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ther there was money enough in the treasury to defray the expense of so great a war. The inhabitants of that city had been so artful, as to borrow from the neighbouring nations a great number of gold and silver vases, worth an immense suin of money; and of these they made a show when the Athenians arrived. The deputies returned with those of Egesta, who carried 60 talents in ingots, as a month's pay for the 60 gallies which they demanded; and a promise of larger sums, which, they said, were ready both in the public treasury and in the temples. The people, struck with these fair appearances, the truth of which they did not give themselves the leisure to exa nine; and seduced by the advantageous reports which their deputies made, with the view of pleasing them; immediately granted the Egestans their demand, appointed Alcibiades, Nicias, and Lamachus to coinmand the fleet; with full power, not only to succour Egesta, and restore the inhabitants of Leontium to their city ; but also to regulate the affairs of Sicily, in such a manner as mig it best suit the interests of the republic.
Ňcias was appointed one of the generals, to his very great regret ; for, besides other motives which made him dread that command, he shunned it, because Alcibiades was to be his colleague. But the Athenians promised themselves greater success from this war, should they not resign the whole conduct of it to Alcibiades, but teinper his ardour and audacity with the coolness and wisdom of Nicias.
ó Five days after, to hasten the execution of the decree, and make the necessary preparations, a second' assembly was held. Nicias, who had had time enough to reflect deliberately on the affair proposed, and was more fully convinced of the difficulties and dangers which would ensue from it, thought himself obliged to speak with some vehemence against a project, the consequences of which he foresaw might be very fatal to the republic. He said, “ That it was
surprising so important an affair should have been deter“mined almost as soon as it was taken into deliberation : " that without once inquiring into matters, they had given " credit to whatever was told them by foreigners, who were
very iavish of their promises as costing them nothing; and “ whose interest it was to offer mighty things, in order to “ extricate themselves from their imininent danger. After
all, wliat advantage (says hu) can accrue from thence to " the republic ? Have we so few enemies at our doors, that “ We need go in search of others at a distance from us? Will
you act wisely, to hazard your present possessions, on the "vain hopes of an uncertain advantage ? To meditate new " conquests, before you have secured your ancient ones? a A, M, 3589. Ant. J. C, 415.
6 Thucyd, 1. vi.p. 415—428,
“ To study nothing but the aggrandizing of your state, and
quite neglect your own safety? Can you depend in any
manner on a truce, which you yourselves know is very “precarious, which you are sensible has been infringed more " than once; and which the least defeat on our side may
suddenly change into an open war? You are not ignorant “ how the Lacedæmonians have always been, and still con“tinue, disposed towards us. They detest our government “ as different from theirs ; it is with grief and disdain they “ see us possessed of the empire of Greece ; they consider
our glory as their shame and confusion; and there is no
thing they would not attempt, to humble a power which “excites their jealousy, and keeps them perpetually in fear. “ These are our real enemies, and these are they whom we
ought to guard against. Will it be a proper time to make “ these reflections, when (after having divided our troops, “and while our arms will be employed elsewhere, and we “shall be unable to resist them) we shall be attacked at once “ by all the forces of Peloponnesus? We do but just begin “ to breathe, after the calamities in which war and the plague " had plunged us ; and we are now going to plunge ourselves “ into greater danger. If we are ambitious of carrying our
arms into distant countries, would it not be more expedient “ to march and reduce the rebels of Thrace, and other na“ tions who are still wavering, and unfixed in their allegiance, “than to fly to the succour of the inhabitants of Egesta, “ about whose welfare we ought to be very indifferent ? And “ will it suit our interest, to attempt to revenge their inju“ ries, at a time that we do not discover the least resentment “ for those we ourselves receive ? Let us leave the Sicilians “ to themselves, and not engage in their quarrels, which it is “ their business to decide. As the inhabitants of Egesta un“ dertook the war without us, let them extricate themselves “ from it as well as they can. Should any of our generals " advise you to this enterprise from an ambitious or self-in“terested view ; merely to make a vain parade of his splen“ did equipages, or to raise money to support his extrava
gance; be not guilty of so much imprudence as to sacri“ fice the interest of the republic to his, or permit him to “ involve it in the same ruin with himself. An enterprise of “ so much importance ought not to be committed wholly to “ the conduct of a young man. Remember it is prudence,
not prejudice and passion, that gives success to affairs.” Nicias concluded with declaring it his opinion, that it would be proper to deliberate again on the affair, in order to prevent the fatal consequences with which their taking rash resolutions might be attended.
It was plain he had Alcibiades in view, and that his enormous luxury was the object of his censure. And indeed he carried it to an incredible height ; and lavished prodigious sums of money on horses, equipages, and furniture ; not to mention the delicacy and sumptuousness of his table. He disputed the prize in the Olympic games with seven sets of chariot horses, which no private man had ever done before him; and he was crowned more than once on that occasion. Extraordinary resources were necessary for supporting such luxury ; and as avarice often serves as a resource to ambition, there were some grounds to believe, that Alcibiades was no less solicitous for conquering Sicily and Carthage (which he pretended to possess ifterwards as his own), to enrich his family, than to render it glorious. It is natural to suppose that Alcibiades did not let this speech of Nicias go unanswered.
