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levity, and always flattered himself with the hope of bringing him back to his duty. And hence certainly arose the strong mixture of good and evil, that always appeared in his conduct; the instructions which 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 uncensured. But some persons a of great learning pretend, that these censures and suspicions, 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 henceforward will have a very great share, and play a conspicuous part 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
In this dialogue Socrates is introduced conversing with 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 had practised wrestling, and other bodily exercises. It does not appear that Pericles had hitherto taken much pains in Alcibiades's education (a fault too common in the greatest men) since he had put him under the tuition 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 he compare him with the youth of Lacedæmonia, 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, his 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, from his conversation it might be presumed, that he 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 going to mount the tribunal, in a Abbe Fraguier justifies
Socrates in one of his dissertations Academy of Belles Lettres, Tom. iv. D. 372.
b Plut. in Alcib. I.
Mem. of the
order to give the people some advice relating to the public affairs, demonstrates to him, by various questions, and by Alcibi.ides's answers, that he is quite ignorant of the affairs about which he is going to speak, as he had never studied them himself, nor been informed in them by others. After making Alcibiades confess this, he paints, in the strongest colours, the absurdity of his conduct, and makes him fully sensible of it. What, says Socrates, would Amestris (the mother of Artaxerxes who then reigned in Persia) say, were she to hear, that there is a man now in Athens who is meditating war against her son, and even intends 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 is able to raise a mighty army, and march it wherever he pleases ; and at the same time, that he has 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 is not twenty years old ; that he is utterly ignorant of public affairs ; has not the least knowledge of war, nor any influence among 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, says Socrates, (directing himself to Alcibiades) is your picture; and unhappily resembles most of those who thrust themselves into the public employments. 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 everything capable of for wing his mind, and of qualifying him for public employ
Alcibiades could not deny that this was his case : he was ashamed of his conduct, and blushing to see himself so void of merit, he asks how he must act in order to attain it. Socrates, being unwilling to discourage his pupil, tells him, that as he is so young, these evils might be remedied, and afterwards continually gave him the wisest counsels. He had entire leisure to improve from them ; ás upwards of twenty years passed between this conversation and his engaging in public affairs.
Alcibiades was of a pliant and flexible genius, that would take any impression which the difference of times and circumstances might require, still veering 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 medi"" cinal drugs, and at the same time as many poisons.” « It
a Quem vis hominem secum attulit ad nos. Juvenal.
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 friend to virtue and the virtuous, or abandoned to vice and vicious men; capable of supporting the most painful fatigues and toils, or insatiably desirous of voluptuous delights.
a 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 an uncommon size, which had cost him 70 minæ, or 3,500 French livres, By this we find that a fondness for dogs is of great antiquity. Alcibiades caused his tail, which was the greatest beauty he had about him, te 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 converse about what I have done to my dog, that they may not entertain themselves with saying worse things of me."
C 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 of his eloquence; and the persuasive grace of his orations. To this his intimacy with Socrates might have greatly, con duced.
4 Alcibiades, with the disposition we have here described, was not born for repose, and had set every engine at work to thwart 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, a Plut. in Alcih p. 195.
About l. 160 sterling. This Attic mina was worth an hundred drachmas, and the drachma ten-pence, French money.
Το φιλονεικον, και το φιλόπρωτον. Ρlut. in Alcib. p. 195. 196. d A. M, 3584, Ann J. C. 420. Thucych, l. V. P, 368-378. Plutoj a Alcib. p. 197, 198,
The first thing he did to infringe the peace was this: having been informed that the people of Argos only wanted an opportunity to break with the Spartans, whom they equally hated and feared, he flattered them secretly with the hopes that the Athenians would succour them, by suggesting to them that they 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 Beotians, 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 condition 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.
This new attack quite disconcerted Nicias; but happily for him there arrived, at that very instant, ambassadors from Lacedæmonia, who were invested with full powers to put an end to all the divisions. Being introduced into the council or senate, they set forth their complaints, and made their demands, which every one of the members thought very just and reasonable. The people were 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 council always behaved 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 credit, in order to get Pylus restored to them ; to prevent the alliance with the people of Argos, and to get that with them renewed : and he confirmed all these promises with an oath. The ambassadors were extremely well pleased with this conference, and greatly admired 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 ambas
sadors were introduced. Alcibiades asked them in the mildest terms, the subject of their embassy, and the purport of the powers with which they were invested. 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 Alcibiades exclaims against them; declares them to be treacherous knaves; calls upon the council as witness to the speech they had made the night before; and desires the people not to believe 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 on the next.
Words could never express the surprise and confusion with which the ambassadors were seized, who, gazing wildly at 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 inhabitants 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 involved themselves in the war which they were so lately desirous of avoiding
a Plutarch, after relating the intrigue 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 Peloponnesus in this man
ner, and raise up, in one day, so many enemies against the
Lacedæmonians. In iny opinion, this is too mild a censure of so knavish and perfidious an action, which how successful soever it might have been, was notwithstanding horrid in itself, and of a nature never to be sufficiently detested.
* In Alcib. p. 198.