Alcibiades now abandoned the cause of the Spartans, since he distrusted them and feared Agis, and began to malign and slander them to Tissaphernes. He advised him not to aid them very generously, and yet not to put down the Athenians completely, but rather by niggardly assistance to straiten and gradually wear out both, and so make them easy victims for the King when they had weakened and exhausted each other.
Tissaphernes was easily persuaded, and all men saw that he loved and admired his new adviser, so that Alcibiades was looked up to by the Hellenes on both sides, and the Athenians repented themselves of the sentence they had passed upon him, now that they were suffering for it. Alcibiades himself also was presently burdened with the fear that if his native city were altogether destroyed, he might come into the power of the Lacedaemonians, who hated him.
At this time1
almost all the forces of Athens were at Samos. From this island as their naval base of operations they were trying to win back some of their Ionian allies who had revolted, and were watching others who were disaffected. After a fashion they still managed to cope with their enemies on the sea, but they were afraid of Tissaphernes and of the fleet of one hundred and fifty Phoenician triremes which was said to be all but at hand; if this once came up, no hope of safety was left for their city.
Alcibiades was aware of this, and sent secret messages to the influential Athenians at Samos, in which he held out the hope that he might bring Tissaphernes over to be their friend. He did not seek, he said, the favour of the multitude, nor trust them, but rather that of the aristocrats, in case they would venture to show themselves men, put a stop to the insolence of the people, take the direction of affairs into their own hands, and save their cause and city.
Now the rest of the aristocrats were much inclined to Alcibiades. But one of the generals, Phrynichus, of the deme Deirades, suspected (what was really the case) that Alcibiades had no more use for an oligarchy than for a democracy, but merely sought in one way or another a recall from exile, and therefore inveighed against the people merely to court betimes the favour of the aristocrats, and ingratiate himself with them. He therefore opposed him. When his opinion had been overborne and he was now become an open enemy of Alcibiades, he sent a secret message to Astyochus, the enemy's naval commander bidding him beware of Alcibiades and arrest him, for that he was playing a double game.
But without his knowing it, it was a case of traitor dealing with traitor. For Astyochus was much in awe of Tissaphernes, and seeing that Alcibiades had great power with the satrap, he disclosed the message of Phrynichus to them both. Alcibiades at once sent men to Samos to denounce Phrynichus. All the Athenians there were incensed and banded themselves together against Phrynichus, who, seeing no other escape from his predicament, attempted to cure one evil by another and a greater.
He sent again to Astyochus, chiding him indeed for his disclosure of the former message, but announcing that he stood ready to deliver into his hands the fleet and army of the Athenians.
However, this treachery of Phrynichus did not harm the Athenians at all, because of the fresh treachery of Astyochus. This second message of Phrynichus also he delivered to Alcibiades.
But Phrynichus knew all the while that he would do so, and expected a second denunciation from Alcibiades. So he got the start of him by telling the Athenians himself that the enemy were going to attack them, and advising them to have their ships manned and their camp fortified.
The Athenians were busy doing this when again a letter came from Alcibiades bidding them beware of Phrynichus, since he had offered to betray their fleet to the enemy. This letter they disbelieved at the time, supposing that Alcibiades, who must know perfectly the equipment and purposes of the enemy, had used his knowledge in order to calumniate Phrynichus falsely.
however, when Hermon,3
one of the frontier guard, had smitten Phrynichus with a dagger and slain him in the open market-place, the Athenians tried the case of the dead man, found him guilty of treachery, and awarded crowns to Hermon and his accomplices.