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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 Scandals

The Scandals

(p.70) 5 The Scandals
The Life of Alcibiades

Jacqueline de Romilly

, Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings
Cornell University Press

This chapter looks at two grave matters which erupted in Athens between when the Sicilian expedition had been approved and the day of departure. On a beautiful morning, it was discovered that all the herms in the city had been mutilated. These herms were simplified statues of the god Hermes. They appealed to the god for protection; they had religious significance. The fact that such a blow had struck all the herms implied intention. An air of panic swept through the city; something sinister was believed to be threatening Athenian democracy. Clearly, one of their fears was that people would band together to bring about a less democratic regime, one that was openly oligarchic. If there was someone considering tyranny, who was a more likely object of suspicion than Alcibiades? His enemies would immediately exploit these very natural fears and accusations about him spread. Meanwhile, a slave named Andromachus was presented by his master and swore that he had been present, in a private house, for a parody of the sacred mysteries, in which Alcibiades, among others, had also participated. Soon, there were numerous allegations that this double sacrilege was a prelude to overthrowing the democracy. From that time on, things began to go badly for Alcibiades.

Keywords:   Sicilian expedition, herms, Hermes, Athenian democracy, oligarchy, Alcibiades, tyranny, sacred mysteries, sacrilege, democratic regime

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