The articles of peace1
required that the strongholds and cities and prisoners of war which each party had taken from the other should be restored and since that party was to make restoration first on whom the lot fell, the lot was secretly bought up by Nicias, so that the Lacedaemonians were the first to make restoration.
This is the testimony of Theophrastus. But when the Corinthians and Boeotians, who were vexed at the course things were taking, seemed likely, by their accusations and complaints, to revive the war, Nicias persuaded the Athenians and Lacedaemonians to make the general peace secure by the mighty bond of a mutual alliance, whereby they should become more formidable to all seceders and better assured of each other.
Such being the course of events, Alcibiades, who was naturally indisposed to be quiet, and who was incensed at the Lacedaemonians because they scornfully ignored him in their fond attachment to Nicias, promptly opposed and obstructed the general peace. At the outset he made no headway; but a little while after, seeing that the Athenians were not so well pleased as before with the Lacedaemonians, but thought they had wronged them in making a separate alliance with the Boeotians, and in not restoring Panactum with its walls intact, nor Amphipolis at all, he laid great stress on these grounds of complaint, and tried to incense the people over each one of them.
Finally he managed to have an embassy sent from Argos to Athens,2
and tried to effect a separate alliance between these two cities. Ambassadors came at once from Sparta with full powers to treat all issues, and at their preliminary audience with the council were declared by that body to come with nothing but just proposals. But Alcibiades was afraid they would bring the assembly over to their views with the same arguments which had won the council. He therefore circumvented them by deceitfully swearing that he would cooperate with them fully in the assembly if they would only not claim nor even admit that they had come with full powers to treat all issues; for thus, he declared, they would most surely attain their desires.
After they were persuaded by him, and had put themselves out of the guiding hands of Nicias and into his, he introduced them to the assembly, and asked them first whether they had come with full powers to treat all issues. On their saying
‘No’ to this, he surprised them by changing front and calling on the members of the council who were present to bear witness to what they had said before that body. He then urged the people not to follow, much less trust, men who were so manifestly liars, and who said now
‘Yes’ and now
‘No’ to the same question.
The ambassadors were overwhelmed with confusion, naturally, and Nicias was unable to say a word,—struck dumb with amazement and anguish. Therefore the people were at once eager to call in the Argive embassy and make the alliance it desired, but there came a slight earthquake shock just then, luckily for Nicias, and the assembly was dissolved. On the following day, when the people had assembled again, by dint of great effort and much talking Nicias succeeded, with difficulty, in persuading them to refrain from the proposed arrangement with Argos, and to send him on an embassy to the Lacedaemonians, assuring them that everything would thus turn out well.
But when he came to Sparta, though in other ways he was honored by them as a true man and one who had been zealous in their behalf, still, he accomplished nothing that he purposed, but was beaten by the party there which had Boeotian sympathies, and so came back home, not merely with loss of reputation and under harsh abuse, but actually in bodily fear of the Athenians. They were vexed and indignant because they had been persuaded by him to restore so many eminent prisoners of war; for the men who had been brought to the city from Pylos belonged to the leading families of Sparta, and the most influential men there were their friends and kinsmen.
However, the Athenians took no very harsh measures in their anger against Nicias, but elected Alcibiades general, made an alliance with the Mantineans and Eleans, who had seceded from the Lacedaemonians, as well as with the Argives, sent freebooters to Pylos to ravage Laconia, and thus plunged again into war.