-armed and the cavalry had left the temple. Hippokrates stayed behind, for a time, at Delion. The hoplites and the cavalry, after a rapid march, halted on the frontier, about a mile from Oropos. They were about to start again, after a short rest, when, late in the afternoon, a herald from Hippokrates galloped up in haste with orders to range themselves at once in line of battle, for the forces of Boiotia and her allies, twenty thousand men, fresh and eager for the fight, were coming over the hills to fall upon them.

Hippokrates, who soon came up, had not eight thousand men, all told, to meet this unexpected 56blow, and they were tired out with marching. The general got them into some sort of order, and was addressing them, pointing out the immense importance of gaining a foothold in Boiotia, to stop the incursions the Spartans, with the help of the Theban cavalry, were able continually to make upon the soil of Attika, when he was interrupted by the war-cry of Boiotia, and the Boiotians and their confederate forces were upon them.

The Athenians rushed to meet them. They were only eight men deep; the Thebans were twenty-five. The shock was terrible. The Athenian right wing, throwing itself on the Boiotian left, where the Thespians fought, drove it back, and cut the Thespians to pieces. But they went too far, and got involved with the deep columns of the enemy, and lost as many as they slew.

On their left wing the Athenians were broken at the onset, and retreated, overpowered by numbers. The centre and so much of the right wing as could disengage themselves followed in good order. But as they turned the hillside they saw the Boiotian cavalry, fifteen hundred strong, charging down upon them. They broke and fled in all directions. Some made their way 57back to Delion, others to the sea at Oropos; others, struggling through the passes of Parnes, at last got home again to Athens. The enemy, pursuing them, did fearful execution in their ranks.

Brave old Hipponikos was slain at the beginning of the rout while endeavouring to rally his retreating men. From the hilly nature of the ground where the main attack had been delivered, the small force of cavalry, placed at each extremity of the Athenian line, had been unable to give much help during the heat of the conflict. That division of the horse posted on the left wing, where Alkibiades chafed at his compulsory inaction, covered, as far as it could, the disorderly retreat. While thus engaged, it was his good fortune to save the life of Sokrates, and so repay the service his friend had rendered him seven years before at Potidaia. He came upon him retiring with his face to the Boiotians as calmly as if he had been combating some common error in the groves at Athens. Misfortune ever made more manifest the greatness that was in him. The rugged figure had a majesty about it as he bade defiance to the foe. Death when threatened by his country’s enemies brought no more fear to him than when at last it came to him in the cup 58of hemlock, by which that country afterwards rewarded him.

The temple at Delion was soon afterwards retaken by the Boiotians, and that disastrous campaign was ended. At the same time in Thrace the Spartans, under Brasidas, were encouraging Athenian dependencies to revolt. Through the negligence of the historian Thoukydides they were able to take Amphipolis, one of the most important possessions of Athens on the Thrakian coast, an event which became of curious importance in deciding the future life of Alkibiades.

He had returned to Athens in less glorious circumstances than those in which he had set out. Through no fault of his, he and the other knights had been unable to do much. He was discontented. His wife received him back with tears. He who was almost all to her had come back indeed, but the brave old father, where was he? Her father had ever been her constant friend, the dear companion of her childish days and early womanhood. When his wife left him his daughter had become everything to him. He lavished all his love on her, for the worthless Kallias deserved and got but little. And he who gave it to her so ungrudgingly was gone. She 59would never see that strong old tender face again. How could she keep her tears from flowing—tears of grief, tears, too, of joy, as her husband stood by her side once more?

Egoism, from which most men, even the best, suffer more or less, was not a stranger in the breast of Alkibiades. He liked the blind devotion of his wife, and would not have her show her grief for anyone when he was there. He did not understand how much less worth her love for him must be if she did not love her father with another and as great a love.

He grew weary of his life at home. Hippareté was rather dull. She was weak and feeble, and spent most of her time attending to her child. His absences from home grew longer and more frequent. When he came there she met him with a grieved, sad smile. Silent reproaches drove him off again.



‘And forth sche wente and made a vanysschynge,
            *        *        *        *
And hoom sche gooth anon the nexté weye.
This is theffect, ther nys namore to seye.’
Chaucer: Knight’s Tale.

It was towards the end of May, in the year 423, that Kleon gave his celebrated banquet to his friends. His house was large and sumptuous rather than beautiful. Βάναυσον is the word which best describes the feast, for which ‘vulgarly profuse’ is our nearest equivalent. Not that Kleon was altogether what we call a vulgar man. It may be doubted if there was anything known in Greece at that time which we can exactly qualify by the term ‘vulgarity.’ Yet his peculiarities had something akin to that growth of vulgar profusion in later times which came to its perfection in the rich outside society of later Rome, and has not yet entirely disappeared.

Kleon was a man of considerable power. He had shown sound judgment and natural military 61skill at Sphakteria, where, although unused to arms, he struck the first blow at the military supremacy of Sparta, while, as a politician, during the short time in which he took a leading part in the guidance of the state, he proved himself to be one of the most sagacious and far-sighted of Grecian statesmen.

True, he threw aside the old traditions of the Pnyx, the Athenian House of Commons, as he threw aside his cloak, or let it fall ungracefully from off his shoulders, as he tramped about the tribune. True, his harangues there were not the stately orations of academic Athens. True, he swelled his cheeks when he thundered out the living words which took such hold upon the people, chiefly because they were the expressed embodiment, the unconscious echo, of their own vague thoughts. Yet was there something in his voice—a ring in it—which spake of genius more than of vulgarity. And though his enemies could ridicule his speeches afterwards, and demonstrate the errors in his arguments to small batches of adherents in the Agora, few dare raise their voice to answer him in the Assembly of the people.

He loved the large and splendid in his house and at his entertainments, and there was plenty of the large and splendid at this feast. There was also serious conversation. The times were 62critical. The two great states of Greece felt a desire for peace. Athens had suffered terribly at Delion, and since then some other of the Thrakian cities dependent upon her had seized the opportunity to shake off her yoke.

But if Athens had suffered much, Sparta, on the whole, had suffered more, and with less power to recuperate, for this is the weakness of an exclusive people such as the Spartans were. Like the Patriciate of Rome, they would admit no strangers to share their privileges. So if a generation of her men were weakened, or, as happened sometimes, well-nigh destroyed by war, she had to wait for another generation to grow up to supply the loss. Not so at Athens. There the gaps made in her ranks were constantly repaired by new-made citizens, who soon caught the spirit of the old Athenian traditions.

Sparta no less than Athens wished for peace. But the treaty which had been made for one year, now just expired, had hardly been concluded before news came that Skione, a thriving town not far from Potidaia, had thrown off her allegiance to Athens, and had invited Brasidas, the Spartan commander in that part, who had taken Amphipolis, to come to help her, and that Brasidas was assisting her in her revolt.

63Now, the treaty had provided that both sides and their dependencies should remain throughout the year as they were at the making of the treaty. Sparta declared the revolt of Skione had taken place before the treaty was concluded. Athens answered that to assist the Skionians was to infringe the terms of the treaty, as at the making of it Skione was a dependency of hers.

This questionable conduct of Sparta was the chief topic of conversation at Kleon’s banquet. Then there was the loss of Amphipolis, which the more warlike thought must be recovered at any cost. Some were for moderation, most of the guests for war. Kleon, having sounded the general feeling of his friends, was, on the whole, for war.

He spoke of the duty of all men, at any price, to save their country’s honour and preserve the state’s integrity. He denounced the perfidy of Sparta, and declared if Nikias, to whose negligence in confiding the Thrakian colonies to the government of the money-making Thoukydides the loss of Amphipolis was due—if Nikias feared to meet Brasidas in the field, why, he would go himself and bring the Spartans back prisoners to Athens, as he had done before, when Nikias shirked his duty at Sphakteria.

64Most of his guests noisily applauded him. A few were doubtful. They had not much faith in the enterprise or ability of Nikias, who had already been sent to the north to recover the lost Chalkidian towns, and had returned with but little glory, yet they had still less confidence in the military knowledge of Kleon; while all recognised in Brasidas one of the greatest generals that Sparta had as yet produced. The poorer sort were all for war. War hit their rich and aristocratic opponents most, while the middle class often sucked no small advantage from a war.

Shining among them all was Alkibiades, gayest in wit, quickest in repartee. He was looked upon by both parties as the coming man amongst the younger men, and as one who must make his mark when, in a short time, he would be of age to take his part in the Athenian Parliament. But when the question of war was seriously discussed, he either affected carelessness or professed a desire to hear his elders speak.

From the traditions of the family, from his education, he was on the people’s side. Still, he was a knight, and very rich. His personal friends were chiefly of the knightly order, and on the other side in politics. They were nicer 65to associate with than democrats like Kleon and his friends. They had been, too, his comrades, and had fought beside him in the wars. Moreover, Sokrates, in whose wisdom he had great faith, was for the oligarchic party.

Both sides were anxious to get hold of him. He was too wise to compromise his future liberty. He had not yet determined on which side the better chances of distinction lay, or, indeed, which side was absolutely best for Athens. Kleon undoubtedly was the first man among the democrats—it would be difficult to oust him from his position. On the other hand, Nikias, though safe, was feeble and irresolute; there were already many secret murmurs against him, even from among his own party, both as a politician and a general.

When the feast and high debate were over, these were the thoughts which strove together in his mind, as, after bidding Kleon and his fellow guests good-night, he dismissed his slave and walked alone towards home.

Warm with wine, excited by the discussion he had heard, he wandered on, thinking of his future course in life. Who was there to guide him? There was Sokrates indeed, but Sokrates was all for Sparta and for peace.

66Sokrates cared little for the oligarchic faction. Most of them, he said, knew not how to govern themselves, or persuade each other on the simplest questions; how could they govern others, or persuade the people as to what was best for their most vital interests? He had little regard for the oligarchs of Athens. But, anyhow, they were better than the mob. They had more to lose. And even they, foolish as they were, even they were more likely to go right in their opinions than the fickle populace, with their wavering, half-formed wishes. Alkibiades knew the advice he was sure to get from his old adviser. Then there was Hippareté, who, like the other women of her rank, had been brought up in respectable seclusion, knew scarcely anything beyond a few domestic duties, and cared only for her husband and her child.

Lost in his thoughts, his steps took him unconsciously from the homeward road, from the main streets, along a way they knew well, and which still seemed as natural to him as that which led to the house of his forefathers.

Descending the hill of the nymphs, where Kleon’s house stood, he made towards the Agora. The moon was nearly at its full, the streets were silent. It is difficult for us to realize a wide-spread 67city, gardens, temples, porches, statues, lit at night only by the moon. The absence of public lights at night, the scarceness of light in private houses after sunset, accustomed the citizens, especially the poor, to rise at earliest dawn, so as to make as much as possible of the daytime, and to go to rest at an earlier hour than the inhabitants of our gas-illuminated cities care to do.

He had met few people, when he found himself already beyond the Stoa Poikile, where Mikôn’s paintings of Ajax and Kassandra showed plainly in the moonlight, and the new statue of Hermes just finished by Nikeratos, for which, as all men knew, that incomparable sculptor had taken the son of Kleinias as his model. Then he passed through the Agora, the great market-place of Athens, and by the Stoa Eleutheros, and on and on he scarce knew where, he scarce cared to know for certain.

Skirting the Mouseion hill, the road led to the Ilissos. A young girl, starting suddenly from behind the temple of Aphrodite, startled him; he wondered at his weakness. She was soon out of sight. He turned the corner by the Amazonian monument, and then, there by the river, there in its pleasant garden, there it was 68before him, but long unvisited, the pretty villa he had himself planned for Timandra.

The akanthos plants had grown since he saw them last; the jasmine, just bursting into blossom, half hid the well-known door. These small things stamped themselves upon his memory as he paused a moment and looked round him, he knew not why; then he knocked nervously. The old slave he had given her opened to him, and laid her finger on her lips. He crossed the tiny atrium, entered the chamber painted in deep-red colours. The lamp of curious workmanship, which he had brought from Lesbos, shed a soft light upon the walls. A draped Hebe, cup in hand, was painted on one wall, an undraped Ganymede upon the other, and leaning against the pedestal of a statue of Eros stood Timandra.

She was gazing through the small portico out upon the orange-trees and myrtles; across them shone the moon. Her golden hair was bound up in a knot behind; the flowing robe hung down in graceful folds, and only half concealed her figure. On the tripod table near her—the well-known tripod table, with the three satyrs for its legs—lay rolls of writing: the fifth book of the ‘Odyssey,’ and her favourite Anakreon in its purple case. He walked up silently and placed 69his hand upon her. Without a sign of wonder, she turned and looked full into his eyes. There was no reproach, no astonishment, as she leant her head upon him.

‘I was expecting you,’ she said; ‘something told me you would come.’

They sat down on the couch, and then, all gaiety, she said how she had often heard from Aspasia how busy he had been with his affairs. She had but seldom been of late, however, to see Aspasia. She could not understand how one who had been the friend of Perikles could take up with a man like Lysicles, so burly and so common, whose talk was of his oxen, and his thoughts no better than his talk.

And then she told how Sokrates had been to see her. ‘Extraordinary man!’ At first, she said, she wondered what he came for, he asked so many curious questions—how she had gained the love of such a one as Alkibiades, and many other things. And then she mimicked Sokrates, and tried to imitate his eyes and mouth, till her fond lover stopped her.

‘And yet there was much wisdom in it all,’ she said; ‘and when he talked of you and told me how you saved his life at Delion, he grew quite 70eloquent. I thought I could have listened to him all day long.’

And so she prattled on, as though he had never left her, full of wit and life and loveliness. The night was fresh and bright, and, as he sat gazing at her once more, a feeling of contentment and delight stole over him.

Three days he stayed with her, bound by the old chain of love. On the fourth morning she told him he must go, and, after the slight morning meal, she bade him farewell—‘for a time,’ she said, as bright and cheerful as on the day when he came back to her; and he went somewhat reluctantly away.

His thoughts were not the bravest as he drew near home. He invented many poor excuses on the way—the busy times, the momentous questions, peace or war—and Kleon had kept him, requiring his counsel. He forgot them all when he knocked at his own door with a forced boldness. The porter opened; he entered with assumed carelessness.

All was silent. There was a scared look upon the faces of the slaves—not a sound except the splashing of the fountain as he crossed the courtyard. He passed on to the inner rooms. The ancestral sacred fire burnt upon the altar. No 71one appeared. He reached his wife’s room. No one was there.

He searched the women’s rooms, and at last found old Amykla, whose parents had been slaves of Deinomaché, who had nurtured him in childhood and watched over him through all his boyhood; who would gladly have died for him, and had received his wife with the same love and devotion because she was his wife; who had nursed her when his child was born, and tended both with a mother’s care while he was away at Delion. Amykla came with red eyes and unutterable sorrow in her face.

‘Where is Hippareté? Quick, tell me—where is Hippareté?’

‘Hippareté is gone, Alkibiades! She would stay no longer here.’

‘When did she go?’

‘But yesterday. The poor lady waited for two days and nights in tears. “Tell me, Amykla, has he come?” she said each minute. “No, Hippareté, not yet; he will come soon,” said I to cheer her. “Tell me, Amykla, is he hurt?” “Ah, no; we should soon hear if he was hurt. The great affairs of Athens keep him. He will soon be the greatest man in Athens. But yesterday he went to sup with Kleon. Kleon 72can do nothing without him. They say Kleon will have to go himself to conquer Brasidas, and he wishes Alkibiades to go with him. He dare not fight Brasidas without your Alkibiades. But Alkibiades will not go. He will stay here to lead the people, and protect his wife and child, whom he loves so much.” So I babbled to distract her thoughts, although I knew full well where you were gone. “Bring me,” she said, “the painting of him;” and I brought it, and then, poor lady, she fell a-kissing of it, till I got her to her bed and sat beside her as she sobbed and wept. A troubled sleep came over her at last, and in the morning a slave brought this from Kallias.’

He raised his head and read it.


‘“Alkibiades is with Timandra. I await you here. He is not worthy of you. Come to me and bring your child. I will protect you.


‘Ah, Alkibiades, could you have seen her then! She rose indignant from her bed, and taking the child, she bade me stay behind, nor 73dare to follow her. Then, turning to me, she gave me the child again. She seemed as in a daze, and went towards your rooms. When she came back she threw herself upon her knees beside her couch, and covering her head with both her hands, she laid it on the pillow, and there she wept until I thought her heart must break.

‘And then she rose, walked slowly to the door, and turning once more towards her couch, she raised both hands to heaven, and then I think she would have fallen had I not caught her in my arms. She let me hold her for a little while, but at the last she walked slowly away and through the courtyard, bidding her women to bring the child after her. So she left us, Alkibiades.’

Long time he stayed there in sadness; then he rose and told Amykla she might go. Then he gazed mournfully at all the small things that were hers. He opened the great carved chest. There lay her marriage robe, the long veil, the faded wreath she had worn the day he brought her to his home.

There was a strange swelling in his throat, such as he had not felt for many years.

He found a tablet with her writing on it about 74some small things that were wanted for Ephialtes, their child—about a gift for him, as a surprise. He remembered how happy she had been when she gave it to him.

He almost wept as he went to lie down upon the couch in his own room. He dare not lie on hers; it seemed a profanation.

In his own room everything had been put in order. He could see her care for him, for his things were just as he always liked them to be.

He found a scroll of writing on his table. He opened it and read:

‘I have gone back to my old home. Would to the gods that I had never left it!’

He lay down and slept. It was late before he woke. He remembered he had promised to sup that night at the house of Polytion. He called his slave and bade him prepare his bath, and then anoint him.

Dressed in his finest robes, he went to Polytion’s. The feast was nearly over, and the guests heated with wine. They rallied him as he came in. He heard Timandra’s name. He declined all food, but drank eagerly of Polytion’s generous wine unmixed with water. His wit that night was more poignant, more satirical, 75than it was wont to be. For all his efforts to conceal his thoughts, it was plain that something was amiss.

Days passed by in the great solitary house. His nights were spent in revelry. There was ever present all the time a feeling of imperfectness, a want. Sometimes he fought against it almost successfully, then it would come over him again when least expected. When he lay down alone at night, or in the early morning, he thought of all his wife’s great love and her devotion, and the kindlier portion of his nature took possession of him. This was the woman he was repaying for her love by making her spend days and nights in bitterest anguish. And all that time she was wandering like a spectre in her brother’s house—the brother she could never care much for, who was ever trying to persuade her to leave her husband altogether.

There had never been any love between her brother and her husband. She half suspected his design was to get back the dowry her father had given her, and the large patrimony he had left her in his last testament. By the law of Athens she knew if she left her husband she and all her fortune would be in her brother’s power.

76She soon got tired of living in the brother’s house. Amykla sent her word each day how unhappy her dear husband was. She pictured him to herself alone in the big house, no one to take care of him except Amykla and the slaves. Poor old Amykla, she thought, could not do much for him, or make up for her. Perhaps he was wishing her to come back, too proud to ask her to return. And, after all, his great offence, bad as it was, was not a bit worse than many other men had been guilty of. He was so strong, so great, so noble. Perhaps she ought not to expect from him all that other wives might properly expect from their husbands, and he was pining for her, longing for her back again. Was it not her duty to go to him?

Then for Ephialtes’ sake ought she not to go—forget it all, try to know him better, please him more, make him love her more than he could ever really love that other woman? Ought she not to put up with almost anything, rather than the child should ever know his father had—had not been always constant?

Kallias was at her day by day about the question of a divorce. He told her her husband’s conduct had been such that she had only to go before the Archon Eponymos, tell him her wrongs, 77pray for justice, and, by the law of Athens, he could not refuse it to her. But she must go herself in person before the magistrate.

She began to think of this, though with a different design to that of poor, mean Kallias. Yet how terrible to go before so high a judge to accuse her husband, and lay bare the secrets of their married life.

At length she made a trembling resolution.

On the last day of June, as Alkibiades was sitting over his morning meal alone, full of many thoughts and plans, and for the moment had almost forgotten his domestic troubles, his friend Polytion, rushing in, told him the news, already known by half the town, that Hippareté was even now in court before the Archon Eponymos suing for——

That was enough. Through the portico and down the steps he went and swept along the streets of Athens. The people stood aside to let him pass, staring with wonder at his hurried appearance, for he never stopped nor noticed anyone till he had reached the Agora and the Archon’s court.

With a look of indignation on his face, he imperiously brushed aside the crowd of loiterers who thronged the building, and there before the 78Archon he saw Hippareté standing like a suppliant. Two women supported her on either side, while Kallias stood smiling near her.

At the last moment her courage had forsaken her; she could hardly speak a word. Had it been an ordinary case the judge would have grown impatient by this time. As it was the daughter of Hipponikos, the wife of Alkibiades, he listened patiently, and tried to help the faltering lady.

But before he could get her story from her there was a loud disturbance in the building as Alkibiades strode in, and, seizing his wife in both his arms, as she stood trembling before the Archon, bore her off in triumph.

And yet she triumphed too. With womanly insight, she had foreseen the probability of this; and thus she triumphed.

As we read the ancient story of this man’s life, with all his faults and all his greatness; as we assist, as it were, at the tournament perpetually going on between the nobler aims and the lower passions, between the loftier hopes and the desire for immediate enjoyments, we view, from this far distance, often with feelings of despair, the worse part of him constantly thwarting, sometimes spoiling, his highest efforts, his greatest 79victories. But in judging of his actions it is only fair to recollect the manners of the times in which he lived. We may condemn the morals of that age, and those who try to imitate them in our own; she could forgive him; let us not pass too harsh a judgment upon him.



‘Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife,
To all the sensual world proclaim,
One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name.’
Sir W. Scott.

Many great affairs of state have happened since the events we have just recorded. Kleon, at length carrying out the threat made at his celebrated banquet the year before, put himself at the head of the Athenian army, and at the end of B.C. 422 met Brasidas, the Spartan general, at the fatal battle of Amphipolis, and was defeated. Both generals fell.

The death of Kleon at that time was a leading fact in the future life of Alkibiades. But for that event happening just then, he might have been spared his great temptations, saved from many errors, and this narrative might never have been written.

Nikias was left without a rival; his opponents had no leader. His party, chiefly the safe and 81wealthy citizens, with the suburban and rural inhabitants, could now meet the Spartan Kings and Ephors upon equal terms. A peace was signed for fifty years. So far, perhaps, they acted wisely. An alliance was then made, offensive and defensive, between these two leading states—Sparta pre-eminent again by land, the Athenians by sea. A questionable policy, as the event soon proved. So matters stood at the beginning of the year 421, the turning-point in the career of Alkibiades. The son of Kleinias then reached the age at which all citizens of every rank could take their part in the Parliament of Athens.

For some time he had been in much perplexity. At one period he had nearly joined his fortunes with the aristocracy, the peace party. Many circumstances inclined him to that side. His large domains were injured by the war. His personal proclivities were all towards the knights his comrades, and the great old families, most of whom were his relations or his friends. Then Nikias was getting old, and though an experienced soldier, he was feeble, and near-sighted, and bungling as a politician. Another and a younger man would soon be wanted; none so likely to succeed, or supersede, him as Alkibiades.

By throwing in his lot with the old and powerful 82plutocracy, he would be spared the constant efforts, distasteful and laborious, the oftentimes degrading arts he knew were necessary, if he was to win and keep the suffrages of an exacting populace.

The country and suburban interests were all against the war. War meant loss and even ruin to the farmers and workers in the mines, to all who depended on their lands outside the city, and to many of the middle class within. So there was a strong party pledged to peace. He was really persuaded, too, just now, that peace with Sparta, if she could be made to keep her promises, was better for the future welfare of the state, surrounded by her many enemies.

On the other hand, to join the oligarchs was to desert the traditions of his ancestors. From the reformer Kleisthenes, who had expelled the tyrants—the far-sighted founder of the Athenian democracy—to Perikles, his family had been the leaders, the benefactors, of the people. The policy of the old conservators seemed tame to him. Changes must come. Better to lead the van than drag along amongst the rear. Progressive instincts of the people may be directed: they cannot be confined for ever. The excitement of the popular assembly was in accord with 83his impulsive nature. By force of intellect to rule the people in the Ekklesia, as the deliberative Parliament was called, as their recognised leader, to sway them by his words, to persuade them by his greater wisdom—was not that worth the sacrifice of ease and high conservative respectability? War, too, gave his ambitious soul more scope than peace.

Had Kleon lived, it may be doubted to which side the balance would have turned. Had he lived but for a short time longer, it may be that Alkibiades would have placed all his weight against the war, have sided with the oligarchic faction, have in time become their leader, have lived and died a rich and comfortable conservative. He might have been spared his great temptations, his faults and sufferings, and might have missed the tide which bore him on to victory, and enabled him to make a name to be remembered amongst the greatest of mankind for ever.

But Kleon died just at the nick of time, and Alkibiades resolved, with all the ardour of his energetic soul, to cast his lot upon the side of progress and the people.

He had already become famous for his lavish hospitality. His triremes, when the state wanted ships, were the largest, strongest, most completely 84manned, and liberally provided. The chorus which he presented to the city, when he undertook the duty of choregos for his tribe, was the finest, best instructed and most splendidly got up, that had appeared upon the Athenian stage. He had maintained the singers, both men and boys, at his own house during their time of training, and no objection had been made to his addition of some of the famous musicians from other Grecian cities.

The play given on that occasion was that most touching tale of Herakles and Deianira. He arranged the choric songs himself, and gained immense applause for that one especially, where the chorus laments the tragic fate of the strong man of Greece and of his wife. Though the wits laughed and pretended to see in Deianira, because of her jealousy, and her fears lest she should not be able to retain the sole affection of her hero, a resemblance to Hippareté, the people were enraptured.

As the chorus burst out, ‘But the Kyprian goddess, silently busy, has plainly appeared the doer of these things,’ the applause was unanimous. Even the old-fashioned musicians who condemned the new style in which the cadences of the songs were sung, the larger instrumental accompaniment, 85and, above all things, the additional string which his friend Timotheos had added to the kithara, were for the moment carried away by the beauty of the music, and forgot to grumble.

His bounty to the poor, too, was boundless. Even the lawlessness of which his enemies complained had generally some kindness, or at least some mere exuberance of spirits, at the bottom of it. No instance could anyone remember where his eccentricities had done harm to anyone. These eccentricities were forgotten, forgiven, for his generosity.

Passing one day when a state distribution of small coins was being made to all the indigent and workless, he ordered the dole to be doubled at his charges. The people, unable to restrain their gratitude at this new evidence of his compassion, led him home in triumph.

And thus at the opening of his political life, though there were envious rivals, he was the most popular of the citizens. The people love to have a man of great and ancient family to lead them. So even before he could take part in the debates of the Assembly he was recognised as the leader of the people’s party in the place of Kleon.

It is a great event in a man’s life when he first takes his seat in a popular assembly. After 86many years of hope deferred and unsuccessful efforts, when, each time we try, we think this time at last we must succeed, and then, when the votes are counted, after waiting with ill-concealed anxiety for the result, we find we have again just missed the mark, and we determine we will never, never try again; when we think, after all, the game is not worth playing, and we have to make a speech thanking those who have voted for us, and hinting at all we might have done for our opponents, as well as for those who have given us their support; and then, and then, come other opportunities, and we allow ourselves to be persuaded, against the grave advice of friends and relatives, to try once more, and then, if at length we are elected, with what strange indescribable feelings we walk in and take our place, if there is room for us, upon those seats it has cost us so much to get at! Those only who have undergone all this can really know the feeling.

True, Alkibiades had not to wait until he could get the people’s vote and confidence as against some other candidate, but he had waited for at least ten years till he was old enough. Though there was no precise law at Athens forbidding citizens to speak as soon as they had completed their twentieth year, the age at which they were 87capable of assisting at the meetings of the Ekklesia, there was so strong an unwritten custom against anyone below the age of thirty presuming to address the great Assembly that it had all the force of law.

In fact, few ever spoke at all except the wealthy, the high-born, or the trained orators. So great was the critical nicety of the Athenian ear and taste that any fault of grammar or pronunciation, which all but the well-educated few could not help but make, at once called forth a clamour of disgust. It was only by force of impudence, or extraordinary natural power, that such men as Hyperbolos or Kleon could gain a hearing.

During all these tedious ten years he had felt how much fitter he was to direct affairs, to persuade the people, to govern in their name, than those who were in power. He saw the short-sightedness, and all the wretched bungling, both in peace and war, of a man like Nikias. He saw the mistakes and weakness of Kleon, and while admiring the skill and artifice with which the demagogue could gain his ends, he could not help despising his—well, his want of breeding. Still, for a whole year after the time when he might have spoken, he only pondered over and elaborated 88his great designs, and thought or talked of them in private; with marvellous restraint he held his peace in public, and bided his time.

At length the full time came. The day arrived at last when he might not only sit and vote, but might also mount the steps of the great stone tribune, and loudly speak his long-pent-up thoughts unto his fellow-citizens.

Argos, it was known, had been in treaty for some time with Lakedaimôn for an alliance. An alliance between these, the two strongest states in the Peloponnesos, against Athens meant the end of the Athenian Empire.

Nikias had given back to Sparta the prisoners Kleon had taken at Sphakteria, without receiving any compensating advantage in return for them. So the Athenians lost the great check they had held for so long upon their rivals. Sparta had promised, in return, to restore Amphipolis; but this she had not done. She undertook, on oath, to assist Athens in her wars; she gave her no assistance in her efforts to recover her revolted dependencies. She was bound by the terms of the alliance not to make a treaty with anyone without the consent of Athens; but she made a treaty with Boiotia, the most dangerous enemy of Athens, without consulting her.

89At last even Nikias and his party, who were answerable for the peace, grew weary. Alkibiades, who at one time had imagined, and hoped for, the possibility of a peace with Sparta, the home of many of his ancestors, and, indeed, had endeavoured to bring it about, now saw the hopelessness of ever being able to trust such a people. He also foresaw the strength it would bring to Athens, the perils it would save her from, if her future policy were alliance with Argos against Sparta.

There never could be, he was convinced, a lasting truce with Sparta. She was oligarchic and dishonest. Argos was democratic, and he had reason to know from his friends there that the Argives, together with the people of Elis and Mantineia, were about to send an embassy to Athens to treat for an alliance. The Spartans, hearing of this, and frightened by the warnings and threats of their friend Nikias, thought it was time they too should send ambassadors to explain their conduct, and prevent, if possible, the proposed alliance with the Argives and their allies. Both embassies arrived at the same time at Athens.

Endios, a leading Lakedaimônian of high birth, whom we shall meet again, was one of the three 90Spartan ambassadors. He was a relation and firm friend of the family of Alkibiades, and was his guest during his visit to Athens.

The cordial terms upon which these two representatives of both branches of the great family remained with one another then, and always afterwards, in spite of the strong part taken by Alkibiades against Lakedaimôn, is a sufficient refutation of the calumny on him, first formulated by Thoukydides—who never can resist the temptation of an opportunity to bear false witness against the leader of a side opposed to him in politics—that, with a cunning alien to his whole character, he deliberately misled his guest and relative by an unworthy trick, and induced the Spartan ambassadors to deny their powers.

Not only his friendship with Endios, but the way in which he was afterwards received by Sparta, is enough to dispose of the accusation, without pointing out that the ambassadors would have been below the ordinary level of human beings in intelligence, instead of being picked diplomatists, if they could have been taken in by any such artifice as that ascribed to Alkibiades, which would not have been noticed here had not the tale of Thoukydides been repeated by nearly every historian since he wrote.

91The Spartan ambassadors appeared before the Senate, and, amongst other things, declared they had full powers to treat with Athens. They were favourably received, and referred to a meeting of the Assembly to be held in a few days, at which the ambassadors of Argos and her allies were also to appear.

In fact, the Spartan envoys had exaggerated their powers before the Senate. They had really only been sent to gain time, to prevent the threatened alliance with the other Peloponnesian states, not to bind Lakedaimôn by any precise obligations. Having incautiously declared they were entrusted with powers they did not in fact possess, they now saw it would be necessary when they came before the Ekklesia, the fundamental ruler of Athens, to modify their unqualified pretence.

The appointed day arrived. A summons to the citizens to attend a meeting of the Ekklesia to be held that day at the Pnyx was made by criers throughout the town. A notice of the questions to be discussed, of the business to be done, was placed upon the well-known post in the old Agora. At dawn the huge semicircular theatre, cut out of the rock from which it took its name, with its innumerable seats of stone, 92was duly purified. Then came the heralds’ solemn prayer, with the offering of incense, and the curse on all who should give evil counsel or deceive the people.

By this time the citizens had assembled, and all, except the rich, received a token entitling them to the payment of an obolos for their attendance. They came in more than their ordinary numbers this day, for the business was interesting and important, and it was rumoured that Alkibiades would speak.

The people took their seats according to their several tribes. The President of the Prytanes—those whose duty it was, each successive month, to guard in turn the sacred fire, symbol of a common hearth of the one great family at Athens—called on the business of the day, and then put the ancient formal question: ‘Who wishes to speak?’

The Spartans, as allies, had the right of prior audience. They came forward and attempted to explain their conduct. After making several lame excuses, on being pressed, they admitted they had not full powers to pledge their country for the future.

Then Alkibiades arose, mounted the great stone steps that led to the bema, or tribune, which Solon and Aristeides, Themistokles and Perikles, 93had often trod before—and which the traveller may still see standing there silently, as they stood more than two thousand years ago—and found himself alone on that exalted platform, about to engage the whole attention of the vast audience.

At the first utterance of his pent-up thoughts his countenance glowed with animation. His personality seemed to himself to be projected on to the listening multitude. Almost unconscious of his individuality, there was a consciousness of a great silence round about him—a silence of everything except his own voice, which sounded as from a distance on his ears. He felt the rapt attention of the crowd, and saw ten thousand faces turned to him, their eyes fixed on him alone. He marvelled for a moment at his rush of eloquence, his facility of speech, his ready argument. Yet it was altogether different to that which they had been accustomed to from Kleon. There was no ranting, no pacing up and down. He had not studied in the schools of rhetoric in vain. Even the lessons he had learnt among the Sophists were of use to him. There was a conciseness, a conclusiveness, in his arguments. His very hesitation sometimes for a word, when he wished to be precise, the repetition which he sometimes made of one 94sentence ere he began another, which he sometimes made, gave an added power to his utterance. But there was something more than this—a soul which spake from out the depths, and went to the souls of his hearers, holding them captive. His splendid presence, his graceful action, lent a charm to all he said, and when roused to passion his whole face seemed transformed, his eyes fired with the latent energy within.

At first he spoke of Nikias and the peace, and showed how it had been dictated by a selfish policy, because Nikias, having got a reputation as a general, had nothing more to gain by war, and was anxious to enjoy the laurels he had won, for peace meant to him a long continuance of such fame as he had got, free from all further risk, while it prevented any other from rising up to rival him.

The people rose, and, as it were, with one voice demanded that Nikias should be haled before the dikasts, the judges in such cases, and tried for treason to the state. With perhaps real generosity, Alkibiades soothed their vehemence.

‘After all, it may have been the fault of old age and imbecility, not of design,’ he said, and then went on to say that others at one time—indeed, 95he himself for a short space—had thought that peace was necessary.

So, passing by the peace, he came to deal with the alliance.

‘Alliance!’ he exclaimed, and with a state known for its perfidy. Alliance! With a people whose selfishness and craft made it better to have them as open enemies than as friends! Alliance! With a people who from the time when they had laid upon themselves the most sacred obligations, with all the solemn sanction of libations to the gods, had never ceased to break each separate clause and article of the treaty they then made; and who quite lately, when they renewed their promises, were, at that very time, intriguing with the enemies of Athens!

The Spartan prisoners taken by the great Kleon at Sphakteria had by Nikias been given up to Sparta, while Athens got nothing in return. Amphipolis, which by another clause was to have been immediately restored to Athens, was in the power of the enemies of Athens still. All this was allowed by Nikias. Panakton had been promised in like way to be restored. It had been restored indeed, but shorn of more than half its value, and dismantled of its fortress. According to another clause no alliance should be made by either 96party with the enemies of either, yet Sparta had been allowed to enter into close alliance with Boiotia, the deadly foe of Athens. All this without remonstrance! And now the perfidious Lakedaimônians were seeking fresh alliances with Argos, Elis, and other states, to help them in their old desire to crush Athens. All this he had foreseen and provided for. The ambassadors of Argos, Elis, and Mantineia were here ready to come before the people and propose an enduring treaty with them. He advised that the Spartans be sent home again and the other ambassadors be heard.

In conclusion, he dwelt upon the greater wisdom of a firm alliance with the democratic Argos—‘a state with the same honest hopes and form of government as we have, rather than with an oligarchic aristocracy like Sparta, which hates freedom and the power of the people; which can do nothing that will bring us any good; which will do all it can to aid our enemies at home to restore an oligarchic rule’—and which would in the end bring back that tyranny which his own ancestor had once before freed Athens from, they then had hoped for ever.

The people shouted their assent. They rose and waved, shouted and cheered, and cheered 97and waved again. They had most of them known this Alkibiades from boyhood. They had laughed at his many young excesses; sometimes they had feared his lawless disposition, and dreaded his imperious nature. They had been told by those who knew him best that there was something more within him. They had seen his splendour, shared his generosity; but many doubted when he had been chosen as their leader. But now this—this was a revelation to them. None had imagined the possibility of such great earnestness and force in him who had been known as the soft, sensual, luxurious, even effeminate Alkibiades.

They were for sending the Spartan envoys home at once. Indeed, had it not been for the sanctity of their office, they would have been rudely treated. The ambassadors of Argos and her allies were admitted to the Assembly, and their offers listened to with respectful approbation. No one could doubt which way the vote of the Ekklesia would go.

So great had been the effect wrought by the speech of Alkibiades, that the more circumspect, even among his own friends, taking advantage of the rumour of an earthquake, thought it wiser to close the session for that day, and not give their 98final vote till they had recovered from the spell of the enchanter.

He went home, declining the prayers of many of his companions, of both parties, that he would come to the gay banquets with which the rich Greeks were wont to celebrate the closing of the day. He was filled with many thoughts and introspections. This was the end, so far, at which he had aimed. He felt that thus far he had done well. What of the future? Was his choice always to be that which he knew was best for Athens? He faithfully believed he had made a wise choice that day. But in the future, when her best interests might clash with his, when hers and his might come in conflict,—what then? He could see such conflicts possible. How would he then demean himself?

Amykla had heard the news; it had soon reached his home. She had already told Hippareté of his great success. A strange new feeling came upon the wondering wife. She was not surprised at what was told her. It was what she always knew must happen if he cared to try. She had loved him hitherto with a blind, unreasoning love. She knelt before him now as though he were a god.



‘Ther as need is they were nothyng ydel,
Ther fomen steeds on the golden bridel
Chaucer: Knight’s Tale.
‘And while she seemed to hear her beating heart,
Above their heads the trumpet blast rang out,
And forth they sprang.’
Morris: Atalanta’s Race.

The same year which saw his triumph as an orator and a statesman gave Alkibiades an opportunity of another triumph, in Grecian eyes, no less great and wonderful. The first had brought with it immense advantage to the state, and repaired the injuries inflicted by the weakness of poor Nikias; the second enabled him to do perhaps as great a service to his country, and shine resplendently before the whole of Greece.

In the year 420 the ninetieth of the Olympic games was celebrated. The war, which had continued, with varying success, between Sparta with her allies and Athens, shut the Athenians out of Elis, the territory in which the Olympic games 100were held. Athens had been excluded from the two last contests. Argos and Elis, though neutral in the war, were allied with Sparta, and dare not act against her. This alliance was at an end. Elis could now welcome the Athenians.

They determined by the splendour of their appearance to make up for their absence at the two last festivals, and give the lie to the Spartans, who were spreading it about that Athens was so ruined by the ten years’ war that she would be unable to make a show at the coming games.

His patriotism and generosity, his love of splendour, his foresight, his ambition, all determined Alkibiades to make an occasion for display such as no individual ever made before, and such as no Greek has ever rivalled since.

The plain itself where the Olympic games were held had been designed, it seemed, by the gods themselves only for this purpose. The vale was sacred to the gods, the games were, as it were, divine.

During the four years which intervened between each celebration the Olympic valley was tenanted by its sixty temples, nearly three times as many altars, and a thousand statues of former victors. No human beings were allowed within that sacred spot except the priests who tended the altars and 101ministered within the temples, which the gods, as it was said, loved to inhabit. The scene was fit for gods. The very air was more diaphanous, serene, and clear, the rivers, the woods, the hills, more lovely, than elsewhere; the flowers there gave out a more delicious fragrance. All was filled with a peace divine, and with the beauty of the world.

But when the cycle of the months of quietude was past, then all was animation, as striking as the peace had been before. The Eleans, special guardians of the sacred vale, had sent their unarmed troops in preparation. Greeks were hurrying hitherward from every colony, island, city, town, from all the villages of Ionia and Greece. The Spartans alone, on account of their base conduct, were excluded. Stadia, theatres, and places where the manly combats of all sorts would be witnessed by unnumbered crowds, were ready. Soon the surrounding hills were covered by ten thousand tents and other temporary habitations. Where silence had reigned so long, all became bustle and activity, until the day came when the ‘architheori,’ who were the chiefs selected to head the missions of envoys (called ‘theori’) sent by the different states to represent them at the sacred games, were seen 102approaching the renowned Olympic valley, with all their followers, high and low, musicians, singers, runners, wrestlers, boxers, and athletes of every kind.

Unless we realize the depth of the religious meaning of the games we shall but inadequately understand the honours that were given to the victors. After due study of the history of the Grecian race, we say advisedly that no honour known in Greece, whether that given to the statesman, the poet, sculptor, tragedian, or even to the greatest warrior and general, was to be compared with the honours given to the victors at these games.

A statue of each victor was erected there; and the people of his native town or village went forth to meet him as he returned, and brought him home in triumph, with garlands, music, and with incense. An opening was made in the city walls, that he might come in by a way no one had entered through before. His name was graven on stone or brass in the most noted place, and he and his descendants after him were maintained at the sole charges of the state. No Roman Emperor, proceeding in triumph through the streets of Rome, was more honoured than a victor at the Olympic games.

103And the reason was the holy sanction given them. It might be of the last importance to the several states that their young men should be for ever training themselves, keeping their bodies in subjection, strengthening their thews, their muscles, and their nerves, so that at each returning festival they might maintain the glory of their native towns or villages, and prepare themselves to fight when called on for their liberties. That was, indeed, a great thing, and had an influence on every man and boy, and woman too, within them. But the first thought that ran through all was to do honour to the gods, who in their various temples deigned to be present and accept the services and sacrifices that were offered to them.

And this, the ninetieth Olympiad, was for many reasons peculiarly grand. First came the Korinthian theori, with their four-horse chariot, destined to run in the chief race, with their chanters and musicians, as well as their athletes, in magnificent array. Ere they had been received by the presiding priest and his attendant train, the smaller company that had come from the island of Chios was seen descending from the north-east of the Olympic hill, which protected that side of the natural amphitheatre. Lesbos came next, then 104Kyzikos from the distant Propontis. And then processions from all the different Ionian and Doric Grecian towns, from all except from Sparta. Each was distinguished by its own style of dress, which differed in some respects from that of the others; each with its athletes and its chorus; most of them with their racing chariots.

When they were all assembled, some began to sneer at Athens, saying that after all her boasting they doubted if she would appear at all, being too proud to make a humble show, too impoverished to make a great one. When all were welcoming friends long unmet, kinsmen, and old acquaintances, and there was a general feeling of expectancy, a stir arose among them, a consciousness of something coming, and over the highest road appeared the foreguard of the architheorus of Athens. He was drawn superbly in his equipage of state. Then followed the renowned athletes, the well-known champions with the diskos, the wrestlers, boxers, runners, whose names were known as household words in all the Grecian cities. Then came the four-horse chariot of the state, which also would contend in the great chariot race, the crowning contest of the sports.

So the Athenians’ stately show came on. Those 105who had jeered were silent; all saw that Athens meant to do her best, and would, an she could, still show herself the first of all. But then appeared a wondrous thing—another chariot with four bays, driven by Tolas, the famous charioteer, now in the service of Alkibiades, and surrounded by his retainers.

It was soon noised abroad that this fine chariot and its more splendid horses, bred by Alkibiades himself, and reared on his patrimonial estates, was sent by him to strive to wrest the first prize from all states and peoples who should contend. Seldom, it was said, had any private individual yet been known to send a four-horse chariot. Though cities and states and kings and tyrants might do so, it was considered too great a burden for one man so to uphold the honour of his land, and thus do service to Olympic gods.

