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AO Alcibiades

AmblesideOnline: Plutarch's Life of Alcibiades

This study represents a great deal of research, thought and work. We offer it to be used freely, and hope it will be a blessing to many students and parents. However, out of respect for this work, please honor our long-standing terms of use, and do not repost this or any of the AO curriculum anywhere else, in any form. This copyrighted material is free to use, not free to repost or republish. Please be conscientious in your desire to share AO, and link instead of copying.

Study Notes prepared for AmblesideOnline by Anne White from Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Lives, using omissions suggested John S. White. Study Guide revised 2013.


WHERE TO FIND IT: You can buy a copy of the Wordsworth Classics Plutarch: Selected Lives, and mark the lesson beginnings, endings, and omissions; but as of this writing, that edition is out of print and hard to find. Or you can use our typed text with the recommended omissions already in place. That text has been inserted right into each lesson. Please note: the "sections to read" (beginning and ending points) and "omissions" are included in each lesson only for those who are not using our edited text.

WHAT DID CHARLOTTE MASON USE? The Lives of Alcibiades and Demosthenes, edited by W.H.D. Rouse, published by Blackie (Blackie's English Texts, Highways and Byways of English Literature). This students' edition does not appear to be available online.

A SUGGESTION FOR YOUNGER STUDENTS: If you have students between years 4 to 6, or aged 10 to 12, I think working through Rosalie Kaufman's Alcibiades retelling would be enough for a term's work. It's certainly not "dumbed down."


One of the difficulties in beginning to read Plutarch, I think especially for young readers, is that it's not immediately clear a) what kind of a story this is, and b) who all these people are in the story. Not all the people named are actually part of the main character's life; some of them are historians, poets or others who wrote about him later on.

Imagine that you get an assignment for school, to write the story of someone's life. You're allowed to use any books or other kinds of material you can find on that person; but since he or she lived a hundred years ago, there's nobody around who can clear up questions or contradictions. You just have to do the best you can with what's available. Plutarch used bits of plays and poems, historical accounts, sometimes even graffiti or jokes, to construct a whole picture of whoever he was writing about. And he was usually careful to give credit to his sources. He might say, "So and so the historian tells this anecdote about Alcibiades' childhood," and then go on for a few paragraphs telling the story. So there is a hint for making sense of Plutarch's narrative: watch for his transitions and the places where he begins telling what someone else said.

Sometimes Plutarch does this in such a rapid-fire style that it's hard to keep up with him; but, fast or slow, it's the same thing--using bits and pieces, making connections, and trying to pull the whole thing together with his unique moral emphasis.

One more note on that: Plutarch often says, "It is said," and then goes on to tell what might have happened; but then he undercuts himself and says something like, "But the best sources disagree with that story." You might then wonder why he troubled himself to include something of doubtful accuracy; but it seems he wants to include all the possibilities.


Even people who have studied Alcibiades for years are still trying to decide if his accomplishments outweigh his mistakes and faults.

For Plutarch, there are two "telling details" about Alcibiades: the sight of him (Alcibiades, not Plutarch) flouncing along the street in a purple robe; and the extra-soft custom bed that he had fitted out on his warship. Neither of these examples, in Plutarch's opinion, showed the right kind of dignity, resolve or virtue for a true-spirited leader. In the case of Alcibiades, his political double-dealing and personal lack of restraint (including his involvement with the king of Sparta's wife) eventually led to a horrible death.

So why study Alcibiades, particularly in our own context of CM-style character and citizenship studies, and outside of the simplest reason of knowing your history? Only as a negative example of what not to do? Admiring his intelligence if not his ethics?

I think there are a couple of good reasons. First, when we look at Alcibiades himself, we can consider the qualities necessary for leadership, and see how those qualities were or weren't apparent in his life; what mistakes did he make? How did he become powerful, and how did he abuse that power?

Second, we can examine the people around him and consider the importance of thinking wisely and justly as citizens. How can we choose our leaders carefully? What basis do we have for following someone or turning against him? How do we react if we think our leaders have done wrong? There's something to learn here about crowd behaviour and the effects of propaganda.

WHEN DID ALCIBIADES LIVE? From about 450 BC to 404 BC.


Those of you who have done Plutarch's Life of Nicias, or have studied the Peloponnesian War, already know the essentials. If you have never read anything about the conflicts in the 5th century B.C. (the 400's) between Athens and Sparta, you will need to learn about the Greek city-states, the various names used to refer to them: Athens; the commonwealth; Athens and its allies; Attica (the region around Athens); Sparta; the Lacedaemonians (the Spartans); the Peloponnesians (the Spartans and their allies); the Ionians (Greeks living in the region of Ionia, in Asia Minor, or present-day Turkey). It helps to know something about the other powers of that time, particularly Persia. You need to have a general idea of Athenian culture and government--mainly that they had no king at that time but were ruled by an assembly of citizens (the Ecclesia); and that there was little separation between politics and the military (generals were political leaders as well as leaders in battle).

Most of all, you need to know that Athens, during Alcibiades' adult life, was just ending what had been its "Golden Age" under Pericles, and in fact the end of the whole classical period in Greek history. Athenian power and culture were never the same again. (Alcibiades was killed during the last year of the war.)


*King Agis of Sparta, enemy of Alcibiades
*Androcles, an orator, "his mortal enemy," who accused Alcibiades of ruining sacred images
*Antiochus, Alcibiades' lieutenant
*Aristophanes: a Greek playwright Plutarch likes to quote
*Artaxerxes II, brother of Cyrus the Younger, King of Persia from about 404 BC to 358 BC
*Darius II, King of Persia from 423 BC to 404 BC. The Wikipedia article about him sums up some of the military events described in this story: "As long as the power of Athens remained intact he did not meddle in Greek affairs. When in 413 BC, Athens supported the rebel Amorges in Caria, Darius II would not have responded had not the Athenian power been broken in the same year at Syracuse. As a result of that event, Darius II gave orders to his satraps in Asia Minor, Tissaphernes and Pharnabazus, to send in the overdue tribute of the Greek towns and to begin a war with Athens. To support the war with Athens, the Persian satraps entered into an alliance with Sparta. In 408 BC he sent his son Cyrus to Asia Minor, to carry on the war with greater energy. Darius II died in 405 BC, in the nineteenth year of his reign, and was followed as Persian king by Artaxerxes II."
*Astiochus, a Spartan (Lacedaeomonian) admiral
*Gylippus, a Spartan (Lacedaemonian) captain
*Hipponicus: a nobleman who became Alcibiades' father-in-law
*Lamachus, the "third captain" on the Sicilian Expedition
*Lycurgus, legendary founder of the Spartan lifestyle
*Lysander, Lacedaemonian admiral and general of their army by sea
*Mindarus, admiral of the Lacedaemonians
*Nicias the son of Niceratus: a famous Athenian leader, and one of the co-leaders on the Sicilian Expedition
*Phaeax: a rival orator
*Pharnabazus, another lieutenant (satrap, governor) of the king of Persia
*Phyrnicus, an Athenian general
*Socrates: Socrates was about twenty years older than Alcibiades, but outlived him by five years.
*Theophrastus: a historian quoted by Plutarch
*Thrasybulus, the man with "the biggest and loudest voice" in Athens. "As general, he was responsible for recalling the controversial nobleman Alcibiades from exile, and the two worked together extensively over the next several years. In 411 and 410, Thrasybulus commanded along with Alcibiades and others at several critical Athenian naval victories." (Wikipedia)
*Thrasybulus son of Thrason of Collytus, "the other Thrasybulus," Alcibiades' enemy
*Thrasyllus: an Athenian general
*Tisaphernes / Tissaphernes, "lieutenant [satrap] of the mighty king of Persia"
*Tydeus, Menander, and Admithanthus: Athenian captains



(Please note: the "sections to read" (beginning and ending points) and "omissions"are included in each lesson only for those who are not using our edited text.)

From "Alcibiades by his father's side was anciently descended of Eurysaces" to "the flute itself was thought a vile instrument, and of no reputation.


Sentence starting "his son Alcibiades' tutors . . ." Section from "And Archippus another poet also" to "would he prate and pry." Section from "Furthermore, in the accusations Antiphon wrote" to "for the ill will he did bear him."

Reading for Lesson One

Alcibiades by his father's side was anciently descended of Eurysaces, that was the son of Ajax, and by his mother's side, of Alcmaeon: for his mother Dinomacha was the daughter of Megacles. His father Clinias having armed, and set forth a galley, at his own proper costs and charges, did win great honour in the battle by sea, that was fought along the coast of Artemisium, and he was slain afterwards in another battle fought at Coronea, against the Boeotians. They say, and truly, that Socrates' goodwill and friendship did greatly further Alcibiades' honour. For it appeareth not, neither was it ever written, what were the names of the mothers of Nicias, of Demosthenes, of Lemachus, or Phormion, of Thrasibulus, and of Thermenes: all which were notable famous men in their time. And to the contrary, we find the nurse of Alcibiades, that she was a Lacedaemonian born, and was called Amicla, and that his schoolmaster was called Zopyrus: of the which, Antisthenes mentioneth the one, and Plato the other.

Now for Alcibiades' beauty, it made no matter if we speak not of it, yet I will a little touch it by the way: for he was wonderful fair, being a child, a boy, and a man, and that all times, which made him marvelous amiable, and beloved of every man. For where Europides sayeth, that of all the fair times of the year, the autumn or latter season is the fairest: that commonly falleth not out true. And yet it proved true in Alcibiades, though in few other: for he was passing fair even to his latter time, and of good temperature of body. They write of him also, that his tongue was somewhat fat, and it did not become him ill, but gave him a certain natural pleasant grace in his talk: which Aristophanes mentioneth, mocking one Theorus that did counterfeit a lisping grace with his tongue.

This Alcibiades, with his fat lisping tongue,
Into mine ears this trusty tale, and song full often sung.
Look upon Theolus (quoth he) lo there he bows,
Behold his comely crow-bright face with fat and flatling blows.
The son of Clinias would lisp it thus somewhile,
And sure he lisped never a lie, but rightly hit his wile.

