|Ruin of Greek Theatre, Taormina, Sicily|
Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller
History of the Peloponnesian War
Book VI: The Athenians decide to attack Sicily although ignorant of the island’s size and number of inhabitants. Sounds like a bad idea. Thucydides now gives a history of the people who settled the island which is very interesting, so don’t skip it if you read this book. Lots of expelling from cities is included. I’m amazed at how many people were often just kicked out from where they had lived for years and had to go elsewhere. However, Thucydides relates it as an unsurprising regular occurrence, so obviously my reaction is very different than the people of that time.
Planning not only to invade the island, but to help their Greek-Sicilian kinsman, the Athenians use pleas from Egestaean envoys as an excuse to help stop the domination of Syracuse, the kingdom on the island who is a possible supporter of Sparta. When Athenian envoys return from Egesta, they report riches beyond their wildest imaginations and the Athenian people are wild to start the expedition. Three generals are chosen to lead it, Alcibiades, Nicias and Lamachus, but of the three, Nicias is against its implementation. He argues that Sicily is too far away to maintain control of, that affairs at home are still precarious; they should be using this time to recover from plague and war, and that Athens is respected by the Sicilians because they are unfamiliar with them, but by showing their hand, they risk later conflict. A persuasive argument but Alcibiades counters, defending himself and his ostentatious and elaborate private life, claims that the Sicilians are politically weak, they will find assistance in other areas, and that they must strike now and expand their empire or risk losing their domination. Nicias tries to counter his arguments but only succeeds in fuelling the people’s determination for the expedition.
While the preparations for the expedition commence, the stone Hermae, figures in the doorways of private houses are mysteriously defaced and Alcibiades is accused of plotting to place himself in power. When he demands a trial to clear his name, it is postponed, his enemies planning to use it as an excuse to recall him at a later date. The occurrence, though, is seen as a bad portent for the expedition.
|Alcibiades being taught by Socrates (1775)|
Françoise André Vincent
source Wikimedia Commons
Meanwhile, the Syracusian, Hermocrates, tries to warn the people of the pending Athenian attack. He wants the peoples to unite and meet the enemy in the Ionian sea but Athenagoras, a Syracusan general, pishaws the warning, saying that Athenians are too clever to make such foolish plans. He implies Hermocrates’ warning is to destabilize the government, yet does suggest the city’s defences should be prepared.
|Cape Zafferano, Sicily|
|Syracuse, Anapo River (1904)|
|Mount Etna from Taormina|