The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition (A New History of the Peloponnesian War)
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Why did the Peace of Nicias fail to reconcile Athens and Sparta? In the third volume of his landmark four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War, Donald Kagan examines the years between the signing of the peace treaty and the destruction of the Athenian expedition to Sicily in 413 B.C. The principal figure in the narrative is the Athenian politician and general Nicias, whose policies shaped the treaty and whose military strategies played a major role in the attack against Sicily.
who opposed the Argive alliance and the au thor of the all iance with Sparta. The Athenians there fore sent N icias' associates, but even they were suspect, as their reception by the Argives i nd icates. In an attempt to make their mission more acceptable to Argos , the Athen ians also sent AI cibiades , not as a general, but as an ambassador. In the latter role he would not be in a position to risk the Athenian army, but he could smooth relations with the Argives . 76 It was up to the 1 5
immediately and seek a battle that they ought to delay. It was a gamble, but the best one available to a desperate man. H e spent a day i n the neighborhood of Tegea while the river was being diverted . The next day he led his army northward again toward the Heracleum in Mantinean territory. H e probably expected to a rrive there before the enemy saw the evidence of his previous day's work. He presumably wanted to take up the position he originally had chosen as the best place to fight, put his
peace offer. The army was kept at Tegea, presumably to make sure 73Busolt, GG 1 1 1 : 2, 1 2 5 ' . 745 . 7 5 .4-6 . 75For the date see Gomme, HCT I V , 1 30. THE BATTLE OF MANTINEA 1 35 that the A rgives listened carefully . 76 I n relating these negotia tions Thucydides reveals important information about internal pol itics in Argos . He maintains that even before this time there were men at Argos who were friends of Sparta, "and who wished to destroy the [Argive] democracy . " We may
intended to conquer not only Sicily but also Carthage, and later reports a speech made at Sparta in wh ich Alcibiades spoke of using conquests in 42Such is the suggestion of H . Wentker, Sizilien und Alben (Heidelberg, 1 956), 1 8 3 , n. 5 1 0, and Dover, Her I V, 2 2 5 , 43For his age and the references to him in the comic poets see Busolt, GG l i b , 5 8 5 , n. 2 ; l i b , 1 058, n , 2 , and 1 2 7 7 , 1 72 THE SICILIAN EXPEDITION Italy and Spain as a basis to conquer the Peloponnesus and
their respective estimates of the condition o f S icily. A lci biades naturally deprecated the power of Sicily and the ability of its inhabitants to resist Athens . He pictu red the island as teem ing with i nstability , its populous cities fi l led with "a m ixed mob" prone to frequent movement and constitutional overthrow . As a result, men did not take arms to defend their cities loyal ly and patriotically, as in the mother country, but were prepared in stead to take the wealth that they had