Character of Andokides.
A fair estimate of Andokides is made difficult by the fact that he was first brought into notice by a scandal, and that the memory of this scandal runs through nearly all that is known of his after-life. At the age of twenty-five he is banished for the Hermae affair; he is defeated, on the same ground, in two attempts to return; at the end of sixteen years he is brought to trial for impiety; and his acquittal is the last thing recorded about him. At that time he was only forty-one; already, since his return in 402, he had discharged public services; and now, formally acquitted of the charges which had so long hung over him, he might hope for a new career. His speech On the Peace shows that in 390 he was sufficiently trusted by his fellow-citizens to have been sent as a plenipotentiary to Sparta; and proves also, by its statesmanlike good sense, his fitness for such a trust. But, except in this speech, nothing is recorded of his later and probably brighter years. History knows him only under a cloud. It was, moreover, his misfortune that while the informations which he laid in 415 made him hateful to the oligarchs, his hereditary connexion with
oligarchy exposed him to the continual suspicion of the democrats. One year he is imprisoned by the Four Hundred; the next he is repulsed by the ekklesia. It would be an easy inference that there must have been something palpably bad and false in the man to whom both parties were harsh, did not a closer view show that one party may have been influenced by spite and the other by prejudice. Many of those who believed that Andokides was concerned in the mutilation of the Hermae must have regarded him with sincere horror. But on the other hand it should be remembered that such horror is never so loudly expressed, and is never so useful to personal enmity, as at a time when a popular religion, still generally professed, is beginning to be widely disbelieved. Diagoras and Sokrates were accused of impiety with the more effect because the views ascribed to them resembled the real views of many who seemed orthodox. Besides those who hated Andokides as an informer, as an oligarch, or as an iconoclast, there were probably many who regarded him with that special kind of dislike which attaches to a person who drives the world into professing angry conviction on matters to which it is secretly indifferent. Viewed apart from the feelings which worked on his contemporaries, the facts of his life seem to warrant severe blame as little as they warrant high praise. His youthful associates were dissolute; through them he was involved, rightly or wrongly, in the suspicion of a great impiety; and this suspicion clung to him for years. But it was never proved; and when he was at last brought
to trial, he was acquitted. As an exile he conferred on Athens services which, if not disinterested, were at all events valuable; after his return he discharged costly public services, and represented the State on an important mission.
To judge from his extant works he had not genius, but he was energetic and able. Hard and various experiences had sharpened his shrewdness; he had a quick insight into character, and especially the triumphant skill of a consciously unpopular man in exposing malignant motives. There was no nobleness in his nature, except such as is bred by selfreliance under long adversity; but he had practical good sense, which his merchant's life in exile must have trained and strengthened. If the counsel which he gives to Athens in his speech On the Peace with Lacedaemon may be taken as a sample of his statesmanship, he was an adviser of the kind rarest in the ekklesia; not only clearsighted in the interests of the city, but bold enough to recommend to Athenians a safe rather than a brilliant course.