For his manners they altered and changed very oft with time, which is not to be wondered at, seeing his marvelous great prosperity, as also adversity that followed him afterwards. But of all the great desires he had, and that by nature he was most inclined to, was ambition, seeking to have the upper hand in all things, and to be taken for the best person: as appeareth by certain of his deeds and notable saying sin his youth, extant in writing. One day wrestling with a companion of his, that handled him hardly, and thereby was likely to have given him the fall, he got his fellow's arm in his mouth, and bit so hard, as he would have eaten it off. The other feeling him bite so hard, let go his hold straight, and said unto him: 'What, Alcibiades, bitest thou like a woman?' 'No marry do I not,' quoth he, 'but like a lion.' Another time being but a little boy, he played at scales in the midst of the street with other of his companions, and when his turn came about to throw, there came a cart laden by chance that way: Alcibiades prayed the carter to stay a while, until he had played out his game, because the scales were set right in the highway where the cart should pass over. The carter was a stubborn knave, and would not stay for any request the boy could make, but drove his horses on still, in so much as other boys gave back to let him go on: but Alcibiades fell flat to the ground before the cart, and bade the carter drive over an he durst. The carter, being afraid, plucked back his horse to stay them: the neighbours flighted to see the danger, ran to the boy in all haste crying out.

Afterwards when he was put to school to learn, he was very obedient to all his masters that taught him anything, saving that he disdained to learn to play of the flute or recorder: saying, that it was no gentlemanly quality. 'For,' said he, 'to play on the viol with a stick, doth not alter man's favour, nor disgraceth any gentleman: but otherwise, to play on the flute, his countenance altereth and changeth so often, that his familiar friends can scant know him. Moreover, the harp or viol doth not let him that playeth on them from speaking, or singing as he playeth: where he that playeth on the flute, holdeth his mouth so hard to it, that it taketh not only his words from him, but his voice. Therefore,' said he, 'let the children of the Thebans play on the flute, that cannot tell how to speak: as for us Athenians, we have (as our forefathers tell us) for protectors and patroness of our country, the goddess Pallas, and the god Apollo: of the which the one in old time (as it is said) broke the flute, and the other pulled his skin over his ears, that played upon the flute.' Thus Alcibiades alleging these reasons, partly in sport, and partly in good earnest, did not only himself leave to learn to play on the flute, but he turned his companions' minds also quite from it. For these words of Alcibiades, ran from boy to boy incontinently: that Alcibiades had reason to despise playing of the flute, and that he mocked all those that learned to play of it. So afterwards, it fell out at Athens, that teaching to play of the flute was put out of the number of honest and liberal exercises, and the flute itself was thought a vile instrument, and of no reputation.


How do we know so much about Alcibiades' family, even his nursemaid? Why is that significant?
Consider the various anecdotes about Alcibiades' childhood: the biting story, the dice story, the story about refusing to play the flute because it made him look silly--what do all of these show you so far about his character? What opinion does Alcibiades have of himself? Consider how the flute story shows that, if we are popular or in a leadership role, or influential to someone else, we should take care in flaunting our opinions too loudly, or at least make sure we use that influence for good and not for evil or stupid ideas.



From "Now straight there were many great and rich men that made much of Alcibiades"
to "he became suddenly very humble and lowly again."


Section from "Therefore he began to despise himself" to "towards Socrates. Insomuch as"; section from "and besides became dangerous to some" to "'for he hath left us some, where he might have taken all.'"

Reading for Lesson Two

Now straight there were many great and rich men that made much of Alcibiades, and were glad to get his goodwill. But Socrates' love unto him had another end and cause, which witnessed that Alcibiades had a natural inclination to virtue. Who perceiving that virtue did appear in him, and was joined with the other beauty of his face and body, and fearing the corruption of riches, dignity and authority, and the great number of his companions, as well of the chiefest of the city, as of strangers, seeking to entice him by flattery, and by many other pleasures, he took upon him to protect him from them all, and not to suffer so goodly an imp to lose the hope of the good fruit of his youth. For fortune doth never so entangle nor snare a man without, with that which they commonly call riches, as to let and hinder him so, that philosophy should not take hold on him with her free, severe, and quick reasons. So Alcibiades was at the beginning assayed with all delights, and shut up as it were in their company that feasted him with all pleasures, only to turn him that he should not hearken to Socrates' words, who sought to bring him up at his charge, and to teach him. But Alcibiades notwithstanding, having a good natural wit, knew what Socrates was, and went to him, refusing the company of all his rich friends and their flatteries, and fell in a kind of familiar friendship with Socrates. Whom when he had heard speak, he noted his words very well, that they were no persuasions of a man seeking his dishonesty, but one that gave him good counsel, and went about to reform his faults and imperfections, and to pluck down the pride and presumption that was in him: then, as the common proverb sayeth,

Like to the craven cock, he drooped down his wings,
Which cowardly doth run away, or from the pit out flings.

And did think with self, that all Socrates' love and following of young men, was indeed a thing sent from the gods, and ordained above for them whom they would have preserved, and put into the pathway of honour. All the world wondered at Alcibiades, to see him commonly at Socrates' board, to play, to wrestle, and to lodge in the wars with Socrates: and contrarily to chide his other well willers, who could not so much as have a good look at his hands. All others also that made much of him, he served after that sort.

Saving a stranger that came to dwell in Athens: who being but a poor man as the voice went, sold all that he had, whereof he made about a hundred staters which he brought unto Alcibiades, and prayed him to take it at his hands. Alcibiades began to be merry, and being very glad to understand his goodwill towards him, took his honest offer, and prayed him to come to supper to him: so he welcomed him very heartily, and made him good cheer. When supper was done, he gave him his money again, and commanded him not to fail the next morning to meet him where the farms and lands of the city are wont to be let out to those that bid most, and charged him he should outbid all. The poor man would fain have excused himself, saying, the farms were too great for him to hire: but Alcibiades threatened to whip him if he would not do it. For besides the desire he had to pleasure him, he bore a private grudge against the ordinary farmers of the city. The next morning the stranger was ready in the market place, where they did cry out the letting of their farms, and he raised one to a talent more, than all other did offer. The other farmers were as made with him as they could be, that they all did set upon him, crying out: 'Let him put in surety straight,' supposing he could have found none. The stranger was marvelous blank thereat, and began to shrink back. Then cried Alcibiades out aloud to the officers that sat there to take the best offers: 'I will be his surety,' says he, 'put me in the book, for he is a friend of mine.' The farmers hearing him say so, were at their wits' end, and wist not what to do. For they being always accustomed to pay their yearly rent as it went before, by the help of the rest of the years that followed after: perceiving now that they should not be able to pay the arrearages of the rents due to the common weal, and seeing no other remedy, they prayed him to take a piece of money, and to leave the bargain. Then Alcibiades would in no wise he should take less than a talent, which they gave him willingly. So Alcibiades suffered the stranger then to depart, and made him gain by his devise.

Now Socrates' love which he bore him, though it had many mighty and great adversaries, yet it did stay much Alcibiades, sometime by his gentle nature, sometime by his grave counsel and advice: so as the reason thereof took deep root in him, and did so pierce his heart, that many times the tears ran down his cheeks. Another time also being carried away with the enticement of flatterers, that held up his humour with all pleasure and delights, he stole away from Socrates, and made him run after him to fetch him again, as if he had been a slave that had run away from his master's house: for Alcibiades stood in awe of no man but of Socrates only, and indeed he did reverence him, and did despise all other. And therefore Cleanthes was wont to say, that Alcibiades was held of Socrates by the ears...[omission]...And peradventure it was that Thucydides meant of him, when he wrote that he was incontinent of body, and dissolute of life. Those that marred Alcibiades quite, did still prick forward his ambition and desire of honour, and did put him in the head to thrust himself into great matters betimes, making him believe that if he did but once begin to show himself to deal in matters of state,he would not only blemish and deface all oother governors, but far excel Pericles in authority and power among the Grecians. For like as iron by fire is made soft, to be wrought into any form, and by cold also doth shut and harden in again: even so Alcibiades being puffed up with vanity and opinion of himself, as oft as Socrates took him in hand, was made fast and firm again by his own good persuasions, insomuch that when he saw his own fault and folly, and how far wide he had strayed from virtue, he became suddenly very humble and lowly again.


Why do you think Alcibiades picked out Socrates as his most trusted friend?

How did those who sought to corrupt Alcibiades play on his vanity and ambition? Explain "did still prick forward his ambition and desire of honour, and did put him in the head to thrust himself into great matters betimes." Have you ever bitten off more than you could chew, or gotten pushed into a performance that you didn't have the maturity to handle? Consider what sometimes happens to child celebrities.

Alcibiades wanted to be known for his eloquence. Why was this so important to him? Was he successful?



From "Now on a time when he was grown to man's state" to "to help him to defray the great charges he was at keeping open house, and feeding such a number of mouths daily."


Section from "And therefore Cleanthes was wont to say" to "authority and power among the Grecians." Section from "Another time he came and knocked" to "thinking how to make no account at all." Section from "Howbeit some say, it was not Hipponicus" to "seek to stay her if he could." Section from "And if we may believe Theophrastus" to "until he had called it to mind, that he would say." Section from "For Euripeds pronounced his praise" to "'in hope to get the game.'" Section from "yet the spite they did bear him" to "his adversary was called Tisias, and not Diomedes."


peace of Nicias - a truce which created a lull of several years in the Peloponnesian war
Boeotians - The people of Boeotia, a region of ancient Greece
Argives - the people of Argos

Reading for Lesson Three

Now on a time when he was grown to man's state, he went into a grammar school, and asked the schoolmaster for one of Homer's books. The schoolmaster answered him, he had none of them: Alcibiades up with his fist, and gave him a good box on the ear, and went his way. Another grammarian told him on a time he had Homer which he had corrected. Alcibiades replied, 'Why, what meanst thou, to stand teaching little children their abc, when thou art able to correct Homer, and to teach young men, not boys?' Moreover, being but a young boy, he was at the journey of Potidaea, where he lay still with Socrates, who would never let him be fro him in all battles and skirmishes he was in: among which there was one, very hot and bloody, where they both fought valiantly, and Alcibiades was hurt. But Socrates stepped before him, and did defend him to valiantly before them all, that he saved him and his weapon out of the enemies' hands. So the honour of this fight out of doubt, in equity and reason, was due unto Socrates, but yet the captains would fain have judged it on Alcibiades' side, because he was of a noble house. But Socrates, because he would increase his desire of honour, and would prick him forward to honest and commendable things, was the very first that witnessed Alcibiades had deserved it: and therefore prayed the captains to judge him the crown and complete armour. Afterwards, in the battle of Delion, the Athenians having received the overthrow, Socrates retired with a few others a-foot. Alcibiades being a-horseback, and overtaking him, would not go from him, but kept him company, and defended him against a troop of his enemies that followed him, and slew many of his company.

But that was a pretty while after, and before he gave a box of the ear unto Hipponicus, Callias' father, who was one of the greatest men of power in the city, being a nobleman born, and of great possessions: which was done upon a bravery and certain lustiness, as having laid a wager with his companions he would do it, and for no malice or quarrel that he bore the man. This light part was straight over all the city, and everyone that heard it, said it was lewdly done. But Alcibiades the next morning went to his house, and knocking at his gate was let in: so he stripping himself before him, delivered him his body to be whipped, and punished at his pleasure. Hipponicus pardoned him, and was friends with him, and gave him his daughter Hipparete afterwards in marriage.

