When these great judgments and condemnations were passed upon Alcibiades, he was tarrying in Argos, for as soon as he had made his escape from Thurii, he passed over into Peloponnesus. But fearing his foes there, and renouncing his country altogether, he sent to the Spartans, demanding immunity and confidence, and promising to render them aid and service greater than all the harm he had previously done them as an enemy.
The Spartans granted this request and received him among them. No sooner was he come than he zealously brought one thing to pass: they had been delaying and postponing assistance to Syracuse; he roused and incited them to send Gylippus thither for a commander, and to crush the force which Athens had there. A second thing he did was to get them to stir up the war against Athens at home; and the third, and most important of all, to induce them to fortify Deceleia.1
This more than anything else wrought ruin and destruction to his native city.
At Sparta, he was held in high repute publicly, and privately was no less admired. The multitude was brought under his influence, and was actually bewitched, by his assumption of the Spartan mode of life. When they saw him with his hair untrimmed, taking cold baths, on terms of intimacy with their coarse bread, and supping black porridge, they could scarcely trust their eyes, and doubted whether such a man as he now was had ever had a cook in his own house, had even so much as looked upon a perfumer, or endured the touch of Milesian wool.
He had, as they say, one power which transcended all others, and proved an implement of his chase for men: that of assimilating and adapting himself to the pursuits and lives of others, thereby assuming more violent changes than the chameleon. That animal, however, as it is said, is utterly unable to assume one color, namely, white; but Alcibiades could associate with good and bad alike, and found naught that he could not imitate and practice.
In Sparta, he was all for bodily training, simplicity of life, and severity of countenance; in Ionia, for luxurious ease and pleasure; in Thrace for drinking deep; in Thessaly, for riding hard; and when he was thrown with Tissaphernes the satrap, he outdid even Persian magnificence in his pomp and lavishness. It was not that he could so easily pass entirely from one manner of man to another, nor that he actually underwent in every case a change in his real character; but when he saw that his natural manners were likely to be annoying to his associates, he was quick to assume any counterfeit exterior which might in each case be suitable for them.
At all events, in Sparta, so far as the outside was concerned, it was possible to say of him,
‘‘No child of Achilles he, but Achilles himself,’2
such a man as Lycurgus trained’; but judging by what he actually felt and did, one might have cried with the poet,
‘'Tis the selfsame woman still!’
For while Agis the king was away on his campaigns, Alcibiades corrupted Timaea his wife, so that she was with child by him and made no denial of it. When she had given birth to a male child, it was called Leotychides in public, but in private the name which the boy's mother whispered to her friends and attendants was Alcibiades. Such was the passion that possessed the woman. But he, in his mocking way, said he had not done this thing for a wanton insult, nor at the behest of mere pleasure, but in order that descendants of his might be kings of the Lacedaemonians.
Such being the state of things, there were many to tell the tale to Agis, and he believed it, more especially owing to the lapse of time. There had been an earthquake, and he had run in terror out of his chamber and the arms of his wife, and then for ten months had had no further intercourse with her. And since Leotychides had been born at the end of this period, Agis declared that he was no child of his. For this reason Leotychides was afterwards refused the royal succession.4