His first entrance into public life, they say, was connected with a contribution of money to the state, and was not of design. He was passing by when the Athenians were applauding in their assembly, and asked the reason for the applause. On being told that a contribution of money to the state was going on, he went forward to the bema and made a contribution himself. The crowd clapped their hands and shouted for joy—so much so that Alcibiades forgot all about the quail which he was carrying in his cloak, and the bird flew away in a fright. Thereupon the Athenians shouted all the more, and many of them sprang to help him hunt the bird. The one who caught it and gave it back to him was Antiochus, the sea captain, who became in consequence a great favorite with Alcibiades.1
Though great doors to public service were opened to him by his birth, his wealth, and his personal bravery in battle; and though he had many friends and followers, he thought that nothing should give him more influence with the people than the charm of his discourse. And that he was a powerful speaker, not only do the comic poets testify, but also the most powerful of orators himself,2
who says, in his speech
‘Against Meidias,’ that Alcibiades was a most able speaker in addition to his other gifts.
And if we are to trust Theophrastus, the most versatile and learned of the philosophers, Alcibiades was of all men the most capable of discovering and understanding what was required in a given case. But since he strove to find not only the proper thing to say, but also the proper words and phrases in which to say it; and since in this last regard he was not a man of large resources he would often stumble in the midst of his speech, come to a stop, and pause a while, a particular phrase eluding him. Then he would resume, and proceed with all the caution in the world.