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Special thanks to for permission to use this image adapted from their authentic replica of a Spartan spear.

(6.28) Certain metics and servants gave information, not indeed about the Hermae, but about the mutilation of other statues which had shortly before been perpetrated by some young men in a drunken frolic: they also said that the mysteries were repeatedly profaned by the celebration of them in private houses, and of this impiety they accused, among others, Alcibiades. A party who were jealous of his influence over the people, which interfered with the permanent establishment of their own, thinking that if they could get rid of him they would be supreme,26 took up and exaggerated the charges against him, clamorously insisting that both the mutilation of the Hermae and the profanation of the mysteries were part of a conspiracy against the democracy, and that he was at the bottom of the whole affair. In proof they alleged the excesses of his ordinary life, which were unbecoming in the citizen of a free state.

(6.29) He strove then and there to clear himself of the charges, and also offered to be tried before he sailed (for all was now ready), in order that, if he were guilty, he might be punished, and if acquitted, might retain his command. He adjured his countrymen to listen to no calumnies which might be propagated against him in his absence; and he protested that they would be wiser in not sending a man who had so serious an imputation hanging over him on a command so important. But his enemies feared that if the trial took place at once he would have the support of the army; and that the people would be lenient, and would not forget that27 he had induced the Argives and some Mantineans to join in the expedition. They therefore exerted themselves to postpone the trial. To this end they suborned fresh speakers, who proposed that he should sail now and not delay the expedition, but should return and stand his trial within a certain number of days. Their intention was that he should be recalled and tried when they had stirred up a stronger feeling against him, which they could better do in his absence. So it was decided that Alcibiades should sail.

(6.30) About the middle of summer the expedition started for Sicily. Orders had been previously given to most of the allies, to the cornships, the smaller craft, and generally to the vessels in attendance on the armament, that they should muster at Corcyra, whence the whole fleet was to strike across the Ionian gulf to the promontory of Iapygia. Early in the morning of the day appointed for their departure, the Athenian forces and such of their allies as had already joined them went down to the Piraeus and began to man the ships. Almost the entire population of Athens accompanied them, citizens and strangers alike. The citizens came to take farewell, one of an acquaintance, another of a kinsman, another of a son, and as they passed along were full of hope and full of tears; hope of conquering Sicily, tears because they doubted whether they would ever see their friends again, when they thought of the long voyage on which they were going away. At the last moment of parting the danger was nearer; and terrors which had never occurred to them when they were voting the expedition now entered into their souls. Nevertheless their spirits revived at the sight of the armament in all its strength and of the abundant provision which they had made. The strangers and the rest of the multitude came out of curiosity, desiring to witness an enterprise of which the greatness exceeded belief.

(6.31) No armament so magnificent or costly had ever been sent out by any single Hellenic power, though in mere number of ships and hoplites that which sailed to Epidaurus under Pericles and afterwards under Hagnon to Potidaea28 was not inferior. For that expedition consisted of a hundred Athenian and fifty Chian and Lesbian triremes, conveying four thousand hoplites all Athenian citizens, three hundred cavalry, and a multitude of allied troops. Still the voyage was short and the equipments were poor, whereas this expedition was intended to be long absent, and was thoroughly provided both for sea and, land service, wherever its presence might be required. On the fleet the greatest pains and expense had been lavished by the trierarchs and the state. The public treasury gave a drachma29 a day to each sailor, and furnished empty hulls for sixty swift-sailing vessels, and for forty transports carrying hoplites. All these were manned with the best crews which could be obtained. The trierarchs, besides the pay given by the state, added somewhat more out of their own means to the wages of the upper ranks of rowers and of the petty officers.30 The figure-heads and other fittings provided by them were of the most costly description. Every one strove to the utmost that his own ship might excel both in beauty and swiftness. The infantry had been well selected and the lists carefully made up. There was the keenest rivalry among the soldiers in the matter of arms and personal equipment. And while at home the Athenians were thus competing with one another in the performance of their several duties, to the rest of Hellas the expedition seemed to be a grand display of their power and greatness, rather than a preparation for war. If any one had reckoned up the whole expenditure, both of the state and of individual soldiers and others, including in the first not only what the city had already laid out, but what was entrusted to the generals, and in the second what either at the time or afterwards private persons spent upon their outfit, or the trierarchs upon their ships, the provision for the long voyage which every one may be supposed to have carried with him over and above his public pay, and what soldiers or traders may have taken for purposes of exchange, he would have found that altogether an immense sum amounting to many talents was withdrawn from the city. Men were quite amazed at the boldness of the scheme and the magnificence of the spectacle, which were everywhere spoken of, no less than at the great disproportion of the force when compared with that of the enemy against whom it was intended. Never had a greater expedition been sent to a foreign land; never was there an enterprise in which the hope of future success seemed to be better justified by actual power.

(6.32) When the ships were manned and everything required for the voyage had been placed on board, silence was proclaimed by the sound of the trumpet, and all with one voice before setting sail offered up the customary prayers; these were recited, not in each ship separately, but by a single herald, the whole fleet accompanying him. On every deck both the officers and the marines, mingling wine in bowls, made libations from vessels of gold and silver. The multitude of citizens and other well-wishers who were looking on from the land joined in the prayer. The crews raised the paean and, when the libations were completed, put to sea. After sailing out for some distance in single file, the ships raced with one another as far as Aegina; thence they hastened onwards to Corcyra, where the allies who formed the rest of the army were assembling.

Meanwhile reports of the expedition were coming in to Syracuse from many quarters, but for a long time nobody gave credit to them. At length an assembly was held. Even then different opinions were expressed, some affirming and others denying that the expedition was coming. At last Hermocrates the son of Hermon, believing that he had certain information, came forward, and warned the Syracusans in the following words:

Special thanks to for permission to use this image adapted from their authentic replica of a Spartan spear.


26. (From 6.28) Cp. ii. 65 fin.

27. (From 6.29) Or supplying auton with therapeuôn: 'being well disposed to him because' etc.

28. (From 6.31) Cp. ii. 56, 58.

29. (From 6.31) 8d.

30. (From 6.31) Others translate 'the crews generally,' or 'the soldiers' servants.'

From Thucydides, translated into English, to which is prefixed an essay on inscriptions and a note on the geography of Thucydides, by Benjamin Jowett. Second edition. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1900.

Scanned and edited specially for Peithô's Web. Jowett's footnotes have been converted to endnotes. Peithô's Web accepts no liability whatsoever for errors or any other problem with the texts or their use.

Special thanks to (link) for graciously permitting images of their ancient art and replicas of armor and weapons to appear in our Thucydides pages.

Background mosaic from the Architectural Ornament collection of the Architectural Engineering Graduate Students Association of The Pennsylvania State University.