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Alkibiades ( Greek Ἀλκιβιάδης Alkibiádēs ; * around 450 BC in Athens ; † 404 BC in Phrygia ) was an important Athenian statesman , orator and general . He came from the famous aristocratic families of the Alkmaionids and Eupatrids . During the second half of the Peloponnesian War he acted as a strategic advisor, military commander and politician. He changed sides on various occasions and always tried to play Athens and Sparta off against each other.

In his native city of Athens he spoke around 420 BC. For an aggressive foreign policy and was an important proponent of the Sicilian expedition . After his political enemies had accused him of the hermit crime , he fled to Sparta . There he served as a strategic advisor who proposed or led some major campaigns against Athens. However, he soon made powerful enemies in Sparta as well and was forced to join the enemy in Persia . There he acted as an advisor to the satrap Tissaphernes until his political allies among the Athenians made his return possible. He then served as an Athenian general ( strategos ) for a few years until his enemies were finally able to banish him successfully for the second time.


Alkibiades was probably 451 BC. Born in Athens as the son of Kleinias and Deinomache. The latter belonged to the powerful and controversial family of the Alkmaionids; Pericles and his brother Ariphon were Deinomaches' cousins. It is said that Alkibiades' family can be traced back to Eurysakes . His grandfather, who was also called Alcibiades, was a friend of the famous constitutional reformer Kleisthenes . After the death of his father in the Battle of Koroneia in 447 BC. Alcibiades grew up in the house of his uncle Pericles, where he was taught and trained in rhetoric by a large number of famous teachers, including Socrates . A famous description of Alkibiades' relationship to Socrates is given by Plato in the symposium . Alkibiades was known for his unruly behavior, which ancient Greek writers mention on various occasions. In the sources, both his physical and mental abilities are highlighted and his love affairs are described.

Alcibiades took 432 BC. At the Battle of Potidaia and 424 BC. Took part in the battle of Delion . According to Plato's account, Socrates not only saved the life of Potidaia Alkibiades, but then renounced an award in his favor. The credibility of this description is doubtful. In any case, it is true that Alcibiades was honored for his bravery, for this is also reported by Isocrates . Alkibiades had an intimate, but (according to idealized ancient reports) chaste relationship with Socrates, whom he admired and respected. The latter, in turn, was attracted by Alkibiades' beauty, but decided not to succumb to the adolescent charms. After the death of Kleon , Alkibiades first took the lead of the “radical democrats ” (who rejected any restrictions, including those concerning the alimentation of the population, see Attic democracy ) and pursued a policy aimed at isolating Sparta. His political opponent was Nikias , who belonged to the moderate democrats. In the Peloponnesian War, Nicias tried to find a peace treaty between Athens and Sparta, which he was able to enforce in the Peace of Nicias named after him .

However, as a strategist, Alkibiades succeeded in thwarting these efforts and persuading Athens to abandon the treaty. 415 BC After a request for help from the city of Segesta , he advocated the unfortunate campaign against Syracuse and Sicily , which he led as one of its military leaders. Shortly before the ships left the port, on the night of May 10th to May 11th, 415 BC. The statues of the god Hermes in Athens mutilated by an unknown hand (the so-called Hermenfrevel ). The blame for this was put on Alcibiades (probably wrongly). Although the matter was initially delayed because of his great popularity, after the ships left he was called back and charged with the Hermen crime and the parody of the Mysteries of Eleusis . When he later learned that he was sentenced to death and cursed in his absence, he fled to Sparta, where he betrayed the plans for the campaign and helped an alliance of Spartans and Syracusans defeat the Athenians. He also gave the Lacedaemonians two crucial pieces of advice to come to the aid of Syracuse to demarcate Athens and to besiege the village of Dekeleia in Attica . Thereupon the Athenians could be defeated in Sicily.

412 BC Alcibiades moved with the Spartans against the island of Chios , where he incited the Ionians to revolt against the Athenians. In Miletus he helped to conclude an alliance between Sparta and the Persian Empire and fought against an Athenian expeditionary army in the Battle of Miletus .