Alcibiades had a marvelous fair great dog, that cost him three score and ten minas, and he cut off his tail that was his chief beauty. When his friends reproved him, and told him how every man blamed him for it, he fell a-laughing, and told them he had that he sought. 'For,' says he, 'I would have the Athenians rather prate upon that, than they should say worse of me.'

Moreover, it is said, the first time that Alcibiades spoke openly in the common weal, and began to deal in matters, was upon a gift of money he gave to the people, and not of any pretence, or former purpose he had to do it. One day as he came through the market place hearing he people very loud, he asked what the matter was: they told him it was about money certain men had given to the people. Then Alcibiades went to them, and gave them money out of his own purse. The people were so glad at that, as they fell to shouting and clapping of their hands, in token of thankfulness: and himself was so glad for company, that he forgot a quail he had under his gown, which was so afraid of the noise, that she took her flight away. The people seeing the quail, made a greater noise than before, and many rose out of their places to run after her: so that in the end, it was taken up by a master of a ship called Antiochus, who brought him the quail again, and for that cause Alcibiades did love him ever after.

Now albeit the nobility of his house, his goods, his worthiness, and the great number of his kinsmen and friends made his way open to take upon him government in the common weal, yet the only way he desired to win the favour of the common people by, was the grace of his eloquence. To prove he was eloquent, all the comical poets do testify it: and besides them, Demosthenes the prince of orators also doth say, in an oration he made against Midias, that Alcibiades above all other qualities he had, was most eloquent.

His charge was great, and much spoken of also, for keeping of running horses at games: not only because they were the best and swiftest, but for the number of coaches he had besides. For never private person, no nor any prince, that ever sent seven so well appointed coaches, in all furniture, unto the games Olympical, as he did: nor that at one course hath borne away the first, the second, and the fourth prize, as Thucydides sayeth: or as Euripedes reporteth, the third. For in that game, he excelled all men in honour and name that ever strived for victory therein. Howbeit the good affection divers cities did bear him, contending which should gratify him best, did much increase his fame and honour. For the Ephesians did set up a tent for him, very sumptuously and richly furnished. Those of the city of Chio furnished him with provender for his horse, and gave him muttons besides, and other beasts to sacrifice withal. They of Lesbos also sent him in wine and other provision for victuals, to help him to defray the great charges he was at keeping open house, and feeding such a number of mouths daily.


Give examples of Alcibiades' attitudes towards money and material things. How does the dog story figure into this?
Socrates saved Alcibiades' life (in the Battle of Potidaea, 434 or 432 B.C.) and then Alcibiades saved Socrates' life in return (in the Battle of Delium, 424 BC). (Remember the years go backwards!) Why did Socrates insist that Alcibiades receive the medal at Potidaea? How is that a contrast to Alcibiades' attitude? Do you think Alcibiades learned anything from his example?



At this time, Alcibiades enthusiastically promoted a move to take over Sicily. Nicias suggested a huge budget and a great number of ships, probably trying to get the whole project waylaid. To his annoyance, the Athenians got excited about the idea, the leaders did agree to the project, and they named Nicias as general for the expedition. Unfortunately, the whole thing turned out to be a disaster; also, it broke the Peace of Nicias, and started up the Peloponnesian War again.


From "Furthermore, Alcibiades being yet a young man, when he came to practice and plead publicly" to "Which if the Lacedaemonians did win, could not profit them much: and if they lost it, they could hardly save their city of Sparta."


Section from "For he could more properly talk and discourse" to "now to return again to Alcibiades." Section from "For his house was the common inn" to "more than ever they did before." Section from "moreover he did persuade them to it, both by letters" to "more earnest against them, and therewithal." Section from "Furthermore, that being their friend" to "the Lacedaemonians had no liking of the matter." Section from "After this battle of Mantinea" to "that was manured, and did bring forth fruit."


Sicily - large island at the bottom of what is now Italy. It was strategically important because it was close to wealthy North African cities such as Carthage.
Nemea - the goddess of the town of Nemea
Timon the misanthrope - a philosopher

Reading for Lesson Four

Furthermore, Alcibiades being yet a young man, when he came to practice and plead publicly, he put all the other orators to silence, but only two that were ever against him: the one was Phaeax the son of Erasistratus, and the other Nicias, the son of Niceratus. Of these two, Nicias was a man grown, and had won the name and reputation of a good captain. And Phaeax began also to come forward as he did, being of a good and honourable house: but he lacked many things, and among others, eloquence specially. Nicias had great reputation among strangers, and his enemies grieved at into less, than at the honour the citizens selves did unto him. This was blown abroad through Greece, that Pericles had kindled the wars amongst them, and Nicias quenched it: so some called this peace Nicium, as one would say, Nicias' work. But Alcibiades stomaching this, and envying Nicias' glory, determined to break the peace whatsoever came of it. Wherefore to compass this matter, knowing first of all that the Argives had no liking of the Lacedaemonians, but were their mortal enemies, and that they did but seek matter to fall out with them, he secretly put them in hope of peace and league with the Athenians. Alcibiades brought Nicias in disgrace with the people, and charged him with many matters of great likelihood. As at that time, when he was general, that he would never take any of the Lacedaemonians, when they were shut up within the Isle of Sphacteria, and much less distress them when he might: and moreover that when others had taken them prisoners by force, that he had found the means to deliver them, and send them home again, to gratify the Lacedaemonians.

Now as Nicias was thus in disgrace with the people, for the causes above said, in the midst of this stir, ambassadors came by chance from Lacedaemon to Athens, who at their coming gave very good words, saying they had full power and commission to compound all controversies, under reasonable and equal conditions. The senate heard them, and received them very courteously, and the people the next day should assemble in council to give them audience: which Alcibiades fearing very much, he went to labour the ambassadors, and spoke with them apart in this sort: 'What mean you, my lords of Sparta: do ye not know that the senate has always accustomed to be gracious and favourable unto those that sue unto them for any matter, and that the people contrarily are of a proud nature, and desirous to embrace all great matters? If therefore at the first sight, ye do give them to understand that you are come hither with full power to treat freely with them in all manner of causes, do you not think that they make you stretch your authority far to grant them all that they will demand. Therefore, my lords ambassadors, if you look for indifferency at the Athenians' hands, and that they shall not press you too far against your wills, to grant them anything of advantage, I would wish you a little to cover your full commission, and in open manner to propound certain articles, and reasonable capitulations of peace, not acquainting them otherwise with your full power to agree in all things: and for my part, I will assure you of my goodwill in favour of the Lacedaemonians.' When he had told them this tale, he gave them his faithful promise, and vowed as it were to perform his word. Hereupon Alcibiades turned the ambassadors from the trust they reposed in Nicias, and won them on his side: in to much as they gave credit to no man but to him, wondering much at his great wisdom and ready wit, and they thought him a rare and notable man. The next morning the people were assembled to give the ambassadors audience. They were sent for, and brought into the market place. There Alcibiades gently asked them, what was the cause of their coming. They answered that they were come to treat of peace, but they had no power to determine anything. Then began Alcibiades to be angry with them, as if they had done him wrong, and not he any to them; calling them unfaithful, unconstant, and fickle men, that were come neither to do nor say anything worth the hearing. The senate also were offended with them, and the people rated them very roughly: whereat Nicias was so ashamed and amazed withal, that he could not tell what to say, to see so sudden a change, knowing nothing of Alcibiades' malice and subtle practice with the ambassadors.

So the ambassadors of Lacedaemon were dispatched, without anything done, and Alcibiades chosen general: who presently brought the Argives, the Elians, and the Mantinians in league with the Athenians. Though no man did commend this practice of his, in working it after this sort, yet was it a marvelous thing of him to devise to put all Peloponnesus in arms, and to procure such a number of soldiers against the Lacedaemonians, as he did before the city of Mantinea, and to shift of the miseries of war and hazard of battle so far from Athens. Which if the Lacedaemonians did win, could not profit them much: and if they lost it, they could hardly save their city of Sparta.


Contrast Phaeax and Nicias to Alcibiades.
Does Alcibiades really want to help Athens, or only to prosper himself?
Do you admire anything so far about Alcibiades?



From "Yet with all these goodly deeds and fair words of Alcibiades" to "companies of men to set round together, draw plates of Sicily, and describe the situation of Libya and Carthage."


Section from "Also, when he took away a young woman" to "which another had propounded." Words "a courtesan named" in the sentence about Nemea. Section from "And yet they say, that neither Socrates the philosopher" to "his son, whom he abused much."

Reading for Lesson Five

Yet with all these goodly deeds and fair words of Alcibiades, and with this great courage and quickness of understanding, he had many great faults and imperfections. For he was too dainty in his fare, riotous in banquets, vain and womanish in apparel: he ware ever a long purple gown that swept the market place as he walked up and down, it had such a train, and was too rich and costly for him to wear. And following these vain pleasures and delights, when he was in his galley, he caused the planks of the poop thereof to be cut and broken up, that he might lie the softer: for his bed was not laid upon the overlap, but lay upon births strained over the hole, cut out and fastened to the sides, and he carried to the wars with him a gilded scutcheon, wherein he had no cognizance nor ordinary device of the Athenians, but only had the image of Cupid in it, holding lightning in his hand. The noblemen and best citizens of Athens perceiving this, they hated his fashions and conditions, and were much offended at him, and were afraid withal of his rashness and insolence: he did so condemn the laws and customs of their country, being manifest tokens of a man that aspired to be king, and would subvert and turn all over hand. And as for the goodwill of the common people towards him, the poet Aristophanes doth plainly express it in these words:

The people most desire, what most they hate to have:
And what their mind abhors, even that they seem to crave.

And in another place he said also, aggravating the suspicion they had of him:

For state or common weal, much better should it be
To keep within the country none such lions' looks as he.
But if they needs will keep a lion to their cost,
Then must they needs obey his will, for he will rule the roost.

For to say truly, his courtesies, his liberalities, and noble expenses to show the people so great pleasure and pastime as nothing could be more: the glorious memory of his ancestors, the grace of his eloquence, the beauty of his person, the strength and valiantness of his body, joined together with his wisdom and experience in martial affairs, were the very causes that made them to bear with him in all things, and that did the Athenians did patiently endure all his light parts, and did cover his faults, with the best words and terms they could, calling them youthful, and gentlemen's sports. As when he kept Agatharchus the painter prisoner in his house by force, until he had painted all his walls within: and when he had done, did let him go, and rewarded him very honestly for his pains. Again when he gave a box of the ear to Taureas, who did pay the whole charges of a company of common players, in spite of him, to carry away the honour of the games.