Before the people had recovered from their astonishment, and to the amazement of them all, there followed close behind another chariot, driven by another of Alkibiades’ men, and then another, and then two more, all four-horse chariots belonging to him. And before their fresh wonder was abated, lo another four-horse chariot, and then another. This last one, more ornate and graceful, designed for show rather than for the rough 106contest of the race, was driven by its lord himself. The four magnificent black steeds, scarcely less fleet than those of the first chariot, knew well his voice and face, but best of all the firmness of the hand that guided them.

The cheers, the shouts of admiration, the joy of all the people, as he passed along, proved how the honour he had done to them, to the games, and to the gods, was recognised by everyone. The theori of various cities vied with one another in their welcome. The Ephesians asked to be allowed to offer him a sumptuous tent, in which he might repose; Chios, that it might provide the forage for such horses; the Lesbians, that they might supply his wine and his repasts; while the theori of Kyzikos sent him the victims for his holy sacrifices.

Next day began with prayers, libations, solemn processions, and sacrifices to the gods; for the gods themselves had not disdained of old to strive for prizes at these games. Then came gymnastic exercises. The first prize was won by Klynios of Korinth. Then a race for youths wont to do all their exercises nude, and in the open air, not shivering and coy, as unaccustomed to the light and fresh air of the heavens, but as if in their native element, unclad.

107Then a chariot race, won by the state of Argos. Two chariots of Alkibiades took part in this; one came in fourth. Then many contests of leaping, boxing, wrestling, and then a chariot race, won by the Boiotian chariot. This was a most exciting race, and would have been won by Alkibiades, as most men said, but that the Syrakusan competitor went too near the altar of Taraxippos, dreaded of all horses, and steeds, chariot, and charioteer were commingled in the dust, in front of the Athenian car, just as its driver prepared to make his final rush; so it obtained only the second prize.

The first day’s sport concluded with music and selections from the ‘Ajax’ and ‘Agamemnon’ at the larger theatre. Alkibiades was loudly cheered as he came in with the missions of Thebes and of Athens. And after that came a brilliant feast, at which the Eleans entertained the representatives of the various states and all who had come to try for prizes at the games.

On the second day a race for hoplites, heavy-armed soldiers, with nothing on but their shining greaves and helmets and carrying their shields, opened the proceedings. Then a chariot race, won apparently by the Boiotian federation—at least, in their name the chariot had been entered, and as 108a Boiotian victory it was proclaimed. But then a curious scene occurred. A rich and well-known Lakedaimonian named Laches, who was allowed to be present as a private person, but was not permitted to take part in the contests, because of the conduct of his countrymen, unable to restrain his pride, rushed forward eagerly and placed a wreath upon the head of the victorious charioteer, an act which implied that he, and not Boiotia, was the real owner of the chariot. The people were indignant at the trick by which the Spartan attempted to outwit them and to set the order of the sacred games at nought. The Elean guardians of the course, seizing the offender, punished his act of disobedience by scourging him, and drove him from the ground.

On the third day, after many other races, came the pentathlon, in which the victor had to excel in the fivefold exercise of running, jumping, wrestling, and throwing the spear and the diskos. The name of him who won the prize for these combined accomplishments has not come down to us. Then, last of all, came the greatest of the races, in which the four-horse chariots of different states—Korinth, Miletos, Chios, Samos, Argos, Lesbos, Athens, Abydos—took part, and also the private chariot of Alkibiades. The Thebans, who 109had won on the first day, prayed that they might be suffered to contend again in this the crowning struggle. They were especially pledged, if possible, to beat their rival Athens; and, indeed, as the end proved, they did excel the architheoric chariot. By consent of all the judges Thebes was allowed to race, although already victors at these games.

Whatever attention had been given to the various events by those who cared especially for this or that peculiar form of emulation, it was all concentrated now on the closing contest. Some thought they could trace signs of anxiety on the face of Alkibiades, as he assisted Tolas to mount the lightly-built, well-balanced vehicle, and could catch almost a pathetic look as he stroked the manes of those dear horses who knew his touch, and neighed with equine love as they turned their heads and saw their master, giving promise that, come who might against them, they would do what in them lay to bring him glory and repay the care he had bestowed upon them. How many times in after-years he thought of those so cherished animals, their more than human fidelity!

But now it was time to take his place among the great men and hide all traces of emotion. 110It was for this moment he had longed so many years, of this he had so often dreamt by night, to this, when a boy, he had looked forward as the great effort of his life—his worthiest effort. Now it was here—the very moment was arrived.

He was speaking courteously to those near him—men whose names would live in their various cities for generations not yet born; but he saw them indistinctly, or as in a dream. His thoughts, his eyes, were there where ten chariots stood abreast and forty horses were waiting for the signal to be given, their hearts leaping with excitement, feeling as though wings had come upon them and they must fly. And off they went; the cries were deafening. Seas of faces watched them upon their way; seas of faces greeted them as they turned the corner and the first round was run. ‘Thebes and Boiotia!’ cried the crowd, as the victor of the first day’s race was seen to lead. ‘Thebes and Boiotia!’ yelled the Thebans, and all who took their side. Thebes and Boiotia seemed, indeed, to be about to gain the double prize.

Here they come round for the last time, and the trumpets sound a gallant flourish. Now they near the end. Thebes and Boiotia first—not 111much ahead of Tolas there, just behind, as calm as his master tries to be—now scarcely ahead at all. ‘Ye gods, a hundred victims if I win!’ And as he stretched forth head and neck, forgetting his affected carelessness, among the mass of faces gazing all one way, peering to catch the first sight of the flying chariots, the horses straining every nerve and sinew of their frames, he met the great eyes of Sokrates turned full upon him.

Some had come to sell their wares: painters to puff their pictures; sculptors to show their graven images; authors to recite their works, if they could get a chance; most had come to watch the games and races. Sokrates had come to watch mankind, and amongst them one he cared for more than all the rest.

It was no time now to notice Sokrates. The chariots were scarce three hundred yards to where the winning-post was waiting for them, when, as with a bound into the air, the four bay horses brought their car up to and right ahead of all the others, and shouts arose: ‘Boiotia’s beaten! Tolas comes in more than two chariot-lengths ahead! Athens and Alkibiades!’

He heard no more distinctly. The hills went round for a moment, a mist came over them; 112he felt his hands grasped by many a rough and horny palm, and then he heard an endless shouting in his ears, and he felt somewhat ashamed as he wiped away a few big drops that had started from his forehead, and one or two others that had gathered to his eyes.

Before them all he was crowned with the simplest wreath on earth, made of wild olive-leaves, but the wild olive-tree from which they had been gathered grew only in that sacred grove, and the wreath was worth more to him and every other Greek than any kingly diadem. There was a great feast given by the architheori that night to the several victors in the games; and first among them, calm and radiant, sat the Athenian conqueror.

When it was over and he had retired to the tent provided for him by the state of Ephesos, and his servants and companions had left him, seeking their various amusements or repose, he strolled forth disguised, to muse in quiet after the day’s excitement. The scene was a curious one, the plain and its surrounding hills glimmering with ten thousand lights, and far and near resounding with music, mirth, and revelry; yet he heard and saw but little. While deep in a dreamy state of happiness, and some half-conscious 113sense of being still unsatisfied, a well-remembered voice recalled him to himself:

‘Son of Kleinias, art thou now content?’

‘Why not, Sokrates?’

‘Does the prize which thou hast won, that barren wreath of olive, satisfy thy soul?’

‘What could on earth, if that did not?’

‘Thou seest these thousands of the Greeks of every state and city except one, all engaged in peaceful rivalry and games, and in the service of the gods; would it not be well if Greece could ever be at peace, and all the cities and peoples live together, like one state?’

‘Indeed, I think it might be well.’

‘And hadst thou not an opportunity of late to keep peace with the bravest of them all—the rough and manly Spartans?’

‘I know not what you mean, Sokrates. I did the best I could for Athens. But tell me, thou who art so fond of questioning, when first the gods made man, did not they put into his heart a love of war? And if we should have peace for ever, might not mankind, grown sleek and fat, perchance forget the gods, nor ask for courage, nor delight in manly exercise?’

‘Not so, oh son of Kleinias, for peace would 114nourish wisdom, and so bring out all that is virtuous in man.’

‘But war also gives many opportunities of acquiring wisdom and practising virtue, and let me ask you this, Sokrates, have not the great gods planted in man’s breast a strong wish to propagate his race, and if there were no wars, would not the earth be overrun with men, till they must starve or feed on one another? Is it not better that we, being men, should die in noble combat, like the heroes who have gone before us, than feed like wild beasts upon our fellows?’

‘Son of Kleinias, thou hast put too long a question. I cannot answer it. The gods alone know which is better, peace or war.’

Soon after this conversation Alkibiades assisted at the ratification of the Argive treaty. It had been stipulated that this should be done at these Olympic games. So before the temple of Olympic Zeus, where the great gold and ivory statue of the god, the masterpiece of Pheidias, had lately been erected, he and the other leading men and generals on both sides swore, with libations to the god, to observe it faithfully.

Then he gave his splendid banquet to the Elean chiefs, to the various missions which had come from all parts of Greece, and to the victors 115in the different games. Next day he set out for home; and the people from the isles and colonies, and all the states of Greece, departed, and the Olympic vale became once more the quiet habitation only of the gods and their attendants.

He went back much in the same array as that in which he came, but with an added glory. He had come as a competitor, he returned a victor. Seated in his chariot, dressed in purple, the wild olive wreath upon his head, he entered Athens. If he had been a god, indeed, descending from Olympos, he could hardly have been more rapturously received. The city in one mass came out to meet him. Flowers were strewn along the way; with songs and incense he was greeted. Friends and foes alike strove who could give him warmest welcome. None could keep at home on such a day. The people were seized with a joyful madness, like a troop of Bacchanals.

Afterwards, when enthusiasm had quieted, as all enthusiasms will in time, Pyromachos, the sculptor, was ordered by the city to design that wonderful bronze statue of Alkibiades, which represents him in a life-like attitude, himself driving the four-horse chariot with those noble animals by whose aid he won the chief prize at the ninetieth of the Olympic celebrations.



‘Wer nicht liebt Wein, Weib und Gesang,
Der Bleibt ein Narr sein Leben lang.’
‘Who loves not woman, wine and song,
Remains a fool all his life long.’

The battle of Mantineia was fought, as all men know, in the month of June, 418 years before the Christian era; and, as all men do not know, Alkibiades saw it fought.

In 419, a year after what was the crowning glory of his early life, and perhaps its zenith, he was chosen as one of the strategi, who were ministers of state and generals of the Athenian army.

Before he could receive that dignity, one of the highest in Athens, and before, indeed, he could have been made one of the mission at the Olympic games, he, like everyone else elected to either of those offices, was called upon to show that there was no stain upon his public or his private character. This is an answer to those enemies 117of his who charge his earlier years with acts of serious lawlessness.

In his capacity of general, with a picked force of men, he had been sent across the Peloponnesos, more for the sake of encouraging allies than to engage an enemy. He visited Argos, and there the prop and stay of Argos, the author of the treaty with them, and the victor at the recent games, was hailed by almost all as a hero and a deliverer.

The treaty strengthened and enlarged, he went to Patrai, on the west coast, taking with him a contingent from Argos, not so much to increase his force as to show how real was the alliance between Athens and the Argives. A glance at the map of Greece will show how useful Patrai would become to Athens in her struggle with Peloponnesian enemies. He convinced the citizens that if the city were fortified by long walls stretching to the sea, they might defend themselves against any enemy by land, while Athens would be able to bring them aid by sea.

His mission finished, he returned to Athens. Soon it was known that the Lakedaimonians were on the march for Argos. He was immediately placed at the head of a larger force than he had before commanded, and sent to Argos; but the 118enemy retired, so, after harrying some of the Lakedaimonian allies, he went back to Athens.

On his return, enraged at this fresh proof of Spartan perfidy—for they were still allies of Athens, and bound by their treaty not to make war upon Athenian allies—he so roused the people in the Ekklesia that they decreed there should be written at the bottom of the brass pillar, where the treaty between them and Sparta was engraved, these shameful words for Sparta: ‘The Spartans broke their oaths.’

After this, in March, 418, without further warning, the Spartans equipped a large force of all kinds under King Agis against Argos, and marched upon its territory. The Argives met them. There was no time to get help from Athens. Some of the higher families in Argos, like the aristocracy in Athens, favoured Sparta and an oligarchic government. By their influence a truce for four months was concluded with King Agis. Then the Athenians, seeing there was something weak in Argos, sent Alkibiades as ambassador there, to help the democratic party to keep up against their Spartan enemies without and their traitorous aristocracy within the city walls. They also sent a force of horse and foot to aid them, under Laches and Nikostratos. The people of Argos 119were at first afraid to break the truce which had been made against their will with Sparta. It required all the eloquence of Alkibiades in their Assembly to prevent them sending back this help from Athens.

He spoke to them of what, in times gone by, they had endured at Sparta’s hands; how Sparta was still as great an enemy to them as ever; how ‘two years ago they had made that solemn pact with Athens; how well the Athenians had kept it on their side; how it had been ratified at the ninetieth of the Olympic celebrations.’ There were shouts of applause as he thus modestly referred to the scene of his late victory. Warmed by this token of their favour, he concluded: ‘Oh men of Argos, while we are here to go with you to death or victory, while we are sworn never to leave you till you have overcome this treacherous foe, will you go back from your promises, and leave a name to after-times like that of Sparta, as breakers of your word and faith, and of a treaty of alliance ratified before the whole of Greece, and at the very dwelling-place of Zeus?’

He had almost as great a success in the Assembly at Argos as he had when he first proposed the treaty with them at Athens. The people 120decreed with acclamation that the war with Sparta should go on; the truce was at an end. They at once proceeded to lay siege to Orchomenos, in Arkadia, to the north of Mantineia. They took it, and then marched on towards the oligarchic Tegea, a firm ally of Sparta. The Spartans, too, marched towards Tegea, and took up their position near the temple of Herakles, and began plundering the Mantineian country. The Argives and Athenians, together with the Arkadians from Mantineia, met them in the low country near Mantineia. The Argive force took up a strong position on the steep side of Mount Artemision, where it would be difficult to attack them, and whence they might with advantage descend upon the Spartans in the plain below.

King Agis saw that to assail the allies upon this vantage-ground would be to court defeat, and yet he must do something. There were ugly rumours about him in the camp, as well as at Sparta. He was threatened with a prosecution. It was said against him that the truce he had made was in itself an act of treason, that he had the Argives in his power then, and had spared them for some purpose of his own, and had, by letting them go, enabled them to get help from Athens.

121However, for all that they might say of him, he was firm, and led his army away till he came to a stream on the boundaries of Tegea and Mantineia, about which the inhabitants of those places were continually quarrelling. On to whichever territory it might be turned, it would do considerable damage. Agis began to divert this stream on to the land of Mantineia, thinking that this would bring the Mantineians, and perhaps the whole Argive force, down from their place of vantage to stop the flow of water.

Upon the other side there were murmurs too. ‘Are we to stay here like pigeons in a rock for ever? See how the Spartans leave their ground! Will you let them escape us now as you did before? It seems to us there must be treason amongst our generals. Are they not of the aristocrats, and oligarchs in secret? For aught we know they may be in correspondence with the oligarchs of Sparta.’ The Argive generals were weak and frightened, and knew not how to act. They had no doubt as to the tactics of the Spartan king, and yet they dare not keep their army waiting in its present mood. If Alkibiades had but been there, his firm command would soon have made itself respected, as it will be seen in this story to have often done. He could do anything with the Argive people, who 122had greater faith in him than in their own generals. But he was away in Argos acting as ambassador, and had no authority to interfere in the military operations, or the future course of Greek affairs in this portion of Arkadia might have gone differently for Athens and for Sparta.

So on that night in June the Argive force, with their allies, descended from their strong position, whence they could defy the enemy, and bivouacked upon the plain, ready next day to meet or to pursue him.

The enemy soon returned in marching order, and took up their former post by the temple of Herakles, determined, if their strategy had not succeeded, to try to take the Argive position by assault. The strategy, they found, had succeeded but too well, and, as they descended the Tegean defile, they discovered their opponents, drawn up in full array, in the open plain before them. To change from column into line was with the well-drilled Spartans the work only of minutes, and their adroitness called forth admiration from Alkibiades, who, unable to get up to them, was watching from a distance.

He saw the Mantineians posted on the right, with a body of Argives and Arkadians in the centre, while on the left were the Athenian foot 123and his own comrades of the cavalry. He saw the Argives advance in haste and fury, and the Spartans slowly to the music of their pipers, which kept them in step together and in perfect order. He saw the Mantineians charge the left wing of the Spartans grandly, and break their line, and follow them, as they retreated, to their waggons. He saw with anguish the Spartan king dealing out destruction on the Athenians and the others of the Argive force, and about to overwhelm them, when, to his astonishment and delight, Agis drew off his men and hastened to assist his left wing, which was being harassed by the Mantineians as it retreated.

Now was the time for the Athenian horsemen to charge the Spartans in the rear; now his own cavalry might outflank the king; but there they stood motionless, demoralized. Both their leaders, Laches—his old friend Laches—and the other general, were slain. There was no one to encourage them, no one to lead them, none who was capable of rising to the great occasion, and they slunk unworthily away.

The Mantineians and the remainder of the Argive host, seeing themselves abandoned, retreated in good order into Argos.

Thus Alkibiades, in vexation and despair, saw, 124for a time, his best-laid plans and hopes frustrated. The Spartans claimed, and rightly claimed, a victory. By this battle they recovered their renown as the first military power in Greece, which they had lost at Sphakteria, and their success threw discredit on the new Argo-Athenian alliance.

What Alkibiades had foreseen and feared soon took place. The oligarchic faction, which sided with Sparta against Athens, had been growing strong in Argos for some time. The Spartan success at Mantineia enabled these oligarchs to effect a peace with their Lakedaimonian friends. Alkibiades was forced to go back to Athens. The Spartans showed their gratitude to their friends within the walls of Argos by sending them a thousand soldiers to assist them. This enabled the Argive aristocracy to overthrow the democratic government and establish an oligarchy in its place, which managed to keep itself in power for some months—months which were marked by atrocious acts of cruelty and outrage.

This sort of government, established and maintained in such a way, upon the ruins of a popular control, seldom lasts for long. The means by which it seems to keep itself in existence generally put an end to it by at length rousing the suffering victims to such a state of rage that they become 125willing to risk all in their efforts to shake off the incubus.

The people of Argos, driven to despair, rose and drove out the tyrants, slaying a few of them by way of warning to the others. On the news of this rising reaching Athens, Alkibiades was sent there again to help the people. He persuaded them, as he had persuaded the citizens at Patrai, to build walls from the city to the sea. So great was his energy and his determination that this should be done without delay that he sent for a small army of masons, carpenters, and workmen of all kinds from Athens to assist, while he himself took part, encouraging by his words and presence the whole population, freemen and slaves, women and children, in the work. The walls had hardly been completed, and he had only just returned to Athens, when the wisdom of his advice was proved.

In the summer of 416 the oligarchs were found to be at their intrigues again, inside and out of Argos, and so dangerous did they become that he had to be sent for in haste from Athens, not merely as ambassador this time, but in full power as strategos, in command of twenty ships of war.

It was a proud moment for him as he sailed with his fine warships into the port, where the walls, which he had caused to be built, stretched 126right up to Argos. He was obliged to take strong measures against the intestine enemies of the State. Three hundred of them he carried off and placed, disabled from doing further mischief, in various islands dependent upon Athens. And thus, as far as he was able, did he nullify, or at least minimize, the advantage Sparta gained at Mantineia.

And all this time that he was thus vigorously aiding his country and her allies by his wise counsel and his strong actions he was leading at home a life of splendour and pleasure quite unparalleled. No one was so courted as he—the model of all excellence for young men to imitate. His dress, his manners, his extravagance, his eccentricities, were the talk of everyone, and many were the deeds set down to him that he was never guilty of. The witty sayings, which only the choicer spirits could appreciate, were passed about amongst them; while his great orations at the Ekklesia, in spite of a slight lisp, which seemed to sit not ungracefully on him, moved the people to such a pitch of admiration that they would often escort him home in triumph afterwards.

Nor was he great in words alone. No general of troops was so active as he; no one more patient 127or practical in the supervision of the forces of the states; no one wiser or clearer-sighted in the council of the leaders. Nikias and the chief men on the other side ever sought his advice in serious difficulty. Nor could anyone be found to represent their country in an embassy where courage and prudence were required so well as Alkibiades.

The office of the strategi was a great and important one. It combined the functions of a Minister of War and of Foreign Affairs as well as those of a Minister of the Interior, besides including the active executive work of general and admiral, and the management of all the forces. Alkibiades discharged the arduous duties of his office with zeal and efficiency. But, his work over, there was a buoyancy about him which rebounded from restraint; then he threw off all cares, and, underneath a high ambition, he showed an eagerness for sport and love of amusement. After a day of toil, when it was his wisdom and advice which had determined the policy of Athens, he could not keep his boyish spirits down, or hide a sly contemptuousness of his fellow-men and their formalities.

Thus this man of indomitable courage and energy, of infinite resources and ambition, the man to whom statesmen at home looked for 128guidance, because of his greater foresight of that which was to be, and foreign states for help because of his influence and power,—this man, the first in Athens, the man whom all men knew and most loved and admired,—might be seen, his serious day’s work done, running through the streets like any schoolboy on a holiday, crowned with violets and ivy, followed by a joyous band and the mad music of the oboe and the double flageolet.

He was, indeed, and in spite of all, the best-loved man in Athens. There was good reason for it. Besides what he had done in public for the people against their natural enemies, ever on the look-out for opportunities to get the better of them, there were numberless poor folk whose pains and sufferings, wants and miseries, his generosity and kindness had solaced and relieved.

Such pre-eminence above other men cannot exist in this world without engendering envious serpents. Given a man of more than ordinary parts, of luck or fortune, and we are sure to find detractors, and delators, too, as we are equally sure to find some evil mixed with good in almost everything. And by so much as the hero is the greater than other men, you are the more sure, if you look deep enough, to find some faults. If he has more of human nature in him than the common 129run of ordinary men, the greater will the certainty become that faults will be discovered, and anxiously laid hold of, too, by those who know not how to imitate his virtues.

It was at the end of this year 416, on his return from Argos, that the snakes first raised their heads and hissed. His greater opponents could not help admiring him: they were too generous to attack him secretly. It was one of the democracy who struck the first blow at Alkibiades. A poor potter named Hyperbolos, a maker of earthen lamps, the butt of Aristophanes, who, on the death of Kleon, had thought he ought to be chosen leader of the people, was put forward as the tool of others.

The secret remedy of ostracism had been invented as a last resource if ever the influence of any individual threatened to make his power greater than was becoming for a citizen in the democracy. This instrument had not been used except against the greatest men. When it was to be put in force no name was mentioned publicly; only a proposition was moved that it should be put to the vote whether some one should be banished. In private conversation the promoters of the scheme canvassed their friends, and pointed out to them who it was that, in their opinion, ought to go.

130Upon this occasion Hyperbolos used all the power of his small malignity to hit his hated and successful rival. There was considerable risk that a majority of votes, making up the necessary number, would be given against the inoffensive Nikias. But Alkibiades, too, was in some danger. He had naturally the oligarchic faction against him, besides a considerable portion of the country party; and the railing tongue of the democratic traitor stirred up the sterner democrats by talking of his mad caprices, his extravagance, his high birth, his wealth, even his popularity, as reasons why his presence was dangerous to the state.

With consummate skill the object of this secret blow turned it aside and made it fall upon his enemy. He arranged with Nikias that none of their friends whom they could influence should vote against either of them, but that they should all write the name of Hyperbolos upon the piece of pottery by which the vote was given. So it happened that poor Hyperbolos was banished. When the people saw that this two-edged sword had smitten the man who tried to wield it, and that so formidable a weapon had struck so mean an object, it was felt to be dishonoured, and was never used again.

131Book II

‘La plus riche vie, que je sçache, à estre vescue entre les vivants, comme on dit, et estoffée de plus de riches parties et désirables, c’est, tout considéré, celle d’Alcibiades.’



‘Cold art thou, little one, cheek and brow,
Ah me, ah me! but I love thee now.’

We must now take the reader away from Greece, and ask him to turn his thoughts for a little while to Sicily. If an example were wanted of the effect of intestine quarrel, we need only point to Sicily at the time at which our story has arrived. That land, so fertile and so beautiful that a Holy Roman Emperor, who knew both countries, once irreverently declared that the Almighty would not have chosen Palestine for His peculiar people if He had first seen Sicily,—this island, which, more than any other, gives us a vision of those happy isles to which the heroes of the past were said to go,—this beautiful island, 132like many another fair spot on earth, was torn by its dissensions.

There were the Siculi, the early, if not the original, inhabitants, and some small Phœnikian settlements, besides colonies from Ionian and Dorian Greece. Syrakuse, originally a colony from Korinth, became the leading city, and being so, began to dominate the others, and especially to trouble those which had been founded by the other portion of the Grecian race. Early in the Peloponnesian War the people of Leontini, to the north of Syrakuse, who were of Ionic origin, had called upon the Athenians for aid. For no reason apparently but the lust of plunder the Syrakusans had despoiled their city. The Leontines were old allies of Athens, and she was bound in honour to do all she could in their support. At that time all she could do was not much. But in the year 427 Laches was sent with a squadron of twenty ships, and he and his successors in command succeeded in reducing the power of Syrakuse so far that a peace was made, which left the Leontines and other peoples, whose liberties had been in like manner threatened, independent of their more powerful neighbour.

The Athenians having retired, and the usual contest breaking out between democrats and 133oligarchs within the walls of Leontini more fiercely than before, the Syrakusans took advantage of the opportunity, and finally laid waste the city and drove the citizens into exile. The Leontines again appealed to Athens, but for some time without success. Athens was then too much taken up with her own immediate enemies. But although it had long been felt by the more patriotic of the Athenians, by all those who felt strongly for the honour of their country, that a wrong was being suffered by their old allies and kinsmen in Sicily at the hands of the descendants of their Korinthian rivals, it was some time before any practical steps could be taken to comply with the prayer of the outcasts.

But, in 416, a deputation from Egesta, an ancient colony said to have been founded by Philoktetes in the North-West of Sicily, which had made a treaty of alliance with Laches ten years before, came to seek assistance. They poured out the story of the wrongs they were suffering from the people of Selinous before the Senate and the Ekklesia, appealed to the treaty that had been made with them by Laches, and declared, if they were not aided soon, these enemies of theirs and the Syrakusans would crush them utterly, as the Syrakusans had crushed the 134Leontines, and would become together masters of the whole of Sicily.

They were seconded in their prayers by the exiles from Leontini, who were still in Athens, and who had never ceased to urge their petition for redress on the Athenians. The Egestæans not only asked for help, but undertook to help themselves, and promised to defray a large part of whatever expense their allies might be put to in assisting them.

The Athenians before deciding sent ambassadors to Egesta to find out whether their suppliants were able to do, in their own defence, what their envoys had promised. The ambassadors returned to Athens early in April, 415, and assured the people of the wealth of Sicily in general, and particularly of the city of Egesta.

Athens again was up in arms. This time it was not to repel invasion of the Spartans, or to assist allies in the Peloponnesos; it was to decide upon an armed voyage of discovery to a land of fabulous resources. Of those resources they could form some notion from that which the ambassadors reported they had seen at Egesta. ‘Why, even in that remote town the temples shone with gold, with silver shrines and precious vessels.’ The ambassadors, and even the sailors, were served 135at every banquet on plates of gold and silver wonderfully wrought. They told how, on leaving Egesta, ingots of fine silver had been put on board their trireme—here the ingots were borne into the Ekklesia—of value to maintain a fleet of sixty triremes for a month. And in that month what might not be done? Something like the wild enthusiasm which led the English in Elizabethan times to sail for Eldorado seized on the Athenians. Little was heard in the gymnasia but the glory of this quest; and the old men talked of the wealth and the material support which the conquest of Sicily would bring them in their contest with hostile Grecian states, and of the advantage of Syrakuse as a strategic base, whence, at will, they could issue forth to spread their empire in Italy, in Africa, in all the world.

Never had enterprise been supported by more general consent; and from the first Alkibiades had been the life and soul of it. But just before this time a silent grief, such as he had never known before, had fallen upon him, and for a time had checked his ardour. Not that it had blinded him to the advantages which the undertaking might, if well carried out, bring to Athens, or stayed his efforts for his country’s good; but it had sobered him, it was so new to him. It made him 136pause and wonder if the objects of his high ambition, when obtained, and the fulfilment of his hopes, when realized, would be worth so very much.

On his return from Argos, somewhat saddened by the failure of his treaty with that state through the defeat at Mantineia, he had found more happiness in the quiet converse with his wife than he had felt before. He was getting older; some of the pleasures of his earlier years had lost their interest. She, too, needed consolation. Ephialtes, their first-born, their only child, had died while her husband was away at Argos. On his return she clung to him with a stronger love than ever. He was touched by the tenderness, the forbearance, she had shown to him in his wanderings, his frolics, his dissipation. He felt now, come what might from enemies rising up around him, and whether all his hopes were realized or not, there was one at home to comfort him and receive him as a hero.

This short time that he could give to her was certainly the calmest, perhaps not the least happy, he had throughout the remnant of his troubled life. But he could not stay long with her. His private affairs obliged him to go off to Ephesos at the opening of the spring.

In his newly-built and wonderfully-constructed 137trireme, the Eros, the most sumptuous ship yet built for any Greek, with its great eyes peering from the bows, and the image of the boy-god, from whom it took its name, carved cunningly upon the stern, with the bows and arrows of that deity wrought among wreaths and festoons of roses all along the sides, he sailed for Ephesos.

A fair wind filled the purple sails, which had figures of the god of love worked in silver on them, and bore him like a conqueror to the port of Ephesos. And like a conqueror the Ephesians received the greatest man of Athens, the victor at the pan-Hellenic games. He forgot the rebuff his hopes had met at Mantineia while he spent his pleasant time in that splendid town, and having done his business there, in like manner he returned to Athens. His friend Polytion was looking out for him. He put off to meet the Eros as soon as the well-known purple sails were seen approaching in the east.

There was an effort of cheerfulness about Polytion as he came on board.

Yet no—yes, there was no doubt something was wrong.

‘What is it, man? Speak! say at once! No good trying to hide it. Quick! Tell me, is all well?’

138‘No, Alkibiades, all is not well. Your wife——’

‘Not dead, ye gods? Not dead?’

‘Yes, Alkibiades, and she has left a son.’

The purple sails had fallen as they neared the harbour. He would have fallen, too, but his friend caught him, and held him for a time. This friend, the riotous companion of so many bouts and frolics, this careless dog, good for a night’s convivial merriment, was overcome at the sight of such grief as he had never seen before.

Alkibiades went home in silence. He desired to be alone.

Amykla met him at the door. Cries of grief came to him across the courtyard, where the fountain splashed as ever, the white peacocks, his especial pride, sunning themselves around its basin, and the notes of lamentation sounded through the house.

The women were about her room mourning and crying their wailing ‘Aiai!’ of lament. He sternly put them out.

There he stayed alone with her he had left, so short a time before, full of love and fond caresses, and hopes that she would soon bring him a son to bear his name and carry on the noblest house in Greece for ever. There she lay, pale and still, 139with a faint smile upon her face, as though knowing she had done her duty, though she had died in doing it.

We fear we have dwelt too long over this mere private matter, and kept the reader waiting for Sicilian affairs, which are, indeed, important, and the turning-point in the history of Athens. For some time he mourned as he thought of his past life—the neglect, more than neglect, with which he had so often treated her; the suffering she had endured in silence; her gentleness, devotion, and forgiveness—but he kept his grief shut up within him. It was his business to direct his countrymen, and never was there such an opportunity.

An Assembly was held towards the end of April, to consider finally the Sicilian question. The people were almost unanimous for a warlike expedition. Few dare say anything against it. Nikias, fearful and doubting as usual, whispered his fears. His supporters were afraid to run counter to the people. They dreaded lest their hesitation might be put down to cowardice, or to a mean desire to escape the burden of furnishing their proper portion of the fleet. Everybody expected Nikias would oppose whatever Alkibiades proposed, so they paid the less attention 140to his sad forebodings, as they raised their voices in approbation of the motion that sixty triremes should be at once got ready. Then they elected the generals. Nikias, Lamachos, and Alkibiades were chosen.

This was the first time he had been elected to such high duties. Before this, as strategos, he had been twice sent with a small force into the Peloponnesos, once with twenty triremes to the relief of Argos. He had often gone on embassies, but hitherto he had been thought too young to share the command of such an armament as this.

Another Assembly was summoned to meet in a few days, to pass measures for the due equipment of the fleet, and to provide the necessary funds, so that whatever the newly-appointed generals might ask for should be at their disposal. This Assembly was even more crowded than the first, and all were silent when Nikias appeared before them in the Tribune.

The people expected the demands about to be made upon them would be large; they were prepared to meet them. To everyone’s astonishment Nikias began his speech, not by encouraging them to put all their hearts into the work they had decided to undertake, and to give those to whose 141care they had entrusted the Athenian future a liberal support, but by an urgent protest against the expedition altogether. He entreated them, with tears in his eyes and tears in his voice, to reconsider their decision and recall their vote.

This was a course unprecedented in the annals of the state, and against an express law, which made it penal to reopen a matter which had been discussed, and upon which a vote had been already given. He admitted this. It was a proof of the respect in which they held his character that they heard him patiently. It was a signal proof of the dignity with which they clothed their debates in the national Assembly that they listened to him without interruption.

He used the well-known arguments against the dangers of a war, and especially one so far away from home, and dwelt upon the greater wisdom of strengthening the empire that they had already than of seeking to extend it.

‘I have no selfish motive in objecting to the war. War has ever been my field of honour. By that won I my distinctions. My whole life is a proof that I fear not for myself—I fear only for my country and its worthy citizens. Those I consider to be worthy citizens who know how 142first to value their own estate and protect it from ruinous expenditure.’ Then turning towards his young fellow-general: ‘If anyone, elated by being but just now made a strategos of an enormously important expedition, before a fitting age has given him due experience and wisdom, would urge you onward to this fatal enterprise, it is because he thinks to shine in all the pomp of war and make a show with his fine equipage and prancing horses, and turn the dignity of general into a fit occasion—ye gods! a fit occasion—to indulge his luxury and grandeur. Oh, men of Athens, let not such a one imperil the safety—nay, the very existence—of us all that he may make himself conspicuous. Remember, there are citizens who could not only dissipate their private fortunes upon fine studs of horses and such-like frivolities, but afterwards make shipwreck of the state. I tremble when I see a band of rash young men before me, sitting close together, near their leader, and I exhort the older men not to be frightened from their opposition to this crazy work by fear of hearing the epithet of cowards applied to them.’

No other would have dared to speak at that time in such a way of the leader and favourite of the people, or thus to oppose the general 143desire. The people not only let him speak, but allowed the whole question of the expedition to be reopened. Several spoke in favour of the war, a few against it. At length Alkibiades ascended the tribune. He felt the speech of Nikias had made an impression upon many. Not only was the war he had so much at heart, together with his generalship, at stake; a personal attack, as everybody knew, had been made upon him. It had been suggested that he was ruining his patrimony. This was, indeed, a serious charge, for, were it proved, it would, by the law of Athens, disable him from holding any public office.

He began by answering, in perfect taste, the attack of Nikias. He apologized for speaking of himself at all. He regretted, he said, that he had been forced to do so by the ungenerous treatment he had met with at the hands of his brother-general, his elder colleague.

‘As to my prodigality and the prancing steeds you have just now heard so much about, for whose honour and at whose expense were those horses bred and taken to the pan-Hellenic meeting? If I did spend something of my patrimonial estate in rearing them, was it not for Athens that I did it? And if with them I won the greatest prize 144in Greece, it was that you, not I alone, might reap the glory. I only bore the charges. And if I have many times equipped great triremes for the state at larger cost than some other citizens are wont to undertake, was it not for Athens that I did it? If I have put finer choruses upon the stage, and furnished forth my public functions with greater splendour, it was that you and strangers from all over Greece might see and hear them, and that they might bring the greater praise, not to myself, but to my country.

‘If you have shown me honour now in choosing me strategos, and the colleague of such a well-known general as Nikias, it is not for any merit of my own, but for the glory reflected on me by my ancestors. You have not forgotten all my great-grandfather Kleisthenes did for the democracy of Athens when he expelled the tyrants and oligarchs, and’ (turning to Nikias) ‘all who favoured them; nor have you forgotten my grandfather Alkibiades; nor my dear father Kleinias, who taught me by his life and actions to spare nothing of my own in your defence, who lived for the people, who died for Athens. Why need I speak of Perikles, my cousin and my tutor, whose memory is fresh in the minds of every one of you? It is as the scion of such a steadfast race that ye have honoured me, not for myself; and may the gods grant that 145in this expedition I prove worthy of that race and of your choice.’

He went on to speak of the envy small minds feel at another’s rise. He touched on what, during his comparatively short career, he had been able to accomplish—the league of the Peloponnesian states against their chief enemy, the strengthening of the ports of Patrai and Argos.

‘If in my youth, and even at the very height of those great follies you have just now heard about, I have been able to do somewhat for the state, what may I not do, when opportunity presents itself, in the time of my maturer, my more sober years? At any rate, you have joined with me one of whom none can say that he is likely to offend by too great temerity.’

He then answered the taunt of Nikias as to his youth, and the mischievous attempt of his colleague to stir up the old against the young.

‘Above all things, never let this wicked policy of setting old and young at variance turn you from your purpose. But, as in the good old days our forefathers, old and young together, by their united counsels and their united efforts, brought Athens to its present greatness, so do you now endeavour to make her prosper.’

146Then he went through the various questions practically. He showed how many of the Greek colonies in Sicily, even the Dorian colonies, would come over to them on their first success. He ridiculed the exaggerated report of the strength of Syrakuse by sea and land, and laughed at the fears Nikias had confessed that the Spartans might take advantage of the absence of the Athenian fleet.

‘Why, we shall leave behind us a larger fleet than that of all the other Grecian people put together.’

Then he appealed to the generosity of his hearers, and to their love of honourable dealing, not to break the oath of allegiance they had sworn to weaker states, who were relying on them and praying for their aid.

‘How have we made this empire of ours, which all men wonder at, but by assisting our allies, whether Grecian or barbarian, when called upon? If now, when our aid is sought, we stay at home in idle negligence, we shall but stay to see that empire crumbling bit by bit away. Not thus did our great ancestors build up the state. They anticipated attacks and stopped them. They waited not for them to come.’

This oration, which we can but so imperfectly 147turn from its strong original into our modern tongue, electrified the people. There was no longer any doubt about the expedition. Even Nikias professed himself convinced. Yet he played an unworthy part. He attempted, by a weak device, to accomplish that by trick which he had failed to do by argument.

Nikias spoke again, and demanded exorbitant preparations of men, ships, and commissariat, hoping by this means to damp the ardour of those who would have to provide these things. It had the contrary effect. Demokrates exposed the artifice, and called on the strategos to declare in precise terms what and how much he wanted. The people ratified their vote, gave Nikias all he asked for—more than was necessary—and left it to the generals to judge what force they thought would be sufficient.

Through this underhand and unsuccessful scheme Nikias struck the first blow against the fortune of the Sicilian expedition. In attempting to stop it he made it assume a greater size than was originally intended. As in the case of the invading force of Xerxes against Greece, its unwieldy proportions became an element of weakness.



‘Each by each was thought
The man who did the deed, but no man’s guilt
Was proved, for each denied it.’

The fleet was to have been ready to sail by the beginning of the following June. In the meantime each Athenian tried to outdo his neighbour in his eagerness to make the undertaking glorious. The citizens, whether bound to serve or not, pressed in to be enrolled as soldiers. The rich men emulated one another in the strength and size of the great ships they offered. Ambassadors were sent to all allies demanding aid for the important conquest—aid in men, in money, and provisions. The generals were allowed a free hand in their expenditure.

By the time appointed everything was ready, but by an unfortunate coincidence the date fixed for the departure of the fleet fell on the Adônia, the days when the Athenian women kept their yearly mourning for the lamentable death of the 149beautiful youth, beloved of Aphrodite, and then celebrated their rejoicing at the glad festival of his happy resurrection. Clearly the fleet must not put to sea at such a time.

Other unforeseen delays postponed the sailing till the first of August. Before that day arrived a horrid and unspeakable event occurred at Athens. The religious custom of the time had placed in every street a stone image of the divine champion Hermes, and a rough statue of this god, so dearly loved and reverently worshipped, stood at all the cross-roads, before every temple, and many of the private houses. These images were more than sacred: they were objects of peculiar devotion, for Hermes was not only messenger of Zeus, he was protector of the state and Constitution. To do offence to him was to offend the state, and tempt the potent deity to desert the city.

Some days before the fleet was to have sailed, when everyone was up and about betimes, and full of eager preparation, it was discovered by someone who had gone first abroad that one and then another of these statues had been shamefully cut and disfigured. Dismayed and horrified, those who first heard of it spread the dreadful news about the town. Then, by degrees, 150the fact was realized that not one or two, but almost every image of the god before the temples and the houses, as well as at the cross-roads, had been treated in the same disgraceful, sacrilegious manner, and in many instances reduced to a mere shapeless block of stone.

To understand the great horror of the people, we must recollect how religious feeling in a Greek permeated his whole being, lived in his life, his thoughts, his actions, and, as it were, controlled him; how it was closely bound up with the state political; how he believed that the gods were incorporated with the city; how the deity, too, was almost identical, and embodied with his statue. To do reverence to the statue was to reverence the god; the reverse had never been conceived as possible.

Astonishment was soon turned to indignation. Rumour ran wild. The timid, the more religious, the superstitious, feared the wrath of Heaven, the destruction of the state. Others saw in it the work of traitors in their midst. It was the work of secret emissaries of Syrakuse, or of Korinth, the parent country of the Syrakusan colony. Or it was a party of the citizens, too cowardly to oppose openly the Sicilian expedition, who had thus attempted to turn men’s thoughts away 151from the great enterprise; or perhaps it was a deep-seated plan of the ever-suspected oligarchs to overthrow the democratic Constitution. All were, at any rate, agreed that, whoever the sacrilegious culprits were, their punishment should be exemplary, so that the anger of the gods might be averted and the honour of the city vindicated.

The Senate immediately met and appointed three citizens, whom they called ‘searchers,’ to sift the matter to the bottom, and report to the Assembly. The perpetrators of the outrage, it was evident, must be very numerous. It was impossible that a few conspirators could, in one short summer’s night, have worked this havoc on hundreds of the cherished effigies. Rewards were offered, and other inducements were held out to all men of whatever rank, even to slaves, to give any information which might lead to the discovery of participators in the abomination. Even pardon was assured to an accomplice who should inform against his co-conspirators.

In the midst of this religious zeal and fury a meeting of the Ekklesia was summoned to give its last instructions to the generals. For a time, while the concluding counsels were being taken, and the plan of the campaign settled,—and it was being arranged how, after succouring Egesta 152against its enemies, the people of Leontini should be restored, and how, when Syrakuse had been taken, its inhabitants should be sold as slaves,—the cloud which had hung over Athens for the last few days was almost dissipated.

The Assembly was about to separate, having given full powers to their trusted generals to act, in all contingencies, as it might seem best to them for the good of Athens and her allies, when Pythonikos mounted the Tribune and demanded silence.

‘Athenians,’ cried he, ‘one of the men to whom you have given the care of this great armament, a general to whom you have confided the safety of your soldiers, your sailors, your ships, and perhaps the future of the State, is a profaner of the mysteries of Eleusis. I am here by my witnesses to prove it; do to me as to you seems good if I fail to establish this accusation.’

On minds already strung to the highest pitch by that other dire undiscovered sacrilege this charge fell like a thunderbolt. The Ekklesia was paralyzed, and sat in stupid silence. Pythonikos continued:

‘I will call before you one Andromachos, a slave, who, being himself uninitiated, will tell you how he saw the mysteries profaned, and on 153his oath before the gods declare it was Alkibiades himself who did it.’

The slave was called, but before he gave his evidence all who had not been initiated were ordered by the President to leave the Ekklesia, lest they might hear what it was not lawful for them to know about the holy mysteries. Andromachos related to those who stayed, scarce knowing what they listened to, in their horror and astonishment, all he pretended to have seen and heard—how, being in the house of Polytion, he had seen Alkibiades and Miletos and Nikiakles burlesque and parody the sacred rites.

Alkibiades rose in indignation, denounced the charge as a conspiracy of certain oligarchs and of his personal enemies to deprive him of the command with which the people had invested him, and declared the base charge had been kept back till the last moment in order that he might not have an opportunity of meeting it before he sailed. He called upon them to judge him then and there, and not only to deprive him of his command, but decree that death he well deserved if this accusation should be proved against him.

