| Famous Men of Greece|
|by John H. Haaren|
|Attractive biographical sketches of thirty-five of the most prominent characters in the history of ancient Greece, from legendary times to its fall in 146 B.C. Each story is told in a clear, simple manner, and is well calculated to awaken and stimulate the youthful imagination. Ages 9-12 |
 DURING the "Age of Pericles" a young man named Alcibiades attracted
a great deal of attention in Athens. He was a kinsman of
Pericles and was rich and handsome. But besides his money
and his good looks there was another thing that made the
people of Athens think a great deal of him. He had won the
crown three times in the chariot races at the Olympic games.
OLYMPUC FOOT RACES
These games are said to have been established by Hercules.
They consisted of boxing, wrestling, running, throwing the
javelin, and racing with horses, and were held once in every
four years in the valley of Olympia, in the little Greek
state called Elis, which lay northwest of Sparta. They were
so important that the Greeks reckoned time from the first
Olympic games of which they had a written account as we
reckon time from the birth of Christ. These games first
took place in 776 B.C. The four years from one celebration
to another were called an "Olympiad."
 None but Greeks might take part in the Olympic games, and
while the contests were going on tens of thousands of Greeks
from every part of Hellas watched and applauded. To win the
prize in any of the contests was the greatest honor for
which a Greek could hope. The victor's name and the name of
his birthplace were called aloud by a herald, and before the
vast assemblage he was crowned with a wreath of wild olive
cut with a golden knife from a sacred grove said to have
been planted by Hercules.
His victories in the Olympic games made Alcibiades the idol
of the Athenians. The young men of Athens admired him so
much that some of them dressed as he did and even imitated
the lisp with which he talked. He was, in fact, the leader
of Athenian fops.
Unfortunately, he had very bad faults. He was frivolous and
thoughtless and, worst of all, he was not sincere.
AN EVENING REUNION IN ANCIENT GREECE
While talking with Socrates, the great philosopher, who was
very fond of him, he could talk as if he were good or at
least wished to be; but the next day he might be leading his
companions into all kinds of mischief. Yet with all his
faults he was a brilliant genius; even serious people
admired him and often took his advice.
 During the Peloponnesian War he persuaded the Athenians to
undertake an expedition against the island of Sicily. He
reminded them that Syracuse, the most important city of the
island, was an ally of Sparta and an enemy to Athens. This
was one reason he gave why the expedition should be
undertaken. Another reason was the advantage that would
come to Athens if she should add this fertile island to her
An old Athenian general named Nicias opposed the
expedition, but Alcibiades had his way. Ships and men were
made ready and were put under three commanders—Nicias,
Alcibiades, and a man named Lamachus.
 One morning, shortly before the fleet was to set sail, it
was discovered that a shocking insult had been offered to
one of the gods. Along the streets of Athens, along the
country roads, and in front of the houses were busts of
Mercury, who was the protector of travelers. Ears and noses
had been chipped from these busts in the night. The
Athenians were a very religious people, and this insult to
the god filled them with terror. All feared that Mercury
would punish them by not protecting people walking on the
streets and highways.
Many thought that Alcibiades had chipped the busts for a
frolic. Soon after the fleet reached Sicily orders were
received that he should return to Athens at once to answer
the charge. Of course he had to give up his command.
After he did so one disaster after another befell the
expedition. The fleet entered the harbor of Syracuse. The
Syracusans then blocked the entrance so that the Athenian
ships could not get out. In the battle that followed half
of Nicias' ships were destroyed. Nicias ran the rest ashore
and tried to escape by land, but all were forced to
surrender. The old commander was killed, and those of his
men who did not die in battle or of starvation were sold
into slavery. Not one of the ships of the fleet ever got
back to Athens.
 ALCIBIADES was either afraid that he could not clear himself, or that
he could not get justice in the courts of Athens. He
therefore pretended that he was going to obey the order for
his return, but instead of doing so he went for refuge to
Sparta. When the Athenians heard of this they passed a
sentence of death upon him.
In Sparta he was warmly welcomed and by his pleasing ways
became a general favorite. The Spartans, however, soon grew
suspicious of him and ordered him to be put to death as a
traitor to them. He managed to escape and went to Persia.
Here again, as at Athens and at Sparta, he made the people
fond of him. But after a while the Persian governor, who
had been his best friend, saw that he was treacherous and
put him in prison. He escaped and went to a place on the
Hellespont where he joined the Athenian fleet. There he
gave the commanders such advice that they gained a victory
over the fleet of the Spartans and the land forces of the
Persians. The Spartan admiral was killed. His successor
wrote to Sparta, "Our glory is gone. The men are without
food. We know not what to do."
Alcibiades now thought that he might venture to
go back to Athens. As he had given to the
com-  manders of the Athenian navy the advice which won for
them the victory over the Spartan fleet the Athenians
repented of having condemned him to death. So when he
arrived in the Piræus, with a small fleet of twenty
vessels, he was allowed to land and go to Athens. In a very
short time he persuaded the Athenians to give him command of
their fleet. Then he sailed across the Ægean to fight
against the Persians and Spartans.
Unfortunately, he had to leave the fleet for a short time.
During his absence his lieutenant foolishly brought on a
battle. The Athenians were defeated, and many of their ships
were captured by the Spartans.
With what was left of his fleet Alcibiades then did the
strangest thing possible; he attacked a city that was
friendly to the Athenians and tried to make slaves of some
of the inhabitants. Complaint was made of this to Athens,
and the Athenians at once dismissed Alcibiades from the
command of their fleet.
After this he lived for some years in Asia Minor, where he
owned a castle. One night his castle was surrounded by
armed men who set it on fire. He ran through the flames and
tried to escape, but his enemies killed him (B.C. 404.)
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