UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
by means of intrigue and bluster, succeeded in this work, and not only
Argos, but also Elis and Mantinea, agreed to maintain an alliance with
Athens for a hundred years.
In the next year, B. C. 419, the Athenians were again admitted to the
Olympic games. It was supposed that, just emerging from a long and
ruinous war, she would present but a sorry figure at the great festival.
What, therefore, was the surprise of the assembled states when Alcibiades
himself entered for the games seven four-horse chariots, and with these
gained both the first and the second prize? Besides his display in the
races, he procured from his countrymen one of the richest general
exhibits ever presented on such an occasion; and at the conclusion of the
celebration all Greece rang with the praises of the Athenians.
But Alcibiades was a politician as well as a racer. He visited several
Peloponnesian towns, with the purpose of alienating them more and more
from the Spartan cause. These proceedings continued until the
Lacedaemonians were obliged to resist. They marched into Argos and
gained a position from which they might soon have won a marked success;
but Agis, the commander, permitted himself to be tricked into a truce by
the machinations of Alcibiades, who then gathered a force of Argives and
Athenians and invaded Mantinea. Near the temple of Hercules they were met
by the Spartan army under Agis, and were disastrously defeated. It was
estimated that one thousand one hundred men of the allied forces perished
in the battle. This success induced the state of Argolis to detach itself
from Athens and return to its old relations with the Lacedaemonians.
In the year B. C. 416, the Athenians succeeded in the capture of Melos
and Thera, the only islands in the AEgean not hitherto brought under
their dominion. In the conquest of the Melians-whose only offense
consisted in refusing to surrender to those who had attacked them in a
time of peace-the Athenians crowned all their preceding atrocities by
putting the male citizens of the island to death and selling the women
and children into slavery.
In the mean time, about B. C. 428, the Dorian race in Sicily, under the
leadership of Syracuse, had become identified with the Peloponnesian
league, then at war with Athens. War had been declared against the towns
of Leontini and Camarina, as well as the Italian city of Rhegium.
Hereupon the Leontinians sent their orator, Gorgias, to Athens to solicit
aid. At that time the Athenians voted aid to all the enemies of Sparta;
so a fleet of twenty sail was sent to help the anti-Lacedaemonian league
in the West. .
In the following year another squadron of forty galleys was sent to
Sicily, and it now became apparent that Athens instead of helping others
entertained the covert purpose of helping herself to the possession of
the whole island. A reaction occurred among the Sicilians, and the
expedition was obliged to sail home in disgrace. Three years later,
however, the Leontinians again asked for assistance, but the Athenians
were not then in a condition to give it; but when, in B. C. 416, the
application was renewed from the town of Egesta, then at war with
Selinus, Alcibiades espoused the project, and a resolution of support was
about to be voted; but the cautious Nicias interposed and induced the
assembly first to send an embassy to Egesta to see whether the game was
worth the expenditure. The Egestaeans entertained the envoys. They took
them into the temple of Aphrodite and displayed a vast heap of treasures
which were borrowed for the occasion! They gave a banquet which nearly
exhausted the resources of the town. But the ambassadors were generously
hoodwinked, and took home a glowing account of the luxury of the western
city! So it was at once resolved to espouse the cause of these wealthy
petitioners, and a squadron of a hundred ships-under the joint command of
Nicias, Alcibiades, and Lamachus- was dispatched to Sicily.
No enterprise ever undertaken by the Greeks was more enthusiastically
prosecuted. Crowds of volunteers came forward and begged to be accepted
for the expedition. The three commanders vied with each other in the
equipment of their respective ships.