previous next


ἀναγκαῖον—the abruptness of the opening is a fine touch. On the dispositio of the speech see Appendix.

περὶ τῆς ἐμῆς δ—‘about the prejudice against me,’ i.e. of being an enemy of Sparta. The pron. is objective gen. ἐς ὑμᾶςἐς is often used with λέγω in the sense ‘to address an assembly.’

χεῖρον τὰ κοινὰ κτλ—‘listen with less impartiality to what concerns the public interest because you suspect me.’ χεῖρον is ‘with a bias.’ Lacuna after ἀκροάσησθε Stein.


τῶν δ᾽ ἐμῶν—‘now,’ etc.; δέ marks the transition to the details. The grandfather of Alcibiades had dropped the office of πρόξενος, circa 508, and the family was closely connected with the Alcmaeonidae, Alcibiades' mother being granddaughter of Cleisthenes. This connexion throws light on κατά τι ἔγκλημα. The complaint doubtless arose out of the visit of King Cleomenes to Athens to support Isagoras against Cleisthenes.

τὴν προξενίαν—Gardner and Jevons, p. 599.

αὐτὸς ἐγώ—‘I of my own accord offered to resume it.’ The offer was declined

τὴν ἐκ Πύλου ξυμφοράν—he refers to the Spartan prisoners taken at Pylus in 425. Cf. v. 43 of Alc τοὺς ἐκ τῆς νήσου αὐτῶν αἰχμαλώτους θεραπεύων. Aristoph. Eq. 1201 τοὺς ἐκ Πύλου. Alc. no doubt exaggerates his services.

διατελοῦντος—the only instance of διατελῶ with partie. in Thuc. is παρασκευαζόμενοι . . διετέλεσαν VIII. 38. διατελῶ, τυγχἀνω, and φαίνομαι are often constructed with adj. only.

τοῖς μὲν ἐμοῖς ἐχθροῖς—i.e. Nicias and Laches. The former became very popular in 421 as the result of the Peace that he had promoted. Since Cleon's death in 422 Alc. had opposed peace. In 420 he brought about the alliance between Athens, Argos, Mantinea, and Elis.

ἀτιμίαν περιέθετε—esp. by declining his offer to become πρόξενος.


πρός τε κτλ—the construction is ὑπ᾽ ἐμοῦ πρός τε . . τραπομένου ἐβλἀπτεσθε καὶ ἐβλἀπτεσθε ὅσα ἄλλα ἐνηντιούμην, ‘you deserved all that you suffered from me when I looked for help to Argos and Mantinea and opposed you in many other ways’—e.g. by attacking the Peace of Nicias and by invading Epidaurus, an ally of Sparta, to force it to join the new league.

οὐκ εἰκότως—‘unreasonably,’ because my opposition was deserved.

μετὰ τοῦ ἀληθοῦς—so μετ᾽ ἀληθείας, occasionally μετὰ τῆς . Here μ. τοῦ ἀληθοῦς σκοπῶν is contrasted with οὐκ εἰκότως.

διότι καί—in addition to opposing you.

τῷ δήμῳ προσεκείμην—‘I inclined to the popular party’ rather than to the oligarchs. His idea was to draw together all the democratic elements at home and in the Peloponnese against Sparta. But the battle of Mantinea was fatal to the scheme.

οὕτως—‘on that ground.’


τυράννοις—an ingenious point, because Sparta also opposed the tyranny.

διάφοροί ἐσμεν—i.e. the Alcmaeonid family, by which Pisistratus and Cylon had been opposed.

πᾶν τὸ ἐναντιούμενον—‘any power that opposes despotism is called democracy.’ This alludes to popular opinion at Athens, where the opponents of the tyrants were by tradition regarded as δημοτικοί, since Cleisthenes was the great προστάτης of the δῆμος. Ath. Pol. c. 20. Cf. Andoc. 2, 26, where the orator boasts that he is a democrat by descent on this very ground.

τῷ δυναστεύοντι is neut.

ἀπ᾽ ἐκείνου—i.e. owing to the fact that the family opposed the tyrants, and that the Athenians regarded that opposition, followed as it was by Cleisthenes’ ‘settlement of the democracy,’ as bestowing a hereditary connexion with the people.

ξυμπαρέμεινεν—i.e. has remained along with the traditional opposition to tyranny.

