We now move to one of the climatic events in the history of Greece at the end of the fifth century. And that is, the so called Sicilian Expedition, which could with equal justice be called the Athenian Invasion. Because in 415, the year after the attack on Milos, the Athenians, as I've said, decided to attack a much larger island, and that is Sicily. The cause was a plea from some old allies. In the northwest, there's a community called Edesta, and the Egestians had been allies at Athens. They got into a quarrel with a nearby state called Selinus, straight south of there. And they asked the Athenians to help, and the Athenians agreed. One of the things we're seeing here, unmistakably, is the way that this war has spread, and spread, and spread. Thucydides said in his introduction that the war eventually consumed most of the Greek world, and we're really seeing that here. No longer confined to the mainland or the, the, the Cycladic islands, but now going all the way over to Sicily. Thucydides is Caustic, about the Athenians ignorance, about what they are undertaking. Sicily, you might remember, had been settled by Greeks very early on during the Archaic age, when the colonization movement had its first great wave to southern Italy and Sicily. So these were poleis. These were communities organized along Greek lines that had grown wealthy and powerful. In fact, in 480, the community of Syracuse, under the leadership of its tyrant Galon, had warded off an attack from the very powerful North African community of Carthage. The Athenians, Thucydides says, didn't know what they were undertaking. And he provides a sort of capsule history of Sicily, to make up for it. He hits their ignorance and then says that they had some anxiety themselves about what they were going to do. So after having had an assembly in which they agreed to help the Agestians. That a second assembly to debate what they should do. Here the protagonists were Nikkius, the moderate general who had given his name to the peace that had been signed some 6 years earlier, the peace of Nicias and countering him was Alcibiades. Niccius spoke first and gave arguments against sailing. He said, this is our opportunity to recover, there's no real need to undertake such a long and dangerous expedition which, if we succeed will give us very little and if we fail, will damage us enormously. He also mentioned, that there had been, a second, somewhat less virulent output, outbreak of the plague. And, he says we have a chance to recover from that. And then, he takes an open hit at Alcibiades. He says that, this man, just wants glory for himself. Don't let him, don't let him persuade you, don't let him deceive you, and he says, give up the mad dream of conquest. Alcibiades gives the response, and Thucydides again gives us an estimation. He said that Alcibiades was exceedingly ambitious for money and fame. And, Thucydides adds somberly, he was not the least, he was among the most I should say, responsible for the ultimate downfall of Athens. What does Alcibiades say? It's worth looking at in some detail, just very quickly. He says, first of all, I'm Alcibiades. I brought the city glory with my victories at the Olympics. Remember the chariot races, first, second, and fourth? I won those, and brought the glory back to the community. Now it's clear, it's true that Olympic victors did bestow a degree of glory on the community form which they came, but Alcibiades here seems to have reversed the polarity, so to speak, of what's really important. He then goes on to say, I also benefited the Athenians because I gave lavishly to support tragic choruses. He undertook the Chordagia. But then he goes even farther, and he says that the people in Sicily are a motley rabble. You hear a distinct class bias here. So they're ready to go whichever way the wind takes them. You don't have to worry about them. He refers to them not only as a rabble but as a mob. Well, no. In fact, Syracuse, the main city on the east end of the island, was a democracy. He goes on even farther to say that it is the nature of empire to expand. Remember, Pericles had warned. About this in his last speech. He said keep the empire but don't expand it. And then Alsabides concludes by saying it is the safest law to take one's nature and character for better or worse and live up to it. You can hear that. Incredible arrogance and recklessness and confidence. You can see why he was the celebrity he was. Niccius then takes the opportunity to try to rebut this speech, and say, It's going to take much more effort than you think. He calls for vastly greater resources than he really thinks they're going to need in the hope of dissuading the Athenians from undertaking this venture. But it backfires. In a striking turn of phrase, Thucydides says That all alike, young and old, fell in love with the enterprise. Alcibiades as arrows again. It's not a great way to undertake planning for a major military campaign. In fact it's hard to see what the Athenians could have done worse. We'll go on a bit. They appointed three generals,Nikkius, who didn't want to go, Lamacus who we know very little about but seems to have been kind of a competent, non entity and Alcibiades. As they were preparing for this great expedition. There was a kind of civic uproar. Throughout the city there were statues called herms, which is a column with the head of Hermes and male genitals. And Hermes is the god of crossroads and transitional places. So doorways, crossroads in a road. A mountain pass, things like that might have a statue or some little memory of Hermes to help us along. And just before the expedition sailed, the Hermes were mutilated, they were docked. And Alsabaeides and his elite buddies were implicated in this. Not only that, but rumors tarted to spread that Alcibiades and his friends had taken part in a prophination of the Eleusinian mysteries. The great annual celebration in honor of the goddess Demeter. That they performed a sort of parody of the mysteries. If this were Herodotus these would be the bad omens, but for Thucydides they're just a sign of how wired up the Athenian population is. The Athenians prepare a huge armada, 130 war ships. A hundred support boats, 134 war ships and 130 support boats. Over 5,000 hop lights. The guess is that there were perhaps over 20,000 men involved in this, in the whole venture. Think of Xerxes. Think of the Persian invasion. I think we're meant to. They make their way across the Mediterranean, across the Ionian Sea, I should say. Up the coast to Kerkyra, modern day Corfu, around The heel of Italy, and then over to Sicily. Shortly before their arrival, Alcibyatyes, who has great intelligence sources, hears that the Athenians have sent a ship out with orders that he be arrested, and he flees. And where does he go? To Sparta. Goes over to the enemy. When the Athenians get to Syracuse, note that they're in Syracuse, not in Agesta, that is they're Far-East, not Far-West. They start and they, get some success initially. What I'm showing you here, just very briefly, is a map not of, Sicily or Syracuse but of Attika, because when Alcibiades went to Sparta, he gave the Spartans invalualbe advise to hurt the Athenians. With so many men away on a foreign expedition, home defenses were way down and the Spartans managed to make their way into Attik territory and establish a fort at Dekelea. It served as a refuge for deserting Athenian slaves, and as a post from which the Spartans could harass Athenian land traffic. This is, all thanks, to Alcibiades. In Sicily, meanwhile The Athenians are around the great harbor at Syracuse, here shown in a wonderful ninteenth century photograph. They start to get the idea of building a wall to besiege Syracuse. But the Spartans. Realizing that even their interests might have some play this far away, are prevailed upon and do send a General Gylippus, who fortifies Syracuse and hopes and brings them back to the battle in a big way. The Athenians We are told, have their wall stymied by a counter-wall. The actual geography of this is a little hard to figure out. This is sort of a schematic of wall and counter-wall. And this is the great sort of ear-shaped harbor that we were just talking about. It's at this point. That Thucydides records for us a letter home from Nicias. He says, the ships are rotting. The slaves are deserting. We're losing. And then he also says that he has an extremely painful disease of the kidneys and asks for relief for himself. The Athenians don't accede to his request to be brought home, but I think probably to his shock the send out a massive force of reinforcements under the general Demosthenes. The battles pick up around the harbor. And the Athenians suffer a defeat there. The Athenians don't lose often at sea and they do now. Moreover the Athenians are encamped in an awful kind of pestilential swamp and Demostenes the general