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The Life of AlcibiadesDangerous Ambition and the Betrayal of Athens$
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Jacqueline de Romilly

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781501719752

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501719752.001.0001

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The Grand Design

The Grand Design

(p.52) 4 The Grand Design
The Life of Alcibiades

Jacqueline de Romilly

, Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings
Cornell University Press

This chapter focuses on the Sicilian expedition. In every respect, at the end of 416, Alcibiades has good reason to be content with his life and confident about his future. Out of all this grew his great ambition. And to begin, he threw himself into the Athenian effort to conquer Sicily. His ideas resonated in an Athens captivated by glory and adventure. First, though, he had to obtain approval by the Assembly of the people for his expedition. At first, everything was simple; the project was quickly approved. However, Nicias, seeing clearly the dangers that lay behind the overly broad and vague objectives, was appalled by the risks Athens was taking. He used a subsequent session of the Assembly, supposedly to deal with armaments, to raise the question of the whole affair once more. Thucydides provided the two main speeches of Nicias and Alcibiades, followed by Nicias's final pitch. During the rest of his speech, Alcibiades is the bold defender of Athenian imperialism. Ultimately, however, the expedition ended in disaster. At the very moment of the triumphant and flamboyant departure, Alcibiades must have begun to worry. If not, he should have, because a dark cloud began to take shape: into the grand plan there suddenly arose the taint of scandal.

Keywords:   Sicilian expedition, Alcibiades, Athens, Nicias, Thucydides, Athenian imperialism

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