But at Samos the friends of Alcibiades soon got the upper hand, and sent Peisander to Athens to change the form of government. He was to encourage the leading men to overthrow the democracy and take control of affairs, with the plea that on these terms alone would Alcibiades make Tissaphernes their friend and ally. This was the pretence and this the pretext of those who established the oligarchy at Athens.
But as soon as the so-called Five Thousand (they were really only four hundred) got the power and took control of affairs, they at once neglected Alcibiades entirely, and waged the war with less vigor, partly because they distrusted the citizens, who still looked askance at the new form of government, and partly because they thought that the Lacedaemonians, who always looked with favour on an oligarchy, would be more lenient towards them.
The popular party in the city was constrained by fear to keep quiet, because many of those who openly opposed the Four Hundred had been slain. But when the army in Samos learned what had been done at home, they were enraged, and were eager to sail forthwith to the Piraeus, and sending for Alcibiades, they appointed him general, and bade him lead them in putting dwn the tyrants.
An ordinary man, thus suddenly raised to great power by the favour of the multitude, would have been full of complaisance, thinking that he must at once gratify them in all things and oppose them in nothing, since they had made him, instead of a wandering exile, leader and general of such a fleet and of so large an armed force. But Alcibiades, as became a great leader, felt that he must oppose them in their career of blind fury, and prevented them from making a fatal mistake. Therefore in this instance, at least, he was the manifest salvation of the city.
For had they sailed off home, their enemies might at once have occupied all Ionia, the Hellespont without a battle, and the islands, while Athenians were fighting Athenians and making their own city the seat of war. Such a war Alcibiades, more than any other one man, prevented, not only persuading and instructing the multitude together, but also, taking them man by man, supplicating some and constraining others.
He had a helper, too, in Thrasybulus of Steiris,1
who went along with him and did the shouting; for he had, it is said, the biggest voice of all the Athenians.
A second honorable proceeding of Alcibiades was his promising to bring over to their side the Phoenician ships which the King had sent out and the Lacedaemonians were expecting,-or at least to see that those expectations were not realized,—and his sailing off swiftly on this errand.
The ships were actually seen off Aspendus, but Tissaphernes did not bring them up, and thereby played the Lacedaemonians false. Alcibiades, however, was credited with this diversion of the ships by both parties, and especially by the Lacedaemonians. The charge was that he instructed the Barbarian to suffer the Hellenes to destroy one another. For it was perfectly clear that the side to which such a naval force attached itself would rob the other altogether of the control of the sea.