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a There was in Athens a citizen, named Hyperbolus, a very wicked man, whom the comic poets generally made the object of their raillery and invectives. He was hardened in evil, and become insensible to infany, by renouncing all sentiments of honour, which could only be the effect of a soul abandoned entirely to vice. Hyperbolus was not agreeable to any one; and yet the people made use of him to humble those in high stations, and involve them in difficulties. Two citizens, Nicias and Alcibiades, engrossed at that time all the authority in Athens. The dissolute life of the latter shocked the Athenians, who besides dreaded his audacity and haughtiness. On the other side, Nicias, by always opposing, without the least reserve, their unjust desires; and by obliging them to take the most useful measures, was become very odious to them. One would have imagined, that as the people were thus alienated from both, they would not have failed to put the ostracism in force against one of them. Of the two parties which prevailed at that time in the city, one, which consisted of the young men who were eager for war, the other of the old men who were desirous of peace; the former endeavoured to procure the banishment of Nicias, and the latter of Alcibiades. Hyperbolus, whose only merit was his impudence, in hopes of succeeding whichsoever of them should be removed, declared openly against them, and was eternally exasperating the people against both. However, the two factions being afterwards reconciled, he himself was banished, and by that put an end to the ostracism, which seemed to have been demeaned, in being employed against a man of so base a character; for hitherto there was a kind of honour and dignity annexed to this punishment. Hyperbolus was therefore the last who was sentenced by the ostracism; as Hipparchus, a near relation of Pisistratus the tyrant had been the first.
Alcibiades engages the Athenians in the War of Sicily. SIXTEENTH AND SEVENTEENTH YEARS OF THE WAR.
bI pass over several inconsiderable events, to hasten to the relation of that of the greatest importance, the expedition of the Athenians into Sicily, to which they were especially excited by Alcibiades. This is the 16th year of the Peloponnesian war.
© Alcibiades had gained a surprising ascendant over the 2 Plut in Alcib p, 196, 197. In Nic. p. 530,531. 6 A M. 3588. Ant. J. C. 416. Thucyd. I. viii. p. 350-409. c Plut: in Alcib, p. 198-200. In Nic. p. 531.
minds of the people, though they were perfectly well acquainted with his character. For his great qualities were united with still greater vices, which he did not take the least pains to conceal. He passed his life in such an excess of luxury and voluptuousness, as was a scandal to that city. Nothing was seen in his house but festivals, rejoicings, and parties of pleasure and debauchery. He showed very little regard to the customs of his country, and less to religion and the gods. All persons of sense and judgment, besides the strong aversion they had for his irregularities, dreaded exceedingly the consequences of his audacity, profusion, and utter contempt of the laws, which they considered as so many steps by which Alcibiades would rise to tyrannical power.
Aristophanes, in one of his comedies a, shows admirably well, in a single verse, the disposition of the people with regard to him: “ They hate Alcibiades,” says he, “ and yet
cannot do without him.” And, indeed, the prodigious sums he squandered on the people; the pompous games and shows he exhibited to please them; the magnificent and almost incredible presents which he made the city; the grace and beauty of his whole person; his eloquence, his bodily strength, joined to his courage and experience; in a word, this assemblage of great qualities made the Athenians wink at his faults, and bear them patiently, always endeavouring to lessen and screen them under soft and favourable names; for they called them sports, polite pastimes, and indications of his humanity and good nature.
Timon the man-hater, morose and savage as he was, formed a better judgment of this conduct of Alcibiades. Meeting him one day as he was coming out of the assembly, vastly pleased at his having been gratified in all his demands, and at seeing the greatest honours paid him by the people in general, who were attending him in crowds to his house : so far from shunning him as he did all other men, on the contrary he ran to meet him, and stretching out his hand to him in a friendly way;
Courage, my son,” says he, “ thou dost “ right in pushing thy fortune, for thy advancement will be " the ruin of all these people." The war of Sicily will show that Timon was not mistaken.
The Athenians, from the time of Pericles, had meditated the conquest of Sicily. However, that wise guide had always endeavoured to check this ainbitious and wild project. He used frequently to inculcate to them, that by living in peace, by directing their attention to naval affairs, by contenting themselves with preserving the conquest they had al
2 The Frogs. Act 5. Scene 4.
ready gained, and by not engaging in hazardous enterprises, 0 they would raise their city to a flourishing condition, and be always superior to their enemies. The authority he had at that time over the people, though it kept them from invading Sicily, could not surmount the desire they had to conquerit
, and their eyes were continually upon that island.
a Some time after Pericles's death, the Leontines being invaded by the Syracusans, had sent a deputation to Athens, to demand aid. They were originally of Chalcis, an Athenian colony. The chief of the deputies was Gorgias, a famous rhetorician, who was reputed the most eloquent man of his times. His elegant and florid diction, heightened by shining figures which he first employed, charmed the Athenians, who were prodigiously affected with the beauties and graces of eloquence. Accordingly the alliance was concluded, and they sent ships to Rhegium to the aid of the Leontines. The year following they sent a greater number. Two years after they sent a new fleet, something stronger than the former ; but the Sicilians having put an end to all their divisions, by the advice of Hermocrates, the fleet was sent back ; and the Athenians, not being able to prevail with themselves to pardon their generals for not conquering Sicily, sent two of them, Pythodorus and Sophocles, into banishment; and sentenced the third, Eurymedon, to pay a heavy fine ; their prosperity having blinded them to so prodigious a degree, that they were persuaded na power was able to resist them. They made several attempts afterwards, and upon pretence of sending from time to time arms and soldiers to such cities as were unjustly treated or oppressed by the Syracusans, they by that means were preparing to invade them with a greater force.
