ePub 版

cluded ten years and some days from the first declaration of the war.* The Boeotians and Corinthians were exceedingly disgusted at it, and for that reason used their utmost endeavours to excite fresh troubles. But Nicias persuaded the Athenians and Lacedæmonians to give the last hand to this peace, by concluding an alliance offensive and defensive, which would render them more formidable to those who should desire to break with them, and more assured with regard to each other. The Athenians, in consequence of this treaty, at last restored the prisoners they had taken in the island of Sphacteria.



LUS, &c. &c.

ALCIBIADES began now to advance himself in the state, and appear in the public assemblies. Socrates had been attached to him for many years, and adorned his mind with a great variety of the noblest erudition. I

The strict intimacy between Alcibiades and Socrates is one of the most remarkable circumstances in his life. This philosopher, observing excellent natural qualities in him, which were greatly heightened by the beauty of bis person, bestowed incredible pains in cultivating so valuable a plant, lest being neglected it should wither as it grew, and absolutely degenerate. And indeed Alcibiades was exposed to numberless dangers; his high birth, his vast riches, the authority of his family, the credit of his guardians, his personal talents, his exquisite beauty, and still more than these, the flattery and complaisance of all wbo approached him. One would have concluded, says Plutarch, that fortune had surrounded and invested him with all these pretended advantages as with so many ramparts and bulwarks, to render him inaccessible and invul. nerable to all the darts of philosophy; those salutary darts which strike to the heart, and leave in it the strongest incitements to virtue and solid glory. But these very obstacles redoubled the zeal of Socrates.

Notwithstanding the strong endeavours that were used to divert this young Athenian from an attachment which alone was capable of securing him from so many snares, he devoted himself entirely to it. As he had abundance of wit, he was fully sensible of Socrates's extraordinary merit; and could not resist the charms of his insinuating eloquence, which at that time had a greater ascendant over him than the allurements of pleasure. He was so zealous a disciple of that great master, that he followed him wherever he went, took the utmost delight in his conversation, was extremely well pleased with his principles, received his instructions, and even his reprimands, with a wonderful docility, and would be so moved with his discourses, as even to shed tears and abhor himself; so weighty was the force of truth in the mouth of Socrates, and in so loathsome and odious a light did he expose the vices to which Alcibiades was prone,

Alcibiades, in those moments when he listened to Socrates, differed so much from himself, that he appeared quite another man. However, his headstrong fiery ternper, and his natural fondness for pleasure, which was heightened and infamed by the discourses and advice of young people, soon plunged him into his former irregularities, and tore him, as it were, from his master; who was obliged to run after him as after a slave who had escaped. This vicissitude of Aights and returns, of virtuous resolutions and relapses into vice, continued a long time; but still Socrates was not discouraged by his levity, and always flattered bimself with the hope of bringing him back to his duty. And hence certainly arose the strong mixture of good and evil which always appeared in his conduct; the instructions wbich his master had given him sometimes prevailing, and at other times, the fire of his passions hurrying him, in a manner against his own will into actions of a quite opposite nature.

This intimacy, which continued as long as they lived, did not pass uncen, sured. But some persons of great learning pretend, that these censures and


• A M. 9583. Ant. J. C. 421

| Thucyd. 1. v. p. 358, 359.

* Plut. in Alcib. p. 192, 194.


suspiciuns, when duly examined, quite disappear; and that they ought to be considered as the effect of the malice of the enemies of both.* Plato, in one of his dialogues, gives us a conversation between Socrates and Alcibiades, by which the genius and character of the latter may be known, who was thenceforward to have a very great share in the affairs of the republic of Athens. I shall make a very short extract from it in this place, which I hope will not displease my readers.