Likewise where one Aristophon a painter, had painted Nemea, holding Alcibiades in her arms, and sitting in her lap, which all the people ran to see, and took great pleasure to behold it: the grave and ancient men were angry at these foolish parts, accounting them impudent things, and done against all civil modesty and temperance. Wherefore it seemed Archestratus' words were spoken to good purpose, when he said that Greece could not abide two Alcibiades at once.

And on a day as he came from the council and assembly of the city, where he had made an excellent oration, to the great good liking and acceptation of all the hearers, and by means thereof had obtained the thing he desired, and was accompanied with a great train that followed him to his honour, Timon surnamed Misanthropus (as who would say, Loupgarou, or the manhater), meeting Alcibiades thus accompanied, did not pass by him, nor gave him way (as he was wont to do to all other men) but went straight to him, and took him by the hand, and said: 'O, thou dost well my son. I can thank, that thou goest on, and climbest up still: for if ever thou be in authority, woe be unto those that follow thee, for they are utterly undone.' when they had heard these words, those that stood by fell a-laughing: other[s] reviled Timon, other[s] again marked well his words, and thought of them many a time after, such sundry opinions they had of him for the unconstancy of his life, and waywardness of his nature and conditions.

Now for the taking of Sicily, the Athenians did marvelously covet it in Pericles' life, but yet they did not meddle withal, until after his death: and then they did it at the first under colour of friendship, as aiding those cities which were oppressed and spoiled by the Syracusans. This was in manner a plain bridge made, to pass afterwards a greater power and army thither. Howbeit the only procurer of the Athenians, and persuader of them, to send small companies thither no more, but to enter with a great army at once to conquer all the country together, was Alcibiades, who had so allured the people with his pleasant tongue, that upon his persuasion, they built castles in the air, and thought to do greater wonders, by winning only of Sicilia. For where others did set their minds upon the conquest of Sicily, being that they only hoped after, it was to Alcibiades but a beginning of further enterprises. And where Nicias commonly in all his persuasions did turn the Athenians from their purpose to make wars against the Syracusans, as being too great a matter for them to take the city of Syracusa, Alcibiades again had a further reach in his head, to go conquer Libya and Carthage, and that being conquered to pass from thence into Italy, and so to Peloponnesus: so that Sicilia should serve but to furnish them with victuals, and to pay the soldiers for their conquests which he had imagined. Thus the young men were incontinently carried away with a marvelous hope and opinion of this journey, and gave good ear to old men's tales that told them wonders of the countries: insomuch as there was no other pastime nor exercise among the youth in their meetings, but companies of men to set round together, draw plates of Sicily, and describe the situation of Libya and Carthage.


Discuss this quote: "Wherefore it seemed Archestratus' words were spoken to good purpose, when he said that Greece could not abide two Alcibiades at once." (Dryden translates it "that Greece could not support a second Alcibiades." Does that change the meaning?)

However, "The Athenians did patiently endure all his light parts, and did cover his faults, with the best words and terms they could, calling them youthful, and gentlemen's sports." Why were they so willing to put up with Alcibiades' excesses?



From "But Nicias against his will was chosen captain, to take charge of men in these wars" to "Besides this condemnation, they decreed also, that all the religious priests and women should ban and accurse him."


Section from "now when they came to resolve" to "condescended, and did authorize them." Section from "That they were commanded to take ship" to "the death of her friend Adonis. Moreover . . ." Section from "Whereupon it was alleged that it might be" to "this shameful part in their bravery or for sport." Section from "declaring these matters particularly" to "wickedly mocked the two goddesses, Ceres and Proserpina." Section from "he began to be of a good courage again" to "appoint him his hours and time of answer." Section from "Upon these informations, the people" to "'For his promoter's bribing part and accusation.'" Section from "Now there was among the prisoners whose cause was hanging before them" to "did accuse also certain of his own servants." Section from "himself appareled and arrayed in a long vestment or cope" to "'the sacred temple of the city of Eleusin.'" Sentence from "But hereunto answered" to "not to curse and ban."

Reading for Lesson Six

But Nicias against his will was chosen captain, to take charge of men in these wars: who misliked this journey, as well for his companion and associate in the charge of these wars, as for other misfortunes he foresaw therein. Howbeit the Athenians thought the war would fall out well, if they did not commit it wholly to Alcibiades' rashness and hardiness, but did join with him the wisdom of Nicias: and appointed Lamachus also for their third captain, whom they sent thither, though he were waxen now somewhat old, as one that had showed himself no less venturous and hardy in some battles, than Alcibiades himself.

But when they were even ready to go their way, many signs of ill success lighted in the neck one of another: and amongst the rest this was one: the Hermes (which are the images of Mercury, and were wont to be set up in every lane and street) were found in a night all hacked and hewed, and mangled specially in their faces: but this put divers in great fear and trouble, yea even those that made no account of such toys.

But for all these reasons, they took these signs very grievously, and were indeed not a little afraid, as thinking undoubtedly that no man durst have been so bold to have done such an abominable fact, but that there was some conspiracy in the matter. Hereupon, they looked upon every suspicion and conjecture that might be (how little or unlikely soever it were) and that very severely: and both senate and people also met in council upon it, very oft, and in a few days.

Now whilst they were busily searching out the matter, Androcles a common counselor, and orator in the commonwealth, brought before the council certain slaves and strangers that dwelt in Athens: who deposed that Alcibiades, and other of his friends and companions, had hacked and mangled other images after that sort, and in a mockery had counterfeited also in a banquet that he made, the ceremonies of the holy mysteries. Whereat the people being marvelously moved and offended , and the orator Androcles his mortal enemy aggravating and stirring them up the more against him, Alcibiades a little at the first began to be amazed at it. But afterwards, hearing that the mariners which were prepared for the voyage of Sicilia, and the soldiers also that were gathered, did bear him great goodwill, and specially how the aid, and that band that came from Argos and Mantinea (being a thousand footmen, well armed and appointed) did say openly, how it was for Alcibiades' sake they did take upon them so long a voyage beyond sea, and that if they went about to do him any hurt or wrong, they would presently return home again from whence they came.

Therefore, they said, it was fit he should take his journey betimes, and when wars were done, that he should present himself to require justice, and to purge himself of such matters as should be objected against him. But Alcibiades smelling straight their fetch, and perceiving the practice of his stay, stepped up, and declared how they did him great wrong, to make him depart with the charge of a general of so great an army, his mind being troubled with continual fear of so grievous curses, as he should leave upon him: and that he deserved death, if he could not purge and justify himself of all the unjust and surmised accusations against him. And if he had once cleared himself of all things, and had published his innocence, he should then have nothing in his head to trouble him, nor to think upon, but to go on lustily to fight with his enemies, and to cast behind him the danger of all his slanderous detractors.

But all this could not persuade them. And so he was presently commanded in the behalf of the people, to embark, and ship away his men. Thus he was compelled to take the seas with his other companions, having in their navy about a hundred and forty galleys, all having three oars to a bank: and five thousand one hundred footmen very well armed and appointed, and throwers with slings, archers, and other light armed men to the number of thirteen hundred, sufficiently furnished of all warlike and necessary munition.

Now after they were arrived on the coast of Italy, they landed in the city of Rhegio: where, holding counsel in what sort they should direct these wars, it was resolved in the end that they should go straight unto Sicilia. This opinion was followed, although Nicias did contrary it, when Lamachus gave his consent thereunto: and at his first coming, he was the occasion of winning the city of Catana. But he never after did any exploit, for he was called home immediately by the Athenians, to come and answer certain accusations laid to his charge. For as we told you before, there was at the beginning certain light suspicions and accusations put up against him, by some slaves and strangers. But afterwards when he was gone, his enemies enforced them, and burdened him more cruelly, adding to his former fault, that he had broken the images of Mercury: and had committed sacrilege in counterfeiting in jest and mockery the holy ceremonies of the mysteries: and blew into the ears of the people, that both the one and the other proceeded of one set conspiracy, to change and alter the government of the state of the city.

And yet for all this, these tokens do show no certainty of anything. For one of them being asked, how he could know them by their faces in the night, that had broken and defaced these images, he answered, that he knew them well enough by the brightness of the moon. And hereby it appeareth plainly that he was perjured, because that the same night, on the which this face was committed, there was a conjunction of the moon. This did a little trouble and stay men of judgment: howbeit the common sort of people, this notwithstanding, did not leave to be as sharp set to receive all accusations and informations, that were brought in against him, as ever they were before.

Now though the people had no more occasion to occupy their busy heads about the breakers of these images, yet was not their malice thus appeased against Alcibiades, until they sent the galley called Salaminiana, commanding those they sent by a special commission to seek him out, in no case to attempt to take him by force, nor to lay hold on him by violence: but to use him with all the good words and courteous manner that they possibly could, and to will him only to appear in person before the people, to answer to certain accusations put up against him. If otherwise they should have used force, they feared much lest the army would have mutinied on his behalf within the country of their enemies, and that there would have grown some sedition amongst their soldiers. This might Alcibiades have easily done, if he had been disposed. For the soldiers were very sorry to see him depart, perceiving that the wars should be drawn out now in length, and be much prolonged under Nicias, seeing Alcibiades was taken from them, who was the only spur that pricked Nicias forward to do any service: and that Lamachus also, though he were a valiant man of his hands, yet he lacked honour and authority in the army, because he was but a mean man born, and poor besides.

Now Alcibiades for a farewell, disappointed the Athenians of winning the city of Messina: for they having intelligence by certain private persons within the city, that it would yield up into their hands, Alcibiades knowing them very well by their names, bewrayed them unto those that were the Syracusans' friends whereupon all this practice was broken utterly. Afterwards when he came to the city of Thuries, so soon as he had landed, he went and hid himself incontinently in such sort, that such as sought for him, could not find him. Yet there was one that knew him where he was, and said: 'Why, how now Alcibiades, darest thou not trust the justice of thy country?' 'Yes very well,' quoth he, 'an it were in another matter: but my life standing upon it, I would not trust mine own mother fearing les negligently she should put in the black bean, where she should cast in the white.' For by the first, condemnation of death was signified: and by the other, pardon of life. But afterwards, hearing that the Athenians for malice had condemned him to death: 'Well,' quoth he, 'they shall know I am yet alive.' Now the manner of his accusation and indictment framed against him, was found written in this sort: 'Thessalus the son of Cimon, of the village of Laciades, hath accused, and doth accuse Alcibiades, the son of Clinias, of the village of Scambonides, to have offended against the goddesses, Ceres and Proserpina, counterfeiting in mockery their holy mysteries, and showing them to his familiar friends in his house, [etc. etc.].' So Alcibiades for his contempt and not appearing, was condemned, and his goods confiscate. Besides this condemnation, they decreed also, that all the religious priests and women should ban and accurse him.