His open adversaries, as well as his secret enemies, were frightened by his boldness. They knew his power with the people, who were more 154than ever devoted to him since the part he had taken in the Sicilian campaign. Those who were ordered out of the Assembly before Andromachos gave his evidence carried the news of the horrible charge into the city. It rang through the town. The Argive and the Mantineian contingents that had come to fight for Athens said it was mainly for their love of Alkibiades they had been induced to come, and if any wrong were done to him they would go back again.

The people vowed vengeance upon his enemies. The excitement rose. Their zeal against the Syrakusans was for a moment turned against Pythonikos and his associates. Pythonikos knew this, and the impossibility of hitting the object of his hatred while he was there in Athens. So he prayed that the further hearing of his charges might be postponed for the present.

No one could say of him that he had not made them in the presence of the accused. ‘Let him go forth,’ he said, with assumed generosity—‘let him go forth and lead the fleet, and when he returns, as we all hope, triumphantly, he shall present himself before the proper judges, and be tried according to the law.’

Alkibiades saw through the scheme.

‘No,’ said he; ‘let me not go on such a long 155and arduous enterprise with a charge like this hanging over me, filling my thoughts, embittering my days, weakening my arm while I am fighting for you. This, indeed, were too unjust. If guilty, I am not worthy to go; if innocent, ought I to bear so great a punishment?’

His prayer prevailed not. The people would on no account allow the conquest of Sicily to be put off. Without knowing it, they drove their ablest citizen, their strongest bulwark, from them, placed him in the power of unscrupulous assailants, drove him into the arms of their inveterate enemies, and took the first step towards their own destruction.



Γλυκὺ δ’ ἀπείροιοι πόλεμος.—Pindar.
‘Sweet seemeth war to those who know naught of it.’

The day after the meeting of the Assembly which has just been described saw another, and a very different, scene enacted in the streets and ports of Athens. The great fleet was just about to sail. At dawn the accused general rode at the head of the departing troops from the city to Peiræus. Alkibiades rode on his good horse Ephialtes, the horse his first-born son had loved, and which had been called after him.

He had bidden a long farewell to the old paternal mansion, when Amykla brought the infant Alkibiades, that his father might embrace him ere he left. But this was no time for sentiment. He was about to do, to be, that which he had desired to do and be ever since he was a boy playing with his schoolmates in the very streets he was now to march through proudly.

157These streets were lined with the thronging populace as the troops marched by. Multitudes followed them upon the way. All who had brothers, sons, beloved ones, among them followed. When they reached the port, there lay the big warships decked out magnificently. The impatient Lamachos had already been on board his vessel for some time, chafing at the delay, caring little for the doings at the Ekklesia. All he cared for was to be at Syrakuse, fighting the Syrakusans. As for Nikias, he had stolen down the night before, not sure of the reception the populace might give him after the conduct of Pythonikos.

Flowers decked the great triremes from prow to stern, silver goblets glittered on the higher decks. All was jollity as the hoplites, the archers, and the other light-armed soldiers, and a small force of cavalry, marched on board the transport ships. They were not long in embarkation. Then the trumpets sounded, and the whole army stood upon the decks, Alkibiades upon the stern-deck of his Eros, the finest trireme of them all, built and furnished at his own expense.

The heralds prayed the gods, and especially Poseidôn and the god of war, and Pallas, to be propitious to them, favouring their arms. Then 158every one of the soldiers, even the humblest marine, poured forth libations. This was a scene never to be forgotten by the vast crowd who saw it, as every soldier poured out libations from silver cups, the higher officers from golden vessels, to the gods.

The multitudes upon the quays joined in the prayers, and echoed back the sacred hymns and pæans boasting of success, when the rowers took their places, and when to the time chanted by their leader, with rhythmic oar they struck the old Aigaian waters. And the great ships one by one filed out of the Peiræus.

The August sun shone on the brazen shields and breast-plates, and was reflected on the spears and swords of that strong host, which thus left Athens splendidly. How many of them, ships or men, were ever again to see the much-loved city? Loud cries of confidence and farewell, echoing along the shore, followed them upon their way, and then the sailors, warriors, and Alkibiades saw last of all the great Akropolis and the statue of Athene.

It was with an exulting heart that, standing on the stern, he caught the last sight of that fair city. But had he a prescient foresight even now of the years which must pass over him and Athens, of 159all he was about to suffer, of the sins against her he was to commit, before he should next time look upon the virgin goddess and her holy temple? Perhaps it might be such prophetic vision, or perchance only the result of the pain he had suffered, the indignation he had felt, or a natural reaction after the excitement of the long day’s work—the greatest day, perhaps, but one of all his troubled life—certain it was he felt unsatisfied and almost gloomy. There seemed to be something floating between him and victory as he stood there—something coming and going between him and his future fame. He was half inclined to believe it was a guide, a monitor, a daimôn, such as Sokrates had told him of, that was warning him, but with a voice so indistinct he could scarcely understand it, telling him he was entering upon a path that would lead him far away.

His sensitive and nervous nature—for with all his readiness and boldness he was sensitive and nervous—had recoiled before the charges brought against him. Perhaps this accounted for his feeling. His intelligence penetrated the designs of insidious enemies, capable of any secret crime against him, or against the state, so they might gratify their hate. He believed—and history 160has supported him in his belief—that the outrage upon unoffending statues of a beneficent god was the clumsy act of a band of unknown enemies, who thought, in some vague way, they might fix the crime on him; that, failing in that scheme, some of them had then, by a more artful and dangerous plan, suborned a slave, and instructed him to make a specific charge against him when he was on the eve of leaving Athens.

In his secret soul he feared their machinations while he was away, with no one at home to stamp the poison out, as he could have done had he been there. His soul revolted from the injustice of it all; and as he stood out to sea, his highest hopes apparently attained, one of the commanders of the grandest expedition Athens had ever ventured on the waves, there was a melancholy, a feeling of unrest, of aspirations even now unsatisfied. And when the night fell, and the lights grew indistinct along the coast, as he turned him in to sleep he sighed.

The fleet arrived prosperously at Korkyra. The land forces were more than doubled by Ionians and Korkyræans and others they found waiting for them there, all eager to take a part in the great invasion. Thirty-six triremes were added to the fleet. One hundred and thirty-six ships 161of all sorts rode proudly in the harbour when the three generals reviewed their troops. Everything was ready for a descent upon Sicily. The fleet was divided into three divisions, under the three commanders, and all set out for Italy.

At Rhegion the generals combined their forces and held a council. Nikias was of opinion they should sail to Selinous, force the inhabitants to do right to the Egestæans, make a demonstration before the chief Sicilian cities, victual the fleet, and return to Athens. Lamachos was for a very different course—sail straight for Syrakuse, land the troops hard by, destroy the forts, force the harbour, and while the fleet was attacking it by sea, march the troops upon the town and take it before it could recover from its surprise or put itself into a fit state of defence.

Alkibiades showed foresight as well as courage. He discerned the motives of the mean-souled Nikias, as well as the danger of his impulsive colleague’s plan. Nikias had opposed the enterprise from the beginning, and had prophesied its failure. He was now doing worse, for he was advocating a course which would make his prophecy come true, and had urged the adoption of that course with all his energy. Alkibiades 162wanted to be able to point to the effect of following his rival’s counsel.

‘What!’ said he, ‘take this vast fleet back again, that has cost the Athenians and their allies so much—take it back before we have done anything but make a vain show before the ports of Sicily! I should be ashamed to face my fellow-citizens. Besides, you must remember more than half our force is not Athenian; it has been furnished by allies. What will they say who have readily brought with us their contingents to rescue their friends and colonies from the clutches of the Syrakusans and the other domineering cities? My advice is to discover what trusty friends we have in Sicily, and endeavour to make others, so as to get a sure basis in the island, before delivering our main attack upon the front of the offending.

‘It is the part of a prudent general not to land his forces in an unknown country before he has discovered what the resources of the country are and what is the strength of the city he is going to assault, lest, if he should happen not to meet with complete success at first, he might find it difficult to feed his men, or to make a good retreat if that were necessary.

‘Were it not for these unforeseen but possible 163dangers, I should agree with our colleague Lamachos. But, on the whole, therefore, my proposal is that we first gain the goodwill of Messana, the nearest port, or, failing that, the goodwill of some other town, whence we can descend with both army and fleet on Syrakuse, after we have made our observations of the strong and weak points of that important city.’

Lamachos at once came round to this opinion, as every one else must have done who had any wisdom or any experience of practical warfare, or any knowledge of the port they were about to attack. He was a fine leader, was Lamachos, when a dash at the head of troops was wanted, but without prudence or firmness of conviction. The superior wisdom of his more gifted colleague, which was before long to mark him out as one of the greatest generals of any age, soon convinced him. Nikias then grudgingly gave way. His attitude was not one to inspire confidence in minds less hopeful than those of his two colleagues.

Alkibiades started at once for Messana in the Eros. No troops were allowed to enter the town. He went alone into the Assembly. But his fame had gone before him. He addressed the citizens, pressing them to join the Athenians and their allies, and pointing out the advantages they would 164gain by the help of such a force as he had brought from Greece.

The people were divided. Some were for joining the Athenians, others feared the fury of Syrakuse when the Greeks had gone away. The more wary answered they could not open their gates to an armed force on either side, but that the Athenians might, if they would, encamp in their territory away from the town, and buy what provisions they wanted at a reasonable rate. This was something gained. Alkibiades was not discouraged. He thanked the people, and before he left he managed to gain over a party amongst them, who engaged to open the gates to him whenever he should give the signal.

He hastened back to Rhegion, and with a portion of the fleet sailed south to Naxos, where he was cordially received, and obtained promise of help. He went on to Katané. There he was refused admission, and thinking it unwise to begin hostilities with the small force he had, or to make certain enemies of those who might be won by management, he went on towards Syrakuse.

There he met his colleague Lamachos cruising near the harbour, longing to be inside it. The two generals with their conjoined force went back 165to Katané, taking a Syrakusan vessel by the way. On reaching Katané, they received permission to enter the town without troops. They ventured to address an assembly of the citizens. While Alkibiades was endeavouring to persuade them to join the Athenian alliance, a party of Athenian soldiers who had landed secretly from the ships forced one of the city gates that had been left unguarded, and suddenly appeared in the assembly while Alkibiades was speaking. The Syrakusan party amongst the citizens fled; the rest, without waiting for further arguments, voted for the Athenian alliance.

Alkibiades then made a reconnaissance of Syrakuse alone by sea, and landed with a body of two hundred heavy-armed men nearly two miles north of the town. He came upon an outpost on the high ground guarded by a small body of Syrakusan soldiers, whom he easily overcame, and captured a store of arms and provisions.

He had been able to form a good idea of the strength of the greater and the smaller port against an invading fleet; he now saw the weak point of the defences on the land side. But, as he was making his observations, he did not notice that a body of cavalry had left the town by the north-western gate, and had come round the rising 166ground immediately behind him, while a force of some three or four hundred light-armed troops were threatening him upon the left flank.

He thus found himself cut off from his ships. To retreat before the cavalry was impossible, while to stand there to receive a charge on one side by the infantry, and in the rear by the cavalry, was to await certain death or capture.

A strong wind which had rendered the landing difficult, and made the anchorage of the ships precarious, was blowing from the south as these horsemen rode down from the high ground to the spot where Alkibiades and his men now stood at bay, prepared to receive the charge and to die like men.

High tufts of long grass, which had been dried by the September heat, grew on all sides of them. The wind bent the long yellow blades as it swept over them. To set light to this inflammable growth was the inspiration of a leader who was seldom at a loss in the greatest extremities. The fire rose at once. The wind increased its fury. It caught the stunted olive-trees and under-growth, as it surged onward full in the face of the Syrakusan cavalry. The horses reared and plunged, and turned and fled in disorder as the flames came on and the smoke half smothered them.

167Nor were the light-armed troops much better off. For Alkibiades ordered his men to charge. They had the advantage of a slight declivity, and so the heavy-armed Athenians emerged, as it were, from out the fire and smoke, and marching through the light-armed Syrakusans, cut them to pieces as they went, and reached their ships in safety. Alkibiades returned straightway to Katané.

As he sailed away, like another Ulysses defying Polyphemos, he had some cause to feel satisfied with what he had accomplished. He had just escaped from what at one time looked like a very serious predicament, and in spite of a timorous, procrastinating colleague on one side, and a rash, unthinking enthusiast upon the other, he had done good work for Athens and her allies. He had arranged to get a footing in Messana whenever he thought it expedient to land troops there. Naxos was entirely with him. He had established a base of operations against Syrakuse at Katané, where the greater part of the fleet now lay.

This was something to have done in the short time he had been in Sicilian waters. He had done much more than this: he had discovered a point of attack on Syrakuse, and though it might require some sacrifice of ships and men, he saw 168that, in its present state of defence, this chief port and town of Sicily would be theirs without much difficulty, if attacked at once.

Such were his hopes as he returned, well satisfied, to Katané. The clouds which had been hanging over him since he left home lifted and almost disappeared. His high spirits rose again as he thought of his entry as a conqueror into Athens, bringing with him the spoils of a mighty city, and offering to his countrymen the gratitude of a people delivered from oppression, and the sovereignty of Syrakuse, and of the whole of Sicily, all to be laid at his country’s feet.



‘It would give me pain to tell you of the rumours that are flying about among the people, and the number of discordant and inconsistent opinions held about me.’—Boethius.

As Alkibiades entered the harbour of Katané, he was surprised to see a well-known ship there, which certainly had not come with the rest—no less a vessel than the sacred state trireme of Athens, the Salaminia. His surprise was increased when, soon after his arrival, and while he was preparing to go ashore to refresh himself after his voyage, Kryptos, the captain of the Salaminia, came on board the Eros.

Alkibiades received him with the courtesy due to so high a state official. Kryptos requested to be allowed to speak to him alone. When they had gone beneath the silken awning which served as a sort of state cabin on the stern-deck, Kryptos presented him with a despatch. There was something strange about the old man’s manner. Alkibiades opened it and read:

170‘The Senate and the people of Athens to Alkibiades, the son of Kleinias, strategos of the Athenian fleet and army in Sicily.—You are hereby required on receipt of this to return immediately on board your own trireme to Athens, in company with the sacred state trireme, the Salaminia.’

The words grew indistinct for a moment as he read them, but he bowed to the Senate’s messenger, and told him he was prepared to follow whenever he should sail. The captain added that he was charged by the Senate to inform the strategos it was their wish that he should not leave his ship that night, so that he might be in readiness to sail next morning. Alkibiades bowed again, something in the Eastern fashion, and said he would obey in this, as in all other things, the mandate of the Senate.

Amongst the officers of the Salaminia who had come on board with the captain were some acquaintances of the officers of the Eros. They were glad of an opportunity to meet their friends, and while the captain was holding his interview with Alkibiades they hurriedly told what their business was, and something of what had taken place at Athens since the departure of the fleet. They said that the strategos was recalled and his 171office taken from him. They invited their friends to come and see them that evening on board the Salaminia. Then Kryptos, who had summonses for others in the fleet, came up to them, and they left the Eros.

Those who saw Alkibiades when he came out upon the deck of his ship declared there was an awful look upon his face, such as they had never seen before. The younger men approached him.

‘Are you going to suffer this, general? Will you go back now, just as we are about to obtain the greatest conquest yet recorded? Let us send this process-server home again. And when we return victorious the people will forget our treatment of him. They will by that time, too, have found out the injustice of their suspicions, and perhaps have condemned those who have persuaded them falsely of your guilt.’

‘What guilt?’ cried Alkibiades, excited by the word out of his wonted calm.

‘The Senate and the people, moved by the priests of Demeter and the rest of the Eumolpidai, have decreed your recall and the revocation of your appointment on the charge of having divulged and profaned the mysteries of Eleusis.’

‘Ye gods,’ cried Alkibiades, ‘who know my 172innocence, Demeter and Persephone be my witnesses that I will be revenged on those who have done me this dishonour! And the people have decreed my revocation? The worse for those who have misled them!’

He spoke with a fierceness so different to his usual gentleness that his friends were terrified. Only Kolyphôn stood forth, known as the Silent One, and mildest of them all.

‘Oh, my strategos, speak but the word, and we will this moment publish through the fleet news of this dishonour done to us. The whole fleet is yours; ‘tis to you it owes its existence. This state trireme shall be sent back with a fitting message to your enemies, a word of courage to your friends. Say but the word, and we will put Nikias on board the Salaminia with Kryptos, and send him home—the best place for such as he.’

‘Peace!’ said Alkibiades. ‘We must obey the people. Go, you who have been invited on board the Salaminia. When you return, I will speak with you again.’

So he was left alone to ponder upon these things, a prisoner on board the ship he had furnished for the state. He knew that if the expedition was to succeed he must be there to lead it, and that it would break down if he went from it. He 173knew the timid, procrastinating character of Nikias—how he could never make up his mind on an emergency, and would allow any excuse to prevail rather than take action. He knew, too, how necessary immediate action was, before the Syrakusans recovered from their alarm and felt their own strength, or learnt the weakness of Nikias, or got help from Korinth or from Sparta. And now he was to go and leave all; and by the time he could come back to Sicily, absolved from this foul charge, as he then believed he assuredly must be, it would be too late.

He thought of the quiet Kolyphôn’s advice to appeal to the whole force. That would be a bold stroke. It might succeed; but it was disloyal to those who had entrusted him with power, disloyal to his colleagues. Was it not treachery to Athens?

Then he bethought him of his power over the Assembly. Had he ever appealed to them in vain? Had he ever failed to move them? Could he fail now? Was he not more popular than ever? Was not his cause more just? Should he not go before them, throw himself upon their sense of right; expose and destroy their enemies and his; tell them what he had done already for them in Sicily against the cowardly advice of Nikias; ask them who was their true friend, he or Nikias; 174and then—why, then, if need be, die, and let them find out, when it was too late, when Nikias brought back the fleet with nothing to show for all their great expenditure, who it was that had been done to death through their advisers?

What a noble retaliation! Yet, after all, he would be tried, not by the Assembly of the people; they had but voted for his trial. He would be tried by a limited number of dikastai, many of them his enemies, and if the rest had been so influenced, in his absence, by those who were conspiring together to destroy him, would he be listened to? Would he get justice from them?

He saw the depth of the malice of Pythonikos—to get rid of him so that he might work out his machinations without hindrance. He remembered, too, the fickleness of the people—how they had turned on Perikles, after all he had done for them. And religious frenzy! who can stem that when once it rages in its delirious course let loose from rational control?

While here he was, as Kolyphôn had said, master of the situation. The whole of the fleet friendly. Most of the soldiers his own. The Argives and Mantineians cared more for him than for all the rest of the Athenians put together. They had come upon the expedition mainly on his account, 175while they of Korkyra and the Ionians who had joined the fleet at Korkyra, and made up between them more than half the army, had learnt to look on him as the genius of the enterprise, and knew that the plans they had at heart against Syrakuse could only be carried out under his direction. As for the other generals, they soon had seen that one was a traitor to the cause, the other of no weight, and perfectly incompetent.

These were the thoughts which chased each other through his brain as he paced the Eros, waiting for the news his friends might bring him from the Salaminia.

It was late before they returned. There had been much to hear, and what they heard had startled them. Before they had come back, Alkibiades had made up his mind that any attempt to excite the army or the fleet to rebel against the orders of the Senate was too hazardous, and might lead he knew not where. Other schemes, indistinct as yet, and scarcely entertained, began to shape themselves vaguely in his mind. Rejected, they came again, born of indignant rage, of righteous anger. Might he not have a revenge such as no other man had thought of? He clenched his teeth, his hands, determined to resist the suggestions whispered to his maddened 176mind. Then he mused again on all his wrongs—the venal, treacherous Senate, the ungrateful, stupid people. He clenched his teeth again, this time in anger. Then the unformed schemes took more decided shape. He let them stay longer in his mind.

He had no further communication that night with his officers when they returned. He retired when he saw them coming, after giving orders to his ship’s master to be ready to set sail the first thing in the morning, and to give him notice when he saw the Salaminia weigh anchor. All night visions of his past, and visions of his future, crowded on him as he lay awake, and became his dreams when at last he slept.

The brilliant dawn of a bright September morning was breaking over the sea and the fairest island in the world when his ship’s master gave him warning that the Salaminia had weighed her anchor, and was apparently about to sail. He ordered his captain to prepare to leave the harbour in the Salaminia’s wake. Before he appeared on deck the Eros was outside the harbour, the Salaminia some five hundred yards ahead.

It was a splendid morning, and the soft, fresh, exhilarating air of Sicily breathed upon them as the two fine ships, with oars bending and sails 177swelling, swept the Sicilian Sea. Alkibiades joined a group of his friends on deck. He had assumed again his usual careless spirits.

‘And what news from Athens? Has Pythonikos, or Andokides, or my dear brother Kallias—have they accused us before the dikastai, condemned us to death already, and confiscated all our property?’

‘No, Alkibiades,’ answered Kolyphôn; ‘not yet; but if our news be true, they and other enemies you suspect not are likely to do so soon.’

For all his assumed carelessness, a black cloud was seen by all of them upon his face as he called sharply to that other to explain his meaning.

Then they told him all they knew; how that after the departure of the fleet a sadness had fallen over everyone, partly reaction from the excitement of its preparation and its setting out, more from the awe that the outrage to the statues had produced. This feeling had changed to one of wrath and indignation, roused by those who bribed some of the meaner sort to bring false accusations. Then Agaristé, a strange woman, some distant relation of Alkibiades—at least, of the same stock—declared she saw him and Axiochos and Adeimantos make joke of the Eleusinian mysteries in the house of Charmides.

178‘This woman’s story,’ added Biôtides, a stout Athenian sailor, ‘was so absurd, Kleibôn said, it would have been treated as an hysterical delusion at any other time, but then it worked the common people into a state of terrible alarm. This was increased when Lydos, a slave, turned, it was thought, unwittingly upon the oligarchic party, and swore by all the gods that he had seen the same thing done in the house of his master, Perikles; and amongst the sacrilegious hands was Leogoras, father of Andokides the orator.’

‘Ha, ha!’ cried Alkibiades; ‘Leogoras, who breeds the finest pheasants in all Greece. I know the old man; and what said his fine son the orator?’

‘Well, the Senate offered ten thousand drachmas and a pardon to anyone who would denounce the spoilers of the images,’ said Kolyphôn. ‘And then—and then a knave named Diokleides came in haste before the Senate and declared that, while he was journeying from Athens, on the night before the images of the god Hermes were cut, he saw about three hundred men close to the theatre of Dionysos, that they then separated into small bands, and that he would know them all again if he saw them. When he came back next day, it seems, he found the reward which had been offered by the Senate, and he went to Andokides, 179and threatened that if he did not give him twelve thousand drachmas he would denounce him and all his family. Andokides promised the money, but did not pay it, so he and his father were denounced and both imprisoned, besides a number of their relations. But the Senate having promised to pardon them if the son would confess, Andokides made a clean breast of it, and said he had been one of a large number who agreed to cut the statues. He gave the names of twenty-three others, all well-known citizens, as his accomplices. They were taken, condemned, and put to death, except a few who escaped. Andokides himself has got away, and many think those who were put to death, through his evidence, were innocent, and that the famous orator gave them up to shield his friends.’

‘No one seems to know much for certain,’ said Biôtides. ‘The two charges are mixed up together. It is impossible to get at the bottom of it all. But the best thing is that one of the “searchers” appointed by the Senate to find out all about the Hermai is himself denounced as one who was mixed up in it. Some wise men think, so Minesias says, that Andokides meant to lay the whole blame on you, Alkibiades, but was afraid at last, because all men knew he was your greatest enemy, and so might 180suspect him of having had the statues cut himself, which was the truth. Others think it was done only to stop the expedition.’

‘As like as not,’ said Alkibiades.

‘Well, then,’ continued Biôtides, ‘this scoundrel Diokleides was found out. Andokides had sworn there were no three hundred out that night, and that those whose names had been given by the informer were never near the theatre of Dionysos at all. The Senate asked Diokleides how he could tell the faces of the men he said he saw by night. ‘Because it was full moon and very clear,” said Diokleides. Now it happened to have been a new moon and dark that night. So Diokleides was convicted of giving false evidence, and was condemned to death, and serve him right.’

‘A pity all these clumsy conspirators have not been treated in the same way,’ said Alkibiades.

‘But wait, sir. When he found himself condemned he said the whole tale had been made up for him by Amiantos and your relative Alkibiades of the deme of Phegusa. Orders were given at once for their arrest. They both escaped, and Alkibiades, it is said, has gone to Sparta. The people are beside themselves with fear. They know not what to do. Any base informer, it seems, can get the best citizens condemned. 181The only safe course left, when anyone may be accused, is to fly from Athens. There is small chance of justice for any in Athens now, the people are in such a panic. But, Alkibiades, the worst is yet to come. Thessalos, the son of Kimon——’

‘Ah! what of him? I know the ingenuity of his malicious soul.’

‘Thessalos delivered to the dikasterion a formal accusation against Alkibiades, the son of Kleinias, together with his friends Polytion, Theodorus, and others, of having divulged and sacrilegiously made sport of the Eleusinian mysteries.’

‘And the five hundred dikastai, what said they?’

‘Minesias says the people are in such bewilderment they will do anything. Athens, when they left, was under arms by night and day. “The Boiotians are coming on us!” say some. “The Spartans are at the isthmus,” say others. “The Argives and the Spartans are both coming. Alkibiades has sent them, and has told them how they may take the city”; so many of them run up and down crying. And then the priests of Demeter have cursed you openly, and say the earth will refuse to yield her fruits, and the gods have abandoned Athens, and will not come back till you have been recalled. And Pythonikos 182and Thessalos, and many others of the oligarchs, and some of the democrats, too, are going about telling the people no good will ever come of this expedition, and that the fleet and all the army will be destroyed unless your command is taken from you. They tell them that for years you have been the most arrogant of men; that in secret and amongst your friends you used to laugh at the demos, and declared you would soon upset the Constitution and make yourself tyrant in Athens. A lot of lies like these and all the other charges so exasperated the people against you, Alkibiades, that the Assembly decreed that the office of strategos should be taken from you, and that you should be recalled to Athens to be tried at once upon the charge made by Thessalos. But Kryptos was especially ordered to say nothing of your deposition while he was with the fleet, for fear of causing a revolt among the sailors.’

When he had heard all this, which was told him in scraps, first by one, and then another, as each remembered something of what he had heard the night before, Alkibiades spoke as though thinking to himself:

‘Oh, so they have revoked my office, have they? And they think I shall come back to let them try me before this dikasterion, do they?’

183His mind was made up. The Salaminia made for Thurii, on the south coast of Italy. The Eros followed close behind. As they neared the land, Alkibiades called his friends round him, some of whom had been ordered to return with him.

‘Are you all anxious to yield yourselves up patiently to the good demos, who one day crown and cheer their leader, and the next day would deliver him to death?’

‘Not I, nor I, nor I,’ cried they. ‘And this is what we have been thinking of since we left Katané.’

‘Will Alkibiades give himself up to a people who are unworthy of him?’ asked Kolyphôn.

‘And be led away to death when he could overthrow them all?’ rough Agrestides said.

‘Or make a name for vengeance gratified, which would astonish all the world, and live in men’s memories for ever, as warning to an ungrateful country?’ said Kolyphôn.

‘All this have I been thinking of, too,’ said Alkibiades, ‘since we have been following that state trireme. No, Alkibiades shall not be carried like a fly caught by a spider to its hole, there to be executed at his captors’ will. Life is pleasant, and we have yet a greater name to make. We shall put in at Thurii, I expect. I have 184friends there a little pledged to me for favours I have done them. If they will help us to avoid the old fool Kryptos, will you share your fortunes, come what will, with me?’

‘Indeed we will,’ they said in graver tones than they were used to speak in.

‘It may mean fighting to the death,’ said Alkibiades.

‘In fighting we would gladly die for you,’ said Agrestides, with something of emotion on his rugged face.

‘What fate were nobler? And how delightful to enrage those hounds at Athens!’ muttered Kolyphôn.

‘Keep with me, then, when we land at Thurii. We shall most likely dine at the house of my friend Eumanthes; he is much indebted to me. That is his great house more than half-way up the hill to the west there, almost hidden in the olive-grove. His slaves must still be getting in the vintage, one of the best in Italy. When we have dined, and you hear me say the word “Athanatos,” go out one by one, and wait for me at the shrine of Dionysos, which you will find at the right-hand side, at the end of his garden, further up the mountain. Now, no more of this! Remember, “Athanatos.”’



‘Laudo manentem; si celeres quatit
Pennas, resigno quæ; dedit ...
... probamque
Pauperiem sine dote quæro.’
Horatius: Od., iii. 29.
‘I sing her praises should she stay,
But an she shake her lightsome wings,
I give her back the things she gave,
And seek an upright life in poverty.’

It was early in the afternoon of September the twenty-fifth by our reckoning when the Eros, following the Salaminia, got up to Thurii, an Athenian colony near the site of the old-renowned soft Sybaris. The fallen strategos landed with his friends. Kryptos, approaching, told the ex-general he proposed staying there that night, and starting again early next morning. Alkibiades bowed, saying it was his part to receive orders now, not to give them.

The people of Thurii, most of whom had come upon the wharf to see the two great Athenian 186vessels, were indeed surprised when they recognised the well-known face of Alkibiades. He had lately called there, when, at the head of his division of the fleet, he was on his way to Rhegion. Eumanthes quickly heard the news, and came down at once to welcome his friend and benefactor, and invited him and his companions to his country house, and begged they would make it theirs as long as they might stay at Thurii.

‘’Tis only till to-morrow,’ said Alkibiades, introducing his friends. Eumanthes begged they would stay longer.

‘Our partridges are good, and our wine thought not the worst in Italy.’

‘So have I often heard, and, indeed, I know it from my own experience,’ said the leader, who wore his most gorgeous purple robe, and looked ready to enjoy a long symposium after all the rough labours of his recent voyages.

And a fine symposium it was. Eumanthes, after a little private talk with his old friend, had summoned the wisest of the Thurians to meet him. All the sage philosophers of Thurii came. Their philosophy did not prevent them doing justice to the feast. The daintiest fish of Thurii, cooked, some in boiling olive-oil, others in the white wine of the country, others stuffed with 187olives and wild thyme and baked—all were delicious.

Boiled turkeys, each with a hundred of the famed Thurian oysters in them, and a boar’s head, with freshly discovered truffles, were followed by pheasants and young partridges, roasted and stewed in many ways, which made the chief guest declare that his own head cook Hymettos must come to Thurii to improve his art. But the snails, collected that afternoon from the vineyard of white grapes, made them, for a moment, forget all the rest; until a salad, with cray-fish, straight from the cool mountain streams, made them almost forget the snails. To the sound of silver flutes boys came in, bearing upon golden dishes the plump quails of Egypt, wrapped in the last young leaves of the maturing vines, and offered them upon bended knee to each guest, the virginal vine-leaves giving a new flavour to the Egyptian birds, which were sufficiently appetizing of themselves.

The custom of the luxurious Thurians was to drink wine while the feast was being served, and not to wait till after the various dishes had been cleared away, as was the manner in the older country. Each course was served up with wines which had lain pining for the sunlight 188for more than twenty years. Cold white wine, which gave forth an aroma as of early summer mignonette when the tall, pointed amphoræ were opened, came with the fish and disappeared again until the salad. Red wine, clear and delicate, gentle as a maiden, gave flavour to the roasted venison. Red wines of bolder nature, larger-hearted, with perfume like the flower of the beech-tree on hot summer nights, added a fresh charm to partridges and pheasants. But all these wines were vanquished by their king of exquisitely fine bouquet, and of a vintage which the host admitted he had not seen himself since he was a youth in his dear old father’s lifetime. This monarch of all wine came with the fruit—figs bursting with ripe lusciousness, walnuts, and large bloomy grapes, with the warmth still on them of the setting sun.

The philosophers and the learned men of Thurii, notwithstanding all the heat they were wont to show in nightly arguments with one another, and in discussing the latest works of every sophist writer, were quiet and subdued before the renowned Athenian. Then did he look more radiant and beautiful than ever. Seldom did he show such condescension or concern himself more courteously to instruct and gratify his company. He spoke of many things—of patriotism, of the 189love of country. When was man obliged to die for his home? How far, if ever, was he bound to save his fatherland, if he must appear an enemy while doing it? Or was it not nobler to die to save her than to live to teach her, and dying, leave a fame behind which some day all would recognise, so that his name would never die, and he would become indeed ‘Athanatos’?

The companions of his voyage rose from their couches one by one, and stole out unnoticed by the grave philosophers, overcome by the eloquence they had listened to and the good wine they had drunk. At length Alkibiades bade them good-night, and his host got rid of them. Eumanthes, after a few more words with his guest, went down to the wharf to watch the movements of the Salaminia. He found the captain still superintending the provisioning of the state ship, and invited him to come and stay a day or two with him. Kryptos declined, as he sailed for Athens the next morning.

When Eumanthes returned he found that his guest, who in the meantime had changed his dress for one more suitable to the work before him, was gone. He had reason to suppose his Athenian friends were by this time beyond the shrine of Dionysos. There Alkibiades and his companions 190had found Diôtes, a faithful servant of Eumanthes, with arms and horses and some provisions, awaiting them. They mounted, and, led by Diôtes, went along a narrow pathway in single file up the mountain by the side of the stream whence the cray-fish had come which formed the chief part of the wondrous salad.

It was a dark night, and not without some danger did they make their way to higher ground. Biôtides was better at sea than on horseback. In his anxiety to show his skill as a horseman, his steed, unaccustomed to such a rider, got rid of him. He was picked up near a precipice not much the worse, but it was thought wiser to make him exchange horses with Agrestides, who was riding a milder animal. They went along merrily enough, considering their new circumstances. Only Alkibiades was silent and thoughtful. Before daybreak they reached a small villa, nearly thirty miles from Thurii, belonging to Eumanthes. Here they rested.

They were not sorry to lie down, though their couches, all except one, were on the ground, and made up of skins. What was that to sailors after a long ride through the night? The day was far advanced when Diôtes awoke them. He had prepared a repast of goat’s milk and venison, 191with some cheese and fruit. After that they set out again on their journey, along a spur of the lower Apennines for some three hours more, at as quick a pace as Biôtides could keep up. Then they descended into a broad valley, with a clear stream running through it. At the end of this valley, shut in on both sides by the hills, was a goatherd’s hut. For this they made. Here Diôtes put before them the remainder of the provisions he had brought with him, and left them in charge of Hermas, the goatherd, telling them that he or some other of the servants of Eumanthes would come as soon as possible with news and more provisions.

The lodging was rougher than that of the night before, but the spirits of all were high; those of Alkibiades were now highest of them all. There was something adventurous about this, and the change from soft beds and silken coverlets, such as were prepared for him on board the Eros, and from the luxurious living he was accustomed to, brought out a latent hardihood he was soon to find an opportunity to show. His was a character which could fit itself to any change of circumstances, to any country, to any mode of life; but wherever he might be he would be first, the most beloved, often the most envied of mankind.

192Next morning they were up betimes. The supplies Diôtes promised had not come, nor were they wanted. The stream was full of trout, and no party of schoolboys out on a holiday ever abandoned themselves to greater frolic and enjoyment. Alkibiades constructed a net to catch the fish, and invented a new way of cooking them. By the time they were spread out smoking on platters made of leaves on the rich turf, the appetites of the party would have made most fish delectable. So what of this, the finest flavoured that the streams of earth afford, and cooked by Alkibiades? Hermas provided bread, coarse, perhaps, and somewhat hard; but his cheese was excellent; and he produced a basketful of those cray-fish we have heard of twice before. He had caught and cooked them while the others were fishing for the trout.

‘Stop,’ said Alkibiades; ‘I see a herb will make a noble salad;’ and so it did with oil of which Hermas had a store, made from the olives in the groves through which they had passed two days before. There was no wine there, and they wanted none. The fresh mountain air in which they took their breakfast,—a breakfast caught and cooked by themselves, for the first time in the lives of most of them,—made up for that. Alkibiades drank from the mountain stream as it flowed by them 193clear and icy cold. ‘After all,’ said he, ‘water is not so bad to drink—sometimes.’

They had a mid-day slumber on the goatherd’s skins, under the late September sun, and were aroused by the arrival of two horsemen, whom they recognised as servants of Eumanthes. They brought a scroll on which was written: ‘Kryptos and his band are searching; keep quiet and on guard.’ They also brought two panniers filled with such succulent viands as only a Eumanthes could imagine. At the evening meal this pampering food seemed out of place in their surroundings, and yet,—and yet, they eat it.

Next morning Diôtes came. Kryptos was still looking for them, but on the wrong side. So all that day, and for many others after it, the band of fugitives enjoyed the sunshine and the mountain air, and the good things the gods provided. And then news came that Kryptos, giving up his search at last, had set sail for Athens. The fugitives started on their journey back. They bade farewell to Hermas and his quiet valley; and oftentimes in after-years, amidst the splendours of the East, and all his luxuries, his troubles and his triumphs, the wandering Alkibiades looked back to that sweet spot, and wondered which was happier, he or Hermas.



‘Fortuna opes auferre, non animum, potest.’—Seneca.
‘Fortune may carry off our wealth, it cannot rob us of our

On his return to Thurii Alkibiades found Kryptos had indeed gone and taken the Eros with him. So he waited there for news from Athens. It was not long in coming. He heard how, as soon as it was known that he had escaped at Thurii, the dikasterion, in his absence, had sentenced him to death and confiscated all his property.

‘But I will show them I am still alive,’ he said. No one ever kept a promise better.

As he was dead to his country by his country’s act, his country became dead to him. Great as had been his devotion to that country in the past, great as it would ever have been, had she been worthy of it, great as it was yet to be proved to be in the distant future, at this time the one thought which engrossed his mind became how to make his revenge as overwhelming in its destructive 195consequence as her injustice had been great to him. It was so complete and terrible that the vengeance of no man has been like to it in the history of the ages.

He despatched Agrestides to Messana with information to the chiefs of the Syrakusan party of the agreement he had made with their opponents to open the city gates to the Athenian army. With the rest of his companions he sailed for Elis and landed at Kylléné.

This Agrestides, who was trusted with the message to the leaders hostile to the Athenians at Messana, was one on whose judgment and quiet sagacity Alkibiades had found he could implicitly rely. He was originally a poor Arkadian shepherd boy, troubled with the wandering spirit which has driven many another boy to leave his home and happy solitude, to be tossed about on the world’s wide waves, to hope, and long, and travel, to see many lands and divers peoples, and die at last unknown, unrecognised, and be buried amongst strangers. He could not be contented to tend his sheep in the peaceful valleys of Arkadia. The spirit of unrest, of adventure, which came over him, he could not resist. The desire to be elsewhere, to get past the mountains which shut in his native 196plains, grew into a force which became ever more and more resistless. The constant itching to be gone spoilt all his happiness. When the father and the mother and all of them were there, in the small family festivities, the temptation haunted him. In the gray morning light, when the others were asleep, he would gaze where the coming sun began to tinge the clouds, and the longing to be there where the sun rose saddened his days, and when it set over the distant hills his fever to be away, to see the world, to leave his uneventful life, burnt into his brain.

He dreamed at night of other lands, and strange great cities, and the unknown, mysterious sea he had heard men talk about who had actually been on it. So he left his sheep, and his mother, all his people—only his brother knew for certain he was going and reaching Korinth, he got on board a merchant ship that traded with the East. He soon became a skilful sailor. He had strength and endurance, as well as an intelligence and shrewdness about him; and getting to Athens, he was in time noticed by the captain of the Eros, and engaged to serve with him.

From the time he first saw the owner of this wondrous craft he looked on him with awe and reverence. It so happened that he was able more 197than once to be of service to his lord. So when the Eros set out for Sicily, Agrestides—‘Aglestides’ his master, who was in the habit of lisping, always called him—was promoted, and kept in close attendance on the strategos. The Arkadian was captivated like the rest—the feeling of awe changed to one of loyal, distant, enthusiastic love, intense devotion. But what could the poor sailor say or do to show his admiration? One day, perhaps, he might do something. He might even save his hero’s life. Perhaps he might—best of all—show his affection by giving his life for him. He had both his wishes.

It was mid October before Alkibiades reached the mainland of the Peloponnesos. The people, when they heard who it was, went down in crowds to meet him. He made a triumphant entry into Elis, where, too, the people thronged to see the far-famed conqueror at the Olympic games, as though he had been some mythic hero of antiquity, who had come in this disguise to visit them, greater in disgrace than most men in prosperity.

He did not stay long in Elis. Plans were forming in his teeming brain, and must not be delayed. He sent to the Kings and Ephors of the Spartans for a safe-conduct to their capital, telling them that he might be able, as their friend, to 198do them greater service than, as their enemy, he had done them injury. The Lakedaimonians eagerly invited their old opponent to come to them at once; he as eagerly left the Eleian capital for Sparta. Before the winter had set in he found himself, for the first time, among that hard and rugged people.

They were curious to see one of whom they had heard so many strange accounts. Great was their wonder when they beheld the grave severity of his demeanour. They had been told tales of his fabulous luxury and extravagance—tales which had not been lessened in the telling. He dressed himself as the plainest citizen there. The flowing purple robe we last saw him wear in the house of his good friend Eumanthes he left behind at Elis. These simple-faring folk had heard tell of his many cooks, the battery of copper saucepans, and other paraphernalia of his kitchen, which must be taken with him even to the wars; they saw him eating at the common table of the coarse food of Sparta. They had been scandalized at the description of his costly baths of curious perfumes; they saw him bathing on winter mornings in the frozen river. And this went on for many months while he was carrying out his great designs. He met the leading men in 199council frequently, and showed them how they might advance their state while humbling Athens.

Before the spring came he heard how things were going on in Sicily—how Nikias had tried to enter Messana, and found, to his astonishment, that the gates were not opened to him; how that then he had gone back to Naxos and Katané, and wasted all the remainder of the autumn and winter doing nothing—wasting precious time and Athenian treasure while Syrakuse was strengthening her defences.

All this while he had his agents at work in Korinth. Late in the spring of 414, hearing that Nikias had at length made up his mind to attack Syrakuse, that his ships had entered the bay of Thapsos, and that his troops were on the hills above the town, he got leave to address the Lakedaimonian assembly. He found an audience very different from that which had so often been moved by him at Athens. Only members of the old Lakonian families sat here, who were intensely conservative; it was no easy task to gain their confidence.

He began in a diffident, half-apologetic strain, open and unaffected. He reminded them that his ancestors for many generations had been the ‘proxenoi’ of Sparta, their friends and agents; 200that no important business of their state had had to be done in Athens but his progenitors had aided them, and that none of their citizens ever became entangled in their private affairs but his progenitors had come to their assistance; and he impressed upon them that on his entry into public life he found a democratic Constitution had been long established. Was it for him to upset that Constitution? ‘And after all,’ he asked, ‘what is the first reason for the existence of a democracy but to oppose and ward off tyranny? Such as I found it I adopted it, and did my best to make it perfect. I and my ancestors before me found ourselves placed at the head of a democracy because of our known hatred of a tyranny. For, as amongst you it is your ancient oligarchy which saves your land from despotism, in Athens it is democracy which wards off this danger. We have striven to teach the people to rule themselves with moderation, that so they might conserve the Constitution as it came to them, in its grandeur and its liberty, that so they might stop the first efforts of a tyranny to raise its head, or scheme to bring about a revolution. It is these insidious foes we have ever fought; it is to them I owe my exile. Democracies may have many faults—I know it more than anyone. Would it have been 201right in me to attempt to overthrow a long-standing Constitution while you and other enemies were at our doors?

‘Having said so much about myself and my own conduct, will you permit me, oh ye Lakedaimonians, to give you some practical advice and information? We did not sail to Sicily merely to assist the Egestæans or the Greek colonists. We intended, and the Athenians still intend, if they can, after completely subjugating Sicily, to turn their forces upon Italy. Sicily won, Italy would soon be theirs. Enriched by the contributions they would force from those lands, they could attack Carthage and her dependencies. If the Athenians succeed there, then, by the spoils of these rich peoples, they will be able to enlarge their fleet till it becomes larger than those of all the world together. With such a fleet it is intended to blockade the hostile ports of Greece, to become rulers of the Peloponnesos and of the whole Grecian land, and masters of the world. Such is their intention.

‘Remember, you are hearing of these designs from the mouth of one who helped to form them, from one who did something towards carrying them out. While I was in Sicily, I saw a good deal of that country, and I tell you plainly, if 202you do not act at once, Syrakuse must fall, and with it Sicily, and all the other plans and hopes of the Athenians may be accomplished. Then you will have to look to your home. It will be too late to think of Sicily or your allies. Furnish, then, your ships without delay. Fill them with your bravest hoplites. Above all things, put over them your ablest general.

