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Alcibíades



Alcibíades

Alcibíades era hijo de Cleinias, un político ateniense brillante pero inestable. Rico, guapo y aristocrático, Alcibíades se crió en la casa de su tutor, Pericles, y se preparó para una carrera política. Tenía todas las ventajas posibles y, además, poseía un encanto y una habilidad excepcionales como conversador, pensador y diplomático. Al ingresar a la política en la atmósfera bélica de la Guerra del Peloponeso, representó a la juventud y se convirtió en un íntimo del maestro de jóvenes, Sócrates. (Fueron retratados juntos por Platón en sus diálogos Alcibíades y Simposio.)

Alcibíades eligió la democracia extrema y una política imperialista agresiva. En 420 a. C., durante una paz incómoda con Esparta, con tácticas inteligentes llevó a Atenas a una alianza con Argos y otros estados griegos contra Esparta. Esta política, que nunca obtuvo el apoyo total de la mayoría en Atenas, fracasó completamente en 418, cuando Esparta derrotó a las fuerzas de la coalición en Mantinea. La debacle provocó que Atenas realizara un ostracismo para decidir entre el conservador Nicias, defensor de la paz con Esparta, y el agresivo Alcibíades. Con el ingenio característico, Alcibíades llegó a un compromiso con Nicias, un tercero fue condenado al ostracismo y la diferencia fundamental de política no se resolvió.

Incluso en la sociedad permisiva de su época, Alcibíades se volvió famoso por su comportamiento extravagante e imprudente, y la desconfianza que despertó arruinó su carrera. En 415 fue el principal impulsor de la propuesta de atacar Siracusa y, junto con Nicias y Lamachus, comandó la expedición naval a Sicilia. Pronto llamaron a Alcibíades acusado de haber profanado los Misterios y de haber mutilado estatuas religiosas (hermae) en una juerga de borrachos en la víspera de la partida de la flota.

De camino a casa, Alcibíades escapó, llegó a Esparta y se convirtió en asesor militar de los espartanos. Ganó para Esparta la alianza de Persia, instigó la revuelta de algunas colonias de Atenas y alentó a Esparta a que base tropas dentro de Ática contra Atenas. Pero cayó en desgracia con el rey espartano Agis, a cuya esposa sedujo. Posteriormente, Alcibíades transfirió sus servicios a Persia y luego a los extremistas antidemocráticos atenienses, con quienes planeó un golpe de estado en Atenas. Cuando no pudo obtener la ayuda de Persia, dejaron de apoyarlo y tomaron el poder en Atenas sin él.

La carrera política de Alcibíades ahora dio un giro completo. Con la ayuda de los demócratas extremistas atenienses, que aún controlaban la flota, fue instalado como comandante de la marina. Tras obtener brillantes victorias contra Esparta, que resultaron en la restauración de la democracia en Atenas, regresó a casa en el 407 como el favorito de los demócratas. Pero cuando la armada ateniense bajo un oficial subordinado fue derrotada en Notium por el comandante naval espartano Lisandro, Alcibíades anticipó problemas y se retiró al retiro cerca de los Dardanelos. Después de la Guerra del Peloponeso, Esparta reclamó su cabeza y fue asesinado mientras estaba fugitivo en Frigia.


Opciones de acceso

1. Si bien la cuestión de la autenticidad del Alcibíades Mayor es irrelevante para mi propósito actual, hay una gran cantidad de referencias para cualquier persona especialmente interesada en el tema. Entre los que rechazan el diálogo por venir de la pluma de Platón se encuentran Bidez, J., Eos ou, Platon et l'Orient (Bruselas, 1945), cap. 13 Bluck, R. S., “El origen de la Greater Alcibíades ”, Classical Quarterly, n.s. iii (1953), 46-52 Burnet, J., Eutifrón de Platón, apología de Sócrates y Critón (Oxford, 1924), págs. 27-28 n. Dodds, E. R., Estilo, xxvii (1955), 164 (una revisión de la edición de Westerink del Comentario de Proclus sobre el Primer Alcibíades) Dupreel, E., Les Sophistes: Protágoras, Gorgias, Prodicus, Hippias (Neuchatel, 1949), págs.151 y sigs., Y La Legende Socratique et Les Sources de Platon (Bruselas, 1922), págs. 172-81 Gauss, H., Philosophischer Handkommentar zu den Dialogen Platos (Berna, 1952-1961), i, 2, 205 y sigs. Hoffman, E., Platon (Zúrich, 1950), pág. 125 G. Jachmann, Der Platontext, Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaften en Gotinga (1941), pág. 308 ff. Kerschensteiner, J., Platon und der Orient (Stuttgart, 1945), pág. 203 y sigs. Koster, W. J. W., Le Mythe de Platon, de Zarathoustra et des Chaldeens (Leiden, 1951), pág. 23 f. Lutoslawski, W., El origen y crecimiento de la lógica de Platón (Londres, 1897), págs. 197-98 Raeder, H., Platons philosophische Entwickelung (Leipzig, 1905), págs. 24-25 Ross, David Sir, Teoría de las ideas de Platón (Oxford, 1951), pág. 3 Shorey, P., Lo que dijo Platón (Chicago, 1933), pág. 415 de Strycker, E., “Platonica I: L'authenticité du Premier Alcibíades, ”Etudes Classiques, xi (1942), 135-51 y Taylor, A. E., Platón, el hombre y sus obras (Londres, 1960), págs. 13 y 522. Los dos partidarios más acérrimos de la autenticidad del diálogo son Friedlander, P., Der Grosse Alcibiades ein weg zu Platón (Bonn, 1921 y 1923) y Platón II (Nueva York, 1964) y Vink, C., "Eerste Alcibiades" de Platón, een onderzoek naar zijn authenticiteit (Amsterdam, 1939), aunque la autenticidad también la mantienen Festugiere, A., Contemplation et vie contemplative selon Platon (París, 1935), págs. 67-68 y "Grecs et sage orientaux", Revue de l'Histoire des Religions, csss (1945), pág. 29 y sigs. Grote, G., Platón y los demás compañeros de Sócrates (Londres, 1865), págs. 353-55 Grube, G. M. A., Pensamiento de Platón (Londres, 1935), pág. 8 Stallbaum, G., Platonis opera omnia (Berlín, 1826), v, 1, 295 y sigs. y Stefanini, L., Platone (Padua, 1932), i, 78 y sigs. (1ª ed.). Véase también Clark, P. M., "The Greater Alcibiades", Trimestral clásico, n.s. v (1955). 231-40, y Delcominette, E., Sur l'authenticité du "Premier Alcibiadé" de Platon (Lieja, 1949). En general, quienes dudan de la autenticidad del diálogo argumentan que el lenguaje es anacrónico o no platónico para el período inicial de Platón, que los argumentos son tediosos y que la representación del personaje de Alcibíades no es digna de Platón, ni siquiera del joven Platón. Bidez presenta un excelente resumen de los argumentos habituales contra la autenticidad (págs. 119-20). Encuentro su presentación la más persuasiva de las que se oponen a la autenticidad. Friedlander resume los argumentos de los escépticos diciendo que equivalen a uno: "No me gusta". Bluck es una excepción: defiende la falta de autenticidad al traducir αὐτὸ τὸ αὐτό en 129b y 130d como "mente". Tendré más que decir sobre esto más adelante (n. 11). Incluso los escépticos, sin embargo, están de acuerdo en general en que es "l'oeuvre très respectable d'un professeur érudit et de noble inspiration" (Dupreel), que la sustancia del diálogo es "authentiquement platonicien" (Bidez), y que "hay Hay varios pasajes que es difícil atribuir a una mano menor que la de Platón ”(Shorey) con algunas excepciones, por ejemplo, Jachmann, es solo con la“ mayor desgana ”(Taylor) que atribuyen el diálogo a un estudioso cercano de la Filosofía platónica. Friedlander y Vink, por otro lado, contrarrestan estos argumentos, incluido el de Bluck, con diversos grados de éxito y argumentan de manera exhaustiva y persuasiva que la sustancia del diálogo es digna solo del propio Platón. Otras referencias de interés incluyen Alain (Emile Chartier), Idés: Platón, Descartes, Hegel (París, 1932), pág. 69 y sigs. Croiset, M., Platon oeuvre completa (París, 1920), i, 50-59 Dittmar, H., Aeschines von Sphettos (Berlín, 1912), págs. 163-77 Field, G. C., Platón y sus contemporáneos un estudio sobre la vida y el pensamiento del siglo IV. (Londres, 1930), pág. 146 y sigs. y cols. 2367-68 sobre Platón en Paulys.