Why did the sacrilege charges come at an awkward time for everyone?

Should Alcibiades have been tried on the spot, or not? Try to think like an Athenian who has some belief in these sacred things.

Something interesting happened in Athens while Alcibiades was away and couldn't defend himself. The original issue--some religious images that were defaced or broken, probably during a night of partying--turned into much more serious accusations of sacrilege, and that began to take on conspiracy overtones. The thinking went like this: did someone do this just to upset things in Athens, possibly to cause trouble against the government? There had been some talk about overthrowing the current government anyway; maybe somebody just wanted them to look bad. Maybe that somebody was Alcibiades. What was the evidence against him?

Do you think Alcibiades would worry about having the priests curse him?



Alcibiades knows it's not safe for him to return to Athens. He escapes to Sparta and starts acting like a Spartan. An excellent Spartan; a fantastic Spartan--but it's all outward appearance. (Compare this to St. Paul's' "all things to all men," 1 Corinthians 9:22.)


From "After this most grievous sentence and condemnation passed against him, Alcibiades departed out of the city of Thuries" to "green arbours and pleasant meadows, and those in all royal and magnificent manner."


Section from "But he that had inwardly seen his natural doings" to "because he was not of the blood royal." Phrase "partly for the injury he did him in dishonouring . . ."

An explanation:

"After the utter overthrow of the Athenians in Cilia, those of the Isles of Chio and Lesbos, with the Cyzicenians, did send all about a ten ambassadors to Sparta, to let the Lacedaemonians understand, they had goodwill to leave the Athenians, so they would send them aid to defend them." Dryden translates this, "After the defeat which the Athenians received in Sicily, ambassadors were despatched to Sparta at once from Chios and Lesbos and Cyzicus, to signify their purpose of revolting from the Athenians."

This defeat showed that Athens was no longer the "top dog" of the Greek city-states, and the smaller cities that depended on Athens to protect them began to look for a stronger friend. It was not possible to simply walk away from their alliances with Athens, though; the people of Athens thought of these smaller cities as colonies or possessions that they controlled, and did not want to give them up without a struggle. If the Spartans (Lacedaemonians) wanted to take over the protecting/controlling, they would have to fight Athens for them.

Reading for Lesson Seven

After this most grievous sentence and condemnation passed against him, Alcibiades departed out of the city of Thuries, and went into the country of Peloponnesus, where he continued a good season in the city of Argos. But in the end fearing his enemies, and having no hope to return again to his own country with any safety, he sent unto Sparta to have safe conduct and licence of the Lacedaemonians, that he might come and dwell in their country, promising them he would do them more good being now their friend, than he ever did them hurt, while he was their enemy. The Lacedaemonians granted his request, and received him very willingly into their city: where even upon his first coming, he did three things. The first was that the Lacedaemonians by his persuasion and procurement, did determine speedily to send aid to the Syracusans, whom they had long before delayed: and so they sent Gylippus their captain to overthrow the Athenians' army, which they had sent thither. The second thing he did for them, was that he made them of Greece to begin war upon the Athenians. The third, and greatest matter of importance, was that he did counsel them to fortify the city of Decelea, which was within the territories of Attica self: which consumed, and brought the power of the Athenians lower, than any other thing whatsoever he could have done. And if her were welcome, and well esteemed in Sparta, for the service he did to the commonwealth, much more he won the love and goodwills of private men, for that he lived after the Laconian manner. So as they that saw his skin scraped to the flesh, and saw him wash himself in cold water, and how he did eat brown bread, and sup of their black broth, would have doubted (or to say better, never have believed) that such a man had ever kept cook in his house, nor that he ever had seen so much as a perfuming pan, or had touched cloth of tissue made at Miletum. For among other qualities and properties had had (whereof he was full) this as they say was one whereby he most robbed men's hearts: that he could frame altogether with their manners and fashions of life, transforming himself more easily to all manner of shapes, than the chameleon. For it is reported, that the chameleon cannot take white colour: but Alcibiades could put upon him any manners, customs or fashions, of what nation soever, and could follow, exercise, and counterfeit them when he would, as well the good as the bad. For in Sparta, he was very painful, and in continual exercise: he lived sparingly with little, and led a straight life. In Ionia, to the contrary: there he lived daintily and superfluously, and gave himself to all mirth and pleasure. In Thracia, he drank ever, or was always a-horseback. If he came to Tissaphernes, lieutenant of the mighty king of Persia, he far exceeded the magnificence of Persia in pomp and sumptuousness. And these things notwithstanding, never altered his natural condition from one fashion to another, neither did his manners (to say truly) receive all sorts of changes. But because peradventure, if he had showed his natural disposition, he might in divers places where he came have offended those whose company he kept, he did with such a visor and cloak disguise himself, to fit their manners whom he companied with, by transforming himself into their natural countenance. As he that had seen him when he was at Sparta, to have looked upon the outward man, would have said as the common proverb sayeth:

It is not the son of Achilles, but Achilles' self:
Even so it is even he, whom Lycurgus brought up.

After the utter overthrow of the Athenians in Sicilia, those of the Isles of Chio and Lesbos, with the Cyzicenians, did send all about a [sic] ten ambassadors to Sparta, to let the Lacedaemonians understand, they had goodwill to leave the Athenians, so they would send them aid to defend them. The Boeotians favoured those of Lesbos: Pharnabazus, the king of Persia's lieutenant, favoured the Cyzicenians. This notwithstanding, the Lacedaemonians were better affected to help those of Chio first, by the persuasion of Alcibiades, who took their matters in hand. And he took sea himself and went into Asia, where he almost turned the country of Ionia against the Athenians: and keeping always with the generals of the Lacedaemonians, he did much hurt the Athenians. Yet notwithstanding, King Agis did bear him ill will and envied his glory: because the rumour ran about, that the most part of the goodly exploits of these wars did happen well, by Alcibiades' means. Other also of the greatest authority among the Spartans, that were most ambitious among them, began in their minds to be angry with Alcibiades, for the envy they bore him: who were of so great power, that they procured their governors to write their letters to their captains in the field, to kill him. Alcibiades hearing of this, did no whit desist to do all he could for the benefit of the Lacedaemonians: yet he had an eye behind him, flying all occasions to fall into their hands. So in the end, for more surety of his person, he went unto Tisaphernes, one of the king of Persia's lieutenants, with whom he won incontinently such credit, that he was the first and chiefest person he had about him. For this barbarous man being no simple person, but rather malicious and subtle of nature, and that loved fine and crafty men, did wonder how he could so easily turn from one manner of living to another, and also at his quick wit and understanding. Moreover, his company and manner to pass the time away, was commonly marvelous full of mirth and pleasure, and he had such pleasant comely devises with him, that no man was of so sullen a nature, but he would make him merry, nor so churlish, but he would make him gentle. So that both those that feared him, and also envied him, they were yet glad to see him, and it did them good to be in his company, and use talk with him. In so much as this Tisaphernes (that otherwise was a churlish man, and naturally hated the Grecians) did give himself so much unto Alcibiades' flatteries, and they pleased him so well, that he himself did study to flatter Alcibiades again, and make much of him. For he called 'Alcibiades' his fair house of pleasure, and goodly prospect: notwithstanding he had many goodly gardens, sweet springs, green arbours and pleasant meadows, and those in all royal and magnificent manner.


What is Alcibiades' first action after he has gained the trust of the Spartans? How do they react? Do you feel his vengeful plans against Athens are justified?

What do you know about Spartan life and culture? To what animal does Plutarch compare Alcibiades (during his stay in Sparta)?

Why did Tisaphernes find Alcibiades an intriguing character?

Something fun to think about: Some people think the Spartan "black broth" might have been coffee. You can look it up online.

LESSON EIGHT: The Battle of Cyzicus

INTRODUCTION: A summary, including parts that have been omitted

When we left Alcibiades at the end of the last section, he had escaped before his trial in Athens (and so was tried and condemned for sacrilege in his absence), had spent some time in Sparta but had left in disgrace, and was now living with and trying to influence the Persian satrap Tisaphernes. Alcibiades' goals in this seem to vary over time; he has grudges against both Athens and Sparta, but he worries that if Athens goes down, he will be at the mercy of Sparta (including the Spartan king Agis who has a personal grudge against him).

He "calls up" the Athenian leaders based in Samos and tries to convince them to take over the government and turn it into an oligarchy, run by aristocrats only instead of all the citizens; and also to pardon him, in exchange for his using his influence with Tisaphernes to keep the Persians away. (The Athenians were very worried about the possibility of being outmatched if Persia supported the Spartans (Lacedaemonians) in battle.) The Athenians at Samos are mostly receptive, except for Phrynichus who smells a rat. (Why does Alcibiades want to help them now)

So this is what happens:

Phrynichus speaks his mind but is told to shut up, so he is angry with the other leaders.
He secretly talks to the Lacedaemonian high admiral Astiochus and warns him about Alcibiades' double-dealing.
But the admiral tells Alcibiades what Phrynichus said.
Alcibiades accuses Phrynichus of treachery.
Phrynichus calls up Astiochus and tells him off, but offers to betray the Athenians (allow the Lacedaemonians to capture their army and navy).
Astiochus of course reports everything to Alcibiades, as Phrynichus expects.
Phrynichus warns the Athenians to prepare for an attack; he warns them before they can hear Alcibiades' latest bulletin that they will be betrayed by Phrynichus himself.
When Alcibiades warns the Athenians, they don't believe him.

BUT (The story gets a little twisted here.)
A group of aristocrats, including friends of Alcibiades, do take over the government, but they cut Alcibiades out of the deal.
The leaders at Samos (reluctantly?) send for Alcibiades and ask his help in putting down the rebellion (ousting the usurpers).
This would actually have been a bad move. It would have meant complete civil war, weakening Athens and leaving them open to their enemies.
So that is Positive Thing Number One that Alcibiades does. (Remember, he really doesn't want to see Athens collapse.)
Positive Thing Number Two: Alcibiades uses his influence to prevent the Phoenician ships from coming to help the Spartans.

Soon after, the defenders of Athens do manage to drive out the usurpers; and Alcibiades is requested/commanded to return to Athens. He doesn't want to come back with his tail between his legs, or make even a half-size entrance; so he goes in search of adventure and personal glory before returning. On the way home, he decides to show off his loot to Tisaphernes.

Unknown to him, Tisaphernes has been told that he shouldn't be nice to Alcibiades any more. It doesn't look good. In fact, Tisaphernes puts Alcibiades under arrest, to prove he's faithful to the Persian king.