‘I will tell you one thing more. If you wish to drive the Athenians from Sicily, if you wish to frustrate their designs, if you wish to weaken them at home, you must attack them in their own country. You must take, and you must fortify, Dekeleia, in Attika. That is what the Athenians dread the most; that is the most deadly blow you can aim at them. It would take long to enumerate all the advantages you will gain thereby. The Syrakusans will be encouraged to hold out against their besiegers. It will prevent the Athenians sending reinforcements. They will want all their men to protect them at home. It will stop a great part of their supplies of food coming from their fertile fields. It will stop the silver coming from the mines at Laurion. It will, by degrees, detach from Athens the islands and towns which are now allied to her by the treaty of Delos, but which love her not. Many of 203these, even now, are looking for the first opportunity to shake off her heavy imposts and ally themselves to you. It will turn the wavering who have not yet determined to which side to look for help. It will close her tribunals, to which the islands and the smaller states dependent upon her are now obliged to take their causes, and she will thereby lose the large revenues she now receives from the fees paid to her by those litigants.

‘Do not suspect the advice I tender you, nor fear, because I counsel you against my country, that my advice is insincere. I would not wound my country, but my country’s secret enemies, who, by abusing the power of her laws, thrust out her truest friends from her. I seek not to destroy my country; I seek only to regain her. He shows his love of country most who does what in him lies to purge his country of her enemies at home, and to force her to receive again those true sons who have been driven from her by her foes. To gain this end I will spare no pains, avoid no labour, fear no dangers, in your service. Just as I inflicted great injury upon you as your opponent in open war, so now as your friend I am able to be of the greatest service to you. By following the twofold counsel I have given you, you will gain peace at home and the 204empire of all Greece, which will freely give herself to you without restraint.’

The sincerity of his avowal that he wished to use his present hosts as a means to recover his rights at home; the obvious wisdom of his counsel; the simple eloquence of his whole address, without ornament or flowers of rhetoric, won the confidence of the plain Lakonian people. Indeed, he knew his audience. His apology for the democratic part he had played at home was a masterpiece of pleading, showing how the party of popular freedom at Athens and the strict oligarchic government of Sparta had the same end in view—the hatred, the apprehension, of anything approaching to a despotism; while his plain, pathetic peroration, in which he stood forth as the true friend of Athens, softened towards him the hardest heart, and the most suspicious intellect of his Spartan audience.

His words, as far as we can find trace of them, give little notion of the grave solicitude with which he mixed up his cause with that of his hearers, and brought vividly before them his earnest hopes, his heartfelt wrongs. His success is another proof—though no proof is wanting—of the injustice of the charge brought against him by his enemy Thukydides, that he had tricked and 205meanly cheated the Spartan envoys while they were guests of his at Athens. For he was trusted, and his honest declaration won its end. It vanquished fears and hesitations, and persuaded the Lakonians to join with the Korinthians in sending aid to Syrakuse.

This aid came just in time. As long as Lamachos lived some little energy was shown by the Athenians, in spite of the sluggishness and cowardice of Nikias. When the large force under the two remaining generals at length came upon Syrakuse, the citizens could hardly hope to hold out long against it. But Lamachos was killed in an engagement, and from that time Nikias did little but beg for more money, more ships and men from home. Syrakuse, however, was reduced by force of the numbers of its besiegers to the last extremity. It was on the point of surrendering when Gongylos, the Korinthian commander, who had been despatched to Sicily on the advice of Alkibiades, was allowed, by the negligence of Nikias, to enter the port of Syrakuse. He persuaded the people to remain firm a little longer, for a Korinthian fleet was on its way, and Gylippos, a Spartan general, was even now landing in Sicily. By the like negligence of the unfortunate Athenian commander, 206Gylippos was allowed to land on the north coast of Sicily, march unmolested through the island, and at length enter Syrakuse, almost surrounded, as it was, by the besiegers’ works.

Gylippos almost immediately took the field against the Athenians. Athens, entreated by the desponding Nikias, in the following autumn sent out to him a force even larger than the first, with seventy-five ships and two more generals. All was of no avail. Disaster followed on disaster, relieved by few and, for the most part, unimportant gains. Before the summer of 413 was over Alkibiades heard that such of his late comrades as had not been either killed in battle or drowned in their shameful flight, lay starving and rotting in the Syrakusan quarries, into which they had been thrown by their victorious enemies. The splendid fleet with which two years before he had set out from Athens, together with its reinforcements, had been destroyed by his new-found friends, and his colleague Nikias, the unhappy cause of all the evil, had been taken prisoner and put to death.

So far his prophecy made to the Spartan assembly had come true. The rest was to be verified.

His other counsel had been acted on. The 207Spartans, under Agis, had taken and fortified Dekeleia, and were overrunning Attika. Athens could see from the Akropolis the rising walls threatening her with immediate danger. The citizens were forced to live prepared to fight at any moment. Their fields were ravaged, their commerce well-nigh ruined, the mines shut up, even the tribunals closed. The allied towns from which, by the terms of the confederation of Delos, she was to receive a great part of her revenues were falling from her or growing luke-warm in her cause. The neutral states were looking to her more successful rival, and yet the vengeance of Alkibiades was not satisfied.

In the autumn embassies came to Sparta from Tissaphernes, satrap of the Persian King in Ionia, and from Pharnabazos, satrap of the country near the Hellespont, offering alliance against Athens. Alkibiades advised the Spartans to postpone all thought of carrying their arms to the Hellespont, but he saw of what advantage an alliance with Tissaphernes would be in carrying out his present plans. An alliance was therefore concluded between Lakedaimôn and the satrap of Ionia. By the terms of this treaty, which was soon after ratified by both parties, the Persian was to bring a large fleet to aid the 208Spartans, and to pay the wages of those employed on board the Spartan fleet.

At the same time an offer of alliance came from Chios, the richest and most important of the Grecian islands, near the continent of Asia Minor. Chios was still nominally a member of the confederation of Delos, in alliance with, and bound to pay an annual tribute to, Athens. The Spartans knew the strength it would give them if they could cut away this strong support from their opponents. They promised to send a fleet of forty triremes to aid Chios in her revolt, and to act in concert with her new ally and ancient enemy, the Persian. In the spring of 412 these ships, with those of others of the Spartan allies, reached Lechaion, the western port of Korinth, and were hauled over the isthmus to Kenchreia, the eastern port, where they lay, ready to start for Chios as soon as the Isthmian games were over.

In the meantime the Euböians had made the like offer of alliance to Agis, the Spartan king, at Dekeleia, and asked for the same assistance against Athens. The required help was promised. Before this aid could be given, and while Agis waited for reinforcements for that purpose, Lesbos revolted, and prayed the same aid from Agis. A small 209force arrived at this time from Sparta, and was sent on at once by Agis to help the Lesbians.

But while this conspiracy was going on against her Athens was not idle. Like a lion brought to bay, she roused herself as dangers quickened round her. Her army gone, her great fleets sunk or burnt at Syrakuse, her food-supplies diminished, her revenues almost destroyed, without money or allies on whom she could depend, the whole state in mourning for the sons who never could return to her again from that sad Sicilian expedition, the islands and the tributary towns which she had rescued from the Persians, and guarded from their other enemies, revolting from her, or gone right over to a foe who was plotting with those very Persians to destroy her utterly, she rose majestic in her grief; the word ‘surrender’ was not so much as named—never breathed by any citizen; the idea of compromise was never for a moment entertained. Each blow as it came quick upon her roused her to fresh vigour. The ingratitude, the shameless ingratitude, of those small states, of which for nearly sixty years she had been the constant safeguard, might burn into her soul, but it did not shake her. In the past, perhaps, she sometimes domineered over them in her 210pride, and taken large tribute from them in the days of her power. But she protected them from ever-prowling enemies, and gave them back more than she took from them. And now—now in her distress—they were deserting her, going over to an enemy who, for his own immediate and selfish purpose, was not unwilling to undo what the pan-Hellenic federation had done, and it seemed that Marathon and Salamis had been fought in vain.

Well, let them go if they must go; she, to her last ship, to her last timber, to her last man, to her last drachma, she would still fight, and, if the gods decreed it, she would die fighting. As long as her liberty should last and her democracy should remain, she would never lose her courage.

That was a country to be proud of, a race to boast about. Did her great son far away in Lakedaimôn, while he was counselling, directing all the movements of her foes against her—did he ever in his heart feel a secret pride that he was sprung from her? Was his just wrath ever so little cooling, or did it still burn so fiercely that he could not see her glory?

The Athenian Ekklesia decreed the creation of a new fleet, the suppression of every expense not actually necessary, the immediate fortification of 211Sounion, to prevent her corn supplies from being cut off by sea, as they had been by land. Aristokrates was sent to Chios, where the oligarchic party was expecting every day the arrival of the promised Spartan fleet. There he demanded assistance according to the terms of the treaty of Delos. They delayed him as long as they could, and until they began to despair of aid from Sparta. The democratic party at Chios, as in other places, still clung, though coldly, to the Athenian alliance. At last they provided seven triremes fully manned. With these Aristokrates hastened back to Athens. Adding them to some thirty others, which were all the Athenians could get together, they determined to stop, if possible, the joint fleet of Sparta and her allies from leaving Kenchreia. That fleet had got into the Saronic Gulf before the Athenian and Chian ships came up with them, but was then forced to take refuge in another Corinthian port. There the Athenians, having landed some of their hoplites, attacked the enemy by sea and land, slew many of them, including their admiral, and blockaded the whole fleet.

On news of this disaster reaching Sparta, the new friends of Alkibiades were for giving up the expedition at once, and would have done so but 212for him. The oligarchic Lakedaimôn did not, at this period, prove itself so steadfast in misfortune as its democratic sister in Attika had done. But the determined spirit of Alkibiades moved amongst the Spartans indefatigably. It needed, indeed, all his energy and power of persuasion to keep them up to their engagements with the Persian Tissaphernes and with Chios.

‘Let me go off at once to Chios before news of the blockade of your fleet is known. They will trust me more than anyone. The picture I shall draw of the Athenian distress, and the readiness you will show by sending me to their assistance, will so encourage them in their revolt that this slight reverse on the Korinthian coast will not endanger our great plans.’

He worked privately, too, among the Ephors, especially with his friend and relative Endios, who was not fond of Agis. He put before him the advantage he would gain personally over his rival if he obtained the whole credit of making and carrying out the treaty with the Persian king.

He again prevailed, and started off at once with Chalkideus, one of the ablest of the Lakedaimonian admirals, and only five triremes for Chios, leaving Agrestides behind to look after his affairs at Sparta. The voyage was unusually 213rapid; it was too slow for his impatience. For more than two years he had been living inactively at Sparta. Since November, 415, to this the early spring of 412, his life had not been quite what he would have chosen. The frugal fare and the simple Spartan life was all very well, but two years and a half of it was quite enough for him. There were none of the gay Athenian spirits there, no banquets, no symposia, no fun or frolic—all heavy, dull, rude decorum. What little amusement he did get, if report says truly, nearly cost him his life. But we cannot trust all that report says of him during those two years and a half at Sparta.



‘The life of him that dependeth on another man’s table is not to be counted for a life.’—Ecclesiasticus.

Chios, the richest of all the rich, luxuriant islands of the Grecian Archipelago, celebrated for the beauty of its women and its wine, rose like a nymph from the waters of the Aigaian, bathed in the sunlight of a bright spring morning, as Alkibiades came in sight of it. Peaceful and serene, these Grecian islands off the Asiatic coast overflowed with happiness and plenty; some of them, Chios in particular, soon to be the scene of plunder and of terrible bloodshed.

The two leaders thought it prudent to put into Kasystes, a small town belonging to Teos, on the continent hard by. There they met some members of the oligarchic party of Chios; for Chios, like other Grecian States, was divided in opinion as to the respective merits of the two forms of government. The oligarchic Teians advised an immediate descent upon the island, before the 215people, who were democratic, and disliked the newly-proposed alliance with Sparta, could hear of their approach. This advice was taken, and the Lakedaimonian squadron of five triremes appeared at Chios, to the surprise of all except the oligarchs, who had been warned of their approach. A meeting of the insular assembly was held. Alkibiades addressed them, and declared that these five ships were only the advance guard of a large fleet that was coming. His eloquence gained the people to his side; no one seemed able to withstand his persuasion. The Chians of both parties declared for the Lakedaimonian alliance, and lightly threw off the gentle yoke of Athens.

Erythrai, the neighbouring town upon the coast, followed the example of the Chians. Alkibiades set off for Klazomenai, and persuaded the people there to join the new confederation against Athens. He was making up, indeed, for his late enforced inaction, everywhere at once, and was everywhere successful, serving his new friends well and faithfully, and bringing all beneath the spell of his potent personality.

But neither were his countrymen at Athens quiet. They, as he knew, possessed a treasure of ten thousand talents, laid up by his cousin 216Perikles, never to be used save at the last peril of the state. By law it was death to anyone who should even propose to touch this fund, unless a hostile fleet was actually approaching Athens. That law was now for the first time abrogated, and part of the money was used to equip a number of triremes. The seven ships of the Chians which had been taking part unwillingly in the blockade of the Spartan fleet were brought to the Peiræus. They were manned by Athenian sailors, and with some twelve or thirteen other ships under Strombichides were sent straightway to Ionia. Strombichides brought his ships to Teos on the mainland, hoping by this show of strength to keep the Teians faithful. Chalkideus and Alkibiades came after him with their fleet, now increased to twenty-five, by an addition of Chian ships and some more from the Peloponnesos. They were supported, too, on land by a body of soldiers from Klazomenai and by some Persian barbarians under the command of Stagès, the lieutenant of Tissaphernes. It was some time since Persian barbarians had been seen fighting in support of a Grecian state.

Strombichides, finding himself in this way attacked by sea and land, sailed off, followed by Chalkideus, who chased the Athenian ships as 217far as Samos. Alkibiades, with some other of the Spartan ships, sailed for Miletos, another town of Ionian origin, on the Asiatic continent, where he had many friends. He easily persuaded the inhabitants to join the league against his country.

Many reinforcements to each side arrived, during this time, upon the scene. Slight advantages were gained by both parties. At Samos the people, staunch democrats, rose in rebellion, and treated their oligarchic landlords roughly. They slew two hundred of these political opponents, banished four hundred more of them from Samos, and shared their lands amongst themselves. A democratic government was established, with the exiled Hyperbolos at its head. He had gone there on his unsuccessful attempt to ostracize Alkibiades, and was now leader of the popular party at Samos. The new government would have naught to do with Sparta. On the other hand, the Spartan fleet, which was blockaded by the Athenians near the Peiræus, broke out, inflicting some damage as it went, and augmented by fresh ships under Astyochos, who was made Admiral of all the Peloponnesian fleet in Ionia, joined the rest of the Spartan force on the Ionian coast. Thus the two great fleets, each with its 218full force of hoplites, were drawing towards each other in the eastern Aigaian Sea.

Miletos, the most important town upon the coast, and Chios were both invested by Athenian ships. Throughout the summer many small engagements, both by sea and land, were fought between the contending powers. In one of them Chalkideus, the friend and companion of Alkibiades, was slain. As autumn approached, the war concentrated round Miletos. A further supply of ships and men under one Phrynichos, and two other leaders, arrived from Athens, and with them came fifteen hundred Argives, still true to their allegiance. The ships joined the blockade of the port, after landing some troops, including the Argives, and laid siege to Miletos.

But Alkibiades was in the town working day and night to get the Milesian militia, about eight hundred strong, in fit order to make a desperate sortie. Besides these Milesians there was a body of over a thousand Spartan hoplites and a good force from Klazomenai within the walls of Miletos. There was also another person there who was to play no unimportant part in the remainder of the life of Alkibiades—Tissaphernes had come with some Persian cavalry. It was the first time these two men had met—the first time the 219finest gentleman in Greece had come into actual contact with the Persian nobleman and high official. The Persian was captivated by the pleasant manners, the wit, the varied powers, the commanding presence and personal beauty of the descendant of the ancient heroes of a race which the Persians had such good cause to hold in high respect.

The day at length arrived—it had seemed long in coming to the impatient exile—when the final effort must be made to drive the Athenians from the walls of Miletos. Much depended on that day’s work. If the Spartans and their allies could succeed in driving the Athenians to their ships, the whole fleet might be attacked at sea, while they were encumbered by the number of their troops on board, together with the wounded and the dying, after the engagement on the land. It was known, too, that another formidable Spartan squadron which had sailed some time since had been seen making for Iasos, not far off, and might soon be at Miletos. If the Athenian fleet and army were both beaten, the other islands and dependencies of Athens, which had feared up to this time to declare themselves, would rise against her domination. Thus, as far as anyone could see, this great effort might decide her fate.

220At daybreak the city gates were opened. The Milesians, instructed and inspirited by Alkibiades, who led them, rushed on the Argive fifteen hundred who confronted them on the left of the Athenian siege-works. At the same time the Spartans and Klazomenians, issuing from the eastern gate, reached the Athenian right and centre works. Tissaphernes was so astonished at the way in which Alkibiades took his Milesians into action that he forgot to charge at the head of his Persian cavalry, and reserved them to pursue the enemy when the others should have put them to flight.

Thus Alkibiades, by a strange vicissitude of fortune, found himself face to face in deadly combat with his old friends the Argives, with whom he had no quarrel, whose alliance he had gained for Athens, and whom, by his influence, he had kept constant to her. These thoughts, which could not but come upon him as he led his Milesians against them, did not prevent him from doing desperate work among them. They broke and fled before him, leaving three hundred dead upon the field.

On the other side of the city other events were taking place. The Spartans and men of Klazomenai were utterly discomforted by the Athenian hoplites. On seeing this rout of their allies, the 221Milesians feared to pursue the Argives farther, lest the victorious Athenians might come round and outflank them, and, in spite of all their leader could do, they retired into the town by the gate from which they had rushed out. They found, when they returned, a host of Spartans and Klazomenians entering the town in terror and confusion, beaten back by those Athenians they had boasted the day before they could drive into the sea. The gates were closed, but the Athenians sat down again before the town, cutting it off almost entirely from supplies by land, while the fleet blockaded its port.

Miletos must soon have fallen but for Alkibiades. He got out of the town as soon as it was dark, and eluding the besiegers, rode as hard as he could go all night, and in the morning reached Teichioussa, a small fortified place on the north coast of the Gulf of Iasos. There he found the long-expected fleet from Sparta under Theramenes. He put before him the critical position of Miletos, and induced him to dare to sail at once, in spite of the Athenian fleet, to its relief. They arrived at Miletos that same day, and the Athenians, acting on the unvalorous advice of Phrynichos, when they heard of their approach, although they had a larger fleet, and 222that fleet manned by Athenian sailors, drew off their ships and their besieging forces and retired to Samos. Thus Miletos was saved by the energy and persuasion of Alkibiades.

Athens, although her generals were showing the unaccustomed sight of an Athenian fleet retiring before Spartans—Athens at home was still working with the utmost vigour, sending forth armament after armament, as fast as she could get them ready. She now had, partly at Samos, partly investing Chios, a fleet of no less than one hundred and twenty ships of war—a large array for a people supposed by their enemies and those who did not know them to be at their last gasp.

The Lakedaimonians were also working, doing something for themselves and expecting more from others. They sent forward some ships they had received from Thurii and Syrakuse and twenty-seven of their own. But what they counted on more than anything was the promised naval aid from Persia. Tissaphernes had undertaken to bring an enormous fleet of three hundred sail, now lying off the Phœnikian coast, and only waiting orders from the Great King. With these the Spartans hoped to sweep the Athenians from the sea, and take from her her islands and dependencies. Those which had been 223formerly under the tyranny of the Persian kings were, by the treaty, to return to that dominion. With the others, if there were any, Sparta might do as she listed.

With the last squadron of thirty-seven ships from Lakedaimôn were sent eleven commissioners as a council of war, with full powers over the admirals, and instructions to get fresh concessions from the Persian ally, and to press Tissaphernes to bring his great fleet into Ionian waters without delay. The commissioners brought with them another secret order for Astyochos, the admiral-in-chief.

Agis was now back in Sparta for a time. He was, perhaps, the ablest man they had, and had done good work for his country at Dekeleia, whither he had been sent at the advice of Alkibiades. On his return home he heard of nothing but the greatness, the powers, the courage, the wisdom and ability, of their new councillor. Who was this effeminate Athenian who seemed to be ruling everyone in Sparta? A traitor to his country, and one who, as like as not, would soon prove a traitor to them! Agis was consumed with jealousy. It is said he had another cause for being jealous, of a more private nature, nearer home. Be that as it may, he hated Alkibiades, 224his rival. The rival was away. Had he been there it might have been different, but he was away fighting and directing the battles of Lakedaimôn. He had added fresh claims to their gratitude. He had gained over many of the Athenian allies by his presence and persuasion. By his skill and courage he had defeated the Argives at Miletos, and it was now known that the whole remnant of that contingent, twelve hundred men, had gone back again to Argos disgusted when they found they had to fight against him. Then by his promptitude and zeal he had saved Miletos, and the Spartan army, which, but for him, might now have been in the hands of a victorious enemy.

But he was away. Others besides Agis hated him with the hatred of smaller minds towards a greater, a cause of hatred of which he had felt the dire effects before at home. There were others who, not hating him, thought Sparta had got all she was likely to get out of him, and wished to get rid of him, and knew of only one safe way of doing so. He had few amongst the governing Spartans to take his part. His friend and companion, the brave Chalkideus, was slain. His friend and relative Endios was no longer Ephor. By secret suspicions artfully spread amongst 225those of the new Ephors who were not hostile to him, they were at length persuaded that it was necessary for the state that he should be destroyed. He had done too much for Sparta.

The Ephors had almost despotic powers. They could even imprison their kings. But their power lasted only for a year. So what they meant to do against Alkibiades they must do speedily and secretly. They resolved on his assassination. They had a simple but sure method of communicating with their commanders at the seat of war. The Ephors had a staff of office of precisely the same shape and size as the commander’s baton. Round this they rolled a sheet of parchment and wrote their deadly message on it, which doomed Alkibiades to a sudden death. This scroll was then unrolled. When it was off the staff it was illegible, and not till it was rolled round the commander’s staff could it be deciphered. It was then entrusted to one of the commissioners to carry to Astyochos at Miletos.

But there were five Ephors, and one of them was bound by strong ties to Endios. He, moreover, was doubtful of the wisdom of the murderous deed upon which his colleagues had decided. He told the secret to Endios shortly before the eleven commissioners were to set out 226from Sparta. Endios was dismayed at the disgrace which this base act would bring on his country He was horrified at the fate awaiting his kinsman, to whom he was sincerely attached, and from whom, while he was great and powerful at Athens, he had received nothing but kindness and hospitality. But what could Endios do? He saw the villainy of the plot; he knew that Agis was the chief mover in it, and that Agis hated Alkibiades. He had not much love himself for Agis, and would do anything he could to intercept his malice. Whatever was to be done to warn the object of this secret machination must be done at once. If it was discovered that Endios had betrayed the secret, it would be certain destruction to him and to the Ephor, his informant. He dared not trust it to any Lakedaimonian. All the town would hear of it at once, for the commons loved their Athenian guest; he had won their hearts, as he had won the hearts of the poor wherever he had gone. Endios dared not confide it to a Spartan.

We have seen that Agrestides was left behind by Alkibiades to attend to his private affairs when his master went with Chalkideus. Endios found him out and imparted to him the secret which he dare not put in writing. The rage of 227the faithful follower against king Agis and the Ephors could at first hardly be restrained. But he saw the necessity of departing at once to warn his master. He easily got employed on board one of the triremes which was just about to start, for the Spartan government found it was not easy to supply men enough for all the ships they had lately sent to sea. So when, at the solstice, the new squadron left the shore of Malea, with the eleven commissioners on board, carrying with them the murderous missive, there went with them one who knew its purport, and who could be as speedy as they and as silent as the grave to which the Ephors were seeking to consign his friend and master.

The fleet first made for Melos, some seventy miles from Malea. On the way they fell in with ten Athenian ships, and took three of them; the rest escaped. Fearing that their voyage to Miletos would thus be heard of by the Athenian fleet at Samos, they steered for Krete, and thence round by Kaunos, on the Karian coast. The navigation from Kaunos to Miletos was dangerous for a fleet of their small strength, with the Athenians on the watch for them. So they determined to send a message by some sailors in a small boat to Astyochos, begging him to come to convoy them.

228Agrestides volunteered to go on this perilous adventure—perilous by reason of the storms to which that coast is liable, and from Athenian ships being on the look-out to prevent communication between the admiral at Miletos and his countrymen. And so, tossed about in a frail boat, and still more agitated in his mind, we must leave Agrestides for a little while.



‘I am rapt, and cannot cover
The monstrous bulk of this ingratitude
With any size of words!’
Timon of Athens.

In the pleasant isle of Samos there were many and great misgivings amongst the Athenian generals and the high-born, delicately nurtured, intellectual Greeks who at this crisis were serving under them. Sailors are generally conservative; they were often known to be oligarchic, sometimes even monarchic. The officers and many of the men in the fleet at Samos were no exception to this rule. Pressed to serve among them, in this last extremity of their country, were not only many of the ‘aristoi,’ the better sort, who formed the bulk of the aristocracy, but some even of the ‘beltistoi,’ the very best of all, the very highest of that favoured class who divide mankind—that is, the gentle portion of mankind, the rest not counting into the good—that 230is, the well-to-do and worthy citizens of some estate, the better, and the best, in which last class they place themselves.

Somehow this self-complacent distinction has at different times been adopted by various ranks and classes, and the highest in the social scale have been the most apt to consider themselves entitled to have applied to them the predication of an adjective, with its varying degrees of comparison, which other simpler folk suppose should be kept exclusively to denote an ascending scale of virtue.

The high-born sailors who lay inactive all this time at Samos had fallen into this convenient way of classifying their compeers and themselves, as their fathers had done before them. They were of the good, the better, and the very best, and they loved not the unclassed, the mere ‘hoi polloi,’ who actually ruled at Athens. They had often wondered how a gentleman like Alkibiades, who, they all admitted, was, by right of birth, one of the beltistoi, could, even in name, belong in politics to the party of that huge collection of undistinguished, indistinguishable human beings, ‘that balmy mass of puffed-up froth’ which called itself the demos. His ancestors certainly had set him the example; his family had belonged to that side, and 231had led these ungovernable masses, and perhaps that made a difference. There is something conservative in doing as your ancestors have done. He knew best. He was the cleverest man in Greece, and ought to know. But for the life of them they could not understand it. They could not believe that he really cared for tailors, and tinkers, and cobblers, and water-carriers, the riff-raff of the town.

Their hearts had yearned towards him when they saw him at Miletos leading the poor Milesians and beating the stupid Argives. Some had caught sight of him one day on a Spartan trireme passing by Samos, defying the Athenians to come out into the open sea and fight. He stood there on the high deck of the Spartan ship defying them cheerily, dressed no better than a common Spartan. They recalled a day, three years ago, when he stood on his own good ship the Eros, with its purple sails,—the god Eros wrought in silver upon them, as it went proudly at the head of the fleet, which they thought was going to subdue the world, ‘and would have done so, had they left him alone, before his enemies brought those silly charges against him in his absence, and the sillier demos swallowed them.’ The Eros had been taken into the service of the state—indeed, was there at 232Samos,—though its purple sails and silver gods of love had long been sacrificed to the necessities of Athens.

These necessities were becoming serious. It was very well for the Spartans to stay shut up at Miletos or Rhodes. The Spartans were maintained by the Persian satrap. Tissaphernes paid regularly a whole drachma a day for every sailor in the Spartan fleet. They had all the ports and rich towns on the Ionian coast to victual in, ‘while we have only Samos we can call our own, and three oboloi a day per man, paid at long intervals, and the gods alone know how long even that pittance will last.’ So said the sailors. And, indeed, an army of some thousands, with one hundred and twenty triremes and their crews, cannot be kept for nothing. Each day news was expected from Athens that she could do no more, that the last obolos of the reserve of the ten thousand talents laid up by Perikles was gone, and that they must shift for themselves in future.

Besides these many causes of complaint, the sort of general the demos had sent out to them did not tend to make them love the demos any better. Phrynichos was universally distrusted and disliked. Sprung from the lowest class of the people, he had made his way upward by the basest 233means. He had been one of those, the most odious of mankind, who gained a living by bringing accusations against citizens to the dikasterion—sycophants they were called at Athens. At all times and places the office of delator has been held in horror and contempt, though it has not seldom raised those vile enough to adopt it as a calling, to wealth and even civil dignity.

This calling was little known in Greece, and in that respect, democratic Athens shows its moral superiority to imperial Rome. But Phrynichos succeeded and grew rich. He grubbed together enough money to make himself conspicuous, and he had sufficient cunning to mislead the people. Of genius or capacity to lead a senate or an army, he had none, but he was great in intrigue. Cunning is ever the mark of littleness of mind, and generally ends by destroying the possessor of that gift; so it was with Phrynichos.

Vague rumours, too, had reached the Athenians at Samos from time to time of a huge fleet—of three hundred sail, it was said—lying at Aspendos, waiting the orders of the Great King to come into Ionian waters to destroy them. They cared not much for Persian ships or Persian sailors, but three hundred long-ships added to the large fleet the Spartans had already—what could even 234Athenians do against such odds? It was all the fault of this infernal demos; but for them there would have been no quarrel with the Spartans. Even the demos must see to what their rule had brought the state, and any change would be accepted rather than the starvation which now threatened them. The demos, though it loves shouting, haranguing, or listening at its Ekklesia, does not love starvation. So something must and should be done to change all this.

Thus thought and spake to one another the well-to-do Athenian sailors, as they lay idling away their time, after the manner of sailors, in the fair port of Samos.

Not far off, at Miletos, on one of these evenings, Alkibiades was supping in the frugal Spartan fashion with his friend Astyochos, High Admiral of the Spartan fleet, when they were suddenly interrupted in their conversation by a messenger who had just arrived from Kaunus, bearing an urgent despatch from the commissioners of Sparta.

The two friends were talking of their future plans and movements, both complaining of the delay which kept them there in idleness, wondering when help would be sent from Lakedaimôn, and if the Persian fleet would ever really come to their assistance, and what it would be like 235when it did come. They had heard that commissioners were to be sent from Sparta. Astyochos asked what on earth commissioners were to be sent for; he cursed the commissioners and their interference, and the changes in his well-laid plans which these men, ignorant of warfare, would be sure to make. As soon, however, as Astyochos had glanced at the message which was thus suddenly given to him, he bade his friend good-night, for next day early, he said, he would have to start for Kaunus with the fleet.

Alkibiades went back to his lodgings in the town. On his way a stranger met him, and followed him along the street and into his room. The Athenian turned round hastily upon him and grasped a weapon. They stood face to face.

The stranger removed a weather-beaten sailor’s cap—there was Agrestides. The exclamation of surprise that Alkibiades was about to make was stopped by the strange and agitated look of the newcomer. They sat down upon the plain, hard couch. Agrestides, trembling with emotion, told the message of warning which Endios had given him.

He noticed the hard smile upon the face of perfect beauty. It came for a moment and was gone.

236The open-hearted sailor, for all his knowledge of his master, could not help feeling astonishment at the cool reception of the news which he had brought, the terrible nature and effect of which had not been absent from his mind by day or night since it had been entrusted to him at Sparta.

‘Get you as swift a horse as you can find at once. Meet me outside the eastern gate in half an hour. Let no one think that you have seen me.’

Agrestides went out. Alkibiades put on a Spartan sailor’s dress, got his horse himself, and in less time than he had mentioned was out of Miletos by the eastern postern.

Agrestides was there before him. They went for some distance in an easterly direction, and then, turning sharply to the south, struck the road to Teichioussa. They rode in silence through the night. Alkibiades knew the road. He had lately been that way when he saved Miletos for the Spartans. Before dawn they were at Teichioussa. There he found some Persians he knew, and learnt from them that Tissaphernes was at Magnesia. After a short rest he got fresh horses and a Persian robe, and the two set out again.

Throughout the past night’s ride along the 237solitary road Alkibiades had spoken no word. His companion could not see his face. There was that within him for which no words of human language have been found. For all his faults—and by this time those who have followed his career thus far may perhaps think he had some,—there lay beneath them all a well of generosity. Among the varying qualities which went to make up that mixture of divergent sentiments which we call his character was an overwhelming, innate love of justice. When that was outraged, there arose within him the deadliest and most enduring desire for revenge. He enjoyed life enormously, and had that keen pleasure in the mere consciousness of being, which others, less gifted, cannot imagine, and he wished that all other men should enjoy their lives. He loved his ease, his happiness, his indulgences; he wished that others should be happy; the idea of happiness was, for the most part at that time, confused with pleasure and indulgence. But above all this there was a loathing of, a nervous shrinking from, anything which in any way could be regarded by anyone as a taint of cowardice. ‘I would rather die than be a coward,’ he had once said to Sokrates while he was an ardent, dreamy boy. These are nearly the first words we find recorded 238of him. When he once saw another boy of nearly twice his size taking by force a smaller boy’s playthings from him, he rushed at him in such fury that he had thrashed and smashed him before the bully had recovered from his astonishment. It was this generous love of right as much as his extraordinary gifts of intellect and beauty and excellence in all manly exercises which had made him an uncrowned king among the boys of Athens, and would have left him king of men throughout his life had not the spirit of injustice been too strong for him.

And now, as he rode silently through the dark night to Teichioussa, his wrongs came over him in their intense reality. It was only the old determination still—to die rather than be, or be thought to be, a coward—which prevented their weight from overpowering him. It was not vindictiveness. You may call it pride, vanity, spirit of revenge, or what you will, but it was rather a burning sense of wrong, whenever he found that wrong was being done, and a determination to set it right; a determination to be stopped by nothing till he should have conquered the injustice, at whatever cost; a stubborn resolve to set himself right in the eyes of men—this is what has been mistaken in him for vindictiveness, and by those 239who have not read his character below the surface, for selfishness and vanity. In fact, when a great deed was to be done, however much it clashed with self-interest and vanity, no one showed a greater disregard of self than he did.

In a sense this was in itself a species of pride or even vanity. He had his share of both. In what great human action is there no admixture of vanity? Is there, or has there ever been, a man who, when doing the most unselfish, self-denying, humble work of charity, has not some far-hidden and scarcely conscious sense of behaving rather better than some others would have done? Has there ever been anyone who would devote his whole existence to alleviate the sufferings of others if he were quite certain that no one would ever know what he had done, and that he would never get any possible reward, of any sort, for doing it?

We are not defending him in all he did. We only seek impartially to analyze the feelings which had moved him in the past, and were now again to do so, and to rescue his memory from the injustice that has been done him by those who imagine him to have been a mere voluptuary, and who, not able to understand his character, mistake his apparent carelessness for flippancy, 240and are led away by contemporary writers whose personal hostility to him has made them seek to depreciate, and even to distort, where they cannot deny, the heroic actions which they are forced to admit.

Against his natural inclinations and sympathies he had adopted the side of the populace at Athens. Having chosen it, he fought repeatedly for them, and would have gone on fighting for them, had they been true to him, as he would have served his country’s cause for ever if it had let him.

He had advised a war against a power which was domineering over smaller states and cities allied with his country in Sicily. If he had been allowed to finish the war which he had strongly advised and prosperously begun, it would, as far as we can see, have redounded to the honour and glory of his country. He had given his whole energy to the conduct of the war; he was, he believed, about to bring it, in spite of the difficulties in his way, to a successful end. He was recalled while striving for this object, and doomed, without a spark of evidence worthy of a sane man’s belief, upon a silly, trumped-up tale, to die a shameful, a malefactor’s death. He knew he had been cursed by an interested hierarchy. He 241knew a stone had been set up in Athens recording his sentence and disgrace. The thought of that stone lie was never absent from his mind through all the weary time he lived at Sparta. Thenceforward, while that stone stood there, there never passed a day without a renewal of his vow that it should be cast down by the will and deed of those who had set it up, that the same voices which had ordered the lie to be engraved upon it should order its obliteration, and that the tongues which cursed him should recall their curse. Any other life but one devoted to this end and object would have appeared to him a life of cowardice. He declined to live in that condition.

Then when, in order to gain this end of his existence and to teach a salutary lesson to the workers of injustice, he had sought the help of Spartan enemies of Athens, and had promised to spare nothing in their cause, and they had accepted his assistance and made use of him, he kept his word to Sparta. How well he kept it she knew, and so did Athens. He would have kept it to the end, as throughout his eventful life he was ever true to whatever he had promised or had undertaken.

He had counselled the Spartan oligarchy, and told them what would come to pass if his advice 242was taken. They took his counsel; every word came true. His influence and power had gained for them the allies he had detached from Athens. Day and night he thought and worked, and fought and won, for his new associates. In the midst of his, and their, success came this second blow, as that other one had come before.

Perhaps we can grow accustomed to the hardest fortune by degrees. Succeeding sorrows, though on less grievous, seem to affect us less than the first great sorrow did. We do not grow callous, but we seem to get accustomed to them. This second stab was not felt so keenly as that other; at all events, it was not from his own people that it came. His vengeance, or rather the vindication of his fame from a suspicion that he could live without punishing this Spartan evil-doing, was no less startling and complete.

Through the long dark ride a nightmare of oppression had hung over him. He tried to shake it off; it came again, heavier and more oppressive. Had he no friends, no one on whom he could rely? Were all mankind alike—all unjust, all plotting for his death, all, especially those he deserved most thanks from, banded together for his destruction? His mind was in a state of high excitement and exaltation, by the time he got 243to Teichioussa. During their short stay there he had not slept, he had not rested; the nightmare was still on him, pressing the life out of him, just as the Spartan commissioners, or perhaps his friend Astyochos, or some purchased assassin, would have done, if they could have caught him at Miletos.

He rose to rid himself of this intolerable burden. He roused Agrestides; he had almost forgotten Agrestides and gone off without him. The honest sailor’s face cheered him as he looked at him for a moment, fast asleep, worn out by bodily fatigue. He woke him. Agrestides sat up and gazed round, half awake. He saw by the worn face of Alkibiades that he was suffering. A tear fell down the rough man’s cheek. His master noticed it, comprehended what it meant. All mankind, then, were not in league against him; there was at least this one who was true. There might be many others that he knew not of.

So they journeyed together. First, along the valley which they had passed through the night before, on to the reach of sea not far eastward of Miletos, then to the winding banks of the Maiandros, and through the rich and pleasant land by which it flows. Agrestides told all he knew of the conspiracy, and how he had been 244sent by Endios to warn Alkibiades of his fate and frustrate his enemies’ designs. Alkibiades had forgotten Endios. There was then another faithful friend that he could count upon.

He had put off the Spartan sailor’s dress, and wore a Persian robe of some magnificence which he had obtained at Teichioussa. His spirits rose again as he went on. With the bright, genial sunshine he had come out of the dark horror of the past night, and was living in the future, cheered by the new plans that he was already forming, with a double purpose—to get back in honour to his country and to punish Sparta.



‘In war was never lion raged more fierce,
In peace was never gentle lamb more mild,
Than was this young and princely gentleman.’
Richard II.

As they drew near Magnesia they were struck with the beauty and splendour of the place, differing so greatly from the magnificence of Athens or any other place they had seen. There was little architectural art in the form of temples or of statues. Art here was found chiefly in the beauty of the gardens, in directing Nature, and in adding to man’s luxury and comfort. As they reached the dwelling of the satrap, they were astonished at the vastness of the grounds through which they rode, the trees, the flowering shrubs, the roses, the citrons, and the myrtles. At length they reached the palace. Servants in gay Eastern dresses, bright with many colours, were about the doors, the courts and the arcades, some actively engaged in preparing for the banquet, others lounging 246about or squatting on the ground as though they had nothing else to do in life but to enjoy its sunshine, till a court-official came with whip in hand to set the lazy dogs to work.

The Nubian porter was surprised at the appearance of the travellers. The commanding presence of one of them increased his wonder. When he saw the eager joy with which his lord and master, the mighty satrap, embraced him, his surprise was great indeed. The slaves had never heard of Alkibiades. They looked upon the Greeks as pale islanders who had settled on the coast, protected by the satrap of the King of Kings, and allowed by him to live as long as they paid tribute.

The reception by Tissaphernes was as warm and cordial as could be. After the traveller had refreshed himself by rest and a luxurious bath, such as he had not been able to enjoy for many a day, a banquet of more than usual splendour was given in honour of the Athenian.

He soon became the inseparable companion of the satrap, for there was a joyaunce in his whole demeanour, something peculiar and loveable about him, a gaiety and sprightliness in all he said and did, that relieved the monotony of life, and shed a lustre round it day by day; a spaciousness and beauty in his graver thoughts, a brightness 247even in the small, familiar opinions he expressed, on men and manners, that made all listen to him when he spoke; while there was a grace and beauty in his countenance which brightened and adorned everything about him.

He who lately had made the Spartans wonder at the hardness and simplicity of his life now astonished the effeminate Persians by the softness, gentleness, even the effeminacy, of his ways. He adopted all their habits, and amongst those luxurious Easterns none was more splendidly luxurious than he, or a more joyous companion in the pleasures and the pastimes of the satrap’s court. But when the viceregal hunt took place in the vast Magnesian “paradise,” the supple Greek threw off, for the time, his newly-assumed soft, dallying ways, and showed how his horse was fleetest in pursuit of deer, his spear of surest aim when the wild boar came across his path. And when high matters of state had to be considered, there was no counsellor so wise, none whose judgment was so luminous, or on whose sage diplomacy his friend and host could so implicitly rely. In a short time he gained a complete ascendancy in the councils of the Persian, who entered on no course of action save by the guidance of his constant companion and incomparable friend.

248Alkibiades began by suggesting that perhaps it was not wise to let the Lakedaimonians become too strong. Athens, he said, was well-nigh crushed in Greece. Sparta had Athens in her power by land; if she was aided further by the Persian fleet and Persian money, she would gain complete mastery by sea, become too strong, be puffed up with pride and insolence, and kick against the terms of her treaty with the Persian king. The Spartans were a people of proverbially bad faith. It was better that these two powers should balance one another than that either should preponderate. It was the best course to let them go on destroying one another. Then Persia would gain an ascendancy in Ionia and in the Aigaian Sea. On the other hand, if it should happen that Athens ever did become a tributary state to Sparta, which now seemed not impossible, the Persians would have at great expense and loss to combat the successful state, in order to keep it within reasonable limits. These arguments had no little weight with Tissaphernes.

‘What, then, do you advise?’ he asked.

‘Keep back your fleet indefinitely. Reduce your payments to the Spartans. Pay them no more than three obols a day, and do not pay that too regularly.’

249‘But if the Spartans threaten to break off the alliance before Athens is sufficiently weakened?’ objected Tissaphernes.

‘Point out to them that the Athenians allow their sailors but three obols, that the war has already lasted so long without result that it is impossible to go on paying the subsidy much longer. And the Spartan admirals and high officials are not above taking a small bribe—pay them, and they will not complain too loudly of the reduction of the payment to their men. Treat the towns and islands that have thrown off their allegiance to Athens in the same way—forget to pay the subsidy that you have promised.’

This advice was taken. It not only had the appearance of sound policy, but it happened to agree with the interests of Tissaphernes, who, like some others, would rather spend the money he squeezed out of the subjects of the king on his own delights and favourites than squander it in paying subsidies to other nations.

At the end of the next month the drachma a day for each man in the Spartan fleet remained unpaid, nor could their leaders get a satisfactory answer to their importunities. At length some of the high commissioners came to demand, rather indignantly, the fulfilment of the treaty. Tissaphernes 250received them courteously, and promised to put their grievances before the great king his master, and do his best to get the Persian fleet to come as soon as possible to their assistance. He assured them it would not be long before the order was given, and in the meantime he counselled them not to engage the Athenians at sea. As to the non-payment of the subsidy, he promised that something should be given at once, and a private douceur to each of the commissioners softened their feelings with regard to the ill-paid sailors. They returned to Rhodes and laid up the chief part of their fleet there for the present. It remained laid up all the autumn and the winter, a respite of incalculable benefit to Athens.

When the revolted Ionian towns came to complain that the pecuniary assistance promised them when they forsook the Athenian alliance was not paid, they were received in audience by Alkibiades, who seemed to manage everything now for Tissaphernes.

‘What!’ said he to those from Chios in a tone of anger. ‘You, the richest of the Greek islands, you who owe your freedom from the yoke of Athens to the Persians, you ask for money from them! Before you revolted, how much had you to pay to Athens? Ought you not to make as 251great, or greater, sacrifices now when it concerns your liberty?’

They went away dissatisfied.