2. Este enfoque es, creo, una modificación apropiada de las ideas educativas de Sócrates sobre la pregunta de Schleiermacher para resolver el problema socrático.

3. Considerando la importancia que Sócrates atribuye a la δαίμων más tarde (127 e) en la continuación de la discusión, y de ahí su íntima conexión con la relación erótica entre los dos hombres, Bidez, (op. cit. , págs. 113-14 Strycker, de, op. cit., pag. 144) es seguramente incorrecto al decir que "Le 'signe démonique' de Socrate y recoit une important excesiva ..."

4. Clark, (op. cit. , pag. 234, n. 1) cree que la situación que abre el diálogo es "grotesca". No puedo entender por qué, ya que no comprendo Bidez. (op, cit., pag. 105): "On y respire une atmosfera abstraite, theorique, tout entière dominée par les problemes et non par les personnes". Más bien, con Friedlander, (Platón II, 232), desde el principio “el encuentro [de Sócrates y Alcibíades] se atemoriza con una tensión inigualable en Platón”, una tensión proporcionada ciertamente no por una “atmósfera abstracta unida”, sino por una atmósfera intensamente erótica. También vea Alain, (op. cit., pag. 69 y sigs.).

5. Cf. Schaerer, R., La Question Platonicienne (Neuchâtel, 1938), págs. 51 - 52. Nótese especialmente p. 51, n. 2: “Les Grecs du quatrième siècle n'ont aucun mot pour exprimer exactement l'idée moderne de sincerité. La noción se confond entièrement, pour Platon, avec celle de verité, de connaissance, de clarté, ou de realité. Repondre sincerement, selon lui, c'est repondre de son propre fonds: εξ ἑαυτόν UNED réellement: Ὅντως, ou conformement à sa propre pensée: μη παρἀ δόξαν.

6. La identificación de niveles dialécticos en los diálogos socráticos es un expediente arbitrario para propósitos analíticos. Los niveles dialécticos de cualquier diálogo dado variarán de acuerdo con los objetivos del análisis. En el Alcibíades Mayor, por ejemplo, si el objetivo es obtener una mayor comprensión de la epistemología socrática, el diálogo estaría esculpido en niveles dialécticos algo diferentes a los que identificaré. En última instancia, por supuesto, un diálogo socrático debe verse sintéticamente en su totalidad.


Alcibíades

Alcibíades se destacó tanto por su belleza como por sus modales encantadores, que atraían a todo el que entraba en contacto con él. Hablaba muy rápido y con un pequeño ceceo que parecía más bien añadir gracia a su discurso y darle cierto poder cuando estaba persuadiendo a la gente para que hiciera lo que él deseaba. Era un ateniense, con un carácter compuesto de rasgos tan opuestos que si bien fue elogiado por su talento como estadista y su habilidad y coraje como comandante, fue condenado por su falta de principios, su extravagancia y su disipación.

Fue discípulo de Sócrates, el célebre filósofo, por quien sentía gran admiración y afecto. Sócrates no adulaba a su alumno, como hacía la mayoría de la gente, sino que siempre le decía la verdad, aunque no era agradable, y trataba de inculcarle los mejores principios. Alcibíades a menudo era grosero con sus compañeros, aunque muchos de ellos eran nobles y ricos, pero con Sócrates, a quien amaba y admiraba, siempre fue amable y cortés, y nunca perdió la oportunidad de estar con él. El filósofo amaba también a su joven compañero, y cuando, en varias ocasiones, los jóvenes de Atenas se lo llevaban y participaba en sus viciosos placeres, Sócrates lo buscaba y lo devolvía al camino correcto. Podía hacer esto, porque Alcibíades lo temía y respetaba como nadie más.

Este joven ateniense eligió a Pericles como modelo en la vida pública y tenía la ambición de ascender al puesto que había ocupado el ilustre estadista. Incluso cuando era niño, la idea de ser derrotado u oponerse a algo le resultaba sumamente doloroso, y recurría a cualquier truco para evitarlo. Una vez, cuando estaba involucrado en un combate de lucha libre, encontrándose a punto de ser lanzado, mordió la mano de su oponente con todas sus fuerzas. "Muerdes como una mujer, Alcibíades", gritó el muchacho, enfadado, soltándose. "Oh, no", respondió nuestro héroe "Muerdo como un león".

En otra ocasión, cuando estaba jugando a los dados, llegó un carro cargado justo cuando era su turno de lanzar. Llamó al conductor para que se detuviera, pero este último no prestó atención y siguió conduciendo, los chicos le abrieron paso. Pero Alcibíades no cedió, así que se estiró al otro lado del camino y le gritó al carretero: "¡Ahora, si quieres, sigue adelante!". El hombre estaba tan sorprendido que echó atrás sus caballos y el niño ganó su punto.

En la escuela, Alcibíades obedeció bastante bien a todos sus maestros, excepto al que intentó enseñarle la flauta. Ese instrumento declaró que nunca lo aprendería, porque no se estaba convirtiendo en un ciudadano libre para desfigurarse con el soplo. Estaba dispuesto a tocar el arpa, porque podía hablar o cantar al mismo tiempo, y no estaba obligado a hacer muecas. "Dejad que los jóvenes tebanos cantan", decía, "porque no saben hablar, pero los atenienses, que tenemos a Minerva por patrona ya Apolo por protector, no podemos rebajarnos tanto". Esta decisión suya tuvo tanto peso entre sus compañeros que ninguno de ellos tocaba la flauta, y ese instrumento cayó en desuso.

Sócrates salvó la vida de Alcibíades cuando era soldado, de esta manera. Lucharon codo con codo, y este último fue herido tan gravemente que debió haber recibido más daño si el filósofo no lo hubiera defendido y rescatado del enemigo. Siendo tal el caso, Sócrates podría haber reclamado el premio al valor, pero estaba tan ansioso por alentar en su joven amigo una sed de gloria que usó su influencia para que se lo recompensara con una corona y una armadura completa. Muchos años después, cuando los atenienses fueron derrotados en la batalla de Delium y Sócrates se retiraba a pie, Alcibíades, que iba a caballo, se interpuso entre él y el enemigo y, a su vez, se convirtió en escudo.

Tenía un perro muy bueno, por el que había pagado una gran suma de dinero. Era un animal hermoso, notable por su hermosa cola, que todos notaron. A Alcibíades le cortaron este adorno. Entonces sus amigos exclamaron ante tal acto de inhumanidad y le dijeron que toda Atenas hablaba de ello. "Eso es exactamente lo que quería", respondió el joven, "porque si los atenienses no tuvieran esto de qué hablar, podrían decir algo peor de mí". Desafortunadamente, su conducta fue a menudo tan descarada que dio amplias oportunidades para el escándalo.

Pocos hombres han tenido mayores ventajas para entrar en la vida pública que Alcibíades, pero él estaba decidido a no deberle el éxito a nada más que a su propia elocuencia, y se convirtió en un orador consumado, siempre usando la palabra correcta en el lugar correcto y expresándose de la mejor manera. idioma.

Hemos aludido a su extravagancia. Gastó enormes sumas de dinero en caballos, de los cuales poseía la mejor raza, y es la única persona que envió siete carros a la vez a los Juegos Olímpicos. Se llevó el primer, segundo y tercer premio, y sus caballos ganaron otros dos. Esto se consideró tan notable que los representantes de las distintas ciudades griegas, que presenciaron su éxito, le hicieron hermosos obsequios y, una vez terminados los juegos, entretuvo a todos los espectadores en una magnífica comida.

Cuando Alcibíades entró en la vida pública, tenía dos rivales, uno era Nicias, un hombre avanzado en años, y uno de los mejores generales de su época, el otro Ph & aeligax, un joven que apenas comenzaba a abrirse camino. Ph & aeligax era de alta cuna, pero inferior a Alcibíades como orador. Se decía de él que podía hablar, pero no hablaba.

Nicias no sólo era estimado por los atenienses, sino que gozaba del gran favor de los Laced y eligmonianos debido al cuidado que había prestado a sus soldados que fueron capturados en Pylos, y la paz que había logrado después. Esto despertó los celos de Alcibíades, quien estaba empeñado en la caída de Nicias, por lo que lo acusó de haber desaprovechado sus oportunidades cuando era comandante con el expreso propósito de ganarse el favor de los Laced & aeligmonians. Su elocuencia triunfó, como de costumbre, y fue declarado general.