From "Alcibiades despairing utterly to find any safety or friendship among the Spartans"

to "supposing the wrong he had done would by this means easily discharge, and purge him to the king."

OMISSIONS: Dryden's omissions in this section seem to be for reasons of length. If you want to cover the whole story as given in the summary, don't bother with the omissions; just read the lesson through. Section from "This barbarous man did easily consent to this devise" to "who maliced him to the death." Section from "Who mistrusting (that was true indeed)" to "the council in the army at Samos." Section from "This was the colour and cloak" to "open presence to resist these four hundred." Section from "For he departed immediately, and went with great speed" to "those that took the people's part."

Reading for Lesson Eight

Note: because I suggested reading this without the omissions, I have included the full text. The parts omitted by John S. White are in square brackets.

Alcibiades despairing utterly to find any safety or friendship among the Spartans, and fearing on the other side King Agis also, he began to speak ill of them, and to disgrace all that they did, to Tisaphernes. By this practice he stayed Tisaphernes from aiding them so friendly as he might: moreover, he did not utterly destroy the Athenians. For he persuaded him that he should furnish the Lacedaemonians but with little money, to let them diminish and consume by little and little: to the end that after one had troubled and weakened the other, they both at the length should be the easier for the king to overcome. [This barbarous man did easily consent to this devise. All the world then saw he loved Alcibiades, and esteemed of him very much: in so much as he was sought to, and regarded of all hands of the Grecians. Then were the Athenians sorry, and repented them when they had received so great loss and hurt, for that they had decreed so severely against Alcibiades, who in like manner was very sorrowful, to see them brought to so hard terms, fearing, if the city of Athens came to destruction, that he himself should fall in the end into the hands of the Lacedaemonians, who maliced him to the death.]

Now about that time, all the power of the Athenians were [sic] almost in the Isle of Samos, from whence with their army by sea, they thought to suppress the rebels that were up against them, and to keep all that which yet remained. For they were yet prettily strong to resist their enemies, at the last by sea: but they stood in great fear of the power of Tisaphernes, and of the hundred and fifty galleys which were reported to be coming out of the country of Phenicia, to the aid of their enemies, which if they had come, the city of Athens had been utterly spoiled, and forever without hope of recovery. The which Alcibiades understanding, sent secretly unto the chiefest men that were in the army of the Athenians at Samos, to give them hope he would make Tisaphernes their friend: howbeit not of any desire he had to gratify the people, nor that he trusted to the commonality of Athens, but only to the honourable and honest citizens, and that conditionally so as they had the heart and courage to bridle a little the over-licentiousness and insolence of the common people, and that they would take upon them the authority to govern, and to redress their state, and to preserve the city of Athens from final and utter destruction. Upon this advertisement, all the heads and chief men did give very good ear unto it: saving only Phyrnichus, one of the captains, and of the town of Dirades. [Who mistrusting (that was true indeed) that Alcibiades cared not which end went forward, nor who had the chief government of Athens, the nobility or the commonality, and did but seek all the devises and ways he could, to return again if it might be possible, in any manner of sort, and that he did but curry favour with the nobility, blaming and accusing the people: he stood altogether against the motion, whereupon Alcibiades' devise was not followed. And having now showed himself open enemy to Alcibiades, he did secretly advertise Astiochus then admiral to the Lacedaemonians, of Alcibiades' practice, and warned him to take heed of him, and to lay him up safe, as a double dealer, and one that had intelligence with both sides: but he understood not how it was but one traitor to speak to another. For this Astiochus was a follower of Tisaphernes for his private commodity: and perceiving Alcibiades in such credit with him, he did discover to Alcibiades all that Phrynichus had advertised him. Alcibiades straight sent men of purpose to Samos, unto the captains there, to accuse Phrynichus of the treason he had revealed against them. Those of the council there, receiving this intelligence, were highly offended with Phrynichus. So, he seeing no better way to save himself for making of this fault, went about to make amends with committing a worse fault. Thereupon he sent again to Astiochus, complaining much he had disclosed him, and yet nevertheless he promised him, if he would keep his counsel, that he would deliver the whole fleet and army of the Athenians into his hands. howbeit this treason of Phrynichus did the Athenians no hurt at all, by reason of Astiochus' counter treason: for he did let Alcibiades again understand what offer Phyrnichus had made him. Phrynichus looking to be charged with this again, the second time before the council, by means of Alcibiades, did first advertise the chief of the army of the Athenians, that their enemies would come and set upon them, and where, and how: and gave them therefore warning to keep near their ships, to make a strong watch, and to fortify themselves with all speed, the which forthwith they did. And as they were about it, there came other letters from Alcibiades, by the which he did warn them again to take heed of Phrynichus, because he had practiced again with their enemies, to deliver the whole army of Athens into their hands. But they gave no credit to his second letters: for they thought that he knowing the preparations and minds of the enemies, would serve his own turn with the false accusing of Phrynichus.

Notwithstanding this, there was some falsehood in fellowship: for one Hermon, openly in the market place, stabbed Phrynichus in with a dagger, and killed him. The fact being pleased in law, and thoroughly considered of, the dead body by the sentence of the people was condemned for a traitor, and Hermon the murderer, and his fellows, were crowned in recompense of their fact they had done to kill a traitor to the commonwealth.

Wherefore those that were Alcibiades' friends, being at that time the stronger, and greatest men of the council in the army at Samos,] they sent one Pisander to Athens, to attempt to alter the government, and to encourage the noblemen to take upon them the authority, and to pluck it from the people: assuring them that Tisaphernes would give them aid to do it, by means of Alcibiades, who would make him their friend. [This was the colour and cloak wherewith they served their turns, that did changed the government of Athens, and that brought it into the hands of a small number of nobility: for they were in all but four hundred, and yet they called themselves five thousand. But so soon as they felt themselves strong, and that they had the whole authority of government without contradiction in their hands, they made then no more reckoning of Alcibiades, and so they made wars more coldly and slackly than before. Partly because they mistrusted their citizens, who found the change of government very strange, and partly also because they were of opinion that the Lacedaemonians (who at all times did most favour the government of nobility) would be better inclined to make peace with them. Now the common people that remained still in the city, stirred not, but were quiet against their wills, for fear of danger, because there were many of them slain, that boldly took upon them in open presence to resist these four hundred.]

But those that were in the camp, in the Isle of Samos, hearing these news, were so grievously offended that they resolved to return incontinently again, unto the haven of Piraea. First of all, they sent for Alcibiades, whom they chose their captain: they commanded him straightly to lead them against these tyrants, who had usurped the liberty of the people of Athens. But nevertheless he did not therein, as another would have done in this case, seeing himself so suddenly crept again in favour with the common people: for he did not think he should incontinently please and gratify them in all things, though they had made him now their general over all their ships and so great an army, being before but a banished man, a vagabond, and a fugitive. But to the contrary, as it became a general worthy of such a charge, he considered with himself, that it was his part wisely to stay those, who would in a rage and fury carelessly cast themselves away, and not suffer them to do it. And truly Alcibiades was the cause of the preserving of the city of Athens at that time from utter destruction. For if they had suddenly (according to their determination) departed from Samos to go to Athens, the enemies finding no man to let them, might easily have won all the country of Ionia, of Hellespont, and of all the other isles without stroke striking, whilst the Athenians were busy fighting one against another in civil wars, and within the compass of their own walls. This Alcibiades alone, and no other, did prevent, not only by persuading the whole army, and declaring the inconvenience thereof, which would fall out upon their sudden departure: but also by entreating some particularly apart, and keeping a number back by very force. To bring this about, one Thrasibulus of the town of Stira, did help him much, who went through the army, and cried out upon them that were bent to enterprise this journey. For he had the biggest and loudest voice, as they say, of any man that was in all the city of Athens. This was a notable act, and a great piece of service done by Alcibiades: that he promised five hundred sail of the Phenicians (which the Lacedaemonians assuredly looked for, in their aid from the king of Persia) should not come at all, or else if they came, it should be in the favour of the Athenians. [For he departed immediately, and went with great speed to Tisaphernes: whom he handled in such sort, that he brought not the ships that lay at road before the city of Aspenda, and so he broke promise with the Lacedaemonians. Therefore Alcibiades was marvelously blamed and accused, both of the one and the other side, to have altered Tisaphernes' mind, but chiefly of the Lacedaemonians, who said that he had persuaded this barbarous captain he should neither aid the one nor the other, but rather to suffer them one to devour and destroy each other. For it had been out of doubt, if this great fleet and navy of the King's had come to join their force with either party, that they had taken from the one of them, the seigniory and domination of the sea.

Shortly after, the four hundred noblemen that had usurped the authority and government of Athens, were utterly driven away and overthrown, by means of the friendly aid and assistance that Alcibiades' friends gave those that took the people's part.] So the citizens were very well pleased with Alcibiades, in so much as they sent for him to return when he thought good. But he, judging with himself it would be no honour nor grace unto him to return without some well deserving, and before he had done some greater exploit, as only upon the people's favour and goodwill, whereas otherwise his return might be both glorious and triumphant, departed first from Samos with a small number of galleys, and went sailing up and down the isles of Cos and of Gnidos. There he was advertised, that Mindarus, the admiral of the Lacedaemonians, was gone with all his fleet unto the strait of Hellespont, and that the captains of the Athenians gave chase unto him. Thereupon he went also and sailed thither with speed, to aid the Athenians: and by very good fortune came with eighteen galleys even at the very instant, when there were both in the midst of their fight, with all their ships before the city of Abydos. The battle was cruelly fought between them from morning till night, both he one and the other having the better in one part of the battle, and the worst in another place.

Now at the first discovery of Alcibiades' coming, both parts had indeed contrary imaginations of him. For the enemies took heart unto them, and the Athenians began to be afraid. But Alcibiades set up straight his flag in the top of the galley of his admiral, to show what he was. Wherewithal, he set upon the Poloponnesians that had the better, and had certain galleys of the Athenians in chase: whereupon the Poloponnesians gave over their chase, and fled. But Alcibiades followed them so lustily, that he ran divers of them aground, and broke their ships, and slew a great number of men that leapt into the sea, in hope to save themselves by swimming a-land. So notwithstanding that Pharnabazus was come thither to aid the Lacedaemonians, and did his best endeavour to save their galleys by the sea shore: yet the Athenians in the end won thirty galleys of their enemies, and saved all their own, and so did set up certain flags of triumph and victory. Alcibiades having now happily got this glorious victory, would needs go show himself in triumph unto Tisaphernes. So having prepared to present him with goodly rich presents, and appointed also a convenient train and number of sail meet for a general, he took his course directly to him. But he found not that entertainment he hoped for. For Tisaphernes standing in great hazard of displeasure, and fear of punishment at the king's hands, having long time before been defamed by the Lacedaemonians, who had complained of him, that he did not fulfil the king's commandment, thought that Alcibiades was arrived in very happy hour: whereupon he kept him prisoner in the city of Sardis, supposing the wrong he had done would by this means easily discharge, and purge him to the king.