At Samos the feeling we lately saw growing amongst the Athenians there was daily becoming more acute. Both army and navy were verging on an open demonstration against the government at home. Alkibiades, never idle, in the midst of his apparent indolence, was not ignorant of the movement. And so it happened that one day, towards the end of the autumn of 412, a sailor named Agrestides landed at Samos. He was not long in making friends among the Athenian sailors who swarmed about Samos doing nothing. They met in the wine-shops, on the quays, in many places. Agrestides had been in the Sicilian expedition, and had escaped, he said, after the fatal fight at Syrakuse, when the whole fleet with almost all the Athenian sailors was lost. He had been picked up by a Carthaginian vessel, and after many wanderings and adventures had found himself at Sparta, where he had passed as a Messanian; thence, he told them, he had got on board a Spartan ship and had gone with certain Spartan commissioners to Kaunos, and so on to Miletos. While there he had met his old general, Alkibiades, who was, he heard, greater than ever, 252and was now governing, in the satrap’s name, all the Ionian possessions of the Persian king.’

Having listened to this not improbable romance, they wanted to know more about Sicily and the fatal expedition, for then they would hear more about Alkibiades. Alkibiades was the hero of the fleet at Samos. They all wanted to hear of him. Even while he had been dealing the deadliest blows at them through Sparta, the Athenians had felt a sort of pride in him. It was not so much Lakedaimôn that was fighting them as it was one of themselves, justly incensed at the wrong the misled demos had done him, who was punishing them. And when Lakedaimôn in turn found he was too great for them, it was he, an Athenian, who was managing Tissaphernes, and leading Lakedaimôn such a dance as she had little bargained for.

Agrestides, having made due observation, got himself taken to Peisandros and some others of the leaders, who he discovered would be the most fit to receive his overtures. When he was convinced of their sincerity he told them that he had come from his great master, who was longing to get back amongst his countrymen again.

This was, indeed, good news for them. It was soon settled that Peisandros and two others 253should return with Agrestides to Magnesia. When they got there they found he had not exaggerated that part of his story in which he had told them of his master’s influence with Tissaphernes. The heart of Alkibiades yearned towards his countrymen when he saw them coming, as messengers from the Athenian forces at Samos, to make overtures to him. He felt as a brother meeting his brethren after a long absence among strangers in a distant land. All the magnificence, the soft allurements of his eastern life, seemed but the toys of children to him, as a long vista opened up before him, with home and Athens and honour at the end of it.

But no one knew better how to be practical when it was necessary so to be. He had been acquainted with Peisandros in old days—a man of some ability and power of speech, not to be trusted too far, and of doubtful courage. Alkibiades saw the difficulty the oligarchic deputation felt. He went before it, met it boldly and in diplomatic fashion. He told them frankly of his influence in the councils of the Persian, and of his efforts to break up the alliance between Sparta and Persia; that he had delayed the coming of the Persian fleet, and had stopped the Persian subsidies; that it was through his advice the 254Spartan fleet was now laid up inactively at Rhodes; and that he was at work endeavouring to bring about a Persian-Athenian alliance. ‘But,’ he added truthfully, ‘there is one thing I cannot do, there is one point on which the Minister of the king stands firm: he will not even enter into negotiations for a treaty with a democratic government; much less could I persuade him to make alliance with one. He distrusts the people; he says they will one thing to-day and another thing to-morrow. And even if I could overcome the objections of Tissaphernes to a democracy, neither he nor I could induce the Persian king to treat with any but a kingly government, or at least an aristocracy. These things would have been hard for me to say or hear at one time, but,’ he added sadly, ‘I, too, have been taught to distrust the justice of the people.’

Nothing could have been more welcome to Peisandros and the other Athenian deputies from Samos. This was the one thing they wanted, the one thing they feared it would be impossible to get. With Alkibiades friendly to an oligarchy, all difficulties vanished. The very condition they shrank from mentioning to him he had insisted on himself. He had smoothed the way. All was plain sailing now, they thought, at Samos, except for that miscreant Phrynichos; they only 255doubted about him. They knew his inveterate hatred of Alkibiades.

As soon as they got back to Samos they called together their friends, the chiefs of the oligarchic party there. Nearly all the leaders were oligarchic. Phrynichos, of course, was oligarchic. They told the happy outcome of their mission; all were delighted except that one. He avowed his scepticism. He knew the steadfast nature of Alkibiades too well to believe that he seriously intended to join himself to the enemies of the people, however little the people deserved his staunch fidelity. However much the people had injured him, the oligarchs had hurt him more. Phrynichos remembered how in years gone by they had tried to attract him to their side; he more than suspected that the old charges brought against Alkibiades had been due to the vengeance of that party, whose proposals he had scorned.

Passing by the doubts of Phrynichos as unworthy of consideration, Peisandros and his colleagues announced to the sailors and hoplites the joyful news that the great king was about to desert their enemies and make a grand alliance with them and pay them an enormous subsidy, and that Alkibiades was to be recalled. The people could not be restrained on hearing it. As each 256item of the news was told it was difficult to keep them still enough to listen to the next. It was almost too good to be true. When they came to the recall of Alkibiades their generous emotion overcame them; many a hard sailor’s face was moist with tears. Most of these common sailors, indeed, showed some dismay when, at the end, Peisandros told them of the one condition—that the democracy must be abolished, or at least greatly modified, for a time. ‘But, after all, what mattered the form of government,’ they began to think, ‘if they could but be extricated from their present dangers, and the great Alkibiades be back again to manage everything? He was the wisest. If he did not mind the change, who need care? He must be right.’

It was then resolved amongst the chiefs to send Peisandros and ten other deputies to Athens to prepare the way for a peaceful revolution. The deputies set off upon their mission, not unaware of the strength of the prejudices they would have to overcome.

Phrynichos was trembling with rage and terror; his cunning was not allowed to sleep. He determined to destroy Alkibiades by the hand of Astyochos, and scrupled not, in order to carry out his intended murder, to betray secrets of the state 257which had come to his knowledge as strategos, to this country’s enemy. He wrote privately to the Spartan admiral at Miletos, telling him who it was that was stopping the Persian payment of the Spartan fleet, and was endeavouring to dissolve the alliance between Persia and Lakedaimôn, and to bring about a treaty between the Persian king and Athens, and advised him to get rid, by any practicable means, of such a dangerous enemy as Alkibiades had become.

Astyochos, who, like every other honest man who knew him, loved his old friend and comrade, refused to take advantage of this odious treachery, by which Phrynichos, while entrusted with his country’s interests, was doing all he could to stop the services Alkibiades was rendering to Athens. He sent the treacherous letter on to Alkibiades. Alkibiades in turn sent it back to the other leaders at Samos, and so convicted Phrynichos. The soldiers when they heard of the base deed would have slain their general then and there but for their inbred Athenian respect for the due formalities of law. The criminal was reserved for future trial by the proper courts.

The cup of this man’s iniquity was not full, nor his cunning nearly exhausted. By a piece of trickery, so subtle that we can hardly help feeling 258some sort of admiration for it, he wrote again to the Lakedaimonian admiral betraying the weak point of the defence of Samos, and offering to help him whenever he should invade the island, and gently complaining that his first letter had, by some accident, found its way into the hands of Alkibiades. Then, knowing that Astyochos would do with this overture as he had done with the other, and that it would soon come back to Samos, even as that other one had come, he advised his brother generals to strengthen with new forts the spot which he had suggested to Astyochos as the weak point of resistance. Astyochos refused to take advantage of this further apparent act of treason, and made it known to Alkibiades, who, as had been foreseen by the fox-like Phrynichos, straightway informed the Athenian generals at Samos.

The culprit, called upon for his defence to this second charge, declared that both were base calumnies got up by his enemy to ruin him, and he pointed to the fact that he had himself advised the fortifying of the very place he was now absurdly charged with betraying to the Spartans as the weak spot for their attack. This answer seemed conclusive, and, for a time, both charges were allowed to drop.



‘I fly from pleasure because pleasure has ceased to please. I am lonely because I am miserable, and am unwilling to cloud with my presence the happiness of others.’—Rasselas.

As soon as Peisandros and the other envoys were arrived at Athens the people assembled in their Ekklesia to hear and discuss the news from Samos. Peisandros began by moving for the recall of Phrynichos on account of incompetence and cowardice, and gave such good reasons for his motion that it was carried without difficulty. He then laid before them the business that had brought him there, and the result of his mission to the court of Tissaphernes. His task, as may well be imagined, was not an easy one—to propose before an assembly of the people the abolition of their power and existence as a governing power, and that people the Athenian demos.

His proposal, put in many ways, and with great tact, was the recall of Alkibiades, the government 260of the few, and an alliance with Persia which would give them the victory over Sparta.

Such a hubbub, such an outcry, as followed this address has seldom come from human lungs or from human throats. One after another the champions of the people rose, with the one answer, supported by six thousand voices, ‘Never!’ The orators declared the democracy eternal. The enemies of Alkibiades protested against the enormity of recalling one who had been convicted of the worst possible offence against the laws of Athens, one who was still civilly dead. The Eumolpidai, the privileged priests of the cult of Demeter, who felt, perhaps, as strongly for their exclusive rights and emoluments as for the honour of the goddess, reminded the assembly of the awful curses which still rested on him for his profanation of the mysteries of which they were the guardians, and which he had treated with derision and contempt.

When the opponents of his proposition had expended all their wrath, Peisandros rose again to answer them.

‘Of what use is it to preserve the mere form and semblance of a constitution when the spirit of the thing is gone, and the state is tottering? Is it not better to modify somewhat your existing laws than to lose them altogether, and with them 261your power of making others? We ask only that you will let your democratic forms be in abeyance while we treat with the Great King. He is ready to come to your assistance if you will meet him in a reasonable spirit. Let, then, the power of the many for a time be entrusted to the keeping of your wisest counsellors, chosen by yourselves, men whom all of you can trust; and when the clouds, which now are big and bursting with destruction, shall have passed away, you can have back again your glorious and time-honoured constitution. There is but one man who can save you in this hour of need; he is a lover of the people: that man is Alkibiades.’

The force of this argument, and the apparent truth of these assertions, had so much influence on the assembly that objectors were silenced, and the people took the first step towards the abdication of their power, though they were not prepared to make so violent a change as that which had been just suggested to them all at once. They decreed that ten deputies should be sent with Peisandros to Tissaphernes to arrange the best terms on which an alliance with Persia might be carried out.

Before Peisandros left for Asia, he resorted to other devices to further his designs on the 262democracy, of which he had hitherto put himself forward as a firm supporter. He set the secret clubs in motion. The secret clubs in Athens, chiefly of the oligarchic faction, were of immense political importance. It was by them that the work of party intrigue was carried on. At no time in history, not even during the French Revolution, have secret clubs been better managed for this purpose than they were at this time in Athens, nor did they ever work together in more perfect order. While the democracy was unbroken and Athens flourished they dared not show themselves or their doings too openly. The time was now come for their hidden power to manifest itself. Their members need now hesitate at no crimes which might advance their political designs. Crimes might be done by them and be forever undiscovered, and so committed with impunity. Having set these secret societies to work, Peisandros left, with the ten deputies, for the court of Tissaphernes.

Alkibiades had found the full length to which he could go with his friend the satrap, or, which was nearly the same thing, the amount of power the satrap had independently of the king. Stopping the pay of Spartan sailors was all very well: it saved the Persian’s purse. Keeping his master’s fleet in safety and idleness at Aspendos 263was better than furnishing it with its full complement of men and arms, and letting it be knocked about by the Athenian sailors. But an alliance out and out with Athens was different altogether. It meant parting with the Spartans finally, and all real chance of recovering dominion over the islands and coast towns of Ionia. The king was not under the spell of the favourite of Tissaphernes. He never would believe that the Athenians intended to give up a dominion they had bought at so great a cost and had exercised so long. Tissaphernes knew his master would decline the Athenian alliance, even when urged with the same arguments which his friend had used with so much force on him. So he was forced to tell his guest, with much regret, that there were difficulties in the way.

But neither was Alkibiades willing that all the terms of the propounded treaty should be accepted. He distrusted Peisandros, and despised the wretched Phrynichos. He did not believe in an oligarchic government for Athens. Much as he longed to get back home again, he would not go there but with honour. Little as the people deserved his care and sympathy, he declined to inflict further punishment upon them. We shall see how—like another exile who, seventeen 264hundred years afterwards, rejected the desire of his soul, and refused to return to his beloved birthplace upon conditions which he deemed unworthy of him—he nobly refused the great object of his life, rather than obtain it to his country’s detriment.

Such was the condition of affairs when Peisandros arrived for a second time at Magnesia with his ten colleagues.

Alkibiades, rather weary of the effeminate life at the palace of the satrap, had been staying at a small country house which his indulgent friend had given him, in a secluded spot, far from the turmoil of the court, and some way inland, not far from the marble quarries at Melissa. Thither Tissaphernes had come in search of his friend, and had forced him to return with him to Magnesia. It was while staying there, and on the journey back, that he sounded the viceroy as to the limit of his powers, and made up his mind as to the answer he must give the Athenian envoys on his return. He undertook to receive the deputation in the presence of his host.

Seeing that the treaty could not be carried out with honour to Athens, and refusing to have anything to do with it on any other terms, he insisted on conditions with the deputies which 265he knew they must reject. Peisandros lost patience, broke off the conference, and returned to Samos. There he declared amongst his friends and partisans that his belief was that Alkibiades had never really wished to aid the oligarchic rising, and that he was using his power with the satrap to destroy the oligarchic party. This bad news roused the clique to energy; they determined to act without him, and to invite their friends at Athens to do the same. For this purpose Peisandros set out with the ten deputies for Athens, recruiting a force of fighting men to help them on the way.

To the amazement of Peisandros and his friends, when at last they reached Athens, they found the engine he had set to work had acted with a success beyond his expectations. The democracy as a governing body had disappeared. It was as though the earth had gaped and swallowed up its mountains, towns, and rivers. The face of everything was changed. Loathsome animalcules, crawling and breeding underground, waiting for a sign of weakness in the body politic, seeing their time was come, had risen to the surface of the soil and seized upon their victim. In her robust and healthy state they might have swarmed about her harmless till they were crushed or 266sent back to the dirt from which they had emerged. But the demos tottered from the moment it first listened to a possibility of compromise. When it allowed the suggestion of an abdication to go unpunished, the process of its abdication was begun. Assassins pounced upon the few strong men left, and disappeared in darkness, no one knew where. The rest were too frightened to inquire. Daggers grew bolder, and struck right and left. Panic set in. Men dared not to speak their thoughts. They knew not who was or was not in the plot.

When the minds of weak men had been reduced to the required point of fear, the skulking conspirators, with Phrynichos at their head, and a professional rhetorician named Antiphon, came out, and by one final blow abolished, with the people’s trembling consent, the power of the people. They elected in its place a government of four hundred subservient tools, chosen beforehand by themselves. This was the new régime Peisandros found when he came back to Athens.

Very different events were taking place at Samos. For a short time the oligarchic faction there attempted the same plan of action, and slew poor Hyperbolos, the potter. Poor Hyperbolos! One always feels inclined to laugh when 267his name is mentioned. Yet there must have been something in him. He rose above the common level both at home and at Samos. But his name sounds so absurd by the side of those great ones who had been ostracized before him that we can hardly help a smile.

The hoplites stationed at Samos did not smile. They had a short time back listened for a moment to Peisandros, when he talked eloquently to them of the necessity of modifying somewhat their old form of government; but they never liked the notion of the change, and only tolerated it on the condition that Alkibiades was to come back to them, with or without the Persian fleet and Persian gold. It was the man they wanted more than the help of barbarous Persians.

The healthy democrats of Samos did not long suffer oligarchic daggers to be used on them. Luckily two of the generals of the Athenian army there were democratic. The stirring times called forth two other men, of whom we shall hear a good deal before long—Thrasyboulos, captain of a trireme, and Thrasyllos, now only a soldier serving in the ranks.

News of the attempted rising and its speedy overthrow was sent off to Athens by the Paralos, the other sacred state trireme, whose sturdy crew 268had given invaluable help in quelling the abortive Samian revolution. It was supposed that this good news would be joyously received at the Peiræus. One can imagine the astonishment of Chaireas, the captain, and the crew of the sacred ship, when they saw the change which had come over Athens, and found that they were, almost as prisoners, taken from the Paralos and sent off on board another vessel to Euboia. Chaireas alone escaped, and after hiding at Athens for some time made his way back to Samos.

There he painted before his fellow-countrymen in vivid, highly-coloured pictures the state of things at home, and how it had been brought about: the miserable condition of the people; the savage triumph of the oligarchs; no assembly of the people now, no tribunals to which the injured could appeal. The traitors, he said, were even making overtures to Sparta to come and sustain them in their power on the ruins of the state.

On hearing this, the soldiers could hardly be prevented from rushing on any whom they suspected of having been in the late plot. They were only restrained by some with cooler heads, who pointed out the danger of fighting among themselves while Sparta’s fleet was but a few 269miles off at Miletos, ready to come down upon them and destroy both parties. They had good reason to be united and to respect themselves. Athens gone, who was there left to carry on Athenian institutions but this band of Athenians at Samos? Athens was there.

Thrasyllos and Thrasyboulos came forward and impressed upon them the responsibilities they lay under. By keeping united, by firmness and good faith, they might restore order and right at home, and make such examples of the traitors as would be a warning to all others who might in the future contemplate like treason.

‘You have here—indeed, you are yourselves—the chief part of all the force now left to our ill-fated land. Here is a strong town from which you can issue to attack the enemy, and to which you can retire at need. Athens has little left now but you. Expect no further aid from her. Rely upon yourselves. Continue the war. And if the worst should happen, you have ships to carry you to some place where you will not want for fields to till, nor towns to live in, and where you may found a new and happier Athens beyond the seas.’

The soldiers rose and swore a solemn oath to act together, and never to separate till they had done their duty to their old country. Some of 270the suspected leaders they deposed. Thrasyboulos and Thrasyllos were chosen in their place. The soldiers were animated by a new confidence in one another, and in their mission, ready to live and die in the cause of liberty.

But to make sure against their twofold enemy a strong general was wanted, and they felt, too, that if aid could be obtained on honest terms from Persia, they would be more than a match for Sparta. In this state of feeling they met again a few days afterwards. Thrasyboulos boldly advised that Alkibiades should be invited to come to Samos, and be invested with supreme command. The proposal was received with acclamation, and Thrasyboulos himself went off to the Court of Tissaphernes with the invitation. He found the great Athenian still at Magnesia amid his eastern pleasures, with the satrap as much under his influence as ever.

Alkibiades at first supposed it was on some fresh quest for Persian help that this new deputy was come. When he heard what the message was his heart bounded; he could scarce conceal his feelings. To be free from the clogging atmosphere of Asia, the cloying, enervating, unworthy life; to breathe again among free men; to have fresh opportunities of action—here was 271at last one step on towards his end, the end of these long years of effort and of disappointment. He broke the news to the regretful Tissaphernes, and set out with his new-found friend, with whom he was soon to do so much for Athens.

The troops and sailors and all the people were looking out for him at Samos. As the triremes came out to meet and welcome him on the bright May day on which he reached the port, he could almost imagine that his long exile was already ended. An assembly of Athenians was speedily called together. Alkibiades stood up before them; but what could he say to them? His usual clear, incisive sentences were broken by his unconcealed emotion. He could not but be affected when standing once more before his countrymen, after his long and weary wanderings. It was a foretaste of another great assembly, in another place, to which he knew he would be recalled some day, and in which he would be received with even greater shouts and gratulations by the people.

He spoke to them at first a little of his wanderings and sufferings. But this, he said, was not a time for speaking of the past. It was as active men, prepared to meet with many difficulties and a dangerous future, that he met them there 272that day. He spoke with courage and with the certitude of final triumph. Whatever he could do to aid them with his right arm, or his counsel, they might claim from him. Whatever influence he had with Persia, through the Ionian satrap, he would use to its utmost on their behalf. He told them of his great friendship with the satrap, and how that potent Minister of the Persian king had promised to assist them.

The story of what he had undergone through the unjust suspicions of his countrymen, excited by the slanders of his enemies, moved all who heard him. His self-reliance, his ability, cheered and encouraged them. His assurance of Persian aid raised their hopes to the highest pitch of expectation. They chose him with one voice commander of the Athenian forces, with absolute power to deal with friends and foes.



‘Thassay so sharp, so hard the conquering.’
Chaucer: Par. of Foules.

There was plenty of work to do at Samos all that summer—defences to be made secure, old ships to be repaired and new ones built, military exercises to be gone through day by day. There were constant alarms to keep them on the alert. The Spartan fleet, which had been laid up for the most part at Rhodes through the past winter, pending the arrival of the long-promised armament from Persia, had been launched again, and taken in state to Miletos, where it stood threatening those at Samos. A Lakedaimonian general, they heard, had marched north towards the Hellespont, and was engaged in stirring up the cities on the way which were still faithful to the Athenian alliance. Abydos and Lampsakos had already thrown off the yoke. Spartan emissaries were at Byzantion, and in treaty with Pharnabazos, satrap of the 274Propontis, who, three years ago, had made offers of alliance to Sparta.

Then appalling news came that Tissaphernes was again negotiating with the Lakedaimonian commissioners. It was reported that he had actually concluded a fresh treaty with them, by which he pledged himself to renew his promised pay, and bring that wonderful fleet at last from Aspendos, that much-desired aid which was always coming, but which never came.

As soon as Alkibiades was elected general, he determined to go and see for himself what his Persian friend was doing. He knew the weakness of the Viceroy’s character—how easily, in his absence, the Spartans might persuade or frighten him into carrying out his promises to them. The whole Athenian fleet at the new Athens, as Samos was called, escorted him some way upon his journey, making no secret of the mission upon which the general was going to Tissaphernes. The Eros was refitted, and if not quite so gay as it had been before time, and if hard work had made both the ship and its commander look less glorious than they had once appeared, yet, as he stood once more on the well-known deck, he could almost fancy that all was as it had been four years ago.

275There was no attempt to avoid the Lakedaimonian navy as he went: he rather courted their attention. One of his purposes in going was to show the Spartans the power that he still had with Tissaphernes, although they, in his absence, had been endeavouring to undermine it. He landed with his retinue at Paniônion, and his armed cavalcade made an imposing show as it wound through the lovely grove where the Ionian cities met in solemn conclave to discuss the policy of all the several colonies, and where the Paniônian games were held, and thence along the delightful valley which lies between Mount Thorax and the Maiandros, and so through vales and hills, till it reached the residence of the Persian satrap.

How different was his entry into Magnesia now from what it had been when, a fugitive from treacherous Spartans, he came to ask for shelter and asylum! The state with which he travelled was not without its special reasons. If he wished to impress the Spartans and his fellow-countrymen with his power over the Viceroy, he also wished to show the Viceroy his power over his fellow-countrymen. The meeting between them was as cordial as ever. Poor Tissaphernes shed tears on seeing his friend, thinking how soon they would have to part again. The want of his Athenian 276counsellor when he was gone was as the losing of a prop, a strong support to lean upon. He thought, too, of the happy days when his friend had come as a suppliant asking his protection.

Alkibiades got all that he demanded, and more than he expected, from the Viceroy. Though he knew that, when he was gone, the Persian would be prevailed upon, and perhaps would be obliged, to break his promises, yet promises were made, and they would last some little time. And so it was that the Persian fleet remained for the present at Aspendos, nor came to help the foes of Athens, and the poor satrap got worse into disgrace with his allies, and was openly accused by them of treason. The Spartan admiral, Astyochos, who all along had been faithful to his friend, got into trouble, too, with the commissioners for his remissness in executing the barbarous order of the king and ephors, and was recalled, while Mindaros, a rising sailor, was put into his place. These were some of the results of the stately visit of Alkibiades to the viceregal court of Tissaphernes.

On his way back a terrible temptation came over him, such as has seldom fallen upon any man. We have seen how, when Chaireas brought tidings of the doings of the four hundred oligarchs 277to Samos, the Athenian warriors were roused to such a pitch of fury that they were almost beside themselves with rage. The first act they called on Alkibiades to do for them, when they chose him general, was to take them straightway to Athens, to avenge the wrong that had been done to their country and restore her liberties. It was only his influence, backed by the loud voice of Thrasyboulos, that had restrained the soldiers and kept them for the defence of Samos. He was stronger now. He had good reason to believe, if he appeared with that large fleet and all his soldiers at the port of Athens, nothing could resist him. Why, then, not take them there on his return to Samos? His power at Samos was secure, his popularity unbounded; his influence with Tissaphernes greater, at any rate, than that of any other. The condition of Athens was most critical. A strong man, backed as he would be, would soon restore her native energy and scare away the swarm of bats whose unclean wings now flapped about the sacred city. Was not this the very moment to make the stroke he had been so long meditating, and give the coup de grace to the cowardly, the treacherous four hundred?

Once there, his course was clear. Leader of 278the people, as Perikles had been—greater indeed than Perikles, for he would come not as a leader only, but as a saviour—might he not expect to rise to greater fame and more enduring honour than even Perikles had gained?

This was the temptation, and it came upon him like the nightmare which had weighed him down during the ride he had by night in this same country more than a year before. As he shook it off and resisted it with effort, it came again, and yet again. It was, in truth, a specious and splendid-looking prospect that was now displayed before him.

On the other side was duty—his devotion to his country, and his willingness to renounce for her his own particular plans of personal advantage. Was this the time to stir up civil war, to leave Samos and the other islands to the mercy of the enemy? Athens had but one army left, and one navy; both were under his command at Samos, guarding the remnant of her Ionian possessions. To take that force to Athens would be to leave all outside Attica without any defence to her enemies. Could he be right in doing that, even for the holy purpose of restoring liberty and vitality to Athens? Was this a time to gratify ambition and aggrandize himself, and wreak his vengeance 279on his enemies, when Byzantion, Abydos, Lampsakos, were falling off?

He thrust the temptation from him. He refused to purchase his return to Athens at such a price; he determined he would never set his foot upon his country’s soil until he came with hands full of blessings to her.

When he returned to Samos he found his forces had been gaining strength. Some had come who had escaped from the tyranny at home, others from the islands. Among these arrivals was an embassy from the four hundred formally announcing the change in the government, and seeking to gain the army at Samos to its side. These deputies were received in open assembly, but the Athenian soldiers were so much enraged they could hardly be persuaded to listen to them. When they heard their excuses for the wrongs that had been inflicted on the people at home their anger became fiercer; it required all the power of Alkibiades to save the deputation from his soldiers’ violence.

As soon as they were gone, the whole army once more entreated him to take them forthwith to Athens. They declared that the four hundred could not prevent their landing or their march from the Peiræus; that the people would hail them as deliverers, and that the hoplites serving 280under the usurpers would immediately desert their detested paymasters.

For a moment he paused. The anger of the troops was overwhelming and dangerous. Had he power to restrain them any longer? If he refused to lead them, might they not depose him and choose a more pliant leader? So near the completion of his work, was he to see it all destroyed? His hopes so nearly realized—were they all to be abandoned? And for what? For a too sensitive regard for a place and people which had thrust him from them as an evildoer. Must he stay there always to protect her outposts when, by a word, he might be ruling in her midst? How long was he to watch over her here at Samos, while miscreants ate her life out of her at home, and were even now negotiating with her enemies to come and enslave her—enslave his Athens—if only for a little while they might so prop up their falling tyranny? Was it not his duty to put a stop to that? The temptation was getting too strong for him.

Stand firm now, oh man. It may be some years yet before you see her. Not more than half your wandering, troubled exile may be over. And when you do return to her, your sad fate may send you quickly off to fight for her again, 281and you may again be sacrificed by her. And then through all the ages that shall come, when historians record your exploits, your victories, your wrongs, your triumphs; when new peoples shall have risen on the earth who can afford to smile at all the extraordinary fuss once made about your four-horse chariot races; when there shall be no more wars, and no more massacres of human folk or mangling of poor helpless animals; when nations shall no longer intrigue or conspire against each other, this shall be writ and read concerning you, as your most glorious deed—that you refused at such a time to go to govern Athens at the risk of hurting her, or to return at all to her till you could come unto that lovely mother with hands and arms full to overflowing with the blessings you could shower upon her head.

He rejected the temptation. With such a leader, whom even hostile writers hail as the liberator, the saviour of Athens—with such a one to lead them, his warrior citizens could also wait.

He pointed out to the excited sailors and hoplites what the result must be of abandoning this last Athenian outpost. Though they might save Athens from the usurpers, there would be little left to her when all her insular dependencies were gone.

282‘Let the usurping tyrants alone for a while. Through their own rottenness they will fall to pieces of themselves. Athens will have greater cause to thank us if we preserve her distant territories than if we abandon them, even to save her.’

Thus he recalled the troops to reason and to their duty when some of them were in the act of leaving Samos in their ships.

When this ardour was quieted for a time, there came a welcome embassy from Argos. Those old friends and allies of his were true to him still, although he had beaten fifteen hundred of them at Miletos. They had been disgusted with the proceedings of the rest of the Athenians, but now that they heard he was at the head of affairs at Samos, they sent to offer their assistance in restoring to Athens her democracy.

Things were in such a good way in that island now that he was able to send Thrasyboulos with five triremes to blockade Eresos, in the island of Lesbos, which had revolted, and he was preparing another squadron to help the other fleet, which was still blockading Chios, when most exciting news came, interrupting all his other plans and preparations.

He had kept himself well informed of what 283was going on at Magnesia. The immediate future, perhaps the long-distant future, for both Athens and Sparta depended at this moment on Tissaphernes. The two Greek fleets balanced each other pretty evenly. Any addition to either would turn the scale. An addition of three hundred, or even one hundred, big warships to either side must swamp the other hopelessly. So now, when on the tenth of August, according to our style, 411 years before our era, Agrestides came with secret intelligence that Tissaphernes, at length seriously frightened by threats of Spartan commissioners to break off the alliance and return to Sparta and leave Athens to recover her old dependencies, had actually set off himself for Aspendos to fetch the Persian fleet, and had taken the commissioner Lichas and the commander Philippos with him, that they might see for themselves that he really was this time in earnest, then Alkibiades felt he must act at once, and with the greatest speed and energy, if this decisive action was by any means to be prevented.

When Agrestides left the mainland for Samos with the news, Tissaphernes, in his state long-ship, followed by the Spartans in two triremes, had also left Miletos, and was now coasting down 284the Asiatic continent, and must, by the time the message reached Alkibiades, have got some distance on his way. The general knew Persian habits, and that Persians were not fond of moving too rapidly. He knew it took some time to overcome the vis inertiæ that was in their nature, and that in the case of Tissaphernes the habitual deliberation which marked their movements would not be easily startled into action on a business which, for more than one reason, he wished to be indefinitely postponed. Alkibiades knew, too, that there were no three hundred ships lying off Aspendos, and that Persian authorities did not waste their wealth on ships of war, which might never be wanted after all. He knew how many and great were the opportunities of spending their revenues in a way which more nearly concerned their own enjoyments. So he guessed that the voyage of Tissaphernes to Aspendos would not be rapid if he were left to himself. But there were two energetic Spartans with the satrap, and these might urge him on. So Agrestides had hardly finished his disquieting news before orders had been given to get thirteen of the quickest triremes in readiness to start in pursuit of the satrap and the persistent Spartans.

It was a hot, dreamy day when the Eros, followed 285by the twelve swift Athenian ships, stood out of the harbour of Samos. They gave Miletos a wide berth. This was not a time for fighting; the general had other cares just now, and though his oarsmen pulled their hardest, the pace seemed all too slow for Alkibiades. His first object was to get to Kaunos, in Karia, before Tissaphernes left that port. Tissaphernes, he believed, must stop at Kaunos for water.

The great eyes carved on the prow of the good ship Eros seemed to start with expectation and impatience as it breasted the smooth sea. By Kos and Knidos they scudded on. They saw the Spartan ships that had been left in Rhodes harbour still lying there, as at last with full swing they turned up north-easterly to Kaunos before the sun had set. But for all this haste, when they reached the port the Persian satrap and his Spartan monitors had been there and were gone.

They got in water and what provisions were required, and left again at daybreak, the sea still smooth as glass. Not a breath of wind came to fill the sails, and though a hundred times that day Alkibiades reminded himself that Tissaphernes and the Spartans were as much delayed by the incidents of weather as he was, 286it was difficult to console himself with that thought. He wanted to go fast and faster, to keep pace with his anxious mind.

‘Are we gaining on them?’ he said to Antiochos, his pilot.

Antiochos did not know. No one knew. They only knew that the Persian state ship was the swiftest one the Viceroy had, and that the Spartans were not likely to have chosen slow ones for their present purpose.

Phaselis was the next port Tissaphernes must make for on his journey to Aspendos.

‘When could they reach Phaselis? Can anyone see Phaselis? Were there three triremes anywhere ahead?’

‘No; only land on the left-hand side, no triremes.’

He called to the master of the rowers to redouble the vigour and the quickness of their strokes. But the poor sweating rowers had all day been toiling their very hardest at the oars. No Persian slaves on the state trireme, for all the whips of all the masters, could ever row like these men.

‘We must be gaining on them.’

On and on they went, due east now, right through the Lykian on to the Pamphylian Sea, 287for many slowly-passing hours that seemed interminable.

Now they turned up northerly, past the point Hieron, past the small island of Kambrousa.

‘How much further to Phaselis now? A hundred stades?’

‘More than that.’

‘What is that rock, those two distant rocks? Are they not rocks jutting out from the sea, with a thin line on each side of them? If the Spartans shall have made the weary Tissaphernes leave Phaselis before we get there, and we are kept long in watering, they will be at Aspendos before us after all, and what of the Persian fleet then? Perhaps we may be yet in time to stop their leaving.’

The two high rocks grew higher out of the water, more distinct. An old sailor whom the general called up to his side knew them.

‘Yes, that is Phaselis.’

‘Can anyone see three triremes there?’

‘No, not yet. There are some specks about.’

Antiochos went aloft again.

‘They look long; they must be ships. They cannot be common fishing-boats; too big.’

‘Are they triremes?’

‘Perhaps they are.’

288The old sailor was standing near the pilot, shading his eyes with his hand.

“Are they triremes?’

‘Yes, they are.’

‘Which way are they looking?’

‘Seaward, I think.’

‘Row on now as you have never rowed before. Each one of you shall have his name up at the Agora at Athens—a drachma a day for life.’

‘Are they moving?’

‘No—yes, yes. By Zeus! I see the oars move now. They are out of port.’

‘Ye gods! shall we ever catch them? Turn your prow straight for them. Never mind Phaselis; make for the longest ship.’

‘They are well out now, making fast north-north-east, right for Aspendos. They see us. The smaller ships are behind. They are gaining on the long one; she is slacking. Now they are close to her; now they are nearly alongside of her.’

‘What are they doing now?’

‘The long ship has stopped. We shall catch them yet.’

In fact, when Tissaphernes heard it was the Eros, Alkibiades’ own ship, that was pursuing him, he ordered his rowers to slacken speed, and, when 289the high commissioner Lichas and the commander Philippos came up to him in wonder, he declared he dared not go on with the Athenian fleet upon them; at any rate, he must wait to hear what message these vessels might be bringing.

So before nightfall Alkibiades had come aboard the Persian state long-ship, and Tissaphernes had embraced his friend once more. Lichas and Philippos had been allowed to leave under cover of the darkness, in great disgust at the weakness of the satrap, and had gone back towards Miletos, and the Athenians went on, together with the Persian state ship, to Aspendos.

It was a gay and happy time for Tissaphernes as he was rowed slowly in his great ship over the pleasant water, rid at last of those troublesome Spartans, who were always in earnest, always wanting to talk politics. He had his friend with him to amuse him and join him in his pleasures as of old.

They found the fleet—that terrible great fleet indeed!—lying off Aspendos. Certainly they were a goodly array of ships to look at from a distance. Though not three hundred—there were a hundred and forty-seven of them there—joined as auxiliaries with the Spartan force, they would have settled the question between Athens and Lakedaimon.

290On closer inspection, even Tissaphernes had to admit they were not perfect. Dirty beyond description, with oars broken, planks starting and torn sails, to the Athenian sailors, accustomed to Greek niceness and perfection, they looked pitiable and disgusting objects.

Tissaphernes ordered them all back to the Phœnikian coast, and, with the help of his witty friend, made up and sent to Lichas the following curious reason for not keeping the promise he had made to Sparta:

‘Whereas by some, at present undiscovered, accident, my lord the King had not sent more than one hundred and forty-seven long-ships, and, as it appears to me, his viceroy, unworthy of the King of Kings that he should send to aid so great and powerful a people as the Lakedaimonians so small a fleet, I, Tissaphernes, the aforesaid viceroy, have sent them back again.’

This cynical defence, suggested by Alkibiades, for the breaking of the solemn promises given at least three times in as many separate treaties, pleased his Persian friend. It suited the wily nature of the man; and when the two parted at Aspendos, as soon as Alkibiades could get away, their love and friendship seemed stronger 291and likely to be more lasting than it had ever been before. And grave historians ever since have been puzzling their heads why it was that, although Tissaphernes allowed the Spartan envoys to go with him to fetch the fleet, the Spartans never did get it after all, and why he gave so curious an excuse for sending it back to the Phœnikian coast again.

292Book III

‘That is Alcibiades. In the flower of his manly prime, in the bloom of his wonderful talents ... there stands the great moral antithesis, the living type of the Athenian character—the warrior, the fop—the statesman, the voluptuary—the demagogue, the patriot—the orator ... the lisper on whose utterance assemblies hung—the spendthrift, whose extravagance did honour to his native land—the man who would have made his country mistress of the world....’—Sir D. K. Sandford.


‘The fish swam by the castle wall,
And they seemed joyous each and all;
The eagle rode the rising blast:
Methought he never flew so fast
As then to me he seemed to fly;
And then new tears came in my eye.’
Prisoner of Chillon.

Strange events were happening at home while Alkibiades was successfully chasing the Persian satrap and his Spartan companions. When the envoys of the four hundred to Samos returned to Athens, the account they gave of the force they found there, its strength and unity, and the 293complete confidence of all in their commander, revived the slumbering or drooping energy of the Athenian people, and roused them to do something more than sigh for their lost liberties. It also alarmed the usurpers, and the more moderate or more timid among them began to tremble for themselves. Alkibiades, they in their guilty consciences thought, with his stalwart hoplites and his gallant sailors, might be on them any day, and they dreaded what would come from the pent-up anger of the people when it was once set free.

Theramenes, one of the earliest promoters of the new order, was the first to desert his colleagues. He was followed by a large number of the four hundred. These reformers of the others proposed a constitution which would allow all citizens capable of bearing arms to be joined to the new government. Antiphon, Phrynichos, and Peisandros opposed this proposition with all their might. To save themselves from their impending doom, Antiphon and Phrynichos went off in haste to Sparta, empowered to offer the most shameful terms to the old inveterate enemy of Athens.

There is a point of land called Eetiôneia, which, starting from the spot where the long walls ended 294at the Peiræus, juts out some way into the harbour. This piece of land the four hundred had been for some time mysteriously fortifying by erecting a wall along it on the harbour side, and connecting it with another wall already existing on the other side at its extreme point, where they met and ended in a tower. They also enclosed the great granary and warehouse at the harbour, and compelled the corn ships coming from Euboia to unload there.

These fortifications were pushed on apace, but not without exciting the suspicions of the people. It was spread about—and Theramenes was at the bottom of the rumour—that the real design of this new fort was to give the four hundred, as they were still called, absolute command of Athens, and power to admit a Spartan force, whenever it might come to help them. Theramenes, more and more breaking away from the others, as he found the people willing to listen to him, at length declared, without disguise, what the object of the new wall at Eetiôneia was. He told them that Antiphon and Phrynichos had gone to Sparta to implore the Spartans to send a fleet to Athens, to make the people the slaves of the usurpers and their enemy, who had combined together for their ruin.

295This so enraged the people against Phrynichos that, soon after his return, he was openly slain in daylight by a young soldier in the market-place, and his bones were afterwards cast out of Attika as being those of a traitor and unworthy of sepulture within that territory, and the soldier was rewarded for the deed.

The hoplites who were engaged upon the building of the defence-works rose against the government, and began to demolish the new walls they had been ordered to construct, and imprisoned one of the officers set over them. Then news came that a Spartan fleet was actually approaching, and that forty-two ships were seen off the coast of Salamis. The whole city rushed down to the Peiræus to defend it, got together as many ships as they could find, and, hastily arming, followed the enemy’s fleet, which, passing Sunion, put in at Orôpos.

The Athenian armament, with its sailors hurriedly got together and for the most part inexperienced, were no match for their opponents. They were utterly defeated. Twenty-two ships of the small remnant of Athens’ fleet were lost, and their crews were either killed or taken prisoners. The Lakedaimonians got possession of Euboia, the granary of Athens—a blow almost as fatal as if they had 296taken the town itself. No greater consternation ever seized upon the city. This was worse than the loss of her fleet and men at Syrakuse.

The government was at its wits’ end, and the members of it were divided amongst themselves. Their overtures to Sparta being spurned, they trembled for their lives. The people met, as though by inspiration, in their old meeting-place, and, without a sign from their late tyrants, proceeded to depose them. So they disappeared after a reign of barely five miserable months. Many of them went over to the enemy at Dekeleia, and did what further injury they could to Athens. Others were allowed, with ignominy, to return to their former obscurity. Only Antiphon, perhaps the best among them, and one other publicly suffered the death they all deserved. The spot where their houses once stood was marked by a stone recording that there had lived a traitor. Athens again enjoyed the constitution, with the assembly, the senate and the executive, which had been given to it by Perikles.

Samos was still jubilant at the fall of the four hundred and the restoration of the democratic government at home when the Eros, at the head of the twelve other ships, rowed into the port. 297The good tidings of the exciting and successful chase had scarce been told before an Athenian messenger came from the restored senate and Ekklesia to the commander of the forces at Samos, confirming him in the high office already conferred upon him by the Samian garrison. But he found the main fleet he had left behind with Thrasyllos gone. In his absence Mindaros, the new Spartan admiral, had stolen quietly out of Miletos, but Thrasyllos, having had notice of his going, had followed in his wake with fifty-five warships, had picked up Thrasyboulos with his five triremes at Eresos, and had met Mindaros and had a brush with him already in the Hellespont.

A despatch soon came from Thrasyllos describing these movements, and imploring the chief to come without delay and bring them reinforcements, as a serious conflict was every day expected. For, when Philippos returned to Miletos and exposed the way in which the Spartans had been cheated by the fickle Tissaphernes at Pharselis, Mindaros, despairing of getting aid from the Lydian satrap, made overtures to Pharnabazos, the powerful viceroy of the Propontine provinces, offering to join him in his province. Alkibiades knew that the offer would be accepted, and that Pharnabazos had been 298endeavouring for the last four years to make alliance with the Spartans against Athens. He had not much doubt that the sudden departure of the Spartan fleet northward to the Hellespont was for the purpose of joining Pharnabazos. The combined forces, unless they were successfully opposed, would have little difficulty in getting possession of the Hellespontine towns which were still faithful to Athens. Abydos and Lampsakos had already fallen off; a little show of power on the Spartan side would decide the rest.

It was a time of great anxiety, and it would be of the utmost importance if the coalition forming in the north could be destroyed. He had confidence in Thrasyllos, but one false step, one check, at this moment would be well-nigh fatal. He was working night and day getting supplies together. There were only fifteen ships in all now left at Samos. It was of no use to attempt to go to reinforce Thrasyllos with so small a squadron. He managed to get seven more together from Kos, and to obtain a large sum of money from Halikarnassos, when a fresh despatch came from Thrasyllos, who had come up with Mindaros between Troas and the Thrakian Chersonese. There a stubborn action had been fought, the Athenian line stretching from Sestos round the promontory of Kynossema. 299At first the Spartans and Syrakusans had the best of it, but in the end the Athenians destroyed thirty ships of the hostile fleet, took eight others, and forced the rest to retreat into the harbour of Abydos.

News of this victory came to Alkibiades at the very moment when an embassy arrived from Athens, formally announcing to him that, on the motion of Kritias and Theramenes, the people had decreed his recall to Athens, and praying him to return at once to save her. Had this announcement come at any other time, it would have been difficult to describe the joy with which it was received. Was it not this he had been living for every day since that withering sentence had been passed upon him? Now his desire was accomplished. He was not ungrateful. Great as was his power of resentment, his generosity was greater. He could forgive as greatly as he could punish.

But the message came to him when he was resisting the final blow aimed at the heart of Athens. He showed his gratitude to her by his noble refusal of her invitation. The time had not yet come. With Mindaros and Pharnabazos combined, the victory of his lieutenants could only postpone a more serious attack, and they were not strong 300enough to meet it. So he must stay at his post in this supreme hour of danger, and, if necessary, die in defence of Athens, and could not obey her voice calling on him to return.

It was, indeed, a time for straining every nerve. He saw in his mind’s eye his triremes in the Hellespont ranged against a united force of nearly twice their number, perhaps even now engaging, perhaps smashed and destroyed, before he could get to their assistance. Doing all he could, by the middle of October he had collected only two and twenty ships altogether, and, despairing of being able to get more, he set their prows northward.