Su primer paso fue unir a otras tres naciones griegas con la suya y combinar una fuerza inmensa contra los Laced y los aeligmonianos. Al mismo tiempo, quitó la sede de la guerra tan lejos del territorio ateniense que, si el enemigo conquistaba, ganarían poco y, en caso de derrota, Esparta no estaría a salvo. Este fue un buen golpe de política y demostró un gran genio por parte de Alcibíades.

Poco después de la primera batalla, los oficiales del ejército argivo deseaban tener un gobierno independiente, y los Laced & aeligmonians se ofrecieron a ayudarlos a lograrlo. Pero pronto se descubrió que su objetivo era el deseo de formar una aristocracia como la de Esparta, y así afianzarse entre la propia nobleza. Esto enfureció tanto a la gente de Argos que se alzaron en armas contra los Laced y eligmonians, y con la ayuda de Alcibíades obtuvieron una gran victoria sobre ellos. Luego persuadió a la gente de Argos para que construyera su muro hasta el mar, para que siempre estuvieran en condiciones de recibir ayuda de los atenienses, y envió carpinteros y albañiles de Atenas para hacer el trabajo. Aconsejó a la gente de Patr & aelig que construyera un muro similar, por lo que alguien sugirió que los atenienses se los tragarían algún día. —Puede que sea así —respondió Alcibíades—, pero empezarán por los pies y lo harán poco a poco, mientras que los Laced & aeligmonians empezarán por la cabecera y te devorarán todos a la vez.

Alcibíades hizo que sus compatriotas lo amaran y lo odiaran al mismo tiempo. Sentían que no podían prescindir de él y estaban fascinados por su discurso, así como por algunas de sus obras dignas, pero odiaban sus hábitos lujosos y estaban disgustados con el desprecio que mostraba por la ley. Se disculparon por él por su juventud y bondad, y se ganaron, a pesar de ellos mismos, por su generosidad, su coraje y sus modales atractivos. Una vez, cuando toda una asamblea fue a felicitarlo por una oración inusualmente brillante que había hecho, Timón, un filósofo ateniense, que era dado a hacer comentarios desagradables, lo tomó de la mano y le dijo: "Adelante, mi valiente muchacho, y aumenta su popularidad tanto como pueda, porque un día traerá suficientes calamidades sobre esta gente ".

A continuación, Alcibíades dirigió la atención de sus compatriotas a la conquista de Sicilia, un lugar que habían codiciado durante mucho tiempo como el trampolín más seguro hacia Cartago. Nicias no aprobó la expedición y señaló las innumerables dificultades que la acompañarían, pero Alcibíades obró con tanto éxito en las mentes de los jóvenes de Atenas que todos estaban ansiosos por partir y se iniciaron los preparativos. Muy en contra de su voluntad, Nicias fue designado para comandar con Alcibíades, porque se esperaba que su experiencia y juicio actuaran como un freno al general más joven y temerario.

Cuando todo estuvo listo, muchos presagios desafortunados pusieron un freno a la expedición. Entre otras, todas las imágenes de Mercurio en Atenas fueron desfiguradas durante una noche, y esto provocó un gran terror en la mente de la población. Se circularon varios informes para dar cuenta de este extraño suceso, y finalmente Alcibíades y sus amigos fueron acusados ​​de haber mutilado las imágenes en estado de embriaguez. Se dijo además que, disfrazado de sumo sacerdote, había actuado en la misma noche los misterios sagrados, y sus compañeros también desempeñaban su papel en la farsa profana.

La gente estaba muy enojada con Alcibíades y lo hubieran llevado a juicio de inmediato, pero los jóvenes que estaban listos para la guerra declararon que nadie más los conduciría, por lo que se decidió que debía zarpar de inmediato y ser juzgado a su regreso. Tan pronto como desapareció la fascinación de su presencia, los enemigos de Alcibíades hicieron circular informes falsos sobre él. Estos, sumados a la sospecha (porque no se pudo probar) de que había mutilado las estatuas de Mercurio, aumentaron el sentimiento popular contra él a una furia perfecta, y gradualmente ganó terreno la creencia de que estaba comprometido en una conspiración para traicionar a Atenas. a los Laced y aeligmonians. Es difícil entender qué conexión podría haber entre esta acusación y las demás, pero tal era el sentimiento contra Alcibíades que la gente estaba dispuesta a creer lo que oyera, por improbable que pareciera.

Todos los parientes y amigos del desafortunado general fueron encarcelados sin ser escuchados, y se sintió tal pesar de que el mismo Alcibíades no hubiera sido juzgado y castigado, que se envió un barco para traerlo de regreso. Los soldados se opusieron a que los dejara, porque pensaban que la guerra nunca terminaría bajo la dirección de Nicias, pero no fueron atendidos y su general se vio obligado a irse. Sin embargo, tomó la precaución de embarcarse en una embarcación propia, y no en la que le enviaron. Al aterrizar en Thurii, en Italia, escapó y se escondió. Alguien, que por casualidad lo reconoció en su escondite, le preguntó si tenía miedo de confiar en su país. "En cuanto a cualquier otra cosa, confiaré en ella", respondió, "pero con mi vida no confiaría ni siquiera en mi propia madre, no sea que por error ella arroje un frijol negro por uno blanco".

Sabemos que un frijol negro fue suficiente para desterrar a un hombre por el ostracismo pero se ordenó un castigo más severo para Alcibíades, pues la república lo condenó a muerte. Cuando se enteró de esto, dijo: "Pero les haré sentir que estoy vivo". Como no se presentó, se confiscaron sus propiedades y se ordenó a todos los sacerdotes y sacerdotisas que lo maldijeran. Theano fue la única sacerdotisa que se negó, diciendo: "Es mi deber orar por los pecadores, no maldecirlos".

Mientras tanto, temiendo no estar seguro en Thurii, Alcibíades se dirigió a Argos. Desde allí envió un mensaje a Esparta, pidiendo permiso para vivir allí y agregando la promesa de que serviría fielmente al estado. Se le proporcionó una escolta para llevarlo a Esparta, donde inmediatamente comenzó a trabajar en oposición a su país, sin cesar hasta que estuvo casi aplastado.

Por supuesto, tal servicio hizo a Alcibíades sumamente popular en Esparta, aunque era un traidor, y ganó muchos amigos en la vida privada por la forma en que se adaptó a sus costumbres. Este hombre, que había sido tan lujoso en sus hábitos como para que un cocinero profesional le preparara la comida, contratar a un perfumista y vestirse con túnicas sueltas de color púrpura regio, ahora llevaba el cabello muy corto, bañado en agua fría, comió comida tosca y cenó caldo negro. Realmente no había cambiado, pero tenía el don de entrar en los hábitos y costumbres de las personas con las que estaba y de parecer uno de ellos. Por lo tanto, cuando, en un período posterior, su vida estuvo en peligro debido a los celos de algunos espartanos ambiciosos, se colocó bajo la protección de Tisafernes, sátrapa del rey de Persia, y de inmediato se volvió de gran importancia en el nuevo campo. Aunque Tisafernes odiaba a los griegos, era un admirador de Alcibíades, cuyas formas solapadas eran más de su gusto que de otra manera, por lo que lo recibió con muchas muestras de hospitalidad y lo honró dando su nombre a uno de sus parques más hermosos.

Alcibíades se volvió ahora contra los atados y eligmonianos, y aconsejó a Tisafernes que no los ayudara a arruinar a los atenienses, sino que dejara que las dos naciones siguieran luchando y se consumieran gradualmente. Su influencia fue tan grande que fue obedecido, y como consecuencia de su poder se elevó en la estima de sus propios compatriotas, quienes ahora comenzaron a lamentar la sentencia que le habían dictado, particularmente por lo que habían sufrido a causa de su ausencia. .

En este momento, toda la fuerza del ejército ateniense estaba estacionada en Samos. Temían mucho Tisafernes y la flota de Pholignicia, así que cuando Alcibíades les envió la noticia de que haría al persa su amigo, fue un inmenso alivio. Pero no se proponía hacer esto, dijo, a menos que pudiera producirse un cambio en el gobierno de Atenas. Quería que el poder recayera en manos de unos pocos aristócratas, sin duda pensando que era probable que luego lo volvieran a llamar a Atenas, pero no dejó que apareciera este objetivo egoísta.