If you've managed to get through all this, you don't need any discussion questions. Take a break.

LESSON NINE: The Battle of Cyzicus, and Alcibiades' Return

Note: this is a lesson that could be divided into two parts.


Tisaphernes has put Alcibiades under "house arrest," but Alcibiades escapes. (To get revenge, Alcibiades tells everyone that Tisaphernes helped him escape.)

Alcibiades sails to the Athenian camp, gets the soldiers on his side, and gets them so pumped up that they sail off to attack the harbour of Cyzicus, which they do successfully; they secure the Hellespont (control an important water gateway) and force the Lacedaemonians out of the rest of the sea. It's a great victory, and the soldiers are extremely puffed up about this.

There is another Athenian contingent, led by Thrasyllus, that then gets attacked; Alcibiades' army, flying high, comes and saves them, and they all burn the land, kidnap the priests, etc. It all means more success for Alcibiades, at least for the time being. (Remember his goal is to return to Athens with enough glory to make them all forget that he had been sent away in disgrace.)


From "Yet at the end of thirty days, Alcibiades by fortune got a horse" to "had now not only restored Athens to her former power and sovereignty on the sea, but had made her also a conqueror by land."


Long section from "Now the soldiers of Athens that had been at this journey and overthrow" to "ashamed to condemn him, and therefore they let him go." Section from "Now the decree for his repair home again" to "'as plainly shall appear.'"

Reading for Lesson Nine

Yet at the end of thirty days, Alcibiades by fortune got a horse, and stealing from his keepers, fled unto the city of Clazomenes: and this did more increase the suspicion they had of Tisaphernes, because they thought that underhand he had wrought his liberty.

Alcibiades took then sea again, and went to seek out the army of the Athenians. Which when he had found, and heard news that Mindarus and Pharnabazus were together in the city of Cizicum, he made an oration to his soldiers, and delclared unto them how it was very requisitie they should fight with their enemies, both by sea and by land, and moreover that they should assault them within their forts and castles, because otherwise they could have no money to defray their charges. His oration ended, he made them immediately hoist sail, and so to go lie at anchor in the Isle of Proconesus: where he took order that they should keep in all the pinnaces and brigantines among the ships of war, that the enemy might have no manner of intelligence of his coming. The great showers of rain also, with thunder and dark weather that fell out suddenly upon it, did greatly further him in his attempt and enterprise: in so much as not only his enemies, but the Athenians that were there before, knew nothing of his coming. So some made their reckoning, that they could do little or nothing all that day: yet he made them suddenly embark, and hoist sail. They were no sooner in the main sea, but they descried afar off the galleys of their enemies, which lay at road before the haven of Cyzicum. And fearing lest the great number of his fleet would make them fly, and take land before he could come to them, he commanded certain captains to stay behind, and to row softly after him, and himself with forty galleys with him went towards the enemies to provoke them to fight. The enemies supposing there had been no more ships than those that were in sight, did set out presently to fight with them. They were no sooner joined together, but Alcibiades' ships that came behind, were also descried: the enemies were so afraid thereat, that they cast about, and fled straight. Alcibiades leaving his fleet, followed the chase with twenty of the best galleys he had, and drove them a-land. Thereupon he landed also, and pursued them so courageously at their heels, that he slew a great number of them on the mainland, who thought by flying to have saved themselves. Moreover, Mindarus and Pharnabazus, both come out of the city to rescue their people, were overthrown both. He slew Mindarus in the field fighting valiantly: as for Pharnabazus, he cowardly fled away. So the Athenians spoiled the dead bodies (which were a great number) of a great deal of armour and riches, and took besides all their enemies' ships. After they took the city of Cizycum, Pharnabazus having left it. Then the Peloponnesians being slain, they had not only the possession of the whole country of Hellespont, which they kept: but they drove their enemies by force out of all parts of the sea. There were at that time certain letters intercepted, whereby a secretary gave advertisement unto the Ephori at Sparta, of the overthrow in this sort: 'All is lost, Mindarus is slain, our people die for hunger, and we know not what to do.'

Now Alcibiades desirous in the end to see his native country again (or to speak more truly, that his countrymen should see him) after he had so many times overthrown their enemies in battle: he hoist sail, and directed his course towards Athens, bringing with him all the galleys of the Athenians richly furnished, and decked all about with scutcheons and targets, and other armour and weapon gotten amongst the spoils of his enemies. Moreover, he brought with him many other ships, which he had won and broken in the wars, besides many ensigns and other ornaments: all which being counted together one with the other, made up the number of two hundred ships. Furthermore, where Duris Samian writeth (who challenges that he came of his house) that at his return one Chrysogonus, an excellent player of the flute (that had won certain of the Pythian games) did play such a note, that at the sound thereof the galley slaves would keep stroke with their oars, and that Callipides another excellent player of tragedies, playing the part of a comedy, did stir them to row, being in such players' garments as every master of such science useth commonly to wear, presenting himself in theatre or stage before the people to show his art: and that the admiral galley wherein himself was, entered the haven with a purple sail, as if some masque had come into a man's house after some great banquet made, neither Ephorus, nor Theopompus, nor Xenophon, make any mention of this at all. Furthermore, methinks it should not be true, that he returning from exile after so long a banishment, and having passed over such sorrows and calamities as he had sustained, would so proudly and presumptuously show himself unto the Athenians. But merely contrary, it is most certain that he returned in great fear and doubt. For when he was arrived in the haven of Piraea, he would not set foot a-land, before he first saw his nephew Euryptolemus, and divers other of his friends from the hatches of his ship, standing upon the sands in the haven mouth. Who were come thither to receive and welcome him, and told him that he might be bold to land, without fear of anything. He was no sooner landed, but all the people ran out of every corner to see him, with so great love and affection that they took no heed of the other captains that came with him, but clustered all to him only, and cried out for joy to see him. Those that could come near him, did welcome and embrace him: but all the people wholly followed him. And some that came to him, put garlands of flowers upon his head: and those that could not come near him, saw him afar off, and the old folks did point him out to the younger sort. But this common joy was mingled notwithstanding, with tears and sorrow, when they came to think upon their former misfortunes and calamities, and to compare them with their present prosperity: weighing with themselves also how they had not lost Sicilia, nor their hope in all things else had failed them, if they had delivered themselves and the charge of their army into Alcibiades' hands, when they sent for him to appear in person before them. Considering also how he found the city of Athens in manner put from their signiory and commandment on the sea, and on the other side how their force by land was brought on to such extremity, that Athens scantly could defend her suburbs, the city self being so divided and turmoiled with civil dissension: yet he gathered together those few, and small force that remained, and had now not only restored Athens to her former power and sovereignty on the sea, but had made her also a conqueror by land.


How did Alcibiades manage to be so successful in this battle?

Some people say Alcibiades made a grand entrance, some say he didn't announce his arrival until he was sure of a welcome. When he did arrive, he was welcomed as a hero, and there seemed to be regret that they hadn't left more of the decisions up to him in the first place. Dramatize his arrival, or write a newspaper report or a letter from someone who was there.

LESSON TEN: The Battle of Aegospotami

INTRODUCTION, including omitted parts:

Now that Alcibiades is finally home, he takes a look around for things that could be improved (and that could boost his popularity with the Athenians). Religious processions in recent times have been forced to be made by water, because the Spartans hold one of the major roads. Alcibiades decides that the whole procession should go on as it used to, guarded by his army. It works; they have their procession, and everybody loves Alcibiades (at least this week), including the common folks because they got to have their parade. There are suggestions that he should take absolute control over the city--act as tyrant. ("Tyrant" is not meant in quite such a negative sense as we use it now; it is meant more in the sense of "dictator".)

Other people think it prudent that he be gotten out of Athens for awhile, since he is getting too big for his own good (and in Athens that can be a problem). So he takes a fleet to Andros (406/405 BC) and fights the Lacedaemonians (Spartans).

This is the first place where Lysander is mentioned--the admiral of the Spartan fleet (a replacement for Mindarus). (The Persian satrap Tisaphernes has been replaced by someone named Cyrus--the reference here is to the satrap, not to King Cyrus.) At the Battle of Notium, Lysander kills Alcibiades' second-in-command, Antiochus (note that Antiochus was disobeying orders at the time), while Alcibiades is away trying to scrounge more funds to pay his soldiers.


From "But notwithstanding, the people being assembled all in council" to "But Lysander, quietly contenting himself with his first victory, went not out against him."


Long section from "Now Alcibiades flourished in his chiefest prosperity" to "which was one of the first matters his enemies did accuse him for."

Reading for Lesson Ten

But notwithstanding, the people being assembled all in council, Alcibiades came before them, and made an oration: wherein he first lamented all his mishaps, and found himself grieved a little with the wrongs they had offered him, yet he imputed all in the end to his cursed fortune, and some spiteful god that envied his glory and prosperity. Then he dilated at large the great hope their enemies had to have advantage of them: and therewithal persuaded the people to be of good courage, and afraid of nothing that was to come. And to conclude, the people crowned him with crowns of gold, and chose him general again of Athens, with sovereign power and authority both by land as by sea. And at that very instant it was decreed by the people, that he should be restored again to all his goods, and that the priests Eumolpides should absolve him of all their curses, and that the heralds should with open proclamation revoke the execrations and cursings they had thundered out against him before, by commandment of the people. Whereto they all agreed, and were very willing, saving Theodorus the bishop, who said: 'I did neither excommunicate him, nor curse him, if he hath done no hurt to the commonwealth.'