The two Athenian commanders, since their victory at Kynossema, had stood watching their opponents, while gathering what supplies they could find with which they might support their crews. Their opponents were repairing their damaged ships and collecting others from friendly ports. While both sides were thus engaged, one morning at daybreak a squadron of fourteen Syrakusan vessels, on their way to reinforce the enemies of Athens, entered the Hellespont. The Athenian fleet weighed anchor, and bore down upon them before they could join the Spartan fleet lying off Abydos. The Syrakusan admiral, 301finding he could not avoid the Athenians, ran his ships ashore, disembarked, and posted a number of his men in a good position on the Trojan coast, in order to protect the ships. The Athenians attacking were kept off by the hoplites on the ships, and assailed by darts and arrows from the men posted on the high, rocky shore.

Now, it so happened that Mindaros had gone that morning to Ilion to offer sacrifices to Athene. Thence he saw the Syrakusan vessels entering the Hellespont and the Athenians coming down upon them. He sent off at once to Pharnabazos, and, getting his own ships together, eighty-four in all, hastened to relieve the Syrakusans. Thrasyllos saw this great fleet coming, and, drawing his own ships off into the open, ranged them in line of battle. He held the left wing, Thrasyboulos the right.

Mindaros came up with his fleet, more than covering the whole length of the Athenian line; the Athenians were on the west, or Thrakian, side; the Spartans, and the Syrakusans, who by this time had got their ships afloat again and joined their allies, on the east, near the Dardanian shore. Shouts and paeans arose on either side as the oars lashed the water into foam; trumpets sounded as the great ships dashed at one another. In 302courage and determination the combatants were equal, but the Athenians were fighting for existence, the Lakedaimonians for victory, the Syrakusans only for revenge.

The Lakedaimonians had a far larger number of ships, but the Athenians were superior in the management of theirs. At that time much depended on the management of vessels. It was a warfare of ramming and avoiding, but it was a splendid warfare. When ship grappled ship, the very attitude in hurling the javelin was graceful and healthy. With open chest, and every muscle starting, with the body set well back upon the legs, the air of heaven was breathed more fully than nowadays as we fight. Then was the noble tug and tussle, where man clasped man, and where individual strength exhibited called forth the admiration of opponents.

All that day the battle raged with varying success. The Spartans lost more than the Athenians; they could afford to lose more. As the October day was drawing in, and the Athenians showed signs of wavering, and their commanders began to fear the enemy would prevent them from carrying off the remnant of their disabled triremes—just in their final struggle, the full sails of a fresh squadron were seen coming, 303with a fair wind, round the Sigeion Cape. Mindaros thought it must be the reinforcement he was expecting from Miletos, but as it came on before the wind, with all sails set, a purple ensign was run up—the well-known purple ensign—and the Eros came bursting through the waves, and on its prow, in shining panoply, thirsting for the fight, stood Alkibiades, his armour flashing in the red rays of the setting sun.

Onward they came, and when the Athenians recognised their general, they plucked up heart and redoubled all their efforts, and sent up such a cry of joy and thanks, that the Spartans and Syrakusans, when they heard it and saw who it was that came speeding through the sea against them, lost their courage, and before Mindaros could rally his astonished crews the Athenian leader was upon them, breaking through their line and scattering their ships on all sides in disorder.

Mindaros sounded a retreat, and his fleet made for Abydos. Most of the triremes ran ashore; the crews and soldiers leapt out, and ranged themselves upon the bank. The Athenians followed, and, notwithstanding the darts and arrows from the shore, they were in the act of grappling the deserted triremes, when Pharnabazos rode up with all his cavalry and charged the Athenians, the satrap 304himself leading his men and fighting in the sea, with the water up to his horse’s girths. But for this barbaric aid the whole of the Spartan fleet would have been lost. As it was, the Athenians took more than thirty of their big ships and carried them off in triumph.

Great was the rejoicing of the victors when they got back to Sestos, bringing their spoils with them. Fresh hope and confidence sprang up amongst them—hope, which had been a stranger to Athenian arms for many a day, and confidence, which seemed to have abandoned them. They had shown themselves worthy sons of Athens, able to hold their own, and to protect their liberated mother from the force of Lakedaimôn and Persian barbarian combined against her. They raised a trophy on the promontory of Kynossema by the side of that one which Thrasyboulos and Thrasyllos had placed there more than a month before, and then, with games and feasts, they celebrated the funeral rites of those who had fallen in the fray.

It was not a time, though, to indulge long in feasts and triumphing. The enemy was still strong and not far off, while they were poor, wanting in almost everything except in courage and in hope. Next day Thrasyllos went off to 305Athens to carry tidings of the fight and victory, and to get, if possible, some reinforcements. Thrasyboulos visited the cities on the coast, collecting tribute and provisions for the fleet, and going as far south as was consistent with his duties as its commander. Alkibiades accompanied him so far, and then went on to Paniônion. He had heard that Tissaphernes had returned from his journey to Aspendos, and was at Magnesia purposing to come north to visit Pharnabazos. Alkibiades saw that this meeting of the two satraps must be stopped at any hazard.

The Eros, decked out in its best array, with the ensign of the strategos flying at its masthead, looked like itself again as it coasted the Ionian shore and entered the little harbour near Paniônion. Alkibiades received information that Tissaphernes was at Magnesia still, but that he was just on the point of leaving on his progress to visit Pharnabazos, if he had not already started. A Persian friend he met at Paniônion warned him somewhat mysteriously that it would be wiser not to venture inland, or trust himself at all just now in Persian territory. But he believed still in his influence with Tissaphernes, and was sure that, if he could but see him before he left, all would be right; and though the significance of 306the warning he had just received did not escape him, it made him the more determined to push on without delay to Magnesia.

Taking, therefore, only a lieutenant named Mantitheos with him, and a couple of sailors to carry some presents he was bringing for his old friend, he set off at full speed for the place he knew so well. He reached in good time the paradeisos or park of the satrap. Tissaphernes was not there, but was said to be at the castle of Magnesia, just about to start. He hurried on. The castle was surrounded by a force of Persian cavalry. The whole place was full of soldiers.

As Alkibiades and Mantitheos, followed by the sailors bearing the presents, came near the citadel, they saw the guard was in marching order. There was a busy look on every face, a feeling of movement and bustle in the air, very different from the ordinary sleepy quiet of the town. They made their way through the crowd of soldiers outside the gate and the mounted guard within. Alkibiades congratulated himself that he had come just in time to catch the satrap before he left, and so perhaps would be able to stop his going, or, at least, might be able to ride with him on his journey. Who could tell 307what the effect of his persuasion might be now that he had such an opportunity?

They were received by the well-known Nubian chamberlain with his usual deference. He did not seem astonished. He must have heard that they were coming. The sailors remained in the outer hall; the strategos and his lieutenant were ushered into the state room of the castle. This reception was so unusual that Alkibiades began to wonder what it meant. On former occasions Tissaphernes had always come out to meet him, and with emotion and many fond caresses had hung about his neck in long, if not to the Athenian very agreeable, embraces. Still they waited, and no satrap came.

At length an official entered, followed by some young slaves bearing an elegant repast, with flowers and fruit and the choicest shiraz cooled in the snow, which was lying thick upon the mountains, but still no satrap. Alkibiades asked the official when the viceroy of the King of Kings would deign to receive his servants. The official answered him that the viceroy of the King of Kings was busily engaged just then with orders from the King of Kings, and could not yet have the pleasure of visiting his illustrious guests, and then retired with a lowly reverence.

308Just then a loud blast from a broad-mouthed Persian trumpet sounded, and there was a clatter of horses’ feet. From the high windows a cavalcade was seen passing through the courtyard, and out by the castle gate.

‘By the gods!’ cried Alkibiades, ‘there is that rascally Tissaphernes in the middle of them. He shall not escape me yet. I will be after him and astonish the Spartans, who think they have got him from me.’

He clapped his hands, but no one came.

He sent Mantitheos to call the slaves. The door was fastened.

Great drops stood on the pale face of Mantitheos. He was for rushing to the windows and escaping by them.

Alkibiades laughed savagely.

‘With a troop of Persians to cut you to pieces when you fall down, with broken bones, among them. Keep still. This is a conspiracy between Mindaros and Pharnabazos. They have brought Tissaphernes round to their side before I could get hold of him. Poor Tissaphernes! he is more unhappy at this moment than I am. We can but die once, though I confess I should have liked to live a little longer.’

They tried the inner rooms. Two were fitted 309up with couches, one sumptuously. The hours went by. It grew dark. The trumpets sounded. Guard relieved guard. The neighing of horses was heard. Lights began to twinkle in the town and camp. Still no one came. All was silent.

‘Ye gods, we have been caught this time in a trap!’ So saying, with a short laugh he threw himself down upon a sumptuous couch and slept. In the morning he and Mantitheos were awakened by a polite chamberlain. He was followed by a guard of finely-dressed and well-armed cavalry officers. The chamberlain inclined with deep respect, and made many apologies if any inconvenience had been suffered by the distinguished strategos. ‘It grieved him to the heart to be obliged to inform the distinguished strategos that his master Tissaphernes had been obliged to set out only the day before for his capital of Sardis, there to receive a special envoy from the King of Kings, and, as his master had been unable to receive his noble guest in his castle at Magnesia, he prayed that he would honour him by a visit at his castle at Sardis; and, as an escort for the journey, a guard of horsemen were at his service, and were now, in fact, awaiting his pleasure in the court below.’

310Alkibiades bowed and smiled. Neither was taken in. The one knew the whole meaning of the message, and its depth of treachery; the other was perfectly aware that it was known. They descended into the courtyard. Alkibiades was assisted to mount an Arab horse; another was provided for Mantitheos. On asking for the sailors who had come with him, he was told they had returned to Paniônion. The two travellers were preceded by twenty horsemen armed with spears. On each side of them rode an officer with drawn sword; in the rear came twenty other horsemen with spears. So they started from Magnesia.

At mid-day they halted. An ample meal was served. They pursued their way, along the banks of the Hermos, to the fertile plains where the old town of Sardis stood beneath its lofty citadel. They passed the new paradeisos that Tissaphernes had lately finished. Through its wooden palings they could see its various wonders, its splendid trees, and its pavilions, and the fountains and curious waterworks and lakes which the satrap had formed from the gold-bearing Paktôlos, which ran through it. On account of its grace and beauty, as well as with a view to the pleasant hours he had hoped to spend there with his friend, Tissaphernes had named this paradise ‘Alkibiades.’

311The prisoners were received with every mark of courtesy and with real kindness by the governor of the citadel. Alkibiades was cheerful. There was still some chance of hearing news of Tissaphernes. After a week of close confinement they were allowed to take as much exercise as they liked in the governor’s garden, shut in only by the high outer wall, and closed by the great gate near which the governor lodged. Alkibiades soon won the affections of his keeper. He had noticed from the first the kindness with which he treated him. As the time hung heavily upon him, he was glad to talk to the old officer, who at last confided to him the cause of his imprisonment.

Orders had come some time ago from the Great King to take Alkibiades, alive or dead. The affair of the fleet had got Tissaphernes into terrible trouble with the Spartans. By taking their fleet away from the Ionian coast to the Hellespont they enabled Pharnabazos to collect the tribute for the Persian king from the Greek cities in that part. Tissaphernes knew that if Pharnabazos sent his tribute to Suza, the king would hear no excuse why the rest of the Ionian tribute should not be paid. If one satrap could collect and pay it, then the other must do so, or make it up out of his own property. This question of the tribute 312had been a long-standing trouble. While Athens was mistress of the sea there was a good reason why the Lydian satrap could not enforce it; but when Athens was weakened, and could no longer hold her own or protect her colonies, this excuse must cease.

The Athenian victory at Abydos frightened Tissaphernes still more. It now seemed that the balance of power between the two chief Greek states would not be maintained. The Athenians would preponderate if many more victories such as that were gained.

It was the Persian policy to keep them at war, weakening one another, until they were reduced to such weakness that they might both be driven from the sea. To take Alkibiades away, to keep him in confinement at this time, would stop any more Athenian victories for the present. At any rate, it would show to the Spartans, Tissaphernes thought, how sincerely he was on their side, and to the king, his master, that he was ready to sacrifice his personal affection for his friend to that master’s service.

It was time to do something to pacify both. The Lakedaimonians were threatening to end the war, and retire with the remnant of their force to Sparta, while the king was growing something 313more than suspicious of his satrap’s fidelity. These, then, were the reasons why he had ordered the arrest of his dearest friend. And when the friend had so unexpectedly run into the snare, he had left without seeing him, for fear his resolution might be shaken, and he tried to soothe his own regret at having to treat so badly one he sincerely loved by giving commands that every attention should be paid the Athenian strategos while he was in captivity.



‘Liber captivus avis feræ consimilis est,
Semel fugiendi si data est occasio,
Satis est, nunquam post illam possis prendere.’
Plautus: Captivi.

It is not pleasant to be shut up in prison for a fortnight, expecting every day that poison, or a dagger, will make that one your last. But even to that the prisoner gets accustomed in time, and the danger of assassination begins, at last, to lend some excitement to life, spent in the horrible monotony of such a situation. Alkibiades was not afraid of death. His determined resistance to it when it had been openly decreed against him by the Athenians, and secretly by king Agis and the Ephors at Sparta, was caused as much by the sense of the injustice of it as from any fear of death itself. Now, though he enjoyed his life as much as any man, he expected death with calmness, and thought of it each day as just about to come with perfect equanimity.

315Perhaps it could not have come at a time more opportune, if come it must. He had just won a splendid victory for his repentant fellow-countrymen. He had shown his devotion to them, and they had called on him to return to them and forget the past. Their bygone injustice he had forgiven; and if he died now, the victim of a conspiracy among their enemies, it would be a fresh cause for them to honour him.

But the constant thought that he was shut up at such a crisis, while the Lakedaimonians and the Persians were planning fresh attacks and strengthening their forces, while only inexperienced lieutenants were left to protect his country, hung upon him insupportably all day long, and maddened him through the long dark winter’s nights, with its constant crushing weight. He determined to risk everything in his endeavour to get back to join his comrades.

How to escape was now his constant thought. His prison at first was strictly guarded, and if he could surmount the physical difficulty of high walls, there were greater difficulties beyond.

When a man is shut up in prison with nothing but his own thoughts, those thoughts are constantly turning on some means of escape. If he is a man of great resources he will generally 316manage, in time, to circumvent his keepers, who only think occasionally, and as a matter of routine, how they may keep him in.

Another week passed, in dull monotony. His gaoler could tell him little of the outside world. He only heard that Tissaphernes was with Pharnabazos on the shores of the Hellespont. Then nearly another week went by in the same dead silence, broken only by the singing of the guard and the exchange of passwords as they relieved each other, while he was consumed with rage, bursting with impatience to be out and doing.

And here, here he was shut up with nothing to look at but the fine Grecian theatre and racecourse, lying at the foot of the high rock, or the constant, endless view from his prison windows of the peaceful valley of the Hermos, and of the country beyond, stretching into the dim distance, a view which may still be seen by the traveller who ascends to-day the crumbling remains of the rock on which stood the citadel of Sardis, where Alkibiades and his companion were imprisoned.

It seemed to him, however, after a time, that the guards grew slacker in their watch. Sometimes, especially in the evening, he noticed that if a fresh guard did not come at the proper time, the others, tired of their cold, dreary duty, went 317off before they were relieved. He knew from old experience how much more the Easterns leave to chance than the better disciplined Greek soldiers would dare to do. He could see through the gateway the tired guard pacing up and down, and one or two beggars who came for broken victuals. He sometimes amused himself by throwing small coins to the half-starved mendicants to see them scramble for the money.

This unwonted good fortune was soon noised about among the beggars, and brought others, till, whenever he took his evening exercise, a number, drawn by news of this largess, clamoured at the gateway. Even the guards were not above joining in the scramble sometimes when no one saw them, and would push the ragged crowd away, to pick up the scattered coins themselves. Alkibiades did not discourage this, and the good-natured warder who was in charge pretended not to see it. Emboldened by their liberty, some beggars would even thrust their hands through the bars, piteously praying for his dole, and still the warder only laughed if he caught them speaking to his prisoner.

So a whole month passed. It was on the last day of that first month of his incarceration, when the crowd of beggars was greater, and they were crying out more loudly than ever as they pushed 318their lean, dirty hands through to him, that he noticed a hand which looked different, stronger than the others, and which was unopened. Struck with the strange sight of an unopened hand pushed through the gates, he gently touched it; it opened slightly, and he saw a minute scroll rolled up inside. He took it, unseen by the warder, and throwing some coins to the poor mendicants, retired to his room. He opened the scroll. There was just light enough to read the few words on the rolled-up papyrus leaf. On it was written in well-known characters, ‘Hour after sunset courtyard wall.’

In an hour’s time he and Mantitheos were in the courtyard. It was dark. After waiting a short time they heard the guard go off singing a Persian song. All was quiet. Presently a rope was thrown over the high wall from outside. Mantitheos fastened the end securely to the trunk of a tree. To an athlete like Alkibiades, to haul himself up a wall even of that height was an easy matter. Mantitheos quickly followed, fear aiding him in his ascent. First Alkibiades, then Mantitheos, went down the other side hand over hand, and arrived at the bottom, with no greater injury than bleeding hands and legs. They found a strong, ragged-looking man, in an old Persian 319sailor’s dress, who, throwing the end of the rope over the wall, walked rapidly in front. The fugitives followed silently.

A light shot for a moment from the warder’s gate across their path. The voice of the warder was heard calling after them. No one heeded it. The light disappeared. The three quickened their pace. The warder, suddenly roused by the noise, had cried out on his first impulse, then, realizing what had happened, held his peace. He had reason to believe that his lord, having shown his good faith towards Sparta and the king, would not be sorry for his prisoner’s escape.

In almost less time than it has taken to write down this speculation on the warder’s thoughts, the fugitives had made their way down the narrow track leading from the citadel, had passed by the side of the ruins of the splendid temple of Kybele, built by the old Lydian kings, and burnt by the Ionians before the town was taken by the Persians, had forded the shallow Paktôlos, and were soon outside the unwalled town. There, in a thick wood on the northern ascent of the hill, they found three small mountain ponies tethered to a tree. The stranger—who of course was Agrestides—loosed them, the three mounted, and away they went!

320By a secluded path with which their guide had made himself well acquainted, they got into the wild mountain country of the Tmolian range, and on they rode through the dark, stormy night. It was the depth of winter; the rain at first, and then, as they got higher up, the blinding snow, blew hard in their faces. Progress was slow. They dare not keep the level road along the valley of the Hermos. The only safe path for them was on the ridge of the chain of mountains from Mount Tmôlos, over Drakôn, Clympos, and Mastousia.

The ponies, native to the mountains, knew the path as well in the dark as by day, but their pace was very slow, and morning was breaking over Sardis before they had made much way. They reached at length a ruined temple of Artemis; there they hid themselves. Mantitheos showed signs of breaking down; all three were drenched and tired out.

As the day got on it grew finer, and they determined to venture out again, in hopes of reaching a small village that Agrestides knew of, where they might be able to obtain some food. The snow was thick upon the ground; Mantitheos was getting weaker. Alkibiades gave him his cloak, which they had managed to dry at a small 321fire which Agrestides had made inside the ruined temple. Though the snow impeded their progress, it stopped the dreaded pursuit. They heard the wolves howling round them, and saw foxes skulking about, ravenous, like themselves, for food. There was some difficulty in getting Mantitheos along. There was no sign of human habitation till they reached a small, desolate village at nightfall. Mantitheos was quite worn out.

In a poverty-stricken cottage they got shelter for the night, and some coarse bread and goat’s flesh, and a little goat’s milk. Mantitheos became worse. Agrestides would have left him there. ‘Will you risk your own life for him?’ he said; but Alkibiades refused to go without him, and amused them by tales of his adventures and stories about Sokrates—how the philosopher kept his guard all night at Potidaia in the snow without any other raiment on him but his summer dress, and how he would stand sometimes, all day and night, in silent contemplation, thus exemplifying his theory, external circumstances ought never to affect the true philosopher.

There was much he wanted to know about: what had taken place since he left the Hellespont with Thrasyboulos, after the battle of Abydos; what the Spartans and Pharnabazos 322were doing; whether the Athenians were making preparations to drive the Spartans from the Hellespont and Bosporos. Agrestides could give him little reliable information about these things, but he entertained them with an account of how he had found them, and had managed to help them to escape. He told his story in a few words, in his blunt way, taking little credit to himself. He could not imagine how anyone would have done less for such a master.

For two days after the sailors had returned to the ship from Magnesia without the strategos the Eros waited, expecting his return. Then some officers had gone to the castle at Magnesia for further orders, and were told that Alkibiades had set out to visit Tissaphernes, and they learnt that Tissaphernes had gone north to meet Pharnabazos. Only by degrees it came out that Alkibiades was a prisoner, and had been sent, under a strong escort, no one knew whither. The sailors were for marching upon Magnesia straight off, though it was occupied by some hundreds of Persian soldiers. It was difficult to make them understand the madness of the attempt. At last Agrestides was allowed to go in search, with orders to return if he found any clue to the prison of the captive strategos.

323He knew the country and the language of the barbarians, and, disguised as a Persian sailor, it did not take him long to discover where his master was confined. He bought the three mountain ponies on the way, and brought them to Sardis, pretending he meant to sell them there. When he reached the satrap’s capital, he made friends with the sailors who formed the guard of the citadel, regaling them at the wine-shops on the supposed proceeds of a prosperous voyage, and after waiting many days, he at last found means of getting his message into his master’s hands. Then he gave the guard, who ought to have gone on duty an hour after sunset, so much of the strong wine that grows on the sides of Tmôlos, that he felt sure they would not trouble themselves to be too early at their post, and as soon as the tired guard went off, without waiting for their relief, the sailor’s rope had done the rest.

So two days and nights passed in the rough cottage, till the rest and warmth, and such food as they could get, restored the unfortunate lieutenant sufficiently to let them journey on. In two days more they reached a small fishing-village to the eastward of Klazomenai. At dark they put off in a fishing-boat, and after cruising about all night, at daybreak they sighted the 324Eros standing off the coast, about a mile north of Klazomenai. The sailors raised such loud cries of joy, when their strategos came on board, that their shouts were heard in the port, as with a head wind the Eros made for the isle of Samos.

The men of Samos were vainly vowing vengeance on the Persians if their chief was murdered. Just as the Eros was seen sailing towards the port, the women were thronging the temple of Heré, where the great bronze statue of Alkibiades, the liberator of Ionia, was to be erected next year, and were sending up prayers for his safety to the all-powerful Queen of Olympos, who was born, they said, at Samos. When they heard that the Eros was arrived, they left the altar of the goddess, in anxious hope that she had heard their prayers. There was the Eros coming onward, with the north-west wind, in festive trim, and lo! standing on the deck, appeared the hero for whom such earnest, tearful prayers had for so many days been offered up. He was soon in their midst, as fair, as fresh, as beautiful, as though no trouble or danger had ever come upon him.

He could not stay long at Samos. The tiresome necessities of glorious war called him away upon its ordinary business. He had to visit those of 325the islands which had not been true to Athens and which had now been abandoned by Sparta, enforcing contributions for the fleet which, he determined, should preserve them from both the Spartan and the Persian. He was at Lesbos when he received a pressing summons from those who were left in charge of the fleet in the north to come at once and take command.

Mindaros had collected ships and men from the islands and from home. He was again at the head of over sixty triremes, and was backed up from the shore by the army of Pharnabazos, and by Pharnabazos himself. As fast as wind and oars could carry him, Alkibiades made for Kardia, on the western coast of the Thrakian Chersonesos. There he collected all the Athenian strength. Thrasyboulos and Theramenes joined him. Thrasyllos was still doing his utmost to collect reinforcements at Athens. When all were told, the Athenian fleet was but little superior in numbers to the Spartan, and they had no army on shore to cover them.

In April Mindaros sailed for the island of Kyzikos, on the Propontis. Pharnabazos marched his troops along the coast of Mysia to the same point. The joint force took Kyzikos, the chief town of the island, at its southern extremity, 326where it was joined to the mainland by a bridge. On hearing of this attack, Alkibiades set sail from Kardia, doubled the Chersonesos, passed up the Hellespont, cleverly eluding the Spartan look-out at Abydos, and, on a dark, rainy night anchored off the island of Prokonnesos. Next day he assembled his men on shore, taking care that the enemy should have no intelligence of his arrival, and animated them by a stirring harangue.

Though inferior in strength, they must, he said, fight at once. Delay would be ruin to them, as they could expect no more help from Athens, while the Lakedaimonians were fed and paid by their rich allies. They must fight, then, as they never fought before, against ships, against men, against stone walls, and conquer this unholy alliance of Greek and barbarian, or die like heroes.

He was not afraid to engage the whole Spartan force at sea. But his difficulty was to get them out into the open, away from their Persian protection ashore. With this view he concealed the strength of his fleet. The night was dark; under cover of the darkness he sailed in three separate divisions from Prokonnesos. Theramenes he stationed with one division to the west, behind the small island of Alone; Thrasyboulos he sent with another to 327the east, round the north point of the island of Kyzikos; while he himself, with a picked squadron of twenty triremes, took the centre or front line, and made straight for the fleet of Mindaros at the capital of the island.

Mindaros, seeing the centre division only coming against him in the early morning, advanced in line to meet it with his whole fleet of sixty triremes. Alkibiades retreated, the Spartan admiral, with all his force, following him into the straits between Kyzikos and Alone. Then Alkibiades wheeled round upon them, the Athenian sailors managing their long ships splendidly, and at that moment, on a given signal, Thrasyboulos, with his division, came round the north point of Kyzikos, and Theramenes from behind Alone, taking the Spartan fleet on either flank.

The Spartans, attacked thus unexpectedly on each side, as well as on their main line in front, were seized with panic. They turned and fled, followed by the Athenians, who in their pursuit took or destroyed many of the retreating ships. The rest made for the mainland, about a mile from where Pharnabazos was stationed with his Persian troops. Those on board, running their ships aground, clambered on to the shore, followed by the centre line of the Athenian ships, led by 328Alkibiades. Thrasyboulos landed his hoplites on the right of the Persians, and Theramenes, turning his ships behind the main line, landed his men near the Persian left flank. The Persians charged Thrasyboulos, and were overwhelming him by their superior numbers, when Theramenes came, unperceived by them, upon their rear. Taken thus in the rear while they were resolutely opposed in front, they were thrown into disorder, and fled with enormous loss. Thrasyboulos and his force were saved.

Meanwhile Alkibiades had landed with a small picked body in order, if possible, to prevent the Spartans from protecting their stranded vessels, while the rest of his men were seizing those they could get at. Thus he found himself opposed to the whole Spartan force. For a long time he held his own, fighting himself in the front of his men. This small band of warriors was gradually falling by his side. He was hard pressed, and that fight was near proving his last. He was surrounded by the enemy, who cut off his retreat. There could have been no possible escape had not his two colleagues, fresh from their triumph over the Persians, come up just in time to save him. Victory was thus snatched from Mindaros and the Lakedaimonians. The valiant Spartan admiral, 329undismayed at this turn of affairs, so sudden and little expected by him, fought on with his accustomed bravery till he fell, mortally wounded, at the head of his followers, encouraging them to the last by his words and his example. The Spartans, seeing their leader fall, broke and fled, pursued by the conquerors, leaving the whole of their fleet behind, and a multitude of slain and wounded.

Alkibiades was hailed by his army as ‘the invincible,’ and well they might so call him. He had rid Ionia, the Hellespont, the Bosporos, of Spartan interference, and undone the work of three years’ strenuous labour of the enemy. Their fleet was destroyed, and their army was reduced to a miserable number and condition, broken in spirit, and without a leader. They knew not what to do.

At Sparta the news of the defeat was received with consternation. In her necessity she thought at last of peace. Endios, the old friend and relative of Alkibiades, was sent to sound the Athenian senate. Alas! the Athenians were too elated. Unhappily for them, they spurned the overtures, which, had they been accepted, might have changed the coming pages of their history and the future life of Alkibiades. Peace was 330not to be either for them or for him; he had to abide the course of destiny, and live and die in constant toil and struggle.

Having put in order his fleet, which had been enormously increased by all the triremes taken from the enemy, he proceeded to reduce the towns upon the coast, which still held out against him, and to receive the submission and tribute of the others. A whole year was spent in these active and profitable operations. In June of the next year, 409, Thrasyllos joined him at Lampsakos with a new squadron of fifty triremes and a body of hoplites from Athens.

Pharnabazos had during this last year shown much more spirit than the Lakedaimonian government. Persian gold was freely spent among the Spartan soldiers, and a naval arsenal was provided for them by him at Antandros, near Mount Ida, where wood for the building of new ships could be obtained by them in abundance. An immense body of men were there set to work to form a fresh navy, to replace the one they had lost at Kyzikos. But Alkibiades did not leave him long in peace. He attacked and routed him at Abydos, taking a prodigious amount of booty, including the money that was on its way to pay the Spartan soldiers and sailors at Antandros, and 331also making many prisoners. Among the captives were some Persian priests. These he treated with respect and courtesy, and sent them back to Pharnabazos unransomed and with presents.

There was a strong feeling of respect growing up mutually between these two leaders. If Pharnabazos was invariably defeated by Alkibiades, he could not but feel admiration for the bravery and skill with which his opponent fought. Pharnabazos from this time began to grow colder in his support of Sparta, or, at any rate, he began to feel the hopelessness of continuing the struggle with one who seemed endowed with more than ordinary force and genius.

Thus the winter passed. In the spring Alkibiades continued his victorious career. The history of this year is a catalogue of the coast towns and islands which he took from the control of Sparta, and brought back to their old tributary dependence upon Athens. Then he made an expedition into Thrace. Here the cultured Athenian, who had astonished the frugal Lakedaimonians by the stern rigour of his life at Sparta, and the soft Persians by his sumptuous magnificence at the court of the gentle Lydian satrap, now caused no less astonishment to the strong and hardy Thrakians. Bred from their infancy to tame and 332ride their famous wild white horses, they looked with admiration on his splendid horsemanship. From very love of him a large body followed him as volunteers when he returned to carry on the war against his twofold enemy.

At that time the siege of Chalkedôn was being carried on by Thrasyllos, who had nearly succeeded in carrying a palisade round the city on its land side. This wall was now nearly completed. Placed almost immediately opposite Byzantion and thus forming a firm base of operations whenever he should attack that most important city, Chalkedôn, which had lately thrown off its dependency on Athens, was strenuously defended by the Spartans. While Thrasyllos was pushing on his works the Spartan garrison made a sortie from the town, and Pharnabazos, co-operating with them, made a simultaneous dash upon the besieging force with all his army. At that critical moment Alkibiades arrived in time to prevent the destruction of the Athenians thus caught between the Spartans in front of them and the Persians at their back. With his new Thrakian cavalry he charged Pharnabazos with such effect that the gallant Persian fled discomforted. He then led his troop round against the Spartans, who retired behind the 333walls of Chalkedôn, leaving a large part of their numbers behind them dead upon the field, including their commander, Hippokrates.

Having finished the wall of palisades by which the town was completely cut off from the land, he recrossed the Bosporos, with such troops as could be spared from the siege of Chalkedôn, to raise contributions for the war. At Selymbria, a Greek town on the Thrakian coast of the Propontis, he was called upon once more to prove his fearless intrepidity, his calmness and resource in the midst of danger, and his gentleness in the hour of victory. He arrived before the town with a body of his own hoplites and his Thrakian horsemen. Some of the citizens were willing to ally themselves with Athens, or rather, perhaps, were unwilling to struggle against one who seemed to be invincible. They agreed to open the gates to him at midnight, and promised to display a lighted torch upon the walls as a signal that they were ready to receive him. One of them betrayed the design to the authorities of Selymbria. The others, fearing the vengeance of the citizens, showed the signal from the walls an hour before the appointed time, and opened the city gates. Alkibiades, who had given orders for the main body of his men to be ready to enter the town 334with him at midnight, on seeing the signal, though his men were not yet ready, rushed to the open gate, followed by only thirty of his guard. He was joined by twenty of those who were friendly to him within the town. With this handful of followers he found himself in the narrow streets and in the midst of an angry multitude. Here again he was in imminent peril of his life. He refused to retreat, although he could not hope that thirty men, however brave, assisted by only twenty citizens, could hold their ground until his hoplites and his Thrakians should come to his aid. He ordered a trumpet to be sounded, and as calmly as if he was at the head of a victorious army, he made a proclamation ‘that the Selymbrians would incur the anger of the state of Athens if they dared to take up arms against the Athenians.’ His extraordinary coolness so frightened the people, who supposed a proclamation such as this would never have been made unless the whole army was behind him and entering the city, that they asked for conditions. While these were being arranged the rest of his army entered.

Selymbria was now at his mercy. According to the rights or wrongs of war, he might have robbed it of its riches and allowed the outrage 335of its citizens. He forbade both, and risked the anger of his half-tamed Thrakians, who could not understand how a hostile city could be taken without the necessary consequence of rapine, by sending them out of Selymbria baulked of their prey. Taking only a reasonable sum of money by way of tribute, he left a garrison behind to protect Selymbria from the Spartans.

The feeling of discontent with the policy of supporting Sparta against such an opponent now reached its height in the mind of Pharnabazos. He opened communications with Thrasyllos, who had been left to carry on the siege of Chalkedôn while Alkibiades was away strengthening the power of Athens on the Propontis, and collecting tribute for the support of her defenders. He promised an immediate payment of twenty talents, proposed a treaty of peace, and offered an escort and safe-conduct to an Athenian embassy, which he suggested should be sent to the Great King to settle the terms upon which a final peace might be made between Persia and Athens.

In the meantime a truce was to be made between the satrap and Alkibiades. The satrap’s terms were accepted and the embassy was sent. It included one whose travels and troubles we 336have already spoken about—the unfortunate Mantitheos, whose sufferings were now to be continued for three years to come. But Pharnabazos was not content with the word or oath of a subordinate before he withdrew his troops finally from the support of the Spartans. He insisted that the general-in-chief must himself attest his consent to all the terms of the treaty. Alkibiades confirming them by his own solemn oath, the satrap made mutual covenants of friendship, alliance, and hospitality with him, treating him throughout more as an autocratic sovereign than as a general-in-chief of a republic.

Having fortified Chrysopolis, the port of Chalkedôn, by building a strong tower which looked across the narrow strait to Byzantion, Alkibiades now set about his long-meditated siege of that important place which was the bulwark of the Bosporus and the key to the Euxine trade. But Byzantion was strongly guarded by stone walls without and by an unrelenting warrior within, the iron-willed and iron-hearted Klearchos, whom Sparta had sent as her best commander to hold a place of such inestimable value. He was supported by a strong body of his trained citizens and sturdy Boiotians. The Athenian fleet blockaded the port and every entrance by sea; 337the Athenian army gradually drew round it on the land side, and stopped all help from coming to the famine-stricken people of that great city. Klearchos closely hoarded the food he had stored up within. ‘This,’ he said, ‘is wanted by those who can bear arms and fight; the rest, if needs be, can starve.’

There was no sign of surrender, and the summer passed away. Overtures were at length made to the Athenian general by some of the principal inhabitants. They told him they had no love for their defenders, that they detested the Spartan general, who had left them in their dire want to go to seek aid from Pharnabazos. They agreed to open the Thrakian gate to the besiegers. Alkibiades knew how much blood must be wasted on the assault of such a place. No commander was ever more careful of the lives of men committed to his trust than he. In the whole of his career there is no instance of any reckless sacrifice of life in order to gain even the most important conquest, nor of any cruelty done, or permitted to be done, on those whom the fortune of war delivered over to his power.

If it was possible to get possession of the coveted city in any other way, he determined to avoid the carnage on both sides, which must inevitably 338happen if a place so strongly fortified was stormed. As clever in stratagem as he was fearless in fight, he made a pretence of retiring from the siege and carrying his troops away. He ordered the triremes to row off into the Bosporos, as though he was abandoning a hopeless task. Then, at midnight, some of the ships returned, and the sailors, landing with great clamour, attacked the eastern gate. The Spartan troops rushed to that spot and forced the few Athenian sailors who had landed to retreat to their ships. At that moment the Thrakian gate was opened by friends within, and Alkibiades, at the head of his hoplites, who had silently returned in the darkness of the night, entered Byzantion.

The Spartans and their allies discovered the trick that had been played upon them, and hastily came back to meet the enemy, who were now in the centre of the city. But, posted in strong positions in the main streets and squares, the Athenians made havoc of both Boiotians and Spartans, and the Byzantine soldiers turned upon those whom the people had good reason to look upon rather as oppressors than protectors. The Spartans fought with the courage of despair, but they were all slain at length, except some five hundred, who surrendered. The inhabitants 339were well treated, although they had revolted from Athens when she was in her greatest need. They again accepted her mild sovereignty, and agreed to pay the usual tribute.

Now, with Chalkedôn in his power, Chrysopolis in his hands, and Byzantion garrisoned by Athens, Alkibiades placed the Euxine Sea in her control once more. What that meant at such a time can only be understood when one recollects the extensive trade of the great inland sea and the low state to which Athens of late had been reduced. It drove her enemies out of these waters, and it gave her whatever dues she chose to impose on all the rich merchant ships passing to and fro with their cargoes of slaves, of skins, of fish, and, what to Athens was more than all, their loads of corn from the Euxine shores. For she had been deprived of the produce of her own lands ever since King Agis and the Spartans had Dekeleia in their possession, and since the defection of Euboia, her other granary, she had to look to the Euxine to supply her with the bare necessities of life. This was now thrown open to her.



‘Come, have a care for thine honour, since now this land calls thee saviour for thy former zeal; and never let it be the memory of thy government that we were set upon our feet and afterwards cast down, but lift up this city so that it stand fast for ever.’—Sophocles: Oid. Tyr.

Upon the Hellespont, the Propontis, and the Bosporos, the northern Athenian dependencies were everywhere reduced to their old tributary subjection to their ancient suzerain; the Spartans were driven from the sea, and a truce was made with Pharnabazos, pending negotiations for peace with the Persian king. In the beginning of the year 407 Alkibiades, leaving Thrasyboulos to complete the conquest of the Greek cities on the Thrakian coast, assembled his mighty fleet at Samos.

It is unnecessary to describe the advent of the conqueror once more into that port, where his faithful friends and supporters had been true to him when every other Grecian city had turned against him, and where his statue now stood 341gloriously in the temple of the special guardian of the island, the witness of the people’s gratitude to the liberator of Ionia.

He had still work to do upon the Karian coast, the last remnant of the late Spartan conquests, and had more tribute to collect from unfaithful cities for impoverished Athens. After reducing these places to subjection and strengthening the forts at Kos, and with a treasure of one hundred talents which he had collected, he returned to Samos.

He now felt that the time was come when he might at last answer the repeated call of Athens, and return to his beloved home. He sent Thrasyllos with the main part of the fleet and a large portion of the captured ships and other spoils before him to Peiræus, to prepare the people for his coming.

The impatience with which they awaited him was indescribable. They were as anxious to see the man whom they had driven from them, and who in return, his justice satisfied, had raised them from despair and misery to their old supremacy, as he was to come back to them. This had been the fixed purpose of his life for eight long years. In spite of the temptation to return at her earnest cry three years ago, he had gone on enduring dangers, imprisonment, and 342hardships, and adding victory to victory, till he felt his hands were full enough of blessings. Now they were so full they scarcely could hold more, and he returned to her to lay them at her feet.

Collecting his great ships from Samos and the other ports where he had posted them, with all his prisoners and his prizes, he proudly sailed towards Attika. No need now to avoid hostile places; he rather diverged from his straight course, to show the world who was supreme mistress of the seas, and on the twenty-fifth of May he sighted the Peiræus. When the people heard that he was really coming, the city was deserted. All the quays and walls were lined with human beings. The sailors of Peiræus, Mounychia, and Phaleron, all who had ships or boats of any sort, crowded out upon the sea to welcome him. The sea was black with boats. Every mast swarmed with men and boys, and lucky was he thought who should first get sight of him.

While the people waited on the shore in wildest expectation, there was but one thought in all their minds, one and the same subject furnished the topic of their talk with one another. Some old men were heard conversing.

‘Ah! you remember the day he set out for 343Sicily—just such another day as this. Would to the gods we had never let him go on that God-cursed expedition!’

‘Rather, would to the gods we had let him stay and fight for us in Sicily! He was just beginning the great siege when we recalled him. He must surely have been victorious.’

‘Why, then, were we not more wise? Surely some blindness must have fallen on us from the gods.’

‘How many of our sons who perished there would have been here to-day? Or perhaps we might have been just about to welcome them, instead of ever mourning for the deaths of brave men whose unburied bodies lie underneath the sea.’

‘They would be coming with the conqueror of Sicily, of Greece, of the barbarian, had we not been blinded for our sins.’

‘But, think you, he would have been victorious at Syrakuse, where two armies of Athenians fell?’

‘Why not? Has he not been victorious everywhere, wherever he has fought? Are not the Lakedaimonians better warriors than the men of Syrakuse? Has he not beaten Spartans and Persians, too, whenever he has met them?’

‘Ay! and they say the fight at Kyzikos was 344greater than any could have been in Sicily, or any that our men ever fought before.’

‘Indeed, it seems nothing can withstand his conquering arm.’

‘Then to accuse such a one of profanation of the sacred mysteries! I know not what they are, but could such a wise man ever think of so great a wickedness?’

‘So I said all along, but none would hearken to me.’

‘And the great ones said he wished to make himself a tyrant in Athens.’

‘What! he? Why, he could have made himself a tyrant here any time these last three years.’

‘Or if he had come when the four hundred were murdering us, and ruining all things in Athens, the people would have crowned him king. And, like as not, he will be king, too, before long.’

‘And a good thing, say I for one, for then he would turn the Spartans out of Dekeleia, and we should get bread cheap again.’

‘They say he will not land till they have reversed the sentence on him. Some say his enemies will try even now to have it carried out. But see where the boats make way,—he comes! he comes!’

The whole crowd pressed forward to catch a 345glimpse as ten great Spartan triremes came slowly forward, their prows and sides covered with the armour taken at the fight at Kyzikos, while standing in sullen groups on the decks, were the Spartan hoplites who had been taken prisoners there, wearing the red tunics that the Athenians knew and dreaded.

Then came ten more triremes with Spartan spoils and prisoners from Abydos; ten others decorated in like manner from Chalkedôn and Chrysopolis; then ten more with the five hundred Spartans who surrendered at Byzantion. Then came ten other triremes with spoils of Thrakian cities, and with Thrakian soldiers who had followed the chief out of admiration for him, clad in skins of beasts, looking keenly round about them, gesticulating, and wondering at all they saw. Then came twenty other triremes, with Persian horsemen squatting on the decks, dressed in long robes of every hue, perfectly indifferent to everything.

Then, gently at first, over the calm, sparkling sea, came the sound of rhythmic song, growing gradually louder, and the stately Athenian triremes came grandly forward, their oars splashing in the sun, and keeping time to the measured music of the rowers’ voices as they pulled with one accord to the beat of the keleustes, who led their singing. 346Onward they came, majestic,—their sterns, prows, bulwarks, masts, garlanded with flowers and boughs of the wild olive-tree. Then, last of all, amid the shouts and cries of great delight, was seen the well-remembered Eros, dressed more plainly than any of the others. And there—yes, there—apparelled like the sun-god of the heavens, in his armour of chased gold and ivory, that glittered in the bright May-day, was Alkibiades.

The other triremes ranged themselves on either side as he came through them. With an unassumed modesty and a smiling carelessness upon his face, he could that day with difficulty conceal the emotion of his soul. Not at Selymbria, when he found himself with a few followers in the middle of a hostile town; not at the fight at Kyzikos, when the engagement was at its hottest, and he was nearly overcome by Mindaros;—never on any previous occasion—had the struggle been so hard as that one now, which called forth all his power to keep back the flow of tears. The first favoured ones who welcomed him were his cousin and many more relations. As soon as he saw them, he came from off the Eros to the wharf. Cries went up to Heaven, the crowd closed round him, each one striving to take his hand, or only touch his garments. 347When a way was made for him it became a path of flowers. Along this triumphal road, made by the long walls from Peiræus to the city, he passed upward to the Peiræian gate, past the colonnades with their well-remembered paintings, and the heroes’ statues that he had been wont to gaze on with wonder when a boy; past the house of his friend Polytion, where a lying slave had been tortured to tell the people that he had profaned the mysteries; and past the many well-known spots where his boyhood and his early manhood had been spent—the scenes of his joys, his pleasures, and his triumphs; and the thoughts that they brought back swelled up within him, and made the struggle to restrain his tears grow ever greater. But when he came to the turning which led up to the Pnyx, where the people in their Ekklesia were now assembling to receive him, there was a pause in the procession, and an opening in the deep lines of citizens, and out from amongst them came Deinomache, his mother, grown almost blind, led by his young son Alkibiades. As he folded his mother in his arms, the tears he had so long kept down broke out. It was the first, the only, time that he was ever seen to weep. Then he went upward with his son to the Ekklesia.

