But while Alcibiades was thus prospering brilliantly, some were nevertheless disturbed at the particular season of his return. For he had put into harbor on the very day when the Plynteria of the goddess Athena were being celebrated. The Praxiergidae celebrate these rites on the twenty-fifth day of Thargelion in strict secrecy, removing the robes of the goddess and covering up her image. Wherefore the Athenians regard this day as the unluckiest of all days for business of any sort.
The goddess, therefore, did not appear to welcome Alcibiades with kindly favour and good will, but rather to veil herself from him and repel him. However, all things fell out as he wished, and one hundred triremes were manned for service, with which he was minded to sail off again; but a great and laudable ambition took possession of him and detained him there until the Eleusinian mysteries.
Ever since Deceleia had been fortified, and the enemy, by their presence there, commanded the approaches to Eleusis, the festal rite had been celebrated with no splendor at all, being conducted by sea. Sacrifices, choral dances, and many of the sacred ceremonies usually held on the road, when Iacchus is conducted forth from Athens to Eleusis, had of necessity been omitted.
Accordingly, it seemed to Alcibiades that it would be a fine thing, enhancing his holiness in the eyes of the gods and his good repute in the minds of men, to restore its traditional fashion to the sacred festival by escorting the rite with his infantry along past the enemy by land. He would thus either thwart and humble Agis, if the king kept entirely quiet, or would fight a fight that was sacred and approved by the gods, in behalf of the greatest and holiest interests, in full sight of his native city, and with all his fellow citizens eye-witnesses of his valor.
When he had determined upon this course and made known his design to the Eumolpidae and Heralds, he stationed sentries on the heights, sent out an advance-guard at break of day, and then took the priests, mystae, and mystagogues, encompassed them with his men-at-arms, and led them over the road to Eleusis in decorous and silent array. So august and devout was the spectacle which, as general he thus displayed, that he was hailed by those who were not unfriendly to him as High Priest, rather, and Mystagogue.
No enemy dared to attack him, and he conducted the procession safely back to the city. At this he was exalted in spirit himself, and exalted his army with the feeling that it was irresistible and invincible under his command. People of the humbler and poorer sort he so captivated by his leadership that they were filled with an amazing passion to have him for their tyrant, and some proposed it, and actually came to him in solicitation of it. He was to rise superior to envy, abolish decrees and laws, and stop the mouths of the babblers who were so fatal to the life of the city, that he might bear an absolute sway and act without fear of the public informer.