For if every man was overthrown and envied, for the estimation they had of his valour and sufficiency, truly Alcibiades was the man. For the notable and sundry services he had done won him such estimation of wisdom and valiantness, that where he slacked in any service whatsoever, he was presently suspected, judging the ill success not in that he could not, but for that he would not: and that where he undertook any enterprise, nothing could withstand or lie in his way. Hereupon the people persuading themselves, that immediately after his departure, they should hear that the Isle of Chio was taken, with all the country of Ionia, they were angry they could have no news so suddenly from him as they looked for. Moreover, they did not consider the lack of money he had, and specially making war with such enemies as were ever relieved with the great king of Persia's aid, and that for necessity's sake he was sundry times driven to leave his camp, to seek money where he could get it to pay his soldiers, and to maintain his army. Now for testimony hereof, the last accusation that was against him, was only for this matter. Lysander being sent by the Lacedaemonians for admiral and general of their army by sea, used such policy with Cyrus, the king of Persia's brother, that he got into his hands a great sum of money: by means whereof he gave unto his mariners four obols a day for their wages, where before they were wont to have but three, and yet Alcibiades had much ado to furnish his with three only a day. For this cause, to get money, Alcibiades sailed into Caria. But in the meantime Antiochus, whom Alcibiades had left his lieutenant behind him, and had given him charge of all the ships in his absence, being a very skilful seaman, but otherwise a hasty harebrained fool, and of small capacity: he being expressly commanded by Alcibiades not to fight in any case, though the enemies offered him battle, was so foolish rash, and made so little reckoning of his strait commandment, that he armed his own galley, whereof himself was captain, and another besides, and went to the city of Ephesus, passing all along his enemies' galleys, reviling and offering villainy to those that stood upon the hatches of their galleys. Lysander being marvelously provoked by those words, went and encountered him at the first with a few ships. The other captains of the galleys of the Athenians, seeing Antiochus in danger, went to aid him, one after another. Then Lysander of his part also set out all his whole fleet against him, and in the end overcame them. Antiochus self was killed in the conflict, and many galleys and men were taken prisoners: wherefore Lysander set up shows of triumph in token of victory. Alcibiades hearing these ill-favoured news, returned presently with all possible speed to Samos: and when he came thither, he went with all the rest of his fleet to offer Lysander battle. But Lysander, quietly contenting himself with his first victory, went not out against him.


What happened to the punishments that had been decreed?

Did the Athenians expect too much from Alcibiades after his return? There is an interesting point made here, that since Alcibiades is thought so capable, then if he fails at something, it must be by his own neglect. What are the problems with this kind of thinking?

Antiochus deliberately disobeyed his commander's orders. Describe the result.



Thrasybulus (not the same Thrasybulus mentioned earlier), an enemy of Alcibiades, goes and reports to Athens with all kinds of terrible stories about him.

Alcibiades escapes, knowing he is in trouble. He takes some mercenaries with him, fights with the Thracians and funds himself with the spoils from that battle.

Athens appoints three new generals. They also try to fight with Lysander, but nothing happens for awhile. Alcibiades, who is still nearby, warns them that their ships are not in a good position, that Lysander is probably just waiting to strike; but they ignore him.


From "Now this victory was no sooner won, but one Thrasybulus the son of Thrason, Alcibiades' enemy, went incontinently from the camp" to "Shortly after, he took the city self of Athens, and razed their long walls even to the ground."


Section from "Whereupon Alcibiades fearing they would purpose some reason" to "great mischief unto their camp."


long walls - walls built from a city to its port, such as from Athens to Piraeus.

Reading for Lesson Eleven

Now this victory was no sooner won, but one Thrasybulus the son of Thrason, Alcibiades' enemy, went incontinently from the camp, and got him to Athens, to accuse Alcibiades to the people: whom he informed how all went to wrack, and that he had lost many ships, for that he regarded no his charge, carelessly putting men in trust, whom he gave too great credit to, because they were good fellows, and would drink drunk with him, and were full of mariners' mocks and knavish jests, such as they use commonly amongst themselves. And that he in the meantime took his pleasure abroad, here and there, scraping money together where he could come by it, keeping good cheer, and feasting of the Abydenian and Ionian women, when the enemies' army was so near theirs as it was. moreover, they laid to his charge, that he did fortify a castle in the country of Thracia, near unto the city of Bisanthe, for a place to retire himself unto, either because he could not, or rather that he would not, live any longer in his own country. Upon those accusations, the Athenians giving over credit to the report, did immediately choose new captains, and thereby declared their misliking. Alcibiades hearing of this, and fearing lest they would do him some worse harm, did leave straight the Athenians' camp, and gathering a certain number of strangers together, went of himself to make war upon certain free people of the Thracians, who were subject to no prince nor state: where he got a marvelous mass of money together, by means whereof he did assure the Grecians inhabiting those marches form all invasion of foreign enemies. Now Tydeus, Menander, and Adimanthus the Athenians' captains, being afterwards in a place commonly called the goats' river, with all the galleys the city of Athens had at that time upon that coast, used every morning commonly to go to the sea, to offer battle to Lysander, who rode at an anchor before the city of Lampsacus, with all the Lacedaemonians' army by sea, and commonly returned again to the place from whence they came, in very ill order, without either watch or ward, as men that were careless of their enemies. Alcibiades being on the land not far off, and finding their great fault and negligence, took his horse, and went to them, and told them that they lay on an ill shore, where there was no good road, nor town, and where they were driven to seek their victuals as far as to the city of Sestos, and that they suffered their mariners to leave their ships, and go a-land when they lay at anchor, straggling up and down the country as they would themselves, without regard that there lay a great army of their enemies before the, ready to be set out at their generals' commandment: and therefore he advised them to remove thence, and to go cast anchor before the city of Sestos.

Howbeit the captains would not be advised by him: and that which was worst of all, Tydeus, one of the captains, stoutly commanded him to get him away, as one that had nothing to do with the matter, and that other [sic] had charge of the army.

But now, how wisely Alcibiades did foresee the faults he told the Athenians' captains of, their great misfortune and loss that followed incontinently did too plainly witness it to the world.

For Lysander came so fiercely upon them on a sudden, that of all the ships they had in their whole fleet, only eight galleys were saved, with whom Conon fled: and the other being not much less than two hundred in number, were every one of them taken and carried away, with three thousand prisoners whom Lysander put to death. Shortly after, he took the city self of Athens, and razed their long walls even to the ground.


Why is Thrasybulus believed so quickly? (How fickle ARE these people?) How do the Athenians react? Why do you think Alcibiades is then so quick to forsake the army? (Wouldn't he figure that he would quickly regain his popularity?)

Why did Alcibiades warn the generals about their dangerous position? Do you feel this was magnanimous of him, or did he have other reasons?

What are the Spartan and Athenian positions at the end of this section?



Alcibiades, fearing the Spartans, escapes to Bithynia. After being robbed, he decides to go to Artaxerxes (king of Persia) and ask for his aid against Sparta (and some security for himself). First, though, he goes to Pharnabazus, the Persian satrap, to ask for protection and safe conduct to the king.

Meanwhile, the Spartans rule in Athens. The Athenians are sorry they rejected Alcibiades, and hope he will find some way to save them again; and that's exactly what the Spartans are afraid of as well.

The "official" version of the story at this point says that Lysander, the Spartan general) is ordered to have Alcibiades killed. Plutarch mentions that there may be other possibilities; Alcibiades did have personal enemies as well as political ones.


From "After this great and notable victory, Alcibiades fearing sore the Lacedaemonians, who then without let or interruption of any" to "they bestowed so many arrows and darts of him, that they killed him there."


Section describing what Alcibiades was doing in the village of Phrygia, to "this vision was but a little before his death." Section from "Now when they had left him, Timandra went" to the end.

Reading for Lesson Twelve

After this great and notable victory, Alcibiades fearing sore the Lacedaemonians, who then without let or interruption of any, were only lords and princes by sea and by land, he went into the country of Bithynia, and caused great good to be brought after him, and took a marvelous sum of money with him, besides great riches he left also I the castles of Thracia, where he did remain before. Howbeit he lost much of his goods in Bithynia, which certain Thracians dwelling in that country had robbed him of, and taken from him. So he determined to repair forthwith unto King Artaxerxes, hoping that when the king had once proved him, he should find him a man of no less service, than he had found Themistocles before him: besides that the occasion of his going thither should be much juster than his was. For he did not go thither to make war against the city of Athens and his country, as Themistocles did, but of a contrary intent, to make intercession to the king, that it would please him to aid them. Now, Alcibiades thinking, he could use no better mean, that Pharnabazus' help only, to see him safely conducted to the king's court, he proposed his journey to him, into the country of Phrygia, where he abode a certain time to attend upon him, and was very honourably entertained and received of Pharnabazus.

All this while the Athenians found themselves desolate, and in miserable state to see their empire lost: but then much more, when Lysander had taken all their liberties, and did set thirty governors over the city. Now too late, after all was lost (where they might have recovered again, if they had been wise) they began together to bewail and lament their miseries and wretched state, looking back upon all their willful faults and follies committed: among which, they did reckon their second time of falling out with Alcibiades, was their greatest fault. So they banished him only of malice and displeasure, not for any offence himself in person had committed against them, saving that his lieutenant in his absence had shamefully lost a few of their ships: and they themselves more shamefully had drive out of their city the nobles soldier and most skilful captain that they had. And yet they had some little poor hope left, that they were not altogether cast away, so long as Alcibiades lived, and had his health. For before, when he was a forsaken man, and led a banished life, yet he could not live idly, and do nothing. Wherefore now much more, said they to themselves, if there be any help at all, he will not suffer out of doubt the insolence and pride of the Lacedaemonians, nor yet abide the cruelties and outrages of these thirty tyrants. And surely the common people had some reason to have these thoughts in their heads, considering that the thirty governors themselves did what they could possibly to spy out Alcibiades' doings, and what he went about.

In so much as Critias at the last declared to Lysander, that so long the Lacedaemonians might reckon themselves lords over all Greece, as they kept from the common people the rule and authority of the city of Athens. And further he added, that notwithstanding the people of Athens could well away to live like subjects under the government of a few, yet Alcibiades whilst he lived, would never suffer them so to be reigned over, but would attempt by all devise he could to bring a change and innovation among them. Yet Lysander would not credit these persuasions, before special commandment was sent to him from the senate of Lacedaemon, upon his allegiance, that he should devise to kill Alcibiades by all means he could procure: either because in truth they feared the subtlety of his wit, and the greatness of his courage, to enterprise matters of great weight and danger, or else that they sought to gratify King Agis by it.

Lysander being thus straitly commanded, did send and practice incontinently with Pharnabazus to execute the fact. Now was Alcibiades in a certain village of Phyrgia.

Those that were sent to kill him durst not enter the house where he was, but set it afire round about. Alcibiades spying the fire, got such apparel and hangings as he had, the threw it on the fire, thinking to have put it out: and so casting his cloak about his left arm, took his naked sword in his other hand, and ran out of the house, himself not once touched with fire, saving his clothes were a little singed. These murderers so soon as they spied him, drew back, and stood asunder, and durst not one of them come near him, to stand and fight with him: but afar off, they bestowed so many arrows and darts of him, that they killed him there.


Plutarch thinks that the Athenians were right to consider Alcibiades still important, since "the thirty [enemy] governors themselves did what they could possibly to spy out Alcibiades' doings, and what he went about." Were they right?

Was Alcibiades' murder inevitable?