Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Classics
In this thesis, I will examine the dynamics of power between the Athenian assembly and the three generals assigned to positions of command in the Sicilian Expedition – Alcibiades, Nicias, and Lamachus – and attempt to contextualize Alcibiades’ defecting from Athens to Sparta. I focus on the Sicilian Expedition narrative in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War Books 6 and 7, but also use Plutarch’s Life of Alcibiades and Life of Nicias, plus the Life of Coriolanus. In the first chapter, after discussing the sources, I examine the personal history of the commanders involved (the Athenians Alcibiades, Lamachus, and Nicias, and the Spartan Gylippus). In my second chapter, I then turn to the governmental structures and military customs of Athens, Sparta, and Sicily, zeroing in on the Athenian Assembly and its military role. In the third chapter, I briefly analyze several short speeches by Nicias and Alcibiades to the Athenian Assembly in Thucydides Books 6 and 7, and compare Thucydides with Plutarch’s Life of Alcibiades and Life of Nicias. Throughout, I concentrate on the communication between the Athenian generals and their Assembly, and compare this relationship to the one between the Spartan generals and their assembly (as well as the Syracusan commanders' dealings with the Syracusan assembly). I analyze the difficulties that Nicias faced in trying to lead the Sicilian expedition, and the differences between his approach from that of Gylippus – and the differing results. In a brief fourth chapter, I argue that the Athenian assembly ruined its leadership through excessive interference, whereas Sparta allowed relative autonomy to generals,
and Syracusan commanders had flexible, realistic relations with that city’s assembly. I will conclude that argue that Alcibiades was justified in defecting to Sparta because of the flawed system in which he was forced to operate at Athens, a city that did not appreciate his talents and skills. In a short appendix, I include a chronology of the Sicilian expedition to assist the reader in placing these events in context.