“ This, says Alcibiades, is not the first time that merit " has excited jealousy, and glory been made the object of envy. That very thing which is imputed to me for a crime, reflects, I will presume to say it, honour on my country, and ought to gain me applause. The splendour *in which I live; the great sums I expend, particularly in the public assemblies; besides their being just and lawful, at the same time give foreigners a greater idea of the glory “ of Athens; and show, that it is not in such want of money as our ene nies imagine. But this is not our present busi
Let the world form a judgment of me, not from passion and prejudice, but from my actions. Was it an inconsiderable service I did the republic, in bringing over (in one day) to its alliance, the people of Elis, of Mantinea, and of Argos, that is, the chief strength of Peloponnesus? Make use, therefore, to aggrandize your empire, of Alcibiades's youth and folly (since his enemies give it that name), " as well as of the wisdom and experience of Nicias ; and “ do not repent, from vain and idle fears, your engaging in an
enterprise publicly resolved upon, and which may redound infinitely both to your glory and advantage. The cities of Sicily, weary of the unjust and cruel government of their princes, and still more of the tyrannical authority which "Syracuse exercises over them, wait only for a favourable
opportunity to declare theinselves ; and are ready to open " their gates to any one who shall offer to break the yoke " under wnich they have so long groaned. Though the citi
zens of Egesta, in quality of your allies, should not have a right to your protection, yet the glory of Athens ought to
engage you to support them. States aggrandize themselves " by succouring the oppressed, and not by continuing inac“tive. In the present state of your affairs, the only way to dispirit your enemies, and show that you are not afraid of
“ them, will be, to harass one nation, to check the progress * of another, to keep them all employed, and carry your “ arms into distant countries. Athens was not formed for “ease; and it was not by inactivity that your ancestors raised “ it to the height in which we now see it. For the rest, what ** hazards will you run by engaging in the enterprise in ques“tion ? If it should be crowned with success, you will then
possess yourselves of all Greece; and should it not answer your expectations, your fleet will give you an oppor
tunity of retiring whenever you please. The Lacedæmo“nians indeed may make an incursion into our country ; but, “ besides that it would not be in our power to prevent it, " though we should not invade Sicily, we still shall preserve “ the empire of the sea, in spite of them; a circumstance “ which makes our enemies entirely despair of ever being “ able to conquer us. Be not therefore biassed by Nicias's
The only tendency of them is to sow the seeds “ of discord between the young and old men, who can do no" thing without one another ; since it is wisdom and courage, “ counsel and execution, that give success to all enterprises : " and this in which we are going to embark, cannot but turn « to your advantage.”
a 'l'he Athenians flattered and pleased with Alcibiades's speech, persisted in their first opinion. Nicias on the other side, did not depart from his; but at the same time did not dare to oppose Alcibiades
further. Nicias was naturally of a mild and timid disposition. He was not, like Pericles, master of that lively and vehement eloquence, which, like a torrent bears down all things in its way. And indeed, the latter, on several occasions and at several times, had never failed to check the impetuosity of the populace, who even then meditated the expedition into Sicily, because he was always inflexible and never slackened the reins of that authority and kind of sovereignty which he had acquired over the people; whereas 6 Nicias, both by acting and speaking in an casy, gentle manner, so far from winning over the people, suffered himself to be forcibly and involuntarily carried away: And accordingly he at last yielded to the people, and accept, ed the command in a war, which he plainly foresaw would be attended with the most fatal consequences.
Plutarch makes this reflection in his excellent treatise, where, speaking of the qualities requisite in a statesman, he shows how very necessary eloquence and inflexible constancy and perseverance are to him.
o Plut in præc. de ger rep. p. 802, ο καθάπερ αμβλεί χαλινω τω λόγω πειρώμεν@- αποσρέφειν τον δήμον, κατέσχεν. .
Nicias, nct daring to oppose Alcibiades any longer openly, endeavoured to do it indirectly, by starting a great number of difficulties, drawn especially from the great expense requisite for this expedition. He declared, that since they were resolved upon war, they ought to carry it on in such a manner as might suit the exalted reputation to which Athens had attained : that a fleet was not sufficient to oppose so formidable a power as that of the Syracusans and their allies: that they must raise an army, composed of good horse and foot, if they desired to act in a manner worthy of so grand a design; that besides their fleet, which was to make them masters at sea, they must have a great number of transports, to carry provisions perpetually to the army, which otherwise could not possibly subsist in an enemy's country : that they must carry vast sums of money with them, without waiting for that promised them by the citizens of Egesta, who perhaps were ready in words only, and very probably might break their promise: that they ought to weigh and examine the disparity there was between themselves and their enemies with regard to the conveniences and wants of the army; the Syracusans being in their own country, in the midst of powerful allies, disposed by inclination, as well as engaged by interest, to assist, them with men, arms, horses, and provisions ; whereas the Athenians would carry on the war in a remote country possessed by their enemies, where, in the winter, news could not be brought them in less than four month's time ; a country, where all things would oppose the Athenians, and nothing be procured but by force of arms: that it would reflect the greatest ignominy on the Athenians, should they be forced to abandon their enterprise, and thereby become the scorn and contempt of their enemies, by having neglected to take all the precautions which so important a design required : that as for himself, he was determined not to go, unless he was provided with all things necessary for the expedition, because the safety of the whole army depended on that circumstance; and that he would not rely on caprice, or the precarious engagements of the allies.
à Nicias had flattered himself, that this speech would cool the ardour of the people, whereas it only enflamed it the
Immediately the generals had full powers given them to raise as many troops, and fit out as many gallies as they should judge necessary; and the levies were accordingly carried on in Athens and other places, with inexpressible activity.
a Diod, l. xiii. p. 134.