In this course it is clear that there was much ostentatious publicity, looking towards increase of reputation and gratification of ambition; and yet, to judge from the rest of the man's bent and character, one might feel sure that such means of winning the favour and control of the people were rather a corollary to his reverent piety. For he was one of those who are excessively terrified at heavenly portents, and was
‘addicted to divination,’ as Thucydides says.1
And in one of the dialogues of Pasiphon2
it is recorded that he sacrificed every day to the gods, and that he kept a diviner at his house, ostensibly for the constant enquiries which he made about public affairs, whereas most of his enquiries were really made about his own private matters, and especially about his silver mines; for he had large interests in the mining district of Laurium, and they were exceedingly profitable, although worked at great risks. He maintained a multitude of slaves in these mines, and the most of his substance was in silver.
For this reason he had a large retinue of people who wanted his money, and who got it too; for he gave to those who could work him harm no less than to those who deserved his favours, and in general his cowardice was a source of revenue to the base, as his liberality was to the good.
Witness to this can be had from the comic-poets.
Telecleides composed the following verses on a certain public informer:—
So then Charicles gave a mina that he might not tell of him
How he was his mother's first-born,—and her purse-born child at that.
Minas four he got from Nicias, son of rich Niceratus;
But the reason why he gave them, though I know it very well,
I'll not tell; the man's my friend, and I think him wise and true.
And the personage who is held up to ridicule by Eupolis, in his
fetches in a sort of lazy pauper, and says:—
“How long a time now since you were with Nicias?”
“I have not seen him,—saving just now on the Square.”
“The man admits he actually did see Nicias!
Yet what possessed him thus to see him if he was not treacherous?”
“Ye heard, ye heard, my comrades, O!
Our Nicias was taken in the very act!”
“What! you? O crazy-witted folk!
You catch a man so good in sin of any sort?”
And the Cleon of Aristophanes5
I'll bellow down the orators, and Nicias I'll rattle.
And Phrynichus plainly hints at his lack of courage and his panic-stricken air in these verses:—
He was a right good citizen, and I know it well;
He wouldn't cringe and creep as Nicias always does.