When Athens had received a second blow at Amphipolis, and Brasidas and Cleon,1
who had been the two greatest enemies of peace,—the one because the war brought him success and reputation, and the other because he fancied that in quiet times his rogueries would be more transparent and his slanders less credible,-had fallen in the battle,2
the two chief aspirants for political power at Athens and Sparta, Pleistoanax3
the son of Pausanias, king of the Lacedaemonians, and Nicias the son of Niceratus the Athenian, who had been the most fortunate general of his day, became more eager than ever to make an end of the war. Nicias desired, whilst he was still successful and held in repute, to preserve his good fortune; he would have liked to rest from toil, and to give the people rest; and he hoped to leave behind him to other ages the name of a man who in all his life had never brought disaster on the city. He thought that the way to gain his wish was to trust as little as possible to fortune, and to keep out of danger; and that danger would be best avoided by peace. Pleistoanax wanted peace, because his enemies were always stirring up the scruples of the Lacedaemonians against him, and insisting whenever misfortunes came that they were to be attributed to his illegal return from exile.
For they accused him and Aristocles his brother of having induced the priestess at Delphi, whenever Lacedaemonian envoys came to enquire of the oracle, constantly to repeat the same answer: 'Bring back the seed of the hero son of Zeus from a strange country to your own; else you will plough with a silver ploughshare':
until, after a banishment of nineteen years, he persuaded the Lacedaemonians to bring him home again with dances and sacrifices and such ceremonies as they observed when they first enthroned their kings at the foundation of Lacedaemon. He had been banished on account of his retreat from Attica, when he was supposed to have been bribed4
While in exile at Mount Lycaeum he had occupied a house half within the sacred precinct of Zeus, through fear of the Lacedaemonians.