Realmente se produjo el cambio, y el gobierno fue asumido por un cuerpo de cuatrocientos ciudadanos elegidos, llamados los Cinco Mil para darle una apariencia de fuerza, pero nadie supo de más de los cuatrocientos, que se establecieron por la fuerza y ​​destituyeron. el antiguo senado. Este fue el final de la democracia ateniense, que había durado casi un siglo.

Cualquier hombre que se atreviera a oponerse a los cuatrocientos era ejecutado, y cuando los atenienses de Samos se enteraron de esta declaración, se indignaron tanto que enviaron a buscar a Alcibíades, lo declararon general y lo instaron a que los guiara para derrotar a los tiranos. . Pero se negó, porque vio claramente que tal paso solo podía causar daño e involucrar a Atenas en una guerra civil. Realizó un servicio aún mayor al utilizar su influencia con Tisafernes para evitar que la flota Ph & oelignician se uniera a Laced & aeligmonians.

Poco después de esto, los cuatrocientos usurpadores fueron expulsados ​​de Atenas, y luego se ordenó a Alcibíades que regresara. Pero no lo haría hasta que se hubiera distinguido en algún servicio. Por lo tanto, zarpó de Samos con algunos barcos y se dirigió al Helesponto, donde iba a haber una batalla entre los espartanos y los atenienses allí reunidos. Obtuvo una gran victoria, de la que se sintió tan orgulloso que estaba ansioso por presentarse a Tisafernes, y fue a visitarlo con algunos hermosos obsequios. Para asombro de Alcibíades, el persa, que había disgustado a la corte mostrándole favores, tenía motivos por ese motivo para temer el disgusto de su rey, por lo que el ateniense había arrestado y enviado a Sardis a un prisionero.

Pero Alcibíades se vengó, porque escapó antes de que terminara el mes y anunció públicamente que el sátrapa persa lo había ayudado a hacerlo. Luego se apresuró a unirse a la flota ateniense y fue recibido con fuertes vítores cuando hizo su aparición. Fue de nuevo al Helesponto, libró una batalla desesperada y derrocó por completo a los Laced & aeligmonians. Regocijados con esta gran victoria, los soldados atenienses empezaron a creer que ningún poder podía resistirlos, liderados por Alcibíades, por lo que atacaron muchos lugares importantes a lo largo de la costa de Asia Menor, y se apoderaron de todos ellos.

Luego, coronado de gloria, Alcibíades se volvió hacia Atenas, deseando volver a presentarse ante sus compatriotas. Así que se hizo a la vela con una flota de doscientos barcos cargados de botín. No fue sin recelos que entró en el puerto, pero sus familiares y amigos lo tranquilizaron, quienes acudieron en masa a la orilla y lo invitaron a desembarcar. En cuanto lo hizo, la multitud se apiñó a su alrededor, algunos coronándolo con coronas de laurel, mientras que otros, que no podían acercarse, gritaban de alegría y lo seguían en su tren, satisfechos con alguna que otra vista del gran héroe.

Posteriormente, en asamblea pública, se colocaron coronas de oro sobre la cabeza de Alcibíades, se le nombró general tanto de las fuerzas terrestres como marítimas, se le devolvieron sus propiedades y se ordenó a los sacerdotes que lo absolvieran de las maldiciones que habían pronunciado. En su contra.

La mayoría creía que Alcibíades no podía fallar en nada de lo que intentaba y esta creencia causó su ruina. Porque después de un tiempo, cuando peleó una batalla con los Laced & aeligmonians y fue derrotado, se dijo que había mandado descuidadamente y que había gastado su tiempo en disipación y placeres mientras estaba a la vista del enemigo, dejando la gestión de la flota a incompetentes. gente. Además, se le imputaron otros cargos, y en su lugar se designaron diez generales para dirigir el ejército y la marina atenienses.

Fue Lisandro quien comandó a los Laced & aeligmonians cuando obtuvieron esta victoria, y luego tomó posesión formal de Atenas, quemó sus barcos y demolió las largas murallas. Alcibíades, temiendo a los nuevos maestros, se retiró a Asia Menor, llevando consigo una gran cantidad de tesoros. Pero le robaron y luego decidió refugiarse en la corte de Artajerjes, el rey persa.

Mientras tanto, los treinta gobernantes despóticos que Lisandro había puesto sobre el pueblo establecieron un reino de terror en Atenas. Luego se habló de recordar a Alcibíades. Nadie podía decir con precisión cómo un hombre podría contrarrestar los ultrajes de los treinta déspotas, pero era la creencia generalizada de que Alcibíades, si estuviera en el lugar, podría efectuar algún cambio.

Lysander también pensó lo mismo y, por lo tanto, envió gente para asesinarlo. Fueron al pueblo de Frigia, donde él vivía entonces, y prendieron fuego a su casa en medio de la noche. Alcibíades estaba alerta debido a una visión notable que había tenido, así que cuando descubrió las llamas miró hacia afuera y contempló a los hombres que rodeaban su casa. Envolviéndose bien con su capa, corrió a través del fuego y el humo, espada en mano, y habría escapado, porque los asesinos tenían miedo de acercarse a él, si no hubiera sido alcanzado por sus dardos, que, como cobardes, ellos disparado desde una distancia segura.

Cayó cubierto de heridas. Así, a los cuarenta años de edad, pereció uno de los hombres más notables, aunque de ninguna manera uno de los más grandes o mejores, de Grecia. Sus cualidades eran tales que deberían haberlo convertido en un benefactor de Atenas, pero su juicio falló y ningún hombre infligió jamás una miseria mayor en su tierra natal.


Alcibíades

Alcibíades fue el último miembro famoso de la familia Alcmaeonidae y un pariente cercano de Pericles. Fue bendecido con una gran belleza y una disposición agradable, pero fue mimado, vanidoso y obstinado. Aunque tenía una capacidad de liderazgo sobresaliente y le prestó un gran servicio a Atenas, le hizo mucho más daño debido a su incontinencia y egoísmo. Pero el interés real en la vida de Alcibíades no es tanto una exposición de sus propios defectos personales, sino el hecho de que el pueblo ateniense en su conjunto, cuando se enfrentó a un líder con defectos tan obvios, eligió pasarlos por alto y excusarlos, y continuó apostando el destino de toda su ciudad a un líder con deficiencias de carácter tan obvias.

LA MULTITUD LO SALUDÓ CON GRANDES ACLAMACIONES
Alcibíades participó en las primeras batallas de la guerra del Peloponeso, y durante este tiempo se hizo amigo de Sócrates. Aunque respetaba mucho a Sócrates, era absolutamente incapaz de vivir a la altura de su ejemplo de vida virtuosa. La gran popularidad personal de la que gozaba Alcibíades hizo que se interesara por la política y en poco tiempo se convirtió en el líder del partido pro guerra. Cuando se declaró la paz de Nicias y se suspendieron las hostilidades con Esparta, el partido a favor de la guerra buscó formas de reavivar el conflicto y se tramó el plan de un ataque contra la rica ciudad de Siracusa. Alcibíades encabezó la carga y pudo convencer a una población que finalmente estaba en paz después de diez años de luchas inútiles, de que debía retomar el manto de la guerra y atacar otra ciudad sin provocación. Nicias, the head of the pro-peace party, strongly opposed the mission, but was over-ruled. In spite of his opposition however, he was drafted to lead the expedition, along with Lamachus, and Alcibiades. Only a month into the mission, Alcibiades was recalled to Athens on charges of vandalism and impiety, but instead of returning, he escaped to Sparta, and vengefully advised the Spartans how best to flout the plans of the Athenians. In spite of his luxurious and excessive personal habits, he was welcomed into Sparta, where he assumed the ascetic mannerisms of a true Lacemaedonian. With Alcibiades counsels, Sparta managed to turn the tide against Athens not only in Syracuse, but also in Attica. The war was officially resumed, and Athens suffered a disastrous defeat in Syracuse.

But Alcibiades could not stay out of trouble in Sparta, he feuded with King Agis II, and had to flee again, this time to Tissaphernes in Asia Minor. Here he dressed and adopted the mannerisms of a luxurious eastern despot, and began to interfere with Tissaphernes' alliance with Sparta. He now decided to throw in his lot with Athens, and raised a fleet to aid the Athenian Navy in the Aegean Sea. After winning several important victories, he returned to Athens in triumph, apparently forgiven for his treachery. But his new found popularity could not sustain him through even one military setback, and after suffering a single defeat, he was again exiled, first to Thrace, and then finally, after the fall of Athens to Phrygia. But the enemies of Alcibiades would finally catch up with him. The Satrap of Phrygia, under pressure from the Spartans, arranged for his assassination. Thus ended the life of the notorious Alcibiades, in the same year the city of Athens, that he had misled, beguiled, and betrayed, finally surrendered in despair.


