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circa 450–404 B.C. Athenian political and military figure.
Born into an aristocratic family, Alcibiades was a relative and ward of Pericles and a disciple of Socrates. He entered the political arena at an early age, joining the most radical and militant-minded group of Athenian democrats. Extremely ambitious, Alcibiades frequently changed his political orientation. During the Peloponnesian War he took part in the military operations against Potidaea (432–430) and in the battle of Delium (424). From 421 he was repeatedly elected general. After the conclusion of the Peace of Nicias in 421, Alcibiades sought to renew the war by forming an anti-Spartan coalition of Argos, Mantinea, and Elis, some of the city-states of Peloponnesus. In 415 he organized and together with Nicias and Lamachus led an Athenian military expedition to Sicily against Syracuse. Summoned back to Athens to be tried by the assembly of the people on the charge of sacrilege, for mutilating the hermae (statues of Hermes), Alcibiades fled to Sparta and offered the Spartans a plan for conducting the war against the Athenians. On his advice, the Spartans gave military aid to besieged Syracuse, occupied Decelea (in Attica), supported the anti-Athenian movement in Ionia, built a strong fleet, and entered into negotiations with Persia concerning financial support. However, suspected of treason, Alcibiades had to flee to Asia Minor to the Persian satrap, Tissaphernes, and in 411 entered into secret negotiations with the oligarchic government in Athens, promising that Persia would support it. But when the Athenian fleet at Samos rebelled against the oligarchy, Alcibiades gave his support to the rebels and was elected their commander. After the restoration of democracy in Athens (411), the Athenian fleet under the command of Alcibiades won a number of important victories in Ionia (at Abydos, Cyzicus, Byzantium, and so on) and reestablished the control of Athens over the straits (the Dardanelles). In 407, Alcibiades returned in triumph to Athens and was given command over the army and fleet, but after a number of defeats of the Athenian forces in 407–406, he was suspected of striving to create a tyranny and was forced to go to Thrace, later to Bithynia, and finally, to the Persian satrap Pharnabazus, who, at the insistence of the Spartans, ordered Alcibiades murdered.
REFERENCESPlutarch. Sravnitel’nye zhizneopisaniia, vol. 1. Moscow, 1961. (Russian translation.)
Hatzfeld, J. Alcibiade. Paris, 1951.
D. P. KALLISTOV