In this dialogue, Socrates is introduced conversing which Alcibiades, who at that time was under the guardianship of Pericles. He was then very young, and had been educated like the rest of the Athenians, that is, he had been taught polite literature, and to play on instruments, and bad practised wrestling and other bodily exercises. It does not appear that Pericles had hitherto taken much pains in his education, a fault too common in the greatest men, since he had put him under the tutorage of Zopyrus, a Thracian, a man far advanced in years, and who, of all Pericles's slaves, both from his turn of mind and age, was the least qualified to educate this young Athenian. And indeed Socrates told Alcibiades, that should be compare him with the youths of Lacedæmon, who displayed a spirit of valour, a greatness of soul, a strong desire of glory, a love of labour, attended with gentleness, modesty, temperance, and a perfect obedience to the laws and discipline of Sparta, he would seem a mere child to them. Nevertheless bis high birth, his riches, the great families he was related to, and the authority of his guardian, all these things had conspired to make him exceedingly vain and haughty. He was full of esteem for himself, and of contempt for all others. He was preparing to enter upon the administration of public affairs, and promised himself no less than to eclipse entirely the glory of Pericles and to attack the king of Persia even upon his throne. Socrates seeing him about to mount the rostra, in order to give the people some advice relating to the public affairs, demonstrated to him by various questions, and by Alcibiades's answers, that he was quite ignorant of the affairs about which be was going to speak, as he had never studied them himself, nor been informed in them by others. After making Alcibiades confess this, he painted, in the strongest colours, the absurdity of his conduct, and made him fully sensible of it. What,” said Socrates, " would Amestris, the mother of Artaxerxes, who then reigned in Persia, say, were she to hear, that a man in Athens was ineditating war against her son, and even intending to dethrone him ? She doubtless would suppose him to be some veteran general, a man of intrepid courage, of great wisdom, and the most consummate experience ; that he was able to raise a mighty army, and march it wherever be pleased ; and, at the same time, that he had long before taken the proper measures for putting so vast a design in execution. But, were she to hear that there are none of these circumstances, and that the person in question was not twenty years old ; that he was utterly ignorant of public affairs ; had not the least knowledge of war, and no influence with the citizens or the allies; would it be possible for her to refrain from laughing at the folly and extravagance of such an enterprise ? This nevertheless,” said Socrates, directing himself to Alcibiades, “ is your picture, and unhappily resembles most of those who thrust themselves into public em. ployments.” Socrates, however excepts Pericles on this occasion; his solid merit and exalted reputation being acquired by his close study, during a long course of years, of every thing capable oi torming his mind, and of qualify ing him for public employments. Alcibiades could not deny that this was his case ; be was ashamed of his conduct, and blushing to see himself so void of merit, he enquired how he should act for the attainment of it. Socrates, unwilling to discourage his pupil, answered him, that as he was so young, these evils might be remedied, and afterwards continually gave him the wisest counsels. He had entire leisure to improve from them; as upwards of twenty years passed between this conversation and his engaging in public affairs.t * Abbé Fraguier justifies Socrates in one of dissertations.-Mem. of the Academy of Belles Lettres vol. iv. p. 372

6 Plut. in Alcib.


Alcibiades was of a versatile disposition, that would take any impression which the difference of times and circumstances might require, still turning either to good or evil, with the same facility and ardour; and shifting almost in an instant from one extreme to its opposite, so that people applied to him, what Homer observes of the land of Egypt, “that it produces a great number of very excellent medicinal drugs, and at the same time as many poisons.". It might be said of Alcibiades, that he was not one single man, but, if so bold an expression might be used, a compound of several men; either serious or gay austere or affable; an imperious master, or a grovelling slave; a fiiend to virtue and the virtuous, or abandoned to vice and vicious men; capable of jupporting the most painful fatigues and toils, or insatiably desirous of voluptuous delights.*

His irregularities and dissolute conduct were become the talk of the whole city; and Alcibiades would very willingly have put a stop to these reports, but without changing his course of life, as appears from a saying of his. He had a very handsome dog, of a prodigious size, which had cost bim seventy, minæ, or three thousand five hundred French livres. By this we find that a fondness for dogs was of great antiquity. Alcibiades caused his tail, which was the greatest beauty he had about him, to be cut off. His friends censured him very much on that account, and said, that the whole city blamed him very

much for spoiling the beauty of so handsome a creature. This is the very thing I want,” replied Alcibiades with a smile. “I would have the Athenians discourse about what I have done to my dog, that they may not entertain themselves with saying worse things of me.”I

Among the various passions that were discovered in him, the strongest and most prevailing was a haughty turn of mind, which would force all things to submit to it, and could not bear a superior or even an equal. Although his birth and uncommon talents smoothed the way to his attaining the highest employments in the republic ; there was nothing, however, to which he was so fond of owing the influence and authority he wanted to gain over the people, as to the force oi bis eloquence, and the persuasive grace of bis orations.g' To this his intiinacy with Socrates might be of great service.