Cleckley: The psychopath in history — Alcibiades

Let us turn now to a much earlier historical figure, a military leader and statesman who is not likely to be forgotten while civilization as we know it remains on earth. I first encountered him during a course in ancient history when I was in high school. I had not at that time heard of a psychopath. The teacher did not try to classify him medically or explain his paradoxical career in psychological terms. I felt, however, that this gifted teacher shared my interest and some of my bewilderment as the brilliant, charming, capricious, and irresponsible figure of Alcibiades unfolded in the classroom against the background of Periclean Athens. None of my immature concepts of classification (good man, bad man, wise man, foolish man) seemed to define Alcibiades adequately, or even to afford a reliable clue to his enigmatic image.

The more I read about him and wondered about him, the more he arrested my attention and challenged my imagination. All reports agreed that he was one of the chief military and political leaders of Athens in her period of supreme greatness and classic splendor during the fifth century B.G. This man led me to ponder at a very early age on many questions for which I have not yet found satisfactory answers. According to my high school history book,26

He belonged to one of the noblest families of Athens, and was a near kinsman of Pericles. Though still young, he was influential because of his high birth and his fascinating personality. His talents were brilliant in all directions but he was lawless and violent, and followed no motive but self-interest and self-indulgence. Through his influence Athens allied herself with Argos, Elis, and Mantinea against the Lacedaemonians and their allies. [p. 224]

The result of this alliance led Athens into defeat and disaster, but Alcibiades on many occasions showed outstanding talent and succeeded brilliantly in many important affairs. Apparently he had great personal charm and easily aroused strong feelings of admiration and affection in others.

Though usually able to accomplish with ease any aim he might choose, he seemed capriciously to court disaster and, perhaps at the behest of some trivial impulse, to go out of his way to bring down defeat upon his own projects. Plutarch refers to him thus:242

It has been said not untruly that the friendship which Socrates felt for him has much contributed to his fame, and certain it is, that, though we have no account from any writer concerning the mother of Nicias or Demosthenes, of Lamachus or Phormion, of Thrasybulus or Theratnenes, notwithstanding these were all illustrious men of the same period, yet we know even the nurse of Alcibiades, that her country was Lacedaemon, and her name Amycla and that Zopyrus was his teacher and attendant the one being recorded by Antistheries, and the othei by Plato. (p. 149)

In the Symposium,241 one of his most celebrated dialogues, Plato introduces Alcibiades by having him appear with a group of intoxicated revelers and burst in upon those at the banquet who are engaged in philosophical discussion. Alcibiades, as presented here by Plato, appears at times to advocate as well as symbolize external beauty and ephemeral satisfactions as opposed to the eternal verities. Nevertheless, Plato gives Alcibiades the role of recognizing and expounding upon the inner virtue and spiritual worth of Socrates and of acclaiming this as far surpassing the readily discerned attainments of more obviously attractive and superficially impressive men. Plato devotes almost all of the last quarter of the Symposium to Alcibiades and his conversation with Socrates. His great charm and physical beauty are emphasized repeatedly here.

The personal attractiveness of Alcibiades is also dwelt upon by Plutarch:242

It is not, perhaps, material to say anything of the beauty of Alcibiades, only that it bloomed with him at all stages of his life, in his infancy, in his youth, and in his manhood and, in the peculiar character belonging to each of these periods, gave him in everyone of them, a grace and charm. What Euripides says: “of all fair things the autumn, too, is fair” … is by no means universally true. But it happened so with Alcibiades amongst few others. …[pp149-150]

Early in his career he played a crucial role in gaining important victories for Athens. Later, after fighting against his native city and contributing substantially to her final disaster, he returned to favor, won important victories again for her and was honored with her highest offices. In the Encyclopaedia Brittanica (1949) I read:

Alcibiades possessed great charm and brilliant abilities but was absolutely unprincipled. His advice whether to Athens or to Sparta, oligarchs or democrats, was dictated by selfish motives, and the Athenians could never trust him sufficiently to take advantage of his talents.

They feared the extremes to which he carried his lawless self-indulgence, and … though his talents as a military commander were unrivalled, they entrusted the administration of the war to Others and so they speedily shipwrecked the state.

Plutarch repeatedly emphasizes the positive and impressive qualities of Alcibiades:242

It was manifest that the many wellborn persons who were continually seeking his company, and making their court to him, were attracted and captivated by his brilliant and extraordinary beauty only. But the affection which Socrates entertained for him is a great evidence of the natural noble qualities and good disposition of the boy, which Socrates, indeed, detected both in and under his personal beauty and, fearing that his wealth and station, and the great number both of strangers and Athenians who flattered and caressed him, might at last corrupt him, resolved, if possible, to interpose, and preserve so hopeful a plant from perishing in the flower, before its fruit came to perfection. [p. 151]

The same writer also cites many examples of unattractive behavior, in which Alcibiades is shown responding with unprovoked and arbitrary insolence to those who sought to do him honor. Let us note one of these incidents:242

As in particular to Anitas, the son of Anthernion, who was very fond of him and invited him to an entertainment which he had prepared for some strangers. Alcibiades refused the invitation, but having drunk to excess in his own house with some of his companions, went thither with them to play some frolic, and standing at the door of the room where the guests were enjoying themselves and seeing the tables covered with gold and silver cups, he commanded his servants to take away the one-half of them and carry them to his own house. And, then, disdaining so much as to enter into the room himself, as soon as he had done this, went away. The company was indignant, and exclaimed at this rude and insulting conduct Anitas, however, said, on the contrary, that Alcibiades had shown great consideration and tenderness in taking only a part when he might have taken all. [p. 152]

Despite his talents and many attractive features some incidents appear even in his very early life that suggest instability, a disregard for accepted rules or commitments and a reckless tendency to seize arbitrarily what may appeal to him at the moment. Plutarch tells us:242

Once being hard pressed in wrestling, and fearing to be thrown, he got the hand of his antagonist to his mouth, and bit it with all his force when the other loosed his hold presently, and said, “You bite, Alcibiades, like a woman “No,” replied be, “like a lion.” [p. 150]

On another occasion it is reported that Alcibiades with other boys was playing with dice in the street. A loaded cart which had been approaching drew near just as it was his turn to throw. To quote again from Plutarch:242

At first he called to the driver to stop, because he was to throw in the way over which the cart was to pass but the man giving him no attention and driving on, when the rest of the boys divided and gave way, Alcibiades threw himself on his face before the cart and, stretching himself out, bade the carter pass on now if he would which so startled the man, that he put back his horses, while all that saw it were terrified, and, crying out, ran to assist Alcibiades. [p. 150]

Alcibiades, one of the most prominent figures in Athens, an extremely influential leader with important successes to his credit, became the chief advocate for the memorable expedition against Sicily. He entered enthusiastically into this venture urging it upon the Athenians partly from policy, it seems, and partly from his private ambition. Though this expedition resulted in catastrophe and played a major role in the end of Athenian power and glory, many have felt that if Alcibiades had been left in Sicily in his position of command he might have led the great armada to victory. If so, this might well have insured for Athens indefinitely the supreme power of the ancient world. The brilliant ability often demonstrated by Alcibiades lends credence to such an opinion. On the other hand, his inconsistency and capriciousness make it difficult, indeed, to feel confident that his presence would necessarily have brought success to the Athenian cause. The magnitude of its failure has recently drawn this comment from Peter Green in Armada From Athens:100

It was more than a defeat it was a defilement. There, mindless, brutish, and terrified, dying like animals, without dignity or pride, were Pericles’ countrymen, citizens of the greatest imperial power Greece had ever known. In that … destruction … Athens lost her imperial pride forever. The shell of splendid self-confidence was shattered: something more than an army died in Sicily. [p. 336] Athens’ imperial pride had been destroyed and her easy self-assertion with it. Aegospotami merely confirmed the ineluctable sentence imposed on the banks of the Assinarus. Pindar’s violet-crowned city had been cut down to size and an ugly tarnish now dulled the bright Periclean charisma. The great experiment in democratic imperialism that strangest of all paradoxes-was finally discredited. [p. 353]

If Athens had succeeded in the expedition against Syracuse the history of Greece and perhaps even the history of all Europe might have been substantially different.

