When Euthydemus was archon in Athens
Romans elected in place of consuls three military tribunes, Manius Aemilianus Mamercus, Gaius
Julius, and Lucius Quinctius. In this year there began the Peloponnesian War, as it has been
called, between the Athenians and the Peloponnesians, the longest of all the wars which history
records; and it is necessary and appropriate to the plan of our history to set forth at the
outset the causes2
of the war.
While the Athenians were still
striving for the mastery of the sea, the funds which had been collected as a common undertaking
and placed at Delos
, amounting to some eight
they had transferred to Athens4
and given over to Pericles to guard. This man stood far above his fellow citizens
in birth, renown, and ability as an orator. But after some time he had spent a very
considerable amount of this money for his own purposes, and when he was called upon for an
accounting he fell ill, since he was unable to render the statement of the monies with which he
had been entrusted.
While he was worried over the matter,
Alcibiades, his nephew, who was an orphan and was being reared at the home of Pericles, though
still a lad showed him a way out of making an explanation of the use of the money. Seeing how
his uncle was troubled he asked him the cause of his worry. And when Pericles said, "I am asked
for the explanation of the use of the money and I am seeking some means whereby I may be able
to render an accounting of it to the citizens," Alcibiades replied, "You should be seeking some
means not how to render but how not to render an accounting."
Consequently Pericles, accepting the reply of the boy, kept pondering in what way he could
embroil the Athenians in a great war; for that would be the best way, he thought, because of
the disturbance and distractions and fears which would beset the city, for him to escape giving
an exact accounting of the money. Bearing upon this expedient an incident happened to him by
mere chance for the following causes.