Alcibiades, with such cast of mind as we have here described, was not born for repose, and had set every engine at work to traverse the treaty lately concluded between the two states ; but not succeeding in his attempt, he endeavoured to prevent its taking effect. He was disgusted at the Lacedæmonians, because they directed themselves only to Nicias, of whom they had a very high opinion; and, on the contrary, seemed to take no manner of notice of him, though his ancestors had enjoyed the rights of hospitality among them.ll

He iherefore procured a violation of the peace by the following means, having been informed that the people of Argos only wanted an opportunity to break with the Spartans, whom they equally hated and feared, he encouraged their hostility, by secretly flattering them with hopes of aid from the Athenians, who were ready to break a peace which was no way advantageous to them.

And indeed the Lacedæmonians were not very careful to observe the several conditions of it religiously, having concluded an alliance with the Bæotians, in direct opposition to the design and tenor of the treaty; and having surrendered up the fort of Panacton to the Athenians, not fortified and in the condi. tion it was in at the concluding of the treaty, as they had stipulated to do but quite dismantled. Alcibiades observing the Athenians to be extremely exasperated at this breach of faith, did his utmost to widen the difference; and taking this opportunity to embarrass Nicias, he made him odious to the people, by causing them to entertain a suspicion of his being too strongly attached to the Lacedæmonians, and by charging him with crimes which were not altogether improbable, though they were absolutely false. * Quemvis hominem secum attulit ad nos.--Juvenal.

f Upwards of $700. Plut. in Alcib. p. 195. * Το φιλονεικον, και το φιλ-πρωτον. Ρlut. in Alcib. p. 195, 196

11 A. M. 3594. Ant. J. C. 420. Thucyd. l. v. p. 369-378. Plut. io Alcib. p. 197, 198 VOL. II.



This new attack quite disconcerted Nicias; but happily for him there arri. ved, at that very instant, ambassadors from Lacedæmon, who were invester with full powers to put an end to all the divisions. Being introduced into the council or sepate, they set forth their complaints, and made their demands, which every one of the members thought very just and reasonable. The peoile wore to give them audience the next day. Alcibiades, who was afraid they would succeed with them, used his utmost endeavours to engage the ambassadors in a conference with him. He represented to them, that the coutcil always bebaved with the utmost moderation and humanity towards those who addressed them; but that the people were haughty and extravagant in their pretensions ; that should the ambassadors mention full powers, they, the people, would not fail to take advantage of this circumstance, and oblige them to agree to whatever they should take it into their heads to ask. He concluded with assuring them, that he would assist them with all his influence in order to get Pylus restored to them; to prevent the alliance with the people f Argos, and to get that with them renewed; and he confirmed all these pro nises with an oath. The ambassadors were extremely well pleased with this conference, and greatly adınired the profound policy and vast abilities of Alcibiades, whom they looked upon as an extraordinary man; and indeed they were not mistaken in their conjecture.

On the morrow, the people being assembled, the ambassa, lors were introduced. Alcibiades asked them, in the mildest terms, the subject of their embassy, a..d the purport of the powers with which they were nvested. They immediately answered, that they were come to propose an accommodation, but were not empowered to conclude any thing. These words were no sooner spoken than Aicibiades exclaimed against them; declared them to be treacherous knaves; called upon the council as witnesses to the speecii they had made the night before ; and desired the people not to relieve or hear men who so impudently advanced falsehoods, and spoke and prevaricated so unaccountably as to say one thing one day, and the very reverse the next.

Words could never express the surprise and confusion with which the ambas sadors were seized, who, gazing wildly on one another, could not believe either their eyes or ears. Nicias, who did not know the treacherous stratagem of Alcibiades, could not conceive the motive of this change, and tortured his brain to no purpose to find out the reason of it. The people were that moment going to send for the ambassadors of Argos, in order to conclude the league with them, when a great earthquake came to the assistance of Nicias, and broke up the assembly. It was with the utmost difficulty he prevailed so far, in that of next day, as to have a stop put to the proceedings, till such time as ambassadors should be sent to Lacedæmon. Nicias was appointed to head them; but they returned without having done the least good. The Athenians then repented very much their having delivered up, at his persuasion, the prisoners they had taken in the island, and who were related to the greatest families in Sparta. However, though the people were highly exasperated at Nicias, they did not proceed to any excesses against him, but only appointed Alcibiades their general, made a league with the inabitants of Mantinea and Elis, who had quitted the party of the Lacedæmonians, in which the Argives were included, and sent troops to Pylus, to lay waste Laconia. In this manner they again invol:ed themselves in the war which they were so lately desirous of avoiding,