Shortly before the great Athenian fleet and army sailed on the Sicilian expedition an incident occurred that has never been satisfactorily explained. Now when Athens was staking her future on a monumental and dangerous venture there was imperative need for solidarity of opinion and for confidence in the three leaders to whom so much had been entrusted. At this tense and exquisitely inopportune time the sacred statues of Hermes throughout the city were mutilated in a wholesale desecration.

This unprovoked act of folly and outrage disturbed the entire populace and aroused superstitious qualms and fears that support of the gods would be withdrawn at a time of crucial need. Alcibiades was strongly suspected of the senseless sacrilege. Though proof was not established that he had committed this deed which demoralized the Athenians, the possibility that Alcibiades, their brilliant leader, might be guilty of such an idle and irresponsible outrage shook profoundly the confidence of the expeditionary force and of the government. Many who knew him apparently felt that such an act might have been carried out by Alcibiades impulsively and without any adequate reason but merely as an idle gesture of bravado, a prank that might demonstrate what he could get away with if it should suit his fancy. Definite evidence emerged at this time to show that he had been profaning the Eleusinian mysteries by imitating them or caricaturing them for the amusement of his friends. This no doubt strengthened suspicion against him as having played a part in mutilating the sacred statues.

On a number of other occasions his bad judgment and his self-centered whims played a major role in bringing disasters upon Athens and upon himself. Though this brilliant leader often appeared as a zealous and incorruptible patriot, numerous incidents strongly indicate that at other times he put self-interest first and that sometimes even the feeble lure of some minor objective or the mere prompting of caprice caused him to ignore the welfare and safety of his native land and to abandon lightly all standards of loyalty and honor.

No substantial evidence has ever emerged to indicate that Alcibiades was guilty of the sacrilegious mutilation of the statues. He asked for an immediate trial, but it was decided not to delay the sailing of the fleet for this. After he reached Syracuse, Alcibiades was summoned to return to Athens to face these charges. On the way back he deserted the Athenian cause, escaped to Sparta, and joined the enemy to fight against his native city.

It has been argued that Alcibiades could not have been guilty of the mutilation since, as a leader of the expedition and its chief advocate, he would have so much to lose by a senseless and impious act that might jeopardize its success. On the other hand his career shows many incidents of unprovoked and, potentially, self-damaging folly carried out more or less as a whim, perhaps in defiance of authority, or as an arrogant gesture to show his immunity to ordinary rules or restrictions. It sometimes looked as though the very danger of a useless and uninviting deed might, in itself, tempt him to flaunt a cavalier defiance of rules that bind other men. If Alcibiades did play a part in this piece of egregious folly it greatly augments his resemblance to the patients described in this book. Indeed it is difficult to see how anyone but a psychopath might, in his position, participate in such an act.

In Sparta Alcibiades made many changes to identify himself with the ways and styles of the enemy. In Athens he had been notable for his fine raiment and for worldly splendor and extravagance. On these characteristics Plutarch comments thus:242

But with all these words and deeds and with all this sagacity and eloquence, he mingled the exorbitant luxury and wantonness in his eating and drinking and dissolute living owre long, purple robes like a woman, which dragged after him as he went through the marketplace, caused the planks of his galley to be cut away, that he might lie the softer, his bed not being placed on the boards but hanging upon girths. His shield, again, which was richly gilded had not the usual ensigns of the Athenians, but a Cupid holding a thunderbolt in his hand, was painted upon it. The sight of all this made the people of good repute in the city feel disgust and abhorrence and apprehension also, at his free living and his contempt of law as things monstrous in themselves and indicating designs of usurpation.[pp. 161-162]

In contrast to his appearance and his habits in the old environment we find this comment by Plutarch on Alcibiades after he had deserted the Athenian cause and come to live in Sparta and throw all his brilliant talents into the war against his native land: 242

The renown which he earned by these public services, not to Athens, but to Sparta, was equaled by the admiraton he attracted to his private life. He captivated and won over everybody by his conformity to Spartan habits. People who saw him wearing his hair cut close and bathing in cold water, eating coarse meal and dining on black broth, doubted, or rather could not believe that he had ever had a cook in his house or had ever seen a perfumer or had ever worn a mantle of Milesian purple. For he had, as it was observed, this peculiar talent and artifice of gaining men’s affection, that he could at once comply with and really embrace and enter into the habits and ways of life, and change faster than the chameleon one color, indeed, they say, the chameleon cannot assume he cannot himself appear white. But, Alcibiades, whether with good men or with bad, could adapt himself to his company and equally wear the appearances of virtue or vice. At Sparta, he was devoted to athletic exercises, was frugal and reserved: in Ionia, luxurious, gay and indolent in Thrace, always drinking in Thessaly, ever on horseback and when he lived with Tisaphernes, the king of Persia’s satrap he exceeded the Persians themselves in magnificence and pomp. Not that his natural disposition changed so easily, nor that his real character was so variable, but whether he was sensible that by pursuing his own inclinations he might give offense to those with whom he had occasion to converse, he transformed himself into any shape and adopted any fashion that he observed to be agreeable to them. [pp. 169-170]

At Sparta Alcibiades seemed to strive in every way to help the enemy defeat and destroy Athens. He induced them to send military aid promptly to the Syracusans and also aroused them to renew the war directly against Athens. He made them aware of the great importance of fortifying Decelea, a place very near Athens, from which she was extremely vulnerable to attack. The Spartans followed his counsel in these matters and, by taking the steps he advised, wrought serious damage to the Athenian cause. The vindictive and persistent efforts of this brilliant traitor may have played a substantial part in the eventual downfall of Athens. Even before he left Sicily for Sparta Alcibiades had begun to work against his native land in taking steps to prevent Messina from falling into the hands of the Athenians.
Eventually a good many of the Spartans began to distrust Alcibiades. Among this group was the king, Agis. According to Plutarch:242

… While Agis was absent and abroad with the army, [Alcibiades] corrupted his wife, Timea, and had a child born by her. Nor did she even deny it, but when she was brought to bed of a son, called him in public, Leotychides, but amongst her confidants and attendants, would whisper that his name was Alcibiades, to such a degree was she transported by her passion for him. He, on the other side, would say in his valiant way, he had not done this thing out of mere wantonness of insult, nor to gratify a passion, but that his race might one day be kings over the Lacedaemonians. [p. 170]

It became increasingly unpleasant for Alcibiades in Sparta despite his great successes and the admiration he still evoked in many. Plutarch say:242

But Agis was his enemy, hating him for having dishonored his wife, but also impatient of his glory, as almost every success was ascribed to Alcibiades. Others, also, of the more powerful and ambitious among the Spartans were possessed with jealousy of him and prevailed with the magistrates in the city to send orders … that he should be killed. [p. 171]

Alcibiades, however, learned of this, and fled to Asia Minor for security with the satrap of the king of Persia, Tisaphernes. Here he found security and again displayed his great abilities and his extraordinary charm. According to Plutarch:242

[He] immediately became the most influential person about him for this barbarian [Tisaphernes], not being himself sincere, but a lover of guile and wickedness, admired his address and wonderful subtlety. And, indeed, the charm of daily intercourse with him was more than any character could resist or any disposition escape. Even those who feared and envied him, could not but take delight and have a sort of kindness for him when they saw him and were in his company, so that Tisaphernes, otherwise a cruel character, and above all other Persians, a hater of the Greeks, was yet so won by the flatteries of Alcibiades that he set himself even to exceed him in responding to them. The most beautiful of his parks containing salubrious streams and meadows where he had built pavilions and places of retirement, royally and exquisitely adorned, received by his direction the name of Alcibiades and was always so called and so spoken of.

Thus, Alcibiades, quitting the interest of the Spartans, whom he could no longer trust because he stood in fear of Agis, the king, endeavored to do them ill offices and render them odious to Tisaphernes, who, by his means, was hindered from assisting them vigorously and from finally ruining the Athenians. For his advice was to furnish them but sparingly with money and so wear them out, and consume them insensibly when they had wasted their strength upon one another, they would both become ready to submit to the king. [p. 171]

It is not remarkable to learn that Alcibiades left the service of the Persians. It does seem to me remarkable, however, after his long exile from Athens, his allegiance to her enemies and the grievous damage he had done her, that he was enthusiastically welcomed back to Athens, that he again led Athenian forces to brilliant victories, and that he was, indeed, given supreme command of the Athenian military and naval forces. His welcome back to Athens was enthusiastic. According to Plutarch, 242 “The people crowned him with crowns of gold, and created him general, both by land and by sea.” He is described as “coming home from so long an exile, and such variety of misfortune, in the style of revelers breaking up from a drinking party.” Despite this, many of the Athenians did not fully trust him, and apparently without due cause, this time, he was dismissed from his high position of command. He later retired to Asia Minor where he was murdered at 46 years of age, according to some reports for “having debauched a young lady of a noble house.”