But the person who most inflamed this ardour was Alcibiades, by his feeding the people with splendid hopes, with which he himself was for ever filled, or rather intoxicated. He was every night, in his dreams, taking Carthage, subduing Africa, crossing from thence into Italy, and possessing himself of all Peloponnesus; looking upon Sicily not as the scope and the end of this war, but as the beginning and the first step of the exploits which he was revolving in his mind. All the citizens favoured his views, and without inquiring seriously into matters, were enchanted with the mighty hopes he gave them. This expedition was the only topic of all conversations. The young men, in the places where the public exercises were performed, and the old men in their shops and elsewhere, were employed in nothing but in drawing the plan of Sicily ; in discoursing on the nature and quality of the sea with which it is surrounded ; on its good harbours, and flat shores towards Africa : for these people, infatuated by the speeches of Alcibiades, were (like him) persuaded
a Diod. 1. xii. p. 99.
that they should make Sicily only their place of arms and their arsenal, from whence they should set out for the conquest of Carthage, and make themselves masters of all Africa and the sea, as far as the Pillars of Hercules.
a It is related that neither Socrates nor Meton the astronomer believed that this enterprise would be successful; the former, being inspired, as he insinuated, by his familiar spirit, who always warned him of the evils with which he was threatened ; and the other, directed by his reason and good sense, which, pointing out what he had to apprehend in respect to the future, induced him to act the madman on this occasion ; and to demand, in consideration of the unhappy condition to which he was reduced, that the Athenians would not force away his son, and would dispense with his carrying
Sect. VI. Account of the several People who inhabited Sicily. Before I enter on the relation of the war of Sicily, it will not be improper to give a plan of the country, and of the nations who inhabited it : 'Thucydides begins in the same manner.
6 It was first inhabited by the Lestrygones and the Cyclopes, of whom we know nothing but what we are told by the poets. The most ancient, after these, were the Sicani, who called themselves the original inhabitants of this country, though they are thought to have come into it from the neighbourhood of a river in Spain, called Sicanus, whose name they gave to the island, which before was called Trinacria : these people were afterwards confined to the western part of the island. Some Trojans, after the burning of their city, came and settled near them, and built Eryx and c Egesta, who all assumed the name of Elymæi; and were afterwards joined by some inhabitants of Phocis, at their return from the siege of Troy. Those who are properly called Sicilians came from Italy in very great numbers; and having gained a considerable victory over the Sicani, confined them to a corner of their island, about 300 years before the arrival of the Greeks; and in Thucydides's time, they still inhabited the middle part of the island and the northern coast. From them the island was called Sicily. The Phenicians also spread themselves along the coast, and in the little islands which border upon it, for the convenience of trade : but after the Greeks began to settle there, they retired into the country of the Elymæi, in order to be nearer a Piut. in Alcb. p. 199. In Nic p. 532, 6 Thucyd, 1. vi. p. 419-(13.
It is called Segesta by the Romans.
Carthage, and abandoned the rest. It was in this manner the Barbarians first settled in Sicily.
a With regard to the Greeks, the first of them who crossed into Sicily were the Chalcidians of Eubea, under Theocles who founded Naxos. The year after, which, according to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, was the third of the seventeenth Olympiad, Archias the Corinthian laid the foundations of Syracuse. Seven years after, the Chalcidians founded Leontium and Catana, after having driven out the inhabitants of the country, who were Sicilians. Other Greeks, who came from Megara, a city of Achaia, about the same time, founded Megara, called Hyblæa, or barely Hybla, from Hyblon a Sicilian king, by whose permission they settled in his dominions. It is well known that the Hyblæan honey was very famous among the ancients. An hundred years after, the inhabitants of that city built Selinus. Gela, built on a river of the same name, forty-five years after the founding of Syracuse, founded Agrigentum about 108 years after. Zancle, called afterwards Messana or Messene by Anaxilas tyrant of Rhegium, who was a native of Messene a city of Peloponnesus, had several founders, and at different periods. The Zanclians built the city of Himera; the Syracusans built Acra, Casmene, and Camarina. These are most of the nations, whether Greeks or Barbarians, who settled in Sicily.
Sect. VII. The People of Egesta implore Aid of the Athenians. Ni
cias opposes, but to no purpose, the War of Sicily. Alcibiades carries that Point. They both are appointed Generals with Lamachus.
i Athens was in the disposition above related, when ambassadors arrived from the people of Egesta, who, in quality of their allies, came to implore their aid against the inhabitants of Selinus, who were assisted by the Syracusans. It was the 16th year of the Peloponnesian war. They represented, among other things, that should they be abandoned, the Syracusans, after seizing their city as they had done that of Leontium, would possess theniselves of all Sicily, and not fail to aid the Peloponnesians who were their founders; and, that they might put them to as little charge as possible, they offered to pay the troops that should be sent to succour them. The Athenians, who had long waited for a favourable opportunity to declare themselves sent deputies to Egesta to inquire into the state of affairs, and to see whe
a A. M. 3294 Ant J C. 710
VA. M. 35 8. Am J 416. Thucyd. l. vi. p. 413-415. Diod. 1. xii. p. 129, 130, Plut. in Alcib. p. 200. In Nic. p. 531.