Plutarch, after relating the intrigues of Alcibiades, adds, “No one can approve the methods he employed to succeed in his design ; however, it was a master-stroke, to disunite and shake almost every part of Belconnesus in this manner, and raise up, in one day, so many enemies against the Lacedæmonsans." In my opinion, this is too soft a censure of so knavish and perfidious an action, which, however successful it might have been, was, notwithstanding korrid'in itself and of a nature never to be sufficiently detested.*

* Plut in Alcib. p. 193.


There was in Athens, a citizen named Hyperbolus, a very wicked man, whom the comic poets generally made the object of their raillery and invectives. He was hardened in evil, and become insensible to infamy, by renouncing all sentiments of honour, which could only be the effect of a soul abandoned entirely to vice. Hyperbolus was not agreeable to any one ; and yet the people made use of him to humble those in high stations, and involve thein in difficulties. Two citizens, Nicias and Alcibiades, engrossed at that time all the authority in Athens. The dissolute life of the latter shocked the Athenians, who besides, dreaded his audacity and haughtiness. On the other side, Nicias, by always opposing, without the least reserve, their unjust desires, and by obliging them to take the most useful measures, had become very odious to them. One would have imagined that as the people were thus alienated from both, they would not have failed to have put the ostracism in force against one of them. Of the two parties which prevailed at that time in the city, one, which consisted of the young men who were eager for war, the other of the old men who were desirous of peace; the former endeavoured to procure the banishment of Nicias, and the latter of Alcibiades. Hyperbolus, whose only merit was in impudence, in hopes of succeeding if either of them should be removed, declared openly against them, and was eternally exasperating the people against both. However, the two factions being afterwards reconciled, he himself was banished, and by, that, put an end to the ostracism, which seemed to have been demeaned, in being employed against a man of so base a character, for hitherto there was a kind of honour and dignity annexed to this punishment. Hyperbolus was therefore the last who was sentenced by the ostracism, as Hipparchus, a near relation of Pisistratus the tyrant, had been the first.*




I Pass over several inconsiderable events, to hasten to the relation of that of the greatest importance, the expedition of the Athenians into Sicily, to which they were especially excited by Alcibiades. This is the sixteenth year of the Peloponnesian war.t

Alcibiades had gained a surprising ascendancy over the minds of the people, though they were perfectly well acquainted with his character. For his great qualities were united with still greater vices, which be did not take the least pains to conceal. He passed his life in such an excess of luxury and voluptuousness, as was a scandal to that city. Nothing was seen in his house but festivals, rejoicings and parties of pleasure and debauchery. He showed very little regard to the customs of his country, and less to religion and the gods. All persons of sense and judgment, besides the strong aversion they had for his irregularities, dreaded exceedingly the consequences of his audacity, profum sion, and utter contempt of the laws, which they considered as so many steps by which Alcibiades would rise to tyrannical power. I,

Aristophanes, in one of his comedies, shows adınirably well, in a single verse, the disposition of the people with regard to him: “They hate Alcibiades,

and yet cannot do without him.” And, indeed, the prodigious sums he squandered on the people ; the pompous games and shows he exhibited to please them; the magnificent and almost incredible presents which he made the city; the grace and beauty of his whole person ; his eloquence, his bodily strength, joined to his courage and experience ; in a word, this assemblage of great qualities made the Athenians connive at his faults and bear them patiently, always endeavouring to lessen and screen them under soft and favourable names; for they called them sports, polite pastimes, and indications of his humanity and good nature.

[ocr errors]

says he,

* Plut. in Alcib. 196, 197. Plut. in Nic. 530, 531.

A. M. 3588. Ant. .I. C. 416. Thucyd. d. viii. p. 350-40%.
Plut. in Alcib. 198~200. Plut. in Nic. p. 531.

| The Frogs Act 5 Scene ,

« 上一頁繼續 »