Despite the widespread admiration that Alcibiades could so easily arouse, skeptical comments were made about him even before his chief failures occurred. According to Plutarch, “It was not said amiss by Archestratus, that Greece could not support a second Alcidiabes.” Plutarch also quotes Tinton as saying, “Go on boldly, my son, and increase in credit with the people, for thou wilt one day bring them calamities enough.” Of the Athenians attitude toward Alcibiades, Aristophanes wrote: “They love and hate and cannot do without him.�

The character of Alcibiades looms in the early dawn of history as an enigmatic paradox. He undoubtedly disconcerted and puzzled his contemporaries, and his conduct seems to have brought upon him widely differing judgments. During the many centuries since his death historians have seemed fascinated by his career but never quite able to interpret his personality. Brilliant and persuasive, he was able to succeed in anything he wished to accomplish. After spectacular achievement he often seemed, carelessly or almost deliberately, to throw away all that he had gained, through foolish decisions or unworthy conduct for which adequate motivation cannot be demonstrated and, indeed, can scarcely be imagined. Senseless pranks or mere nose-thumbing gestures of derision seemed at times to draw him from serious responsibilities and cause him to abandon major goals as well as the commitments of loyalty and honor. Apparently his brilliance, charm, and promise captivated Socrates, generally held to be the greatest teacher and the wisest man of antiquity. Though Alcibiades is reported to have been the favorite disciple and most cherished friend of the master it can hardly be said that Socrates succeeded in teaching him to apply even ordinary wisdom consistently in the conduct of his life or to avoid follies that would have been shunned even by the stupid. According to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica (1949), “He was an admirer of Socrates, who saved his life at Potidaea (432), a service which Alcibiades repaid at Delium but he could not practice his master’s virtues, and there is no doubt that the example of Alcidiabes strengthened the charges brought against Socrates of corrupting the youth.”

When we look back upon what has been recorded of Alcibiades we are led to suspect that he had the gift of every talent except that of using them consistently to achieve any sensible aim or in behalf of any discernible cause. Though it would hardly be convincing to claim that we can establish a medical diagnosis, or a full psychiatric explanation, of this public figure who lived almost two and a half thousand years ago, there are many points in the incomplete records of his life available to us that strongly suggest Alcibiades may have been a spectacular example of what during recent decades we have, in bewilderment and amazement, come to designate as the psychopath.

During this brief period Greece, and Athens especially, produced architecture, sculpture, drama, and poetry that have seldom if ever been surpassed. Perhaps Greece also produced in Alcibiades the most impressive and brilliant, the most truly classic example of this still inexplicable pattern of human life.


Assessments

Political Career

In ancient Greece, Alcibiades was a polarizing figure. Thucydides reprehends the Athenian statesman for his political conduct and motives. According to the historian, Alcibiades, being “exceedingly ambitious,” proposed the expedition in Sicily in order “to gain in wealth and reputation by means of his successes.” Alcibiades is held responsible by Thucydides for the destruction of Athens, since “his habits gave offence to every one, and caused them to commit affairs to other hands, and thus before long to ruin the city.” [101] Plutarch regards him as “the least scrupulous and most entirely careless of human beings.” [102] On the other hand, Diodorus argues that he was “in spirit brilliant and intent upon great enterprises.” [103] Sharon Press of Brown University points out that Xenophon emphasizes Alcibiades’ service to the state, rather than the harm he was charged with causing it. [104][105] Demosthenes defends Alcibiades’s achievements, saying that he had taken arms in the cause of democracy, displaying his patriotism, not by gifts of money or by speeches, but by personal service. [106] For Demosthenes and other orators, Alcibiades epitomized the figure of the great man during the glorious days of the Athenian democracy and became a rhetorical symbol. [107] One of Isocrates’ speeches, delivered by the son of Alcibiades, argues that the statesman deserved the Athenians’ gratitude for the service he had given them. [108] Lysias, on the other hand, argued in one of his orations that the Athenians should regard Alcibiades as an enemy because of the general tenor of his life, as “he repays with injury the open assistance of any of his friends.” [109][110] In the Constitution of the Athenians, Aristotle does not include Alcibiades in the list of the best Athenian politicians, but in Posterior Analytics he argues that traits of a proud man like Alcibiades are “equanimity amid the vicissitudes of life and impatience of dishonor.” [111][112] Alcibiades excited in his contemporaries a fear for the safety of the political order. [113] Therefore, Andocides said of him that “instead of holding that he ought himself to conform with the laws of the state, he expects you to conform with his own way of life.” [114] Central to the depiction of the Athenian statesman is Cornelius Nepos’ famous phrase that Alcibiades “surpassed all the Athenians in grandeur and magnificence of living.” [115]

Even today, Alcibiades divides scholars. For Malcolm F. McGregor, former head of the Department of Classics in the University of British Columbia, Alcibiades was a shrewd gambler rather than a mere opportunist. [116] Evangelos P. Fotiadis, a prominent Greek philologist, asserts that Alcibiades was “a first class diplomat” and had “huge skills.” Nevertheless his spiritual powers were not counter-balanced with his magnificent mind and he had the hard luck to lead a people susceptible to demagoguery. [5] K. Paparrigopoulos, a major modern Greek historian, underlines his “spiritual virtues” and compares him with Themistocles, but he then asserts that all these gifts created a “traitor, an audacious and impious man.” [117] Walter Ellis believes that his actions were outrageous, but they were performed with panache. [118] For his part, David Gribble argues that Alcibiades’s actions against his city were misunderstood and believes that “the tension which led to Alcibiades’ split with the city was between purely personal and civic values.” [119] Russell Meiggs, a British ancient historian, asserts that the Athenian statesman was absolutely unscrupulous despite his great charm and brilliant abilities. According to Meiggs his actions were dictated by selfish motives and his feud with Cleon and his successors undermined Athens. The same scholar underscores the fact that “his example of restless and undisciplined ambition strengthened the charge brought against Socrates.” [39] Even more critically, Athanasios G. Platias and Constantinos Koliopoulos, professors of strategic studies and international politics, state that Alcibiades’ own arguments “should be sufficient to do away with the notion that Alcibiades was a great statesman, as some people still believe.” [120]

Military Achievements

Pietro Testa (1611–1650): The Drunken Alcibiades Interrupting the Symposium (1648). / Wikimedia Commons

Despite his critical comments, Thucydides admits in a short digression that “publicly his conduct of the war was as good as could be desired.” [101] Diodorus and Demosthenes regard him as a great general. [103][106] According to Fotiadis, Alcibiades was an invincible general and, wherever he went, victory followed him had he led the army in Sicily, the Athenians would have avoided disaster and, had his countrymen followed his advice at Aegospotami, Lysander would have lost and Athens would have ruled Greece. [5] On the other hand, Paparrigopoulos believes that the Sicilian Expedition, prompted by Alcibiades, was a strategic mistake. [121] In agreement with Paparrigopoulos, Platias and Koliopoulos underscore the fact that the Sicilian expedition was a strategic blunder of the first magnitude, resulting from a “frivolous attitude and an unbelievable underestimation of the enemy.” [22] For his part, Angelos Vlachos, a Greek Academician, underlines the constant interest of Athens for Sicily from the beginning of the war. According to Vlachos the expedition had nothing of the extravagant or adventurous and constituted a rational strategic decision based on traditional Athenian aspirations. [122] Vlachos asserts that Alcibiades had already conceived a broader plan: the conquest of the whole West. [123] He intended to conquer Carthage and Libya, then to attack Italy and, after winning these, to seize Italy and Peloponnesus. [124] The initial decision of the ecclesia provided however for a reasonable military force, which later became unreasonably large and costly because of Nicias’ demands. [123] Kagan criticizes Alcibiades for failing to recognize that the large size of the Athenian expedition undermined the diplomatic scheme on which his strategy rested. [125]

