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ALCIBIADES ESCAPES TO SPARTA
 A GREAT crowd gathered at the Piræus to see the fleet
set sail for Sicily. Groups clustered together,
talking eagerly of the new empire that was to be won in
the West, and the glory that Athens would gain from her
conquests. It was a noisy, happy crowd.
Suddenly the heralds called for silence, and a hush
fell upon the light-hearted folk as the priests prayed
to the gods for the success of the expedition.
Sacrifices, too, were offered by officers and sailors
alike. Then to the strain of a hymn, in which the
crowd of onlookers joined, the anchors were raised and
the fleet sailed slowly away.
When the ships reached Sicily each commander had a
different plan to propose.
Nicias, having learned how the ambassadors had been
deceived, wished to sail homewards, without helping the
Segestans. Lamachus, a brave, blunt soldier, wished to
sail at once to Syracuse, and take the city by a sudden
attack. Alcibiades proposed that they should do
nothing until they had made allies of those cities that
were not friendly to Syracuse, and to this plan the
other commanders at length agreed.
Meanwhile two ships from Athens had followed Alcibiades
to Sicily, for the assembly had determined to arrest
him, and bring him home to be tried for the destruction
of the images of Hermes.
Alcibiades went quietly on board one of the ships, but
he knew that if he went back to Athens he would be
condemned to death. So daring a deed as the spoiling
 god was more than the Athenians could forgive even to
their favourite. And there were many who believed he
So when the ship reached a seaport town in Italy,
Alcibiades slipped on shore and escaped from his
enemies. In his absence the Athenians condemned him to
death and confiscated his property, while the curses of
the gods were called down upon his head.
Alcibiades was very angry when he heard what his
countrymen had done, and in his wrath he cried, "I will
make them feel that I am alive." And he fulfilled his
threat. For he went at once to the Spartans, the
enemies of his own country, and told them the plans of
the Athenian generals. He bade them send a clever
general, named Gylippus, with an army to Syracuse, to
help the city to withstand the attacks of the
Athenians. He also advised them to build a fort at
Decelea, a town in Attica, and to send troops there to
harass the Athenians as much as possible.
To betray his country in this way would have been an
unworthy deed for any Athenian; it was the more
unworthy in Alcibiades, because he had learned from
Socrates the true meaning of honour and righteousness.
The Spartans were eager to profit by the advice of the
traitor, and they saw for themselves the wisdom of his
words. But in their hearts they did not trust the man
who had betrayed his country.
Alcibiades stayed in Sparta for some time, and while he
was there he tried to win the confidence of the people
by doing as they did.
"People who saw him wearing his hair cut close, bathing
in cold water, eating coarse meal and dining on black
broth, doubted or rather could not believe that he had
ever had a cook in his house, or had even seen a
perfumer or had worn a mantle of purple."
It was said that Alcibiades was like a chameleon;
because just as it can change its colour as it chooses,
so could the Athenian change his dress and his customs
as he willed.