348In spite of the enthusiastic welcome with which the city, and the whole state, received him, he had not forgotten the dread sentence which had been passed on him, and which still weighed upon him, and by the laws of Athens must be carried out, unless reversed by the same tribunal which had pronounced it. That was why the meeting of the great Assembly was held immediately on his return. That was why he made his way straight to the Pnyx.

As he passed through the assembled people sitting there in silence, and ascended the stone tribune, how could he but think of the first time he had stood there and swayed their wayward mood, saving them from alliance with that oligarchic Lakedaimôn which he was afterwards to stir up against them, and then beat back in its full career of conquest?

He spoke to them simply of what he had suffered since they had thought fit to cast him out, and his hearers were moved to tears. Then he spoke modestly of some of the services he had been able to render to the state while absent from them. He deigned not to defend himself against the charges on which he had been condemned, for long ago they had been given up as baseless calumnies. But he did not spare his hearers as he 349touched upon the fickleness and injustice often shown by popular assemblies. Then skilfully he turned the fault from them, attributing all the wrongs to his own bad fortune, from which he had so long suffered, and to the influence of some evil genius. Then, as though brushing aside, and forgetting all his own grievances and troubles, and coming before them only as strategos, to give an account of his conduct since they had conferred that post upon him, with all his peculiar grace and terseness, he went through the actions of the late campaign. He explained graphically the present position of the enemy, and closed his speech by an appeal to them to keep up their courage, to be ever true to themselves and their traditions; true, too, to those to whom they confided the command of their forces; to hope on still, to quit themselves like men; and he, for his part, promised them a great and glorious ending to their struggle.

Then, and not till then, they broke out into a burst of loud applause. Their ringing voices could be heard in the most distant corner of the Agora and in the high Akropolis, and all men knew that he had spoken. They vowed vengeance against the authors of his banishment, as though it had been some others and not they who had 350brought it about. In their joy at seeing him again they dried their tears. With one voice they recalled the sentence of death which had been passed upon him, and restored to him all his wealth and patrimonial estates, which they had confiscated. They ordered the pillar on which the awful sentence was inscribed to be demolished. They made the Eumolpidai, the sacred Eleusinian priests, revoke the sacerdotal curses which they had pronounced upon him. They conferred on him the office of Autokrator, or generalissimo of all the forces, both by land and sea, which only on three other, and most perilous, occasions in the whole history of Athens was ever entrusted to anyone. It made him absolute over the other generals, and gave him complete and autocratic power in all matters which concerned the war.

When the Assembly of the Ekklesia was over his friends made him go forth again, that all might see him. He descended from the Pnyx, passed through the western gate of the Agora, where stood the great Hermes, guardian of the market-place, and, hard by, a bronze chariot drawn by four horses, where one stood life-like in the chariot who had won the prize for Athens more than three Olympiads ago. Ah, those four dear horses, he had come back to gaze upon them, 351as in the bronze they seemed to bound and leap for joy of the encounter. He was there,—not quite so full of life, perhaps, as he had been at the time of the race,—but where were they?

Then, passing the Eumenia portico and the theatre of Dionysos, where his chorus had sung before the whole of Athens in the Trachiniai of Sophokles, his friends led him on by the Odeion which Perikles built, with its peaked roof made of the masts of captured Persian ships, resembling the tent of Xerxes. He remembered being taken there when he was six years old to hear the contest of musicians when Perikles opened it. Then he proceeded up the street of Tripods. Upon the temple he had himself erected stood the tripod he had gained when his chorus won the prize. Not far off, a little higher up, on a smaller temple, was still the tripod once proudly placed there by poor Nikias. Then by the north side of the steep rock of the Akropolis he passed the ancient Agraulian sanctuary, where, as a young man, he put on his first armour, and swore to defend his country to the last. So past the Anakeion, the ancient temple of the Dioskoroi, they brought him, by Apollo’s grotto, to the Agora again, to the Stoa Basileios, the Court of the King Archon, near which was the Prytaneion, where the sacred fire 352ever burnt, and where the Prytanes and other privileged guests dined at the state’s expense.

Their dinner was preparing, as he, followed by the people who had brought him in triumph round the rock of the Akropolis, came to the Prytaneion. As a victor in the Olympic games he was entitled to his share of the meal the state provided daily for its public officers and honoured guests. Never before had he taken advantage of his privilege. He now claimed it. And the people were astonished and delighted when they saw the saviour of their country, their unconquered general, of whose luxury and indulgence so many famous tales were told, sitting amongst the citizens, enjoying the homely fare as much as any of them.

His public duties finished, he was escorted to his mother’s house by all who claimed relationship with him, and they were many now. There, in the quiet of that sacred place, we, like his Athenian supporters, may leave him for awhile. Nor shall we attempt to follow all his thoughts when he left at nightfall the solitary parent who had watched and waited for him while he had fought his country’s enemies, and while he had struggled with his great temptation to return too soon to counsel and to rule his native land.

353Afterwards on his way to his own house, so long deserted, he was accosted by a well-known voice that sounded older and much sadder than when he heard it last.

‘Oh son of Kleinias, you have longed for glory, and you have it. Does it seem as sweet as you imagined?’

‘Indeed, Sokrates, I think it is sweet to gain glory in fighting for one’s country.’

‘And dost thou think thy country will render glory to thee long?’

‘Indeed, I hope so, if I continue to deserve it.’

‘Hast thou lived, then, all the years since I first met thee on the banks of the Ilissos, and yet hast not learnt the evil nature of this beast called Demos?’

‘I think I ought by this time to know something of its nature, Sokrates.’

‘Then is it better, think you, to save a people from its enemies, or to save it from itself and teach it wisdom?’

‘Why, I should say it is better to free it from its enemies first, and teach it wisdom afterwards, as I now hope to do.’

‘Tell me, then, oh much-wandering, much-enduring man, where in thy travels thou hast learnt this wisdom, that I, too, may go to seek it.’

354‘Alas! Sokrates, in all my wanderings I have found mankind alike in need of it, alike in want of it; and I would come to you, the wisest of the Greeks, to learn it.’

‘Then tell me, great strategos Autokrator, when all thy possessions were taken from thee by this demos, and thou hadst scarce wherewithal to pay for thy black broth in Lakedaimon, couldst thou bestow much money on thy hosts?’

‘No, by the gods! And I still sometimes laugh to think how poor I was. How could I give what I had not myself?’

‘Which, then, is easier to obtain, money or wisdom?’

‘I should say it is easier to get money, for we often see men who have acquired heaps of money who do not seem able to get much wisdom.’

‘And yet you hope to teach these people wisdom, which you say you have not got, and which is harder to obtain than riches.’

‘Ah, Sokrates, it is still just as of old. Somehow when I talk with you I seem to be ignorant of everything; though when I am with others I fancy I am cleverer than most of them.’

‘And do you not know why?’

‘Not I, unless it be that the oracle said truly 355that Sokrates, the son of Sophroniskos, was the wisest of the Greeks.’

‘And you know not why it said so?’

‘I have heard you say in the old days, but now I quite forget.’

‘Well, I will tell thee. Perhaps it meant that I, in truth, was the most foolish of mankind.’

‘How mean you, Sokrates?’

‘Because that all my life I have tried to show the people their own ignorance, and they will turn and rend me soon, for all my pains, as they will rend you, ere many months are passed, for fighting for them, oh beauteous son of Kleinias.’

So they parted, and Alkibiades entered his father’s house by the large heavy doorway, and went into the courtyard, where the fountain was splashing still as though he had never been away, just as it splashed when he used to sit and watch it in his dreamy boyhood, yearning for knowledge, or in more ardent mood when he looked upon it from his room at night, longing for adventures and glory, and eager to leave that quiet place where his mother lived; as it splashed when he had gazed up at the mysterious Akropolis, with the moonlight over it making dark shadows on the walls of its silent temples; as it splashed when he brought his young 356wife joyfully to her new home, and when he returned there, on that guilty morning, and found her gone; and as it splashed when he came back from Ephesos and saw her lying still and silent on her couch.

This was the day he had lived for, and fought for, and schemed for; now it was here. He had come home to Athens in greater triumph than he had ever dreamed of Glory, that he had followed after all his life, had come to meet him, as she had seldom come to meet anyone, and more splendidly than he, even in his highest hopes, had been able to imagine. He had got more than glory; he had got justice. As he passed through the Agora, or market-place, that day, he had seen men with hammers breaking down and beating into dust, so that they might take and scatter it into the sea, the record of the false and cruel sentence which had been passed upon him. He had broken down injustice. He was going with his strong will, and with all his might, to deserve more than ever his country’s gratitude, so that when he died, fighting for her some day perhaps, the abhorred sentence which had been graven on the shattered stone might be forgotten, and it might be writ of him upon the eternal brass that he, more fully than any 357other of her children, had loved, and lived for Athens.

And yet, even at the ending of that day—a day the like of which few men have ever known—even at the end of that glorious day he heard the words of Sokrates above the echo of the cheers and cries of joy that were still ringing in his ears, and he was somewhat sad.



‘You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was that ambition?’
Julius Cæsar.

The friends who had known the strategos in old days thought that he would, for some time at least, enjoy his hard-earned rest, and spend his time in such pursuits as they knew he loved, and take his fill of the intellectual and sensuous delights of Athens.

On the day after the joyous one we have just witnessed he began his work as sole absolute general of the state. There was plenty of work to do. Athenian citizens had grown disheartened, and become lax in military discipline. He began by making all those who could bear arms, from boys of fifteen to men of sixty, meet every day for warlike exercise. He instituted a series of alarms, on hearing which, at any hour of the day or night, everyone seized his arms, and ran to his appointed post. Besides superintending these exercises himself, 359and providing that the ordinary soldiers of all classes were duly furnished with all things necessary for their duties, he raised the knights, to which order he belonged, to the highest point of excellence, making them complete in their own peculiar drill, and teaching them other exercises which he had learnt in Thrace and Persia.

He obtained one hundred new triremes from the state, provided chiefly by the spoils and tribute that he had brought with him from the Asiatic cities. While half the day was taken up with the land forces and the land defences, the other half he spent on the water, attending to the drilling of the sailors and the rowers at their work. No one was ever more severe or strict in details, especially as regarded the watchfulness that he required from the sentinels, and if some of the lazier or more stubborn of his soldiers did sometimes complain among themselves, no general was ever more implicitly obeyed. Not a murmur was heard openly against his exacting, self-denying, necessary discipline through all the three months spent in this laborious business. The heart of the people seemed changed; or, rather, the old heart which had beat so firmly when Miltiades led them, was renewed within them. Their pleasures were postponed. They recognised that this was not a time to indulge themselves 360in their usual favourite amusements. Even the comic playwright, who made fun of everything and everyone on all occasions, grew almost serious at this time.

At the end of three months Athens possessed a compact array of troops such as it had never had before. The huge fleet, with its complement of sailors, perfectly equipped, lay in the port, ready at the given signal to raise anchor and set sail. But the celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries was near, and the general put off the departure of his forces till after they, with all the other citizens, had taken part in this great festival. Messengers, for the first time for years, were sent through the neighbouring states, to announce the approach of the festival, so that all might attend who wished to be present at, or take part in, the games which followed.

It is impossible for us to realize the full importance of these sacred rites. Founded originally on the universal sense of helplessness in man, his dependence on the mysterious powers of Nature which, unmoved by him, yield him his sustenance in life, and on his belief in a Divine sustaining power when the strength of life is failing him—and thus based upon his dependence on food in life and on God in death, the Eleusinian mysteries 361grew out of the poetic mysticism of the earliest religious reverence.

The corn seed buried in the earth is represented by Persephone, who, while gathering flowers in a vale, ‘herself of gloomy Dis was gathered.’ Carried by him beneath the earth, she became wife of the King of Hades, and queen of the region of the dead. But Demeter, her mother, in frantic grief, after wandering through the world, came to Eleusis, and dwelt there, while the earth, in sympathy with her, withheld its fruits. The race of man was about to perish for want of food, when Zeus, in pity of its helpless misery, allowed Persephone to return to the earth and spend six months of every year with her fond mother;—a legend symbolic of the happy springing up of the new corn and of the joyful harvest.

Thus, the religious instinct of man to pay worship and devotion to the giver of his earthly sustenance became mingled with the devotion, no less natural to him, by which he sought to be sustained and strengthened after death by the powerful goddess of the regions of the dead. Much of the religion of the Athenian Greeks centred round this myth, and the later additions to it. The greater mysteries, which only the initiated knew, or could assist in celebrating, took the place with 362them of the religious exercises and devotions and dogmas of a later age.

On the first day the initiated gathered together at Eleusis. On the second they made long symbolical ablutions, as if to free themselves from every taint of sin. On the third day they offered sacrifices, as some small return to the divine mother and her child, who gives to helpless men the necessary fruits of earth, and a recognition of their dependence upon her bounty. On the fourth and fifth days other rites were celebrated, which were not to be divulged; and on the sixth, the greatest day of all, the citizens set out from Athens to accompany the wondrous little statue of Iakchos, a son of Demeter, in pompous march from Athens to Eleusis.

This was an addition to the earlier, simpler mysteries, and had been imported from the East, or perhaps from Krete. Iakchos was really the infant Bakchos, representing the generative power of nature, as well as the stimulating force of wine, and was an introduction of a later time, when men were not content with the purer celebration of the innocent harvest of the corn-fields, with the bread and honey of their fathers, but must have wine from the grape-juice too.

During the seven years that the Lakedaimonian 363garrison occupied the fort of Dekeleia, and ravaged the lands of Attika, it had not been safe to go beyond the city gates. Even the initiated dared not approach the sacred spot by the customary road. Some, indeed, had gone by sea, but for the most part the maimed rites, for these years, were but scantily attended. The sixth day’s solemn procession, the great event of the whole festival, had been abandoned altogether.

Alkibiades determined to restore the festival to its wonted grandeur. So the ‘spodophoroi,’ the sacred heralds, were sent out to announce the coming celebration, as of old, defying the Spartans to interfere or stop them. When the time arrived, he posted his hoplites all along the sacred way, and through the mystic defile, and the valley of Eleusis. Thus, the initiated could repair this year, as of old, to the first five days’ performance of the holy rites.

On the sixth day, at the head of his cavalry, the Strategos Autokrator marched from the foot of the Akropolis through the Agora, and, passing on his right the new temple of Theseus, took up his station at the outer Keramik gate, at the entrance of the sacred road, there to await the coming of the priests and people. Presently the procession, headed by the priests bearing the holy image, was 364seen slowly wending its way towards them. Then all along the sacred route, lined and defended by his soldiers, the general, on his white Thrakian charger, and in resplendent armour, led the way. The people of all ranks, following the priests, made the air resound with their ecstatic cries of ‘Iakchos! Iakchos!’ The long road was flanked by tombs and altars of the great departed, carrying men’s thoughts back to the immemorial past, the heroic mythic times; and here many of his renowned ancestors lay, objects still of reverence and veneration.

At three points on the road the river Kephisos was crossed by bridges. At each of these the bearers of the hierarchic image stopped to do the customary rites. Thence they entered the mysterious defile which, by degrees, opened into the pleasant valley of Eleusis. The hills on either side echoed to the constantly repeated cries, ‘Iakchos! Iakchos!’ till the Eleusinian plain spread out before them, rich and lovely, bathed by the blue sea on the left, the Eleusinian mountains skirting it upon the right; and straight ahead of them, its white marble walls glittering against the setting sun, shone the Akropolis of Eleusis and the temples of the goddesses.

Imposing as the procession was at all times from its numbers and from the wild devotion of those who formed it, it was trebly so on this occasion from 365the added spectacle of the strong, silent soldiers who lined the way, and the splendid cavalcade of knights who went before and followed in the rear of it, and from the recollection of the seven past melancholy years, when the multitude had kept mournfully at home, fearing to go to offer their observances to the great goddesses until the saviour of the city had returned to make that possible. It seemed as if he on this day was the high-priest of Demeter, as well as their chief general. The dreaded Spartan king, while he was there, kept prudently behind his walls, nor dared, for all his power, to show himself, or seek to interrupt them.

Though they had started at mid-day, so much time was taken up in the various observances along the way that the September sun had sunk behind the Akropolis long before they reached Eleusis. As the night grew dark, torches were lit one by one. The light handed on from one torch to another gave a weird look to the great throng, until the whole mass was lighted up; and thus, with wild waving of the torches, amid a blaze of light, and with cries and chants to Iakchos, ever growing louder and more wild, they reached the holy temple. So passed the festival beneath the ægis of Alkibiades; and on the last day of the proceedings, 366when the games were held, the gathering was attended, as of old, by the famous athletes of Greece, who came to strive for prizes and to behold the invincible Athenian. He had a twofold object in waiting for the festival. If the Spartans had come out of Dekeleia, which was not more than fifteen miles from the sacred way, he would have found an opportunity of meeting his old opponent Agis; if, as the event proved, the Spartan feared to meet him, the power which compelled such enemies to keep themselves shut up within their fortress would be made manifest.

His popularity with the mass of the Athenians had reached what might have seemed its highest point even before this; afterwards it became something like idolatry. This free people forgot even their love of liberty in their fanatic zeal to show fresh proofs of their blind confidence in him. Only religious fervour, warmed by the recent worship of the goddess, and worked up by ceremonial observances and strange, half-maddening rites within the temple, can explain the step which a large number of them were prepared to take.

To gain a faint conception of what these religious feelings were we must, as far as possible, put ourselves in the place of the initiated, and of those who were about to go through the process of initiation—almost 367the sole religious teaching of the age, the guide which taught them how to obtain the blessings of well-being here, and of an eternity of peace and happiness in the Elysian regions after death.

Added to this religious zeal, felt more especially among the less cultured classes, there was the patriotic gratitude of nearly all. Most of the more educated had felt for some time that a change must be made in the institutions of the state, if she was to combat successfully against the oligarchic and despotic enemies gathering around her, who had not the disadvantage of the unstable and variable policy incident to government by the voices of the masses.

Certain it is that, seizing the opportunity offered by the present feeling of the population, the numberless clubs which honeycombed Athenian politics, and represented the majority of those citizens who took the chief part in the affairs of state, came forward, and urged Alkibiades to suppress the constitution, to banish the demagogues and the orators, who, they declared, had been the constant cause of all their troubles, and suggested that he who was already autocrat in war, master of the forces by land and sea, both in and out of Athens, and feared by the whole of Greece, should accept from them a kingly crown.



‘Tu proverai sì come sa di sale
Lo pane altrui, e com’ è duro calle
Lo scendere e il salir per l’altrui scale.’
Dante: Par., xvii.
‘Thou shalt find how salt doth taste another’s bread,
How hard the way is up and down another’s stairs.’

In the course of this story we have had to watch the hero of it assailed by many temptations. We have seen him give way to some which many of us think we should have overcome, and overcome others to which most of us would certainly have given way. This that stood before him now, beckoning him, as it were, with wizard hand, was the greatest of them all, and came in most specious shape. All his life he had desired to excel. As a boy, and as a young man, his greater gifts had enabled him to excel and rule his compeers. The desire for pre-eminence and command had not grown less as, in his maturer years, he had found that his proper place was at their head, and that 369the others ceded that position to him as of right. Yet in his most ambitious moods there had not come to him the thought that he should ever rule alone, supreme, in Athens.

He had supposed that he might one day fill the place of Perikles, but to a democratic Greek the thought of usurping the sole power was almost an impossibility. And yet the urgency with which the offer came, the power and the numbers of those who made it, assured him he had only to consent, and he would be proclaimed ruler, not merely without any dangerous protest, but with the enthusiastic joy of nearly all the people. He believed, too, and not without good grounds, that this would be for the immediate good of Athens. He saw the clouds that were gathering round the state, the incapacity of the present form of government to contend against the combined power of Persia and Sparta. He knew that his own strong personal influence with one important satrap was unbounded, whenever he chose to exercise it. He believed that he had made some progress in the confidence and respect of another. The embassy now on its way to Susa might bring back to him, if he still held the reins of power, the pledged alliance of the Persian king. He knew that one strong arm, and one strong will, at the 370head of all, and wielding despotic power, alone could grapple with the situation, and stave off the threatening danger. His belief was justified by the event. Here was a great temptation.

He put aside the offer laughingly. He hesitated, and communed with himself, but only for one day.

‘Tell me, Agrestides,’ he said that night, ‘shall I be king of Athens, like Theseus?’

‘No,’ said Agrestides, ‘be a man, like Alkibiades.’

‘Agrestides, thrice hast thou saved me—first from the Spartans, then from the Persians, now from my greatest enemy, myself.’

In the morning he gave orders that the fleet must be ready to depart next day.

At the head of a hundred triremes he set sail at the dawn of a mid-September day. Shading his eyes from the rising sun, he looked onward, as if trying to wrest its secret from the future. Then he turned towards Athens. He saw the uplifted hands of thousands praying for blessings on him as he went. He knew he might have been their king, perhaps the founder of a kingly race, and the saviour of the people from themselves. But the splendour of his Athens, the largeness of her arts and literature, her greatness, which was 371to live for ever in the wonder of the ages and the races yet to come—these things had been grown and nurtured, they had flourished, in her free soil; they would be cramped and would perish under a fat and lazy despotism. His hand should never be the hand that killed them. He stamped his foot upon the deck to check—his anger, disappointment? No, only his emotion. He was never prouder of himself than at that moment; he was proud of what he had done for Athens; proud of what he was going to strive to do for her; prouder, much prouder, of what he had refused to do. Thousands were waving hands to him, and bidding him gratefully adieu. How many knew what he had renounced for them? How many knew that they would never look upon his face again? He saw the Eros lying in the harbour, grown too old for the hard service on which he is bound. He gazed at the citadel, and at the helmed Athene. Did any sad foreboding cross his mind that he should never more behold that much-loved place? He passed by Aigina, where his ancestor was once king—there might be kings in those days—his royal body lying in its sanctuary, surrounded by white marble walls. Strange the thought that for a moment glanced across his mind, that he might soon see that ancient king now a judge in Hades, but might never see his land again.

372He made first for the isle of Andros, where the inhabitants had revolted and received a Spartan garrison. He dispersed the native troops and the Spartan soldiers, who attempted to resist his landing, chased them through the island, posted an Athenian garrison at Gaurion, and left Konon, one of his best officers, with twenty triremes to reduce the capital; and then set sail for Samos, which became again his base of operations.

Almost immediately after he left Athens a signal tribute was paid to his military genius and strength. Agis had been watching him from Dekeleia, fuming at the insult of the procession that dared to pass almost beneath his eyes to Eleusis, and challenged him, as it were, to come out and try to stop it. He had remained safely shut up behind his walls as long as the conqueror was there. No sooner was he gone than he made an attack upon the city with 28,000 foot and 12,000 horse. On a dark night he surprised the outposts near the Keramik gate, massacred the guard, and had it not been for the system of vigilance which had lately been established, as far as we can see, the city must have fallen to the Spartan. The alarm was given. Torches beckoned from the Akropolis, and were answered by torches on the other heights. Athens was up in arms. Every citizen ran to the 373post which had been assigned to him. And thus, though Alkibiades was far away, it was his care and watchfulness which saved the town.

In the morning the people discovered Agis and his Lakedaimonians lying close to the walls. The cavalry rode right up to them, calling to the Athenians to come out and fight them. The Keramik gate suddenly opened, and as if still instinct with the life that Alkibiades had breathed into their souls, his horsemen charged the enemy, and drove them off. Next day the Athenian hoplites marched out, and took their stand before the walls. Agis attacked them in vain, and, covered by the archers and peltasts from the walls, the hoplites did some execution on the invading army. The Spartan Agis thought it wiser for the present to return to his fortress at Dekeleia.

By the time Alkibiades arrived at Samos events had happened that utterly ruined the hopes and plans which he had formed, and changed the course of Grecian history. Two fresh characters appeared upon the scene. The Spartans, when their informal overtures for peace had been rejected, set themselves vigorously to work to repair the damage done them by the crushing defeat at Kyzikos, and the subsequent loss of the support 374of Pharnabazos. They appointed Lysandros, the ablest of their rising men, to the command of the fleet, for they had need of an able commander at this crisis, and they saw not the depth of his designs.

Lysandros, who was the son of a poor descendant of an ancient family, and whose mother was a slave, cherished an ambition to rise above the hereditary kings of Sparta and all the other high-born Lakedaimonians, who scorned him for his poverty and his want of thorough breed. His one idea was to gain his ends by success in war, untouched by pity, and unmoved by any sense of honour, or by any of the nobler feelings of humanity. The fox, he said, can often gain his object where the lion fails. Oaths, he once declared, were made to deceive mankind. He had studied the career of Alkibiades, and tried to learn the secret of his success. Without the genius or generosity of the latter, and a stranger to his higher qualities, he was also without his weaknesses, or, if he had any of them, he carefully concealed them, that he might the better gain the ends to which he devoted all his life, and to which he sacrificed everything worth living for. While the one man renounced despotic power that he might the better serve his country, the other formed designs by which he might gain such power, even at the cost of his country’s ruin. 375The Fates ordained that at the time when Lysandros came to take up his command, the instrument by which he was endeavouring to work out his plan was coming from far off to meet him.

Kyros, the younger son of Dareios, King of Persia, a prince of high ambition, careless as to the means by which he might obtain his objects, and moved by an inveterate hatred of everything Athenian, had been appointed by his father to the supreme military command of Lydia, over the head of Tissaphernes. On the way to take up his command he met Mantitheos, and the other Athenian legates, who were travelling with Pharnabazos to his father’s court to negociate the terms of peace. If they once got there they might, with the help of Pharnabazos, who now inclined towards Alkibiades and an Athenian alliance, persuade the king to alter his policy, and to recall the powers with which Kyros had been invested, and so destroy the hopes and schemes which filled his head. The prince ordered the ambassadors to be given up to him. Pharnabazos protested in vain that they were sacred envoys. Kyros cared nothing for all that, and ordered them to be imprisoned, so that they should neither proceed to Susa nor return to Athens to report the failure of their mission.

376Kyros and Lysandros were necessary to one another. The new Spartan admiral, feeling the hopelessness of pursuing the war in the Hellespont without the assistance of the representative of Persia, turned his attention to the Ionian coast. From Sparta and her allies he collected a fleet of seventy ships, and sailed with them to Ephesos, where Athenian influence was weakest, and where he would be at the nearest point to Sardis, which Kyros had made his capital. He soon appeared at the young prince’s court. These two men became close allies; they suited and resembled one another. Lysandros laid before the Persian the needs of his country, and persuaded him to double the pay of the sailors of the Spartan fleet. Kyros showed the wondering Lakedaimonian the stores of gold he had brought with him for that purpose. By this means the Spartan fleet was restored to its old strength, and manned by the best sailors, who were drawn to it by the larger pay with which the admiral was now able to reward them. This fleet was lying ready for action at Ephesos, within a short distance of the port of Samos, when Alkibiades arrived in the island.

The new condition of affairs might well have discouraged one of less resources. The ground upon which he had been building crumbled beneath 377him. The very largeness of his fleet became a weakness to him; and his reputation, his almost unparalleled success, a cause of discontent. The object of his opponent in moving his station to the Ionian coast was twofold. It hindered the Athenians from getting their tribute and supplies from their tributary towns; and it enabled him to receive more readily the payment of the Persian subsidy. Alkibiades had reckoned upon the influence of Pharnabazos at any rate to stop any further payment to the Spartans. Without that payment he knew they would not long keep their fleet at sea. He now found the subsidy not only continued, but increased, while he could get scarcely anything with which to pay his sailors even the smaller wages he had promised them.

Instead, then, of attacking the enemy at once, he was obliged to lose time by employing his fleet in petty freebooting expeditions on the Karian coast. And when he had collected something in this way, he could not get the crafty foe to meet him in fair fight. In vain he brought out his ships, paraded them before Lysandros at Ephesos, and challenged him to come out and fight on equal terms. The fox was too wary to be caught. He knew that each day the enemy’s difficulties would increase, while he could tempt that enemy’s best 378sailors from him by the bribe of higher pay with Persian gold. Delay was what he wanted, not a hazardous engagement with the first commander in the world.

Not being able to entice the Spartan fleet to fight, Alkibiades determined to conquer, one by one, the Ionian towns which were in revolt. Leaving a portion of his fleet to blockade Lysandros in the port of Ephesos, under the command of a skilful sailor named Antiochos, who had been pilot of the Eros in the celebrated race in pursuit of Tissaphernes, with strict orders on no account to risk an engagement while he was away, but to keep the enemy shut up inside the harbour, he sailed for Phokaia. Thrasyboulos was already there, and they thought together to make a successful beginning of the final reduction of these rebellious dependencies.

Antiochos, whom he thus left behind, was an excellent sailor, and his chief, who had known him from boyhood, had no reason to suppose that he would disobey his orders. Unfortunately, he was one of those who mistake ambition for ability, and thought himself brave when he was only foolhardy. No sooner was his general-in-chief departed than, finding himself in unexpected power, he resolved to distinguish himself by fighting the Spartans. With only two triremes, he entered 379the port of Ephesos, rowed past the bows of the hostile fleet as it lay at anchor, and having by words and acts insulted Sparta and the Spartans, returned towards the rest of his ships, lying hard by in the Bay of Notion, imagining that he had done some valorous thing.

Lysandros, not believing that Alkibiades was really gone away, and thinking that this attack was but a ruse to draw him out, sent only a few swift ships to overtake and punish the lieutenant. The rest of the Athenian fleet came out to protect their temporary leader, and sailed in disorder towards Ephesos, not in close line, but one by one and anyhow. Then Lysandros knew the master was indeed gone, and hastened to take advantage of his absence. He met the Athenians in line, killed many of their men, amongst them the rash and disobedient Antiochos, took fifteen of their ships, and chased the others back to Samos. This victory at Notion was of itself of no very great importance to either side. But in its result it proved the most serious and fatal blow that had ever fallen upon Athens. To it we can trace, with certainty, her overthrow, the overthrow and final ruin of the most fascinating, and in some respects the greatest, people who have yet appeared upon the stage of the world’s theatre.

380As soon as Alkibiades heard of this misfortune, he set out for Samos, but the old difficulty, the want of money, made it necessary for him to tarry on his way. He visited Kyme, not far from Phokaia, to receive the tribute that was due. The inhabitants refused to pay. He landed some troops. The native soldiers came against him. He was obliged to chastise them, and collect the tribute they had failed to pay and some booty by way of penalty. Then he returned to Samos.

There he found his fleet with its prestige injured, its numbers lessened, the friend to whom he had entrusted it killed in the miserable engagement at Notion, and all his men disheartened and murmuring. He alone was not disheartened at this second blow. He landed, learnt the whole truth of the bad tidings, and embarked again, confident that, if he could only get the enemy to fight, he would soon wipe off the temporary disgrace which in his absence had come upon his men. With the remainder of the ships he sailed straightway to Ephesos, and dared Lysandros to come out and try which was the better fleet, the abler admiral. Lysandros, notwithstanding the superiority of his forces, thought it wiser not to meet the conqueror of Kyzikos, and remained in port and in safety.



‘Ingratitude, more strong than traitors’ arms,
Quite vanquished him.’
Julius Cæsar.

We must now return to Athens for awhile, and with amazement behold the people there when news of the affair of Notion reached them, and see a piteous spectacle,—one of the most piteous that is recorded in the pages of history,—an exhibition of the inconstancy, the childish instability, of this great people, for the sake of whom their greatest citizen had refused a crown.

Amid the shouting crowd that we lately saw welcoming back the man who had rescued and protected them, among the grateful mass who were ready to throw themselves and their cherished freedom at his feet, it must not be supposed he had no enemies. Quiet they were obliged to be while he was present, as the open enemies at Dekeleia had been constrained to be; but they were there, and the more the people shouted and adored, the more their jealousy and anger burned.

382At the head of them was Theramenes. He was one who had taken a foremost part among the odious four hundred. He was the first to desert them and turn against them when he saw their end approaching. He was the subordinate colleague of Alkibiades in the Hellespont. Under him he had fought, and commanded a division of the fleet with ability, and bravely attacked, and helped to repulse, the Persians on shore at Kyzikos. He returned with Alkibiades to Athens. But so great was the enthusiasm of the people for the greater hero that they had overlooked the smaller one, and he had been allowed to land unnoticed.

Besides the oligarchic enemies of the absent strategos there were other enemies of greater influence among the people, the fanatic demagogues and wily orators. These men either sincerely feared, or professed to dread, the power of such a favourite. They were not ignorant of the offer that had been made to him. They had good cause to think that, if he should accept the proffered dignity while he was still the idol of Athens, not all their arguments, nor all their eloquence, would be able to prevent or modify the despotism which they feared. These persons now made common cause with those of their usual opponents who hated Alkibiades. Both sets of foes together instilled their doubts into the 383people’s ears. The secret work was made more easy from the very power and reputation of the object of their hate and dread. One who had proved himself invincible and had beaten every foe on previous occasions must, they said, if he ever failed to win, have failed on purpose. If he delayed too long before he fought, he did so, they argued, from some hidden motive. Doubtless, they said, he who at Abydos and Kyzikos, with smaller numbers, had vanquished the combined power of Persia and Sparta, could, if he wished, with the larger fleet which they had given him, have long ago humbled the smaller force of Spartans alone and by themselves at Ephesos. The fact that he had not attempted to do this showed that he had some cause for letting the enemy escape. And why did he leave the fleet in the face of the Spartan admiral, and go off to Phokaia, where he was not wanted? Why had he left the main force of Athens, nearly all she had now to depend upon for protection, in charge of an inexperienced, unknown, ordinary pilot like Antiochos? Why did he let him engage the enemy, and lose so large a number of the ships which it had cost them so much expense and labour to fit out, and so many of their stalwart sons whom they could ill afford to lose? Were not these things proofs, they asked, of 384some ulterior motive, some secret dealing with the enemy, or some sinister design upon Athens?

To add to these covert suspicions artfully set afloat, a deserter at this time came from Samos,—one who had a private grudge against his general,—and made absurd and lying charges against him, which were listened to with eagerness by a crowd of politicians, ever on the watch for some new thing. And last of all came citizens from Kyme, complaining that, without cause, Alkibiades had attacked them while they were at peace with Athens, had slain their soldiers, and carried off, for his own profit, an enormous treasure.

It seems scarcely credible that these unproved, unfounded accusations could have been listened to and believed by a people like the Athenians, who had often shown clearness of vision in the management of their own affairs. In answer to the charge of delay it must have been pointed out that, as they had not provided pay for their large armament, the general was obliged to seek money where he could, and, while seeking it, could not blockade the enemy with all his force at Ephesos. The second charge refuted the first. He went to Phokaia, to begin with the subjugation of that important city the reduction of the faithless Ionian towns. He could not do more than leave as many 385ships as he could spare to keep up the blockade of the enemy at Ephesos. He could not do more than appoint one on whose obedience and discretion he had good reason to suppose he could rely to keep that fleet quietly on the watch while he was absent, and it was not his fault that his orders to that effect were not obeyed. And if a general was to be judged in his absence, without an opportunity of being heard, on the unsupported tale of a private soldier in his army, who had some fancied grievance, some dislike, occasioned by the necessary discipline of war, it might be asked, what general could long remain at his post or carry out his duties? We hear only of these complaints, nothing of the answers which must have been made by the friends of Alkibiades.

His enemies even dared to rake up the old stupid stories about the mutilation of the images and the profanation of the mysteries of Eleusis by him who had a few months before done such great service to both deities, and permitted the people to renew their solemn observances in their honour. As an instance of the kind of charges that were brought against him, we may notice it was seriously said that he was guilty of impiety in having dared to return in pomp to Athens on the day that the statues of Athene were being washed. Such were 386the kind of accusations the enemy could find to bring, such the charges to which the fickle people listened. They decreed the deposition of the warrior and statesman whom they had lately made absolute strategos of their forces; they elected ten others in his place, and ordered them straightway to Samos to assume their functions.

The new generals, with Konon at their head, found Alkibiades in the midst of busy preparations, determined, as soon as possible, and in spite of every obstacle, to wipe off the slight disgrace which, in his absence, the Athenian fleet had suffered.

On showing their credentials, he at once handed over his command to Konon, and immediately left Samos, and with him departed the fortune, the glory, and the liberty of Athens, as though she had become unworthy of these blessings. They did not deign to visit her again.

We who have followed the story of his life till now, and have endeavoured, as far as may be possible, after more than two thousand years have passed away, to gain some insight into the working of his soul; we who have seen him suffering under similar injustice, and know how these wrongs, and only these, could greatly stir his spirit, and change for a time a loyal and kindly nature 387into the fierce, relentless hatred of the wounded lion, may well expect the threats of vengeance, the cry of rage, the determination to undo the wrong, and punish the authors of his injuries. But whether it was that he was growing weary of this constant strife, or that years had softened his resentment and relaxed his care to battle longer with his secret foes; whether he began to think that the power and the glory which throughout his life had been hitherto his aim was, after all, not worth the fighting for; or whether his love for his country had grown so deep that he would do nothing that might injure it, we cannot tell. Certain it is he went upon his way, and, during the time which remained to him to live, showed no sign whatever of anger or resentment.

While he was in the Chersonesos two years before he had marked the beauty and commanding position of a high rock looking out over the Hellespont towards Lampsakos, where the straits are not much more than a mile across. Washed by the waves of the sea in front, the hillsides form a natural fortress on the north and west; the only approach lay over the stream called Aigos Potamoi, or Goat’s Rivers, which winds below the cliffs on the south, and empties itself hard by into the Hellespont. He saw what an impregnable stronghold 388might be erected there, and of what value it would be to Athens against an enemy who might attack the towns which he was rapidly receiving back to their allegiance. With his own private resources he planned and built a fortress on this almost inaccessible spot, and to this lonely tower he now retired with a few constant friends, some of whom we have seen before clinging to him in his exile. There, like Achilles, he stayed watching the turns of fortune, waiting to see how soon his countrymen, recovering from their blindness, would repent of their ingratitude.

The word ‘ingratitude’ is hardly strong enough to convey a complete idea of what their conduct had been to him; for, from the moment when he had gained the object of his fixed endeavour, and had been recalled to Athens, his ardent desire was to undo the injury he had done her in the past. He would never admit that he had acted wrongly to her in anything that he had done. If his vengeance was terrible, it had been deserved. She had brought her own chastisement upon herself. When she repented of her sin, and made atonement, his generosity had been aroused,—he pardoned her. He determined to take off the penalty he had inflicted on her, and which she was still paying. As far as one can pronounce as to what would have 389happened if this second crime had not been committed against him, he would have been able, if Athens had permitted it, to restore her to the position which she held before the war.

He had already begun his task. In spite of the unforeseen difficulties which the junction of Persian wealth with an unscrupulous Spartan’s skill had brought forth, one by one the Ionian towns would have fallen before him, as the towns upon the Hellespont had done. Each one recovered would have brought back a tribute-paying subject city, and given Athens that of which she stood in utmost need—the power to support her navy. The Spartans were shut up at Ephesos, and could be of no assistance to those whom she had tempted to revolt. When the other towns had been brought back to their duty to Athens, he intended to bring all his force to bear on Ephesos. Lysandros could not remain penned up there for ever. He must either come out and fight or surrender, and he had shown that he was afraid to leave the harbour while Alkibiades and the Athenian fleet were in those waters. The Persian would, before long, grow tired of paying for a fleet which was too timid or too weak to fight. Even the treasure brought by Kyros from his father must soon have been exhausted. 390And Dareios would send no more gold to be wasted on an ally who did nothing for it in return.

The Lakedaimonians were growing tired of the war. They had already attempted overtures for peace. The difficulty the Athenians felt in accepting the terms they proposed was that those terms included the condition that the Ionian cities should remain, as they then were for the most part, in the power of Sparta. As soon as they were recovered by Athens, the difficulty would have been removed; and the only other term which Athens must have insisted on had already been conceded by Sparta,—the evacuation of Dekeleia by king Agis. All would then have been in the same state as when Alkibiades had gone to Sparta, and told the Spartans what to do to humble Athens, and the great war would have ended without much damage done to either side.

These things which might have been,—and which he knew would have been, if he had been left alone to do them,—these things, and man’s ingratitude, he could now only muse upon in his high fortress on the Hellespont.



‘The grete kyng of Trace;
Blak was his berd, and manly was his face.
The cercles of his eyen in his heed
They gloweden bytwixe yolw and reed,
And lyk a griffoun loked he aboute,
With kempe herés on his browés stoute,
His limés grete, his braunes harde and stronge,
His shuldres brode, his armés rounde and longe.
       *        *        *        *
His lange heer was kembd byhynde his bak
As eny ravenes fether it schon for-blak.
       *        *        *        *
An hundred lordes hadde he in his route
Armed ful wel, with hertes sterne and stoute.’
Chaucer: Knight’s Tale.

To a man of active mind and determined courage it ever seems an unworthy thing to give way for long to sad musings and melancholy retrospections. Wherever Alkibiades was he must be doing something. If Athens would not let him do all he wished to do for her, he would still do what he could in spite of her.

He had before made friends with many of the 392Thrakian chiefs, who were always fighting among themselves. He now organized and trained a band of hardy savage warriors, some of whom had served under him in his last campaign against the Spartans; and before the spring came, while the deep snow was still upon the mountains, he was entreated by the Selymbrians to come to help them against the Kaini, who were menacing their territory. He felt bound to the Selymbrians; they had given way to him when he was in their midst, and had acknowledged the supremacy of Athens. They had, indeed, no particular claim upon him, but they were Greeks. An enterprise of this sort had some charms for him in his present humour; it might bring booty and many things of which he and his wild followers stood in need. He crossed the Holy Mountain, where the cold was so intense that the few Greeks in his band suffered severely and envied the Thrakians with their long fur coats and caps of foxes’ skins covering their heads and ears; and he drove the Kaini back to their savage mountain villages and away from the sea-coast, and protected Selymbria and the other Greek towns along the western shores of the Chersonesos.

Thence he was called back to the south. The Apsinthii, a tribe on the left bank of the 393Hebros, had crossed the river in their boats of wicker-work and skins, and were threatening the Odrysian king and the Grecian colonies in the south. Passing through Apri, he came to Kypaela, on the Hebros, in the territory of the Paeti, where he thought he might find a ford across the river. There was, however, no ford there, nor any bridge, and he had no boats. So he went up the bank of the river northward, and, crossing the Agrianes, a tributary of the Hebros, he reached, by the beginning of April, the main river again, nearly opposite the village where Plotinopolis was afterwards built. While he was engaged in searching for a ford two Thrakian horsemen, in fine costume, rode up, and made signs that they wished a parley with him. Amongst his wild band there were but few who knew much Greek, and the language of the new comers was different to the Thrakian speech to which he was accustomed; but he found at length one who was able, not without some difficulty, to act as an interpreter. The horsemen declared they were sent by Amadokos, king of the Odrysai, who was at his royal village on the other side of the river, a little higher up; they said the king, their master, desired to meet the Athenian general, and begged to invite him to a state banquet that day. They informed him that Amadokos claimed 394to be of the same race as the Athenians, and would make alliance with him, and give whatever pledges he demanded. They offered to show Alkibiades a ford higher up, where his horses might easily cross, and where he would find the king’s royal barge awaiting him.

The offer was accepted, and Alkibiades promised to meet the king at the ford that afternoon. One of the messengers returned with the answer to his master, the other stayed to act as guide. Great preparations were made in the camp of Alkibiades. The most presentable of his followers were arrayed in all their savage splendour. Their leader himself did not disdain to adorn himself in a dress suitable for the kingly presence, and appeared in his finest armour. Nor did he forget the gifts it was the custom for a guest to bring when dining with so great a personage.

Early in the afternoon they reached the ford. On the other side was the royal cavalcade, with trumpets and drums; and there, amid barbaric splendour, sat the king upon a white stallion with a lion’s skin upon its back. Two Thrakians swam the stream, guiding the horse of Alkibiades. The royal barge, a sort of flat-bottomed punt, was brought across for the leader, and when, not without some dread of submersion, he had taken 395his place in it, was pulled and pushed by naked servants of the king across the stream.

Alkibiades mounted his wet horse, and rode to greet Amadokos. Loud blasts from the trumpets sounded as they met. The king was serious and polite, with a high-bred, stately courtesy, mingled with an easy cordiality,—a natural politeness which more civilized people have somewhat managed to forget. He was evidently struck with the commanding appearance of his guest. As the one took the right hand of the other, something told each of them that he could trust the other.