προστασία—i.e. since the days of Cleisthenes.

τὰ πολλά—with ἕπεσθαι. τοῖς παροῦσιν=‘the existing conditions.’


τῆς ὑπαρχούσης ἀκολασίας—‘we (i.e. the whole family) tried to show a moderation in political life that contrasted with the prevailing license.’

ἄλλοι δ᾽ ἦσαν—the extreme democrats are meant, including the demagogues of his own day—Cleon, Hyperbolus, and Androcles. As for ἐπὶ τῶν πάλαι, this contrast being a mere assertion of Alc., it is hardly necessary to look for a precise reference; but in the Ath. Pol. c. 24 stress is laid on the influence of Aristides in this direction.

πονηρότερα—see Index.

ἐξῆγον—see Index.


τοῦ ξύμπαντος—not merely τοῦ δήμου: they were for the constitution, and were no mere party leaders. In the case of some of the Alcmaeonidae there is truth in this, but Alc. was not a party leader only because he pursued a purely selfish policy. He is not even mentioned in the Ath. Pol., where the statesmen who held a commanding position are enumerated.

ὅπερ ἐδεξατό τις κτλ—‘to help to preserve what he had inherited.’

δικαιῶ is Ionic.

ἐπεὶ δημοκρατίαν γε κτλ—‘though, to be sure, the nature of democracy was quite well understood by every man of insight.’ The

καί implies ‘in addition to having received it as an inheritance,’ and the words are sarcastic, meaning ‘we knew too much about it to approve of it.’

καὶ αἰτὸς ἂν κτλ—i.e. καὶ αὐτὸς οὐδενὸς ἂν χεῖρον φρονοίην, ὅσῳ κἂν λοιδορήσαιμι, ‘and the superiority of my insight (the insight that you would attribute to me) would be measured by the amount of abuse I might pour on it’; only, he continues, it is impossible to say anything new of a constitution of which the folly is admitted. (It is usual to assume that the text of this much-disputed passage is corrupt. See crit. note. Only Herbst among lecent clities defends it; and he understands οὐδενὸς ἂν χεῖρον (γιγνώσκοιμι) ὅσῳ καὶ (οὐδενὸς ἂν χεῖρον) λοιδορήσαιμι: but the sense so obtained is by no means clear. The rendering of Wilkins, ‘perhaps, indeed, it was better known to me than any one, as I have had more reason to complain of it than any one,’ does not correspond to the Greek, and is itself obscure.) Alcibiades says ‘I might exhibit the extent of my insight by the amount of knowledge I might show of the nature of democracy, i.e. by abusing it’; but, he says, the task is superfluous. Then, by a common rhetorical trick, he throws in a specimen of abuse (ὁμολογουμένη ἄνοια). Thus λοιδορἡσαιμι corresponds with ἐγιγνώσκομεν: the knowledge would be extensive and peculiar, being gathered from experience of the tyranny of democracy, and it would be expressed in a λοιδορία. The Scholium is αὐτὸς ἂν ἐγὼ οὐδενὸς χεῖρον λοιδορήσαιμι, ὅσῳ καὶ μέγιστα ὑπ᾽ αὐτῆς ἠδίκημαι, which gives in a paraphrase the trne meaning, but is incomplete.

ὅσῳ καί—see on c. 11, 6.

λοιδορήσαιμι—this would not have been seemly in a public address at this time. Cf. Ath. Pol. c. 28, of Cleon, πρῶτος ἐπὶ τοῦ βήματος ἀνέκραγε καὶ έλοιδορήσατο . . τῶν ἄλλων ἐν κόσμῳ λεγόντων.

ὁμολογουμένης ἀνοίας—a phrase made to please his audience. Theognis l. 847 λὰξ ἐπίβα δήμῳ κενεόφρονι.

καὶ τὸ μεθιστάναι—goes back to δικαιοῦντες . . τοῦτο (τὸ σχῆμα) ξυνδιασῴζειν. αύτήν=τὴν δημοκρατίαν. Wilkins quotes Napoleon III.'s Julius Caesar, ‘All political change is fatal in the presence of a foreigner invading the soil of a fatherland.’ And even the desire for political change vanishes in the presence of a war—as the same Napoleon well knew.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide References (2 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (2):
    • Thucydides, Histories, 5.43
    • Thucydides, Histories, 8.38
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: