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The Story of the Greeks by  H. A. Guerber

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YOUTH OF ALCIBIADES

AS the Greeks all loved the Olympic games, Alcibiades was always seen there. He took part in the chariot races especially; and his horses won three prizes in succession, to the delight of his admirers.

Alcibiades was shrewd enough, in spite of all his vanity, to understand that the people of Athens loved him principally because he was handsome and rich. He also knew that they delighted in gossip, and he sometimes did a thing merely to hear them talk about it.

He had a very handsome dog, for instance; and for a little while its beauty was praised by every one. But the Athenians soon grew used to the animal, and ceased to talk about it. Then Alcibiades had the dog's tail cut off, and of course every one began to exclaim about that.

Some of the Athenians became so inquisitive that they asked why he had done so, and he laughingly answered that it was merely in order to supply them with material for conversation and wonder.

Alcibiades was so merry and light-hearted that he treated even serious matters in a joking way. We are told, that, when he was first admitted to the city coun- [164] cil, he acted like a schoolboy, and mischievously let loose a captive quail, which ran in and out among the feet of the councilors, and fluttered about so wildly as to upset the gravity of the whole assembly.

On another occasion the councilors were all waiting for Alcibiades to begin their proceedings. He entered the hall with a crown of flowers on his head; begged them to excuse him, because he could really not attend to business, as he had a banquet at his house; and asked them to adjourn and go home with him.

Strange to relate, his manner was so fascinating that the grave councilors did as he wished, and dropped their important business to feast with him. It was on account of this influence that an Athenian citizen once bitterly exclaimed, "Go on, my brave boy! Your prosperity will bring ruin on this crowd."

Alcibiades was such a favorite among rich and poor, that the Athenians would gladly have made him king. Fortunately, however, the young man still had sense enough to refuse this honor; but, although he would not accept the title, he exercised much of the power of a king, and soon he and Nicias were the principal politicians of the day.

Alcibiades was as ambitious as Nicias was careful; and while the latter was always trying to keep the Athenians as quiet and contented as possible, Alcibiades was always ready to think of some plan by which the power of the city could be extended.

This ambition of Alcibiades was destined to have a very bad effect upon his own fortunes and upon those of his native land, as you will see by the end of his career.


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