Kagan believes that while Alcibiades was a commander of considerable ability, he was no military genius, and his confidence and ambitions went far beyond his skills. He thus was capable of important errors and serious miscalculations. Kagan argues that at Notium, Alcibiades committed a serious error in leaving the fleet in the hands of an inexperienced officer, and that most of the credit for the brilliant victory at Cyzicus must be assigned to Thrasybulus. [125] In this judgement, Kagan agrees with Cornelius Nepos, who said that the Athenians’ extravagant opinion of Alcibiades’s abilities and valor was his chief misfortune. [126]

élix Auvray (1830–1833): Alcibiade with the Courtesans (1833), Museum of Fine Arts of Valenciennes / Wikimedia Commons

Oratorical Skill

Plutarch asserts that “Alcibiades was a most able speaker in addition to his other gifts,” while Theophrastus argues that Alcibiades was the most capable of discovering and understanding what was required in a given case. Nevertheless, he would often stumble in the midst of his speech, but then he would resume and proceed with all the caution in the world. [128] Even the lisp he had, which was noticed by Aristophanes, made his talk persuasive and full of charm. [129][130] Eupolis says that he was “prince of talkers, but in speaking most incapable” [19] which is to say, more eloquent in his private discourses than when orating before the ecclesia. For his part, Demosthenes underscores the fact that Alcibiades was regarded as “the ablest speaker of the day.” [106] Paparrigopoulos does not accept Demosthenes’s opinion, but acknowledges that the Athenian statesman could sufficiently support his case. [117] Kagan acknowledges his rhetorical power, whilst Thomas Habinek, professor of Classics at the University of Southern California, believes that the orator Alcibiades seemed to be whatever his audience needed on any given occasion. [131][132] According to Habinek, in the field of oratory, the people responded to Alcibiades’ affection with affection of their own. Therefore, the orator was “the institution of the city talking to—and loving—itself.” [132] According to Aristophanes, Athens “yearns for him, and hates him too, but wants him back.” [133]


Warrior & Womaniser: Alcibiades betrayed Athens and seduced the queen of Sparta

Alcibiades was a complete maverick. An extravagant and keen witted fellow, the Athenian is best known for his close relationship with scholar Socrates and devil-may-care attitude towards the Peloponnesian War that was tearing Greece apart. It is his role in the war that saw classical heavyweights Athens and Sparta go head to head that he is remembered most for.

From Socrates to Athenian general

Alcibiades’ father was a general in the Athenian army, paving the way for the young boy to fulfil a life serving in the military. Even after his father was killed in battle in 447 BCE, he continued in combat and fought as a hoplite alongside scholar Socrates in the battles of Potidaea and Delium. When he reached the age of 30, however, he abandoned the philosophies of Socrates and his ego began to take over.

Marble bust of Alcibiades, dating from the 4th century BCE

Antagonising the Ancient World

Now both a military general and a respected diplomat, Alcibiades helped stoke up the Peloponnesian War by convincing the city-states of Argos, Elis and Mantineia to form an anti-Spartan alliance. The coalition was comprehensively defeated but the cunning Athenian general hot footed it out of harm’s away and escaped punishment.

After a brief stint winning chariot races with ease, he persuaded the mighty Athenian navy to use their resources in an attack on Syracuse in Sicily. The request was granted, but the night before they were due to set sail, the anxious Alcibiades strangely decided to settle his nerves by mutilating statues of Hermes in Athens. This would change everything.

Enraged, the powers that be condemned Alcibiades to death, but ever the slippery customer, he escaped once again, this time to the enemy, Sparta. He now became a thorn in the side of his home city, giving the Spartans Athenian military secrets and encouraging Athens’s allies to revolt. All this while secretly seducing the wife of the Spartan king.

By now, even the Spartans had had enough of Alcibiades’ nonconformist ways. After serving both of Greece’s major power bases, he now decided to try to wreak havoc in Persia, but after failing to do so, he returned to Athenians, who were surprisingly glad to see him.

Socrates dragging Alcibiades from yet another lady he was attempting to seduce

Back in charge

Recognising his talent as a naval commander, all charges were dropped against Alcibiades by the state. He was given supreme command of the Athenian navy and he repaid their faith emphatically with convincing victories over the Spartan fleet at Abydos and Cyzicus. Despite this, he still had political enemies and their combined power saw him exiled from Athens once more. This came back to haunt his home city, who did not heed his warnings of a surprise attack and the Spartans routed the Athenian fleet.

The end

A master of escape and manipulation, even Alcibiades’ luck was due to run out at some point. Athens had now been soundly been defeated but their former general seemingly didn’t care and was now living far away in Asia Minor. As the Thirty Tyrants took hold of the city, the people yearned for their hero to return. The Spartans heard of this and, fearing an uprising, sent a group of assassins to finish him off once and for all.

Alcibiades was asleep when the hit men arrived. He was woken by the sound of flames licking his door as the assassins set his house ablaze. Jumping out of bed, he grabbed his sword and ran at his Persian-hired goons. Frightened, they withdrew but regained their composure to bring Alcibiades down with a flurry of stones and spears. The Greek maverick was dead at the age of 40.

Supremely talented, Alcibiades was nonetheless a selfish womaniser who somehow exploited the two biggest powers in Greece for his own gain. People like him want to watch the world burn.

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Relationships

Among Antiphon's slanders15 it has been written that Alcibiades ran away from home to Democrates, one of his lovers. When Ariphron16 wanted to have his disappearance announced publicly by heralds, Pericles17 did not allow it, saying, "If he is dead, it will be revealed only one day sooner, but if he is safe, his reputation for the rest of his life will not be saved." Antiphon also says that he struck and killed with a staff one of those attending him in the wrestling school of Sibyrtius. Soon many noble men gathered around him and pursued him: some were clearly struck by the brilliance of his youthful prime and flattered him, but Socrates' love was a testimony to the boy's excellence of character and good birth. Seeing this appear and shine in his outward form, Socrates feared that his wealth and status, as well as the throng of citizens and foreigners with their flattery and favors, would spoil him prematurely. He undertook, as much as he could, to protect the boy and not stand by idly while a plant in bloom lost its own fruit and was ruined. . . . Alcibiades quickly made Socrates his associate and listened to the words of a lover who did not hunt unmanly pleasure or ask for kisses and caresses, but examined the rottenness of his soul and restrained his empty and foolish vanity. "The proud fighting cock cowered like a slave, with lowered wing." Alcibiades considered Socrates' activity truly a service he rendered the gods for the care and salvation of young men. Despising himself and wondering at that man, loving his kind disposition and feeling shame before his upright character, Alcibiades without knowing it acquired an "image of love," as Plato calls it,18 a reciprocal love, such that all men were amazed at seeing him constantly dine with, wrestle with, and even share the same tent with Socrates, while he was difficult and unmanageable for other lovers, and even altogether hostile to some, like Anytus son of Anthemion.19 For this man happened to be a lover of Alcibiades, and when hosting some guests to dinner, invited Alcibiades too. He refused the invitation, but getting drunk at home with his friends, made a wild procession to Anytus' house. Standing at the door to the men's room and seeing the tables full of silver and gold cups, he told the slaves to take half of them back to his house he did not think it worth going in himself, but went back home after this matter had been accomplished. When the guests were angry and said that Alcibiades had treated Anytus violently and contemptuously, Anytus replied, "No, he treated me fairly and humanely, for when it was possible for him to take everything, he left part for us." He also treated his other lovers in this way, except for one metic,20 as they relate, who did not have much property, but sold all he had and brought the proceeds to Alcibiades, in the sum of 100 staters,21 asking him to take it. Alcibiades laughed and with pleasure invited him to dinner. After feasting him and being kind, Alcibiades gave him back his money, but ordered him to outbid the tax collectors at the auction of public tax contracts on the following day. 22 The man protested, because the purchase would cost many talents,23 but Alcibiades threatened to whip him if he failed to do it. For he happened to have a private quarrel with the tax collectors. The next morning the metic went to the marketplace and raised the purchase price by a talent. When the tax collectors gathered around him and demanded to know his security for the bid, as if he did not have one, the man was confused and withdrew. But Alcibiades, standing up at the rear of the crowd, said to the magistrates conducting the sale, "Write my name down. He is my friend and I pledge security for him." The tax collectors were confounded when they heard this, for they had always been accustomed to pay off loans for earlier purchases with profits on later purchases, and they did not see any way out of their bind. They tried begging the metic and even offered him money to withdraw his bid. But Alcibiades would not let him take less than a talent, and when they offered it, he ordered the metic to take it and withdraw. That man he helped in this way.


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