Problems with the Spartan leaders - they were concerned that he might betray them just as he was betraying his own fatherland - led Alcibiades to lose their favor and to be murdered. However, Alkibiades found out about it in good time and fled to the Persian provincial governor Tissaphernes . In this he tried, initially quite successfully, to play off Athens and Sparta against each other and to pull him on the side of the Athenians, which ultimately failed. Thereupon Alcibiades offered the commanders of the Athenian fleet on Samos , who were dissatisfied with the politics of their hometown and who were seeking an overthrow of the radical democratic order (see also: Oligarchical overthrow in Athens under the rule of the Council of Four Hundred ), his help and the Persia . At least Alkibiades made the commanders believe that he could guarantee Persian support. In return, he wanted to return to Athens to play a leading role there again. The commanders of the Athenian fleet initially accepted Alkibiades' proposal. While the overthrow in Athens was successful, it encountered successful resistance in the fleet on Samos (which was democratically minded as a civil fleet below the command level down to the rowers). Alkibiades, quite an opportunist, now offered his help to the Democrats, who ultimately chose him as a strategist. The oligarchy in Athens was established at the end of 411 BC. And in the following year democracy was reintroduced. His arrival at the Hellespont stabilized the precarious situation of the Athenian armed forces and enabled them to win the sea ​​battle at Abydos (411 BC). In the battle of Kyzikos (today Balıkesir in Turkey) Alkibiades destroyed 410 BC The Spartan fleet under Mindaros with a brilliantly executed plan . Then he went on the offensive to regain the lost positions on the Bosporus . 409 BC BC he triumphed again before Abydos over the Persians and 408 BC. After the battle of Chalcedon he succeeded in taking Selymbria and Byzantium .

When he returned to Athens, he was received with general enthusiasm, acquitted of all charges and elected strategos autocrator ("authorized strategist"). However, when 407 BC During his absence an Athenian fleet contingent at Notion near Ephesus suffered a defeat against the Spartan fleet leader Lysander , who was allied with the Persians , and was withdrawn from him because of the assumption that he could become a tyrant (through his power and influence) Office.

Alkibiades first went to his possessions in Thrace . Despite being exiled from his fatherland several times, his ties to Athens always existed. This was also the case when the Athenian general Philocles (Strategos) set sail with a new fleet and led it to the Hellespont . Alkibiades, also recognized by his opponents as a capable general, tried to advise Philocles on his strategic warfare, but he and his fellow strategists contemptuously rejected his advice. This was the undoing of the Athenian fleet, and Alcibiade's fears were soon confirmed. The Spartan Peloponnesian fleet under Lysander defeated the Athenians in the battle of Aigospotamoi (September 405 BC). After the defeat, Alcibiades fled to the court of the Persian satrap Pharnabazos in Daskyleion . At the instigation of the Spartan commander Lysander and in agreement with the thirty tyrants deployed in Athens , Alcibiades was in 404 BC. Murdered while fleeing in the Phrygian town of Melissa. His lover, the hetaera Timandra , is said to have buried him.

The most important narrative sources about his life are the accounts of Thucydides and Xenophon . There are also secondary sources, including Diodorus (who relied on Ephorus ), Plutarch and Cornelius Nepos .

Olympic champion

At the 91st Olympic Games in 416 BC In BC, Alkibiades sent seven teams to the chariot race, more than any private individual sent to the ancient Olympic Games . The result was a win, a second and a fourth place. So he too was crowned Olympic champion, since the racing team owner was honored in the chariot race, not the driver.


Web links

Commons : Alcibiades  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. For dating see Debra Nails: The People of Plato. A prosopography of Plato and other Socratics. Indianapolis 2002, pp. 11-13.
  2. Franz Kiechle : Alkibiades 2. In: Der Kleine Pauly (KlP). Volume 1, Stuttgart 1964, Col. 261-264, especially 264.
  3. Plutarch, Alcibiades 12 .