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ALCIBIADES THE FAVOURITE OF ATHENS
 THE Peace of Nicias, which was made for fifty years, did
not last more then six. Thucydides tells us that it
did not really last even so long. For although for six
years neither Spartans nor Athenians invaded each
other's land, yet they did as much harm as they could
to one another.
"So that," says the wise historian, "if any one objects
to consider it a time of war, he will not be estimating
Almost as soon as peace was signed, Sparta and the
State of Argos quarreled. Each wished to get help from
Athens, so each sent ambassadors to her. The Argives
boldly begged Athens to join them against Sparta; the
Spartans were content to remind her that she had signed
the Peace of Nicias.
In Athens at this time there was a rich young noble
named Alcibiades, who wished the Athenians to make an
alliance with the Argives.
But the Spartan ambassadors had already been welcomed
by the Athenians, because they had come with full power
to arrange fair terms. Alcibiades was as determined as
he was angry. To gain what he wished he resolved to
play a trick on the Spartan ambassadors. So he went to
them in secret, and told them how foolish they had been
to tell the Athenians what great powers they had, for
the assembly would certainly wrest from them more than
they wished to give.
"When the assembly meets, tell the people," said
Alcibiades, "that you have no power, but that you will
send their demands to the Spartan council. I will
 and all will be well, for you will have time to think
over their wishes."
The ambassadors thought that the young noble knew
better than they how his countrymen should be treated,
and they promised to follow his advice.
So when the assembly met the next day, the Spartans
declared that they had come only to report what the
Athenians should say, that they had no power to arrange
terms until they had heard from their own council.
No sooner had they spoken than Alcibiades jumped to his
feet, and to the dismay of the ambassadors he pointed
to them with scorn, saying, "These men say one thing
one day, and another thing the next day; they are not
to be trusted. Let us refuse to have anything more to
do with them."
The Athenians at once agreed with Alcibiades that it
was useless to treat with such unreliable ambassadors,
and they then made an alliance with the Argives.
When the Spartans reached their own country they told
how they had been deceived by Alcibiades, and how
rudely they had been treated by the assembly. And
this, as well as the alliance which the Athenians had
made with the Argives, was the cause of the second part
of the Peloponnesian War.
The Spartans were thirsting to avenge the battle of
Sphacteria, and to wipe out the memory of their
surrender. When they met the Athenians in 418 B.C. at
Mantinea they fought with the courage and the
fierceness that had made them invincible until the
fatal day of Sphacteria.
Alcibiades, whose trick had been the cause of so mush
mischief, was the son of an Athenian, named Clinias.
While Alcibiades was still young his father died, and
Pericles became one of his guardians. He was a
beautiful baby, a handsome boy, and when he grew to be
a man he was so brave and so winning in his ways that
he made friends very easily.
 But he made enemies as well as friends, for he was wild
and wayward, while his pride often made him behave with
scant courtesy even to those whom he should have
treated with reverence and respect.
Staid, sensible folk were shocked at his careless,
extravagant ways. Nicias distrusted him. But the
citizens loved him and forgave him much, for he spent
his wealth freely among them, and often entertained
them with public shows.
"They love and hate and cannot do without him," wrote
Aristophanes, as he watched the Athenians now
cherishing, now chiding, their favourite.
One day, he was a mere lad at the time, he was
wrestling with a playmate, when, thinking he was going
to be thrown, he suddenly bit his companion's hand with
all his strength. His friend quickly let go his hold,
crying, "You bite, Alcibiades, like a woman."
"No," answered the boy, "like a lion."
Another day he was throwing dice in the street with his
playmates, when a wagon pulled by two horses
approached. It was the turn of Alcibiades to throw,
and he shouted to the driver to stop, but the man paid
no heed to the boy and drove on. The other children
scampered out of the way, but the wilful little noble
flung himself down in front of the horses and cried to
the driver to go on now if he pleased.
Afraid lest he should hurt the boy the man at once
pulled up his horses, while those who had been looking
on in terror rushed forward and dragged the foolish
little fellow out of danger. But Alcibiades had made
the driver pull up and he was content.
His want of self-control became greater as he grew
older. When he was at a grammar school he one day
asked the schoolmaster to lend him one of Homer's
books. The master said that he did not possess it,
whereupon the rude boy struck him and then turned and
walked away. Some years
 later he struck a citizen whose talent in the theatre
had outshone his own.
When he was a young man he walked into the assembly
with a pet quail hidden under his cloak. This would
have raised a storm of indignation had it been done by
In the law court one of Alcibiades' friends was
accused, when the favourite at once seized the writ and
tore it in pieces before the face of the judge.
The young nobleman was rich, and much of his wealth he
spent on horses. He sent seven chariots to the Olympic
games, and once, to the great delight of the Athenians,
their favourite won the first, second, and third
Euripides, the poet, sang of the triumph of Alcibiades
in these lines:
"But my song to you,
Son of Clinias, is due.
Victory is noble; how much more
To do as never Greek before;
To obtain in the great chariot race
The first, the second, and third place;
With easy step advanced to fame,
To bid the herald three times claim
The olive for one victor's name."
At one time Alcibiades owned a very large, handsome
dog, for which he had paid an enormous price. He
ordered his tail, which Plutarch tells us was "his
principal ornament," to be cut off.
His friends said that it was a stupid deed, and told
him that every one in Athens was angry that he had
spoiled the noble appearance of his dog. But
Alcibiades only laughed, saying, "Just what I wanted
has happened then. I wished the Athenians to talk
about this, that they might not say something worse of
It was natural that so reckless and generous a youth
should be surrounded by a crowd of flatterers, ready to
applaud his foolish and sometimes insolent acts.
 But Alcibiades had no love for these careless admirers,
although he would spend hours with them at feasts and
revels. His affection he gave to one whom you would
scarcely have expected the gay young nobleman to
notice—to Socrates, the great philosopher and teacher