For a king who boasted Athenian descent, or, at least, Athenian relationship, the Odrysian’s Greek was peculiar—certainly not Attik or Sophoklean. There was a strange jumble of Thrakian words mixed up with it; what few Greek verbs were used by him were sometimes declined in a way unheard before by the Athenian. Alkibiades could, however, from what of the Thrakian speech he knew, understand his host, as they rode off together talking of many things.

If the music at the meeting of the two distinguished men was loud, it was nothing compared with that which welcomed them as they were assisted to dismount from their horses, and entered the royal tent, where the banquet was awaiting 396them. And a strange banquet it was. At the end of the pavilion, on a raised platform, were set two small three-legged tables, as the place of honour for the king and his chief guest. All down the tent on either side were other smaller tripod tables. There were no couches to recline upon during the feast, but seats in which each guest sat upright at his table, in a manner altogether strange to one accustomed to the Grecian banquets. On every table were piles of baked meats of various kinds—venison, kid, and mutton—and large flat loaves of unleavened bread. When the blowing of trumpets was over, Amadokos, sitting down, invited his guest to be seated. Then, taking a large hunch of bread, and the choicest bits of meat from his table, he handed them to Alkibiades, who, seeing the other Thrakians do the same to their neighbours, handed some bread and the best pieces of meat to the king. The Thrakians then set to work vigorously, and ate their food voraciously, the monarch sending to his more honourable guests pieces from his own table so frequently that he had nothing for himself, except what Alkibiades presented to him.

As soon as they began to eat, young slaves brought in horns full of wine, and presented one to each guest, beginning with the king and Alkibiades. 397After the king had eaten and drunk a little, he rose, and, with a horn full of wine in his hand, turned towards Alkibiades, who, having learnt something of the customs of his entertainers, also rose with his wine-horn in his hands. They both drank of the fine strong Thrakian wine, but what was left in the king’s horn he poured over the dress of Alkibiades, who, though astonished at this unusual attention, saw it was intended to do him honour, and did the same to his host, pouring the remains of his wine over the garments of Amadokos. This mark of reciprocal goodwill so pleased the Thrakians that they leapt to their feet, and deafened the Greeks with their shouts of delight, but soon sat down again to many other horns of wine, which the slaves continued to supply unstintingly.

Agrestides now entered the tent followed by two Greek servants bearing a splendid Persian carpet which the Selymbrians had given to Alkibiades, and a golden amphora from Chios, chased with figures of Dionysos reclining and boys and girls gathering in the vintage and pressing the grapes. Alkibiades presented these gifts to the king, who received them graciously, while the Thrakians jumped up again, and shouted louder than before.

Musicians then came in, playing on curious shrill pipes and rude harps of seven strings, 398making amongst them a most strange, pathetic, wailing melody. To the cultured, musical ear of the Athenian the noise of the drums and trumpets of ox-hides had been painful. When a boy, he had utterly refused to learn the flute or flageolet, thinking it unmanly; but his love and knowledge of music were shown when he presented his liturgy at Athens, by the way in which his chorus had been trained under his care, and by the choric songs he had himself arranged. Now this savage music, in the minor mode, of the pipes and harps seemed sadly to recall something of old times long past, and to inspire a tender yearning as for something else unknown, indefinite, indefinable, and brought back thoughts of his own days that were gone by for ever, and sad memories of his wife, and of the friends whom he had lost.

These reflections were stopped by the sudden entrance of a troop of buffoons, whose antics, coarse and not too delicate, roused the loud laugh and noisy acclamation of the revellers, who by this time were getting not a little intoxicated with their wine. Then came a pantomimic show and dance. A warrior, laying aside his arms, represented a poor despised field-labourer, imitating his ploughing and his sowing, ever looking back while he laboured, as if in fear. A band of robbers rushed 399in, the peasant fought bravely for his plough and oxen, but in the end, amidst the braying of the ox-hide trumpets, he was bound and carried off in triumph. All this was played in time to the music of the pipes, and was meant to show the superiority of the caste of robbers and soldiers to the poor miserable tillers of the earth.

When the feast was over, Amadokos and Alkibiades, almost the only sober ones of the party, retired to the royal private chamber. The king told his guest that he had heard of his valour and invincible arms, and of his having overcome both Spartans and Persians combined at Kyzikos; and informed him that he himself was descended from Tereus, the ancient king of Thrace, who married Prokne, daughter of Pandion, the old king of Athens, and sister of Erechtheus, so that he, by ancestry, was of the same race as his guest. But now, he said, he was hard pressed by several of the neighbouring tribes, who were constantly invading his dominions and carrying off his people and their cattle. He promised Alkibiades that, if he would help him against some of these enemies, he would pay his men whatever was customary, and any booty they might take should belong absolutely to the victor.

Alkibiades agreed to do whatever he could 400against the Apsinthii, one of the most hostile and dangerous tribes. He promised to return next day and set off at once in pursuit of the dreaded enemy, who were reported to be at this time not far off on the western side of the river. Then, with many expressions of goodwill from the king, he went back to his camp, taking as many of his followers with him as were in a fit state to cross the river—a process which had a salutary effect upon some of them.

Next day Amadokos bade farewell to Alkibiades, who, with a force of nearly five hundred fighting men, two hundred of whom were mounted, again crossed the Hebros, and set out in search of the Apsinthii. After two days’ march he came up with that wild tribe as they were returning towards the river, encumbered with the flocks and herds and other treasure they had taken. He routed them without much difficulty, took their booty from them and some hostages, and drove them back across the Hebros. Some of the treasure and all the hostages he sent to his new ally, king Amadokos. When he was about to return to his fastness in the Chersonesos, an embassy arrived from the Greek colony of Abdera, further west, upon the southern coast, praying him to come to the help of that town against an unknown tribe from 401the north, supposed to be the dreaded Treballi. Abdera was not an Athenian colony, but it had submitted to Thrasyboulos two years before, and Alkibiades could not refuse the summons. With his strange followers, whose love of pillage could be with difficulty restrained, he marched westward through the hill country of the Bistones and the Chorpilli. The marauding tribe from the far north, more ferocious and stronger than any he had yet encountered, were laying waste the territory round Abdera, and threatening the town itself and other Grecian cities along the coast. They withdrew to the neighbouring hills as he approached. It was only after a long and difficult search that he discovered their stronghold, and succeeded in coming to close quarters with them.

He heard that they had made a fortified encampment on the summit of a densely-wooded hill nearly twenty miles to the north of Abdera, which they made use of as a sort of rude basis for their freebooting expeditions. Coming up to the foot of the rising ground, under cover of a dark night, he divided his cavalry into two divisions, posting one on the level plain to the north, the other to the south of the barbarians’ camp. His heavy-armed foot he placed in ambush on the western side where the wood was thickest.

402Before daylight, while the savage horde were sleeping off the effects of the last night’s carouse, he, with his light-armed peltasts, or sharp-shooters, stole up the hill on its steepest side, towards the east, and, reaching the rough palisades which the rude warriors had thrown round their camp, suddenly broke in upon them. The barbarians, roused from their sleep by this unexpected assault, finding their fort broken at a point where, from the steepness of the hill, they thought themselves secure, and exaggerating in their fear the number of their assailants, who raised the most fearful shouts and yells as they rushed in, retreated from their high camp, after a faint resistance, and rushed, wherever they could find a way of escape, pell-mell down the hill. Those, the majority, who took the north side, as well as those who in their hurry chose the south, were despatched by the horsemen waiting for them on the plain below. Others, as the day broke, seeing the slaughter of their friends, made for the wood on the west, and were either taken prisoners or slain by the heavy-armed foot, who were there in ambush expecting them.

Alkibiades found a camp deserted by all except the women, who were chiefly those whom they had carried off from the villages round about; though the chiefs had brought a few with them from their 403own country. He gave the camp up to pillage, and, gathering the women together, he and Agrestides stood guard over them. His rude soldiers could not understand this. Satiated with the plunder they found, they hoped for a further reward. It was only by the voice and sword of the leader and his faithful friend that the otherwise defenceless prisoners were protected. The women who were natives of the country he sent to their homes with gifts; the women of the chiefs of the invading ruffians he kept as hostages. The prisoners taken were found to be men of gigantic size, and so hardy that no fatigue seemed to affect them. He confessed they would have been indeed formidable foes if they had been well armed and disciplined.

Thus he rescued Abdera from her terrible enemy. He also gave the people of that town some wise advice as to preparations for defending themselves, if others of that ferocious tribe, as was not improbable, should come at some future time upon them when he was not there to help them. This advice the citizens of Abdera remembered when it was too late. A few years afterwards the Treballi poured down again from their mountains in the north, and destroyed the effeminate inhabitants.

In return for what he had done for them, the citizens provided him with pay for his followers, 404and ships to transport them to the Chersonesos. He arrived at his fortress at the end of the summer, with the spoils of his barbaric enemies and considerable gifts and treasure, the marks of the gratitude of Grecian cities. He now paid off his men, and sent most of them as valuable auxiliaries to his friend Amadokos, who was still at war with his northern enemies, bargaining only that they should return to him whenever he might need their services.

Amadokos entreated him to come himself to lead his forces, but Alkibiades had other objects in view, and higher hopes than perpetual tribal warfare amongst the Thrakians. The king received this important assistance with expressions of eternal gratitude, and promised to come to fight with him against the enemies of Athens, if at any time the Athenians, his relations, might require his aid.



‘The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.’

The loss of Alkibiades was soon felt at Athens. Konon, in the spring of 406, through mismanagement, lost thirty ships in an action against the Lakedaimonians near Lesbos. He retreated into the port of Mytilene with the rest of his fleet, and there found himself caught in a trap by the Spartans, and completely shut up both by land and sea. Two ships alone escaped to carry the news of the disaster and perilous position of the general and his fleet to Athens. The Assembly decreed that a new fleet must by all practicable means be raised and sent to rescue the blockaded general at Mytilene. Every old hulk was furbished up, every craft that could possibly be made use of was pressed into the service of the state. In a month one hundred ships were ready, manned by 406old and young. The lowest classes, as well as the highest, were enlisted. Knights, and even slaves, were made to go on that final and most fatal expedition. The cloud of fate hung over it, the great gods hated it from the beginning.

Facing Lesbos, and close to it, are three small islands, then called the Arginousai. Thither in July the new fleet came. Kallikratidas, who commanded the Lakedaimonians, leaving fifty ships to keep up the blockade of Konon and his armament at Mytilene, foolishly engaged the new Athenian fleet with inferior numbers. During the action the Spartan admiral was drowned. The Spartans fled, the Athenians followed them, and took or destroyed more than sixty of their vessels. But all was of no avail. That last victory was the final blow by which the overthrow of the Athenian state was consummated; the prowess of its sons was as the lurid ray of an angry setting sun before a night of utter gloom.

The generals were charged with having, in the ardour of the pursuit, neglected their sacred duty to the wounded and drowning sailors, whose hands, the accusers said, were in vain uplifted to them, praying to be rescued from the waves. The people of Athens had been brought, through their misfortunes and their exhausting struggle, to a 407condition of delirious tension. Their feelings were strung to such a pitch that they could be worked upon with ease by designing enemies. The oligarchic faction took advantage of the opportunity. To them, anything which might weaken the existing order of things was a gain, even if it involved the slavery of Athens. The victory at Arginousai was unwelcome news to these men. The alleged inhuman and impious conduct of the generals after the fight was eagerly laid hold of by them. It gave them the means of nullifying the effect of the success, and of getting rid of the only able officers left to Athens. With these intriguing politicians were now, for this same purpose, combined the demagogues, who were not displeased at finding an excuse for attacking men in the high position of the generals.

The people heard with dismay and indignation a highly-coloured tale of dying and dead seamen and soldiers abandoned to their fate. On the same day, and at the same sitting of the Ekklesia, they thanked the generals for the victory they had gained, and dismissed them from their offices at this time of peril, ordering them to return at once to Athens.

Two of them fled, one died, the rest came back. Then, worked upon by many an artifice, by which the designing and unscrupulous knew how to mislead 408the people, the Assembly, without proper trial, and without even jurisdiction to try the cause, sentenced them to death. As far as we can judge from the evidence on either side, it seems that the accused men had done everything in their power, consistent with their duty to the state, to save the shipwrecked and the dying. Theramenes, who, if anyone, was guilty of neglect of this duty, which had been specially imposed on him—Theramenes, the evil genius of the time, who always comes upon the scene when there is anything particularly evil to be done, became, to save himself, the principal accuser. All of those in whose breasts the old Athenian love of justice and fair trial burned felt the degrading iniquity of the proceedings and the sentence. But, so low had Athens fallen from her old estate, they dared not raise their voices in protest against the deed, lest perchance they might be involved in the like fate. There was one left who cared not for the consequence of doing right, for the peril of refusing to take part in the wrong. Sokrates alone, as if prophetic of his own doom too soon to come, denounced the violation of the law.

Six of the generals, including Thrasyllos, to whom the people owed so much, and the son of Perikles and Aspasia, were poisoned. Thus 409the transient success at Arginousai robbed the Athenians of those who might still have done something towards saving them.

We have seen how at this time Alkibiades was helping his fellow-countrymen in Thrace. Nor was Lysandros idle. With the assistance of his friend Kyros, in a year’s time he was able to raise the Spartan fleet to more than its wonted strength. In September, 405, he appeared at the head of one hundred and twenty triremes before Lampsakos, which was still held by an Athenian garrison. He was soon followed by Konon and five other generals with one hundred and eighty ships, the last fleet which Athens had sent out having been increased by the vessels of the enemy she had captured off the Arginousan islands the year before. But they came too late for the relief of Lampsakos. It had already fallen. So they crossed the Hellespont, and anchored at the mouth of the Aigos Potamoi.

It is difficult to understand how anyone with any knowledge of naval tactics could have chosen to anchor in that unsheltered place, with an enemy so near at hand. Ships of war at that time were constructed to carry men rather than provisions, so that, except on short cruises, the crews were obliged to land day by day to obtain their daily food. There was no town near the 410station the generals had chosen where they could procure anything. They had to leave their ships and go some way inland, or along the coast, to buy such things as they were constantly in need of.

From his fortress Alkibiades saw the arrival of the Lakedaimonians, followed later by the Athenians. He watched the siege of Lampsakos, which he had taken from the enemy; he saw it fall again into the hands of that same enemy. He saw his countrymen approach the base of his high rock, and take up a position where, if they should be attacked, they must inevitably be destroyed. To him, with his quick perception, and with the experienced eye of a strategist, it appeared a token of mere madness in the commanders to have selected such a spot. His first impulse was to leave them there to take the consequence of their stupidity. But there were serving under them many whom he had himself commanded in past years, who had fought bravely under him, and with whom he had shared dangers, men whom he loved and had often led to victory. He was acquainted with the skill and cunning of Lysandros, and the cat-like cruelty of his nature. He saw him preparing for a final blow. He could stand by no longer, nor restrain his compassion for his 411country and his old comrades-in-arms, whose lives were every moment in such jeopardy, and who, if he did not interfere, must soon be slaughtered through the incapacity of those who led them.

With a great effort, which cost him very much, for it laid his proud soul open to rebuff, he mounted his Thrakian mare, and, tearing down the narrow road which led from his tower to the plain, as fast as she could carry him, lest his pride might make him change his resolution, he rode through the camp, and up to the tent of the six generals. He showed them the various objections to the station they had selected—how Lysandros must destroy them if he came upon them in that perilous position, as assuredly an admiral of his experience would endeavour to do. He offered to lead them himself against the enemy. They would not listen to him.

Then he prayed them by all that they held dear—the great interests of Athens concentrated on that final armament—at least to seek shelter in the neighbouring port of Sestos. ‘There,’ he said, ‘you will find secure anchorage, and markets where your crews can obtain all they want near at hand, and you can await the enemy’s attack in safety, or, when you see your opportunity, strike a blow at them.’

412‘We are in command now, not you,’ was the reply of one of them. They bade him go about his business, nor dare to approach the Athenian lines again.

He went back slowly through the camp, an outcast, treated as an enemy. Some of his old friends and comrades recognised him, and sorrowfully followed him as far as they might go. Stopping to look back as he ascended his rugged hill, he saw the vast collection of war vessels lying quietly at anchor in ignorant security. He could see many an old friend among them. He knew some of them by name. Amongst them he discovered his old ship, his own Eros, patched up to do battle for the state once more. How many reminiscences came over him! He thought of the gladsome voyage he had once taken on her to Ephesos, in the heyday of his youth and splendour, when the god of love was emblazoned on her purple sails, and of the sorrowful tidings which met him as he came back home again, and made him pause and meditate a little upon life in the midst of its enjoyments. How many another expedition in her had turned out sorrowfully! He recalled how, decked with the red roses of a hot July, she had borne him off to Sicily, amid the cheering of the fickle people; how she had been taken away from him at Thurii, and how he had found his old companion again 413at Samos. How many pleasant places they had journeyed to together, and how many fights and triumphs they had shared! How well and steadfastly that good old ship had served him, always true and constant; and there it lay, a thing grown old! Would to the gods men were as true as masts and timber! Then he rode sadly up the steep hill, and reached his solitary fortress.

At least he had done what in him lay to save his country. And, as Athens had dealt with him before, so her degenerate servants had dealt with him that day, treating him with contumely and insult. It seemed worse to them that he should gain the meed of glory by their acting on his counsel than that the state should come to ruin by their rejecting it.

Five days afterwards, on the last day of September, at noon, the Athenian fleet lay unsuspectingly in the same position. The crews had gone to Sestos to buy food; the soldiers were dispersed foraging about the country. From his watch-tower Alkibiades beheld a single Lakedaimonian vessel leave the harbour of Lampsakos and cross the straits, followed at some distance by another ship. Then on a shield raised high upon her mast he saw the sunlight glisten. A similar flash was passed on, reflected in like way, by the second ship to those 414in port. He comprehended all its meaning. A sign had been sent that the Athenian fleet was left unguarded. He saw the Spartan ships come out silently and swiftly, and he saw Lysandros pounce upon his prey. Some of the deserted ships had one man on board, some two, some none at all. He saw the Spartans leap into them, cut their hawsers and their rigging, and move them away without resistance. Konon raised an alarm, and escaped with nine triremes. The sacred state ship, the Paralos, which was under better discipline and better guarded than the others, also escaped. That was all that was left out of a fleet of near two hundred vessels.

The Spartan hoplites, in their red tunics, landed in the bay, took possession of the camp, and as the Athenian soldiers, hearing the trumpet-call, returned, they were taken, one by one, as in a trap. The Lakedaimonians lost not a single man.

Thus an army of over three thousand soldiers fell into the hands of a remorseless enemy. The whole of those three thousand fighting men, taken as prisoners of war, were, by the orders of Lysandros, murdered deliberately in cold blood. From the scene of carnage we would fain turn away our eyes, as did the Athenian in his lofty tower, his heart bursting with helpless rage.



‘Negli occhi era ciascuna oscura e cava,
Pallida nella faccia, e tanto scema
Che dall’ ossa la pelle s’informava.
‘Non credo che così a buccia strema
Eresitone fosse fatto secco,
Per digiunar, quando pin n’ebbe tema.’
Dante: Purg., xxiii.
‘In eyes was each one hollow and obscure,
Pallid in face, and oh! so meagre grown,
That from their bones the skin took form.
‘I don’t believe that to such utter rind
Erisichthon by famine was dried up,
When he had greatest dread of it.’

So ended the great Athenian war. It had been a duel between the two great states, not a war of the Peloponnesos. The Peloponnesos, with the exception of Laconia and one or two allies, had little to do with it. The Argives had been for Athens rather than against her,—or, at least, they had been for Alkibiades, except for a short time at Miletos, when he beat them, and they soon resumed 416their allegiance to him. This is a strange instance of individual character attracting, not another person or party merely, but a whole state.

With the ending of the war we could wish to end this tale, but it must follow its hero for a little space. With the war ended the Athenian Republic. The people were not what they had been. Their light had flared up too brightly, and was going out. Aischylos had gone some time before; Euripides, despairing of his country, had abandoned it, and died a year before the closing scene; Sophokles died in this year of calamities. Only the comic genius survived for a time, to laugh at the follies of the dying grandeur. The greater artists of Athens were gone, her statesmen were departed. When the Paralos brought the news of the loss at Aigos Potamoi, the groans of those who first heard of it at the Peiræus were echoed by the guards all up the road which led to Athens, along which we lately saw a procession pass in triumph. Byzantion soon fell. Lesbos, Chalkedon, Sestos submitted. The rest of the dependencies of Athens turned away from her. All the Athenians whom Lysandros found in any of them he ordered back to Athens, with what object we shall soon behold. Having quickly undone the long and painful work of 417Alkibiades, he arrived by the end of October with his fleet before the port of Athens, and blockaded it. Agis and Pausanias, the kings of Sparta, with their allies, besieged it by land. Boiotians, Megarians, all her old enemies, were let loose upon her.

Month after month the siege went on. All supplies of food by land and water were cut off. The people from the numerous towns connected with Athens had been driven into the city, to add to the number of the starving. The citizens, with all this added host, were reduced to the last pinch before they would show any sign of yielding. At length they consented to send deputies; but the conditions proposed on either side were such that neither party would consider them.

The famine came on with steady steps. The people said they would die of hunger rather than accept humiliating terms. The Assembly passed a law, with heavy penalties, that none should speak of peace. This was at the closing of that fatal year.

The famine was drawing closer. Hitherto it had been only the poor who had been caught by it, but now the rich suffered also. Theramenes was the first to break the new-made law. He was allowed to approach Lysandros—not to 418mention peace, of course, only to endeavour to find out what it was the Spartans wanted. He stayed away two months.

The famine was now king of Athens, dealing death out right and left on all classes, quite promiscuously, making little distinction between rich and poor, caring, it seemed, nothing at all for democrats or oligarchs. When Theramenes at length came back, he brought small consolation. He could not, for the life of him, make out what it was the Spartans wanted. He was sent back to make peace on any terms.

Then, at length, he found out what it was she and her allies did really want. He found them in session deliberating on the doom of Athens. A Theban deputy, speaking for the Boiotians, demanded that the Athenians should be slaughtered man by man, or sold as slaves; that the walls of Athens and all her splendid temples and public buildings should be destroyed, and that grass should be sown where she had stood. The Korinthians concurred in this demand. The pride of Athens in her days of glory made them forget what she had done for them in times of trouble. Sparta alone remembered it, and she could recollect it because it served her purpose to remember it. She declared that a city which had once deserved 419so well of Greece must not be utterly destroyed. She wanted to reduce it to dependency upon herself, not to crush it. She wished to make a subject-city of Athens, with a Spartan garrison and a military governor ruling as her Viceroy. The other states did not want that. It would have made Lakedaimon as strong, and perhaps much more offensive than Athens had ever been.

So they agreed upon a compromise, and settled the terms upon which peace might be given her. The fortifications of the Peiræus must be dismantled, the arsenals destroyed, the long walls, which she had built and cherished as her great security, must be pulled down. She must renounce all her possessions, own nothing out of Attika, give up her fleet, except such few ships as Lysandros might permit her to retain, and make alliance with Lakedaimon.

When Theramenes brought these terrible, heart-rending terms and read them out before the Assembly in the Pnyx, first an awful silence fell upon the multitude, then sobs were heard, then someone rose on tottering legs to utter a weak protest. A few others tried to speak against them, muttering that a people such as they were should hold out still, and should die within the 420walls, rather than yield on such terms. But hunger had done its work. Theramenes was sent once more to Lysandros to tell him that the gates of Athens stood open to his forces.

On an April day in 404, at the head of the allied armies, Lysandros made his entry into Athens. The last insults were inflicted on the miserable, vanquished citizens. Rude Spartan soldiers, dancing clumsily to the music which their women played upon their pipes, looked on and jested while free-born Athenians were made to toil with pick and spade at the destruction, stone by stone, of the strong defending walls.

The proud people had not yet reached the end of all their punishment and degradation. There was a secret clause in the terms of the capitulation which Theramenes had not thought it necessary to mention publicly, but which had been agreed upon between him and Lysandros,—one to which Theramenes, at least, did not object. As soon as the Spartans had made themselves masters of the city and the Akropolis, a meeting of the people was held, as usual, in the Pnyx, as though they were still a self-governing democracy. An agent of Theramenes, following the private convention made with the conqueror, contended before the Ekklesia that the people had shown 421itself unapt to manage the great affairs of state, and that its inconstancy had brought them to their present lamentable plight; and he suggested that it would be better, for the present, to make over the direction of its affairs to a chosen body of thirty of the wisest citizens.

The Athenians had lost their walls, their dependencies, their fleet,—all that could make them great and glorious; but they had not yet lost the semblance of their freedom: they had their Assembly. They declared they would never part with that. Who could tell but that some day fortune might return again, and bring back something of what they had thrown away? As long as they had their constitution, they might at least imagine that they were free; and when the dark time passed away, they would still have the Ekklesia in which to make their own laws and choose their own rulers, as in the past. They remembered the condition of the city when the four hundred were in power. It might be even worse if the whole government were in the hands of but thirty untried, possibly ambitious, men,—friends of such well-known and distrusted oligarchs as Theramenes. They rejected the proposal with indignation.

Lysandros was watching them. His sanguinary 422will was law in what had been free and stately Athens. He solemnly counselled the people to accept the proposed new constitution. He let them know that his counsel, if it was not accepted, would become something more urgent. A fresh session of the Ekklesia was called; the late decision was reversed. The people, under compulsion, voted themselves and their power away. Theramenes and twenty-nine other persons named by him were elected and had authority given them to reform the constitution.

The reforms made by the Thirty consisted chiefly in the murder of those who ventured to differ from them. They excelled the Four Hundred in their crimes. When Lysandros went off with his fleet for a short time to carry on the siege of Samos the people threatened to rise against their tyrants. Kritias, who now took the most active part amongst the thirty—Theramenes being too timid—sent in haste to the Spartan admiral for help against his outraged countrymen. Spartan soldiers were sent to prop up the usurpers and to disarm the people. Kritias was kept in power for a time by Spartan hoplites quartered in the Akropolis, who menaced the unarmed citizens from the sacred Parthenon.

The reign of terror that ensued, when lists 423were opened on which all friends of the governing Thirty might write the name of him whom, for any reason, they might wish put out of the way, has had its counterpart once or twice since in the history of the world. The details are always much the same. Those who perished were the most worthy, the men who had done most for the state, and deserved most from it, or else those whose wealth made their death a thing to be desired by those who would share the plundering of it. The number of the slain in a short time exceeded fifteen hundred. The estates and all the belongings of the victims were taken by those who were their accusers, judges, and executioners.

As is usual in such cases, the tyrants before long began to be suspicious of each other. Theramenes was the first to go. He got frightened. He ventured to point out to his colleagues that their excesses might, in the end, shorten their reign. That was enough. His conduct when a member of the old Four Hundred was not forgotten. Kritias accused him of treachery. He charged him, amongst other things, with having deserted the drowning men at the battle of Arginousai, and of having falsely thrown the odium of that desertion on the other generals, and of thus causing them to be unjustly sentenced. Theramenes made a 424spirited defence. Kritias, taking credit to himself for extraordinary patriotism and self-abnegation in sacrificing to his country this great friend of his, cut him short, called in the eleven Prison Commissioners, and ordered him off to death. He was dragged from the altar where he sought refuge, and carried through the town protesting against his fate, which few thought undeserved.

This Kritias was the Kritias we know so well in the Platonic dialogues. There seems to have been a strange medley in his nature, and it is an instance of the fidelity of the portraits drawn in those dialogues that, when Sokrates, himself an ardent oligarch by conviction all his life, raised his voice against the iniquities of the thirty oligarchs, Kritias spared his master’s life.



‘Why should we toil alone,
       *        *        *        *
Still from one sorrow to another thrown,
Nor ever fold our wings,
And cease from wanderings.’

The people soon repented of their conduct to Alkibiades. Not long after they drove him away, when Konon was beaten near Mytilene, we begin to hear the murmur growing more distinct—‘Had he been there, this would not have happened.’ Some at first believed the old fables that were told about him. Some thought he would try to make himself despotic. But these suspicions gradually died away. The desire for his wise counsel, and his strong generalship, growing as disaster followed on disaster, came to its fulness during the terrible siege. And as death and famine stalked about among the people, and their dear ones died in cruel agony before their eyes, while they awaited their own turn in consuming, 426gnawing hunger, and it at last was plain to those who were still left alive what must be the conditions by which alone death could be avoided, we can still, in imagination, hear the cry of impotent remorse sounding loud amongst all the other vain regrets of men throughout the ages—sorrow, contrition, repentance, anger with those who had misled them, and regret come too late.

Then in the reign of terror, in the year of anarchy, as the greatest fell, not now by famine nobly suffered, but by the sword and poison of their countrymen, who, encouraged by an enemy encamped within the citadel and holy places, in Athens trampled on Athenians, all within the city, except the Thirty and their creatures and the enemy, were ever casting longing, but forlorn and hopeless, eyes towards that fortress on the Hellespont where they believed their former saviour dwelt.

The Thirty were not ignorant of this desire among their indignant subjects. They trembled at the thought of what Alkibiades even yet might do. Neither were the Spartans certain of the fruits of their victory while their old opponent was alive.

One of the first acts of the thirty tyrants after coming into power was to decree his banishment. They proceeded to confiscate all his estates in 427Attika. They had some cause for their apprehension. In the early winter, during the siege of Athens, unable to hold himself aloof from what was going on, and knowing that he would be the next object of the hatred of the Spartans, Alkibiades had left his stronghold in Thrace, crossed over into Phrygia, and sought out Pharnabazos at Daskylion. They had exchanged oaths of mutual friendship and hospitality. Alkibiades believed that he could trust the Persian satrap, and, indeed, he was in want of faithful supporters at that time. His soul was set in tumult at the thought of his native city being about to fall into the hands of Spartans and Boiotians. He could not rest while it was in his power to help her. The satrap had been a noble foe; it might be that he would become a generous friend. At least, he was not a partisan of Sparta or of the young Kyros.

Alkibiades was courteously received at Daskylion by Pharnabazos, who had long admired him for his prowess and extraordinary skill in war. In a short time the peculiar attraction which had drawn all the hearts which he had ever tried to win was felt by his new friend.

Just as he had been before the intimate associate of Tissaphernes, so now he soon became the constant companion and counsellor of the satrap of the 428Propontis. To compensate him somewhat for the loss of his patrimonial estates in Attika, Pharnabazos, with Eastern magnificence, gave him the annual revenue of Grunion, a town in Mysia, on which he might have lived in ease and Asiatic luxury, as Themistokles had done before him. To most people, indeed, to everybody else, the state of Athens looked as if it was beyond all cure. Nothing could well appear more utterly forlorn than her then condition; nothing more hopeless than the prospect of recovering her freedom.

While he was at the court of Pharnabazos he heard of the death of king Dareios Nothos, and the succession of his eldest son Artaxerxes. He knew the character and ambition of Kyros, the late king’s younger son, and suspected that he was plotting deeply with Lysandros against his brother. He found that Kyros was collecting an army from among the Greeks of the Ionian towns, enlisting especially the Spartans. This could not be without some hidden object; and no doubt the object was to levy war against, and attempt to overthrow, the king, his elder brother. To Alkibiades this opened a fresh opportunity. There was no salvation for his country to be found in Greece. The thought came suddenly upon him one night, when he was pondering on these things, to seek 429help from the Persian king. Lysandros and the Spartans were bound to stand by their ally, the crafty Kyros, to whom they owed so much, and from whom they might require more. With Persian gold he might recruit an army of experienced Athenian hoplites and Argive peltasts, meet at last on equal terms the cunning Spartan leader, avenge the slaughter of three thousand fellow-countrymen slain at Aigos Potamoi, and punish the destroyer of his country’s liberty.

Then why not set out at once and at all hazards for the Persian capital, see the new king himself, be the first to disclose to him the danger that was threatening him from his own family, show him the number and the strength of the army of the Grecian colonists that was being drawn together by Kyros, offer to lead against them the royal forces and the picked Greek band which with Persian aid might easily be raised, and rid the king of this unworthy and treacherous brother? His fame had penetrated into Asia; his name was well known at Susa and Babylon, the Persian capitals. What might he not become at the court of the Great King—he who had never lost a battle, or failed to gain the love and admiration of anyone whose affection he was anxious to obtain? Then, having roused 430up the wrath of Artaxerxes against the Lakedaimonian allies of the unnatural Kyros, and gained his confidence and gratitude, what might he not accomplish at the head of a well-trained army?

Already he could fancy himself, victorious over Lysandros, Spartans, and Boiotians, over all his country’s enemies, entering once more triumphant into Athens, to end his days in peace and happiness, dealing out just laws to his emancipated countrymen.

Such was his dream. By degrees he unfolded his hopes and fears to Pharnabazos, and persuaded him to give his help in this great and difficult adventure. The satrap, too, could see visions rising up before him of even greater splendour than that which he had so long enjoyed. To be associated with one like this Grecian warrior in saving the king, his master, from treachery and treason must surely be rewarded by the highest honours that the king could possibly bestow. There was a possibility of even greater things, if anything unforeseen should happen to the king, and Kyros should be discomfited by this invincible Greek general; while if the contemplated mission failed, Kyros and his Spartan allies need never know the part that he had taken in it.

431With a sufficiency, then, of Persian gold, and the safe-conduct of the satrap, Alkibiades set out late in the autumn, accompanied by Timandra and by the faithful Agrestides. The route to Babylon, the capital, where the king generally lived, was long and mountainous. At least three months, they expected, would be taken on the way.

They started from Daskylion with many expressions of eternal friendship on the part of their host, and making first for Azani and Synnada, they passed along the base of the range of Olympos, the northern boundary of Phrygia.

Pharnabazos had insisted on their taking an escort with them—at least, on the first part of the way; for he had to admit that the mountainous portions of his viceregal dominions were infested with robber tribes. The escort was almost as fierce, and to some of the party as terrible, as the robbers they came to scare away; and, when the open plain was reached by the banks of the Rhyndakos, the country looked so peaceable that Alkibiades sent the escort back with a large reward and a warm message of thanks to his generous friend.

The small party were not sorry to be relieved of their noisy and warlike protectors, who were too fond of displaying their extraordinary horsemanship 432and their deftness with their swords to the detriment of one another. In the still autumn weather everything on that fertile plain breathed of calm and peace, as though the hard work of the year was finished. So they journeyed on quietly, and with as little fuss as possible, for Alkibiades was anxious, as they got further south, and approached the territories of Kyros, to avoid the larger towns and the notice of the inhabitants. He had no wish for another sojourn in the castle of Sardis.

They reached Azani a week after they left Daskylion. Timandra would fain have rested there a little, being somewhat tired by the journey, but the leader said they must push on to a more secluded place and rest themselves there, before they set out upon the long and unknown road to Babylon. They started again almost immediately for Synnada, the next town of any importance which they must make for. Three days’ good travelling, with the lofty Dindymon upon their left, brought them at last to Synnada.

He had been thus far on the road from the Ionian coast before, and when staying at Magnesia with Tissaphernes, he had become the owner of a little villa, or Persian country house, near the village of Melissa, some five miles from the marble quarries of Synnada. For, some time previously, 433when tired of the life he was leading at the satrap’s court, and not knowing how long it might be before he was recalled to Athens, he had explored some distance into the interior of the land which we call Asia Minor, and coming suddenly upon this villa, he was struck with the beauty of the woods and hills around it, and had fixed upon the small country place as a spot to which he might retire with a friend, if need be, far from the bustle of the world, and where he might end his days in peace. Like many other energetic and ambitious men, he longed at times to be rid of his constant anxieties, and to enjoy a period of rest. The house he had chosen stood some way from the high-road which leads from Synnada to Metropolis. He had enlarged and improved his small domain, and had there been honoured by the presence of Tissaphernes, who came to visit him on one occasion when he, too, was tired of excess of luxury, and wanted to exchange the pleasures of his court for the undisturbed companionship of his bosom friend. At the end of that visit the satrap presented the small domain to his friend, made him come back with him to Magnesia, and Alkibiades, having been called away soon afterwards to Samos, had not seen since then his rural, calm retreat.

434The travellers reached this place at the end of September. Timandra was enraptured with the charms of the lovely spot, and was for making Alkibiades stay there altogether and give up his great enterprise, letting kings and republics go their way, and resting there in peace for ever, without troubling himself more about the rights and wrongs of struggling men and women.

There was much indeed to make him loath to leave the pleasant scene, for it was very beautiful, and the journey before him was full of dangers and fatigues in unknown lands. He would first have to get as best he could to Ikonion by Mount Paroreios, more than a hundred miles away. Thence he would be obliged to journey south to cross the great Tauros chain by the high and dangerous pass to Tarsos on the sea-coast; then, after skirting the Mediterranean, to strike across Syria and North Arabia to the wide Euphrates; and then, perhaps, if the king was not at Babylon, to cross that river and the Tigris, and proceed to Susa.

All this was an unknown world to him. He and Agrestides must go alone,—perhaps never to return, and he might possibly end his life in a Persian dungeon, or leave his body on some mountain pass. However, he must not give way to foolish 435fears; he had gone through greater perils many times before, and a vista of fresh adventures, larger successes, opened up before him, ending ever with the attainment of the one fixed object of his thoughts and his desire—the liberation and the final triumph of his country.



‘Usque adeone mori miserum est? * * *
       *        *        *        *
Descendam, magnorum haud unquam indignus avorum.’
Virgil: Æneid.
‘Is it, then, so very sad a thing to die?
I will descend, and ne’er unworthy prove
Of you, my mighty ancestors.’

Three months before the departure of Alkibiades from the court of Pharnabazos, Kritias had sent secret messages to Lysandros warning him of the growing feeling of regret among the Athenian people for the loss of their late strategos. He reminded the Spartan admiral that it was the part of a wise man never to despise the aspirations even of the abject—for Kritias still prided himself on his philosophy—and hinted that as long as the dreaded opponent of both of them was alive, the foolish people would continue to aspire. And who could tell, he added, what such a one as that might do?

437Even Lysandros, the assassin of three thousand valiant soldiers, prisoners of war, shrank from the suggestion when he understood the full meaning of the missive of the philosophic Kritias. Even he would rather not, if he could help it, stain his hands deeper, and in the blood of such a one as Alkibiades. Lysandros was himself, on his father’s side, sprung of heroic ancestry. He too was of the Herakleidai. He might massacre three thousand common soldiers, but he hesitated, and almost refused, to take a part in an act such as that which was suggested to him. He sent back an ambiguous answer.

Then Kritias wrote straight to the Ephors at Sparta. The influence of one whose power they knew so well was as much dreaded by them as by any of the Thirty; while to King Agis, the thought of revenge on his old enemy, his hated rival, was indeed sweet. The Ephors sent a peremptory order to Lysandros to compass, by all means, and speedily, the death or capture of the object of their fears. Lysandros dared not dally any longer with their command. He knew that Alkibiades was living at the court of Pharnabazos. He heard of the influence he was exercising over the satrap, an abler man than Tissaphernes, and of the splendid provision that the satrap had already made for him. 438He was in some doubt as to how Pharnabazos would act, but he sent a copy of the Ephors’ order to Daskylion, with a strong request to take immediate steps to carry out the Ephors’ wishes, adding a warning that any disregard of this request would be held to be conduct hostile to Sparta, as well as to Prince Kyros.

Pharnabazos thus found himself in a pitiable plight. He was not without a sense of honour—of Eastern honour. That sense of honour had lately been greatly outraged when the Athenian ambassadors to the late king were forcibly taken from him by the young Prince, and imprisoned against the honourable understanding of all civilized nations. He had endeavoured to make up for this, as far as he could, by his cordial reception of Alkibiades, the late Athenian strategos, at whose suggestion the embassy to Persia had been sent. Besides this, there was the oath of mutual friendship and hospitality between them. His former opponent was now his guest; as such his life was inviolable. He could not defile that sacred relationship with blood.

Moreover, he had conceived a more than common attachment for the Grecian warrior, who had sought his aid and friendship when driven off and hunted down by men of his own race. The 439old spell had been cast over him. He had always admired the man; to that admiration was added now a feeling of affection. Besides all this, the mission on which, with his concurrence, his guest was gone might very possibly succeed.

He determined that, come what might, he would not harm him. And yet the mandate was very plain; there was no mistaking it: he must either comply with it or forfeit the friendship, and incur the enmity, of the all-conquering Spartans. If Kyros was successful in his intrigues, and the threatened revolt should break upon them, what would become of his power, and of what value would his life be then? He hesitated. Then he bethought him of a compromise.

Alkibiades had been gone some days, the escort had returned, when the sanguinary mandate of the Ephors came to Pharnabazos. He argued with himself that if he merely suggested the wishes of the Spartan government to someone else, and left the rest to chance, he would not be responsible for the result, whatever it might be. And even if others, in consequence of the whispered suggestion, sought to do an act of violence, perhaps they might not overtake the brave Athenian; or if they did,—well, he bore a charmed life, so all men said, and might escape 440or overcome assailants. In any case he, Pharnabazos, would not be implicated in the deed. He would save himself, and perhaps his honour.

Pharnabazos had two relatives, a brother and an uncle, who lived near him at Daskylion. To them, in strictest confidence, he told his trouble, and the dilemma in which he found himself. He would not have even a suspicion cast upon his fame, and could not allow any injury to be done to his friend and former guest, but, he said, the burden that was laid upon him overwhelmed him; he asked them their advice how he could get rid of it. He confided to them how he wished that something, almost anything, would happen to take it from him.

Without another word, the two relatives set out upon the track of the travellers, taking some retainers with them.

By rapid marches they arrived at Synnada, a few miles from Melissa, where we left Alkibiades resting with his friends, after their long and tiring journey, seeking to gain fresh strength before they started on the more hazardous and less known way which lay between them and the Persian capital. Agrestides had noticed that his master, for the first time since he had known him, began to show signs of weariness while they were on the road, and, soon after they had reached Melissa, he told them of a foolish dream which had 441troubled him the night before, the meaning of which he could not understand. In his dream he fancied that a woman was supporting his head and looking sorrowfully at him, while she combed his hair.

The next night, sadly, as if from some presentiment that could not be overcome, he went early to rest. Timandra and Agrestides, having attended to his wants, retired to their own rooms, at a little distance from his, which was in the front part of the solitary house.

Like sleuth-hounds the sneaking emissaries stole on; they reached the village at nightfall. They heard their victim was living there almost alone. There were six of the pursuers altogether, yet they feared to strike the blow. One of them, more daring than the rest of the band of cowards, undertook to do it. He crept stealthily into the room, snatched with shaking hand the sword that lay by the couch side, saw the hero lying restlessly in sleep, and, seized by a sudden panic at the sight, slunk tremblingly away.

A hurried conference was held. None of them would venture to approach him, though they had possession of his sword. ‘Let us set fire to the house,’ someone proposed. ‘If he is not burnt alive, we can slay him as he escapes.’

This was agreed on. The cowardly assailants collected a quantity of fallen leaves and dry wood, 442and, piling these combustibles noiselessly before the house, set fire to them, and retired some distance into the darkness. The noise of the crackling fire awoke Agrestides, who shouted to his master to escape, and was attempting to put out the kindling fire, when he was stricken through the heart by a Persian arrow.

The cry of Agrestides awoke his lord. Half choked by the smoke from burning leaves and wood, he rose, and sought his sword in vain.

Then at one bound he cleared the smoke and flames. Unclothed, he stood before the assassins like a deity in wrath. At the sight of the dead body of his faithful follower he uttered a cry as of a god in pain. His figure stood out against the flames behind him. He rushed upon an unseen enemy. The murderers fled at sight of him, but one of them, hiding behind a stunted bush, aimed a dart which struck him fatally.

He fell. The place where he was lying faded from his view. He was a boy again wandering by the Ilissos. He heard the festal music, as, crowned with violets, he led a joyous crew along the streets of Athens. He fancied he was bringing home his bride, as he had done on the happy marriage day. He was standing in the tribune on the Pnyx, ten thousand faces turned to him, with voices hushed. He saw his swift steeds at Olympia bear his 443chariot on to victory. He saw the Eros garlanded with roses moving slowly to the stroke of oars as the crowd called out their farewell to him from the shore. He was fighting once more at Kyzikos; Spartans and Persians fled before him. He heard the loud pæans of his victorious soldiers. He stood again upon the deck of the Eros as she entered the Peiræus; the people thronged about him shouting their welcome in his ears, and strewed their flowers at his feet. He saw his mother and his son—then all grew dark.

And there he lay, far, far from home, his proud thoughts, his high hopes, his great ambition, like his friends, all gone! Gone, too, was his anger. The furrows which in the last two years had begun to mark his brow were gone. The old exceeding loveliness, the air of high-bred dignity remained, and was as splendidly conspicuous as ever. A smile of peace and triumph was upon his face, as though, beyond these shadows, he had already met old Aiakos, his ancestor, and was rejoiced to behold him. There he lay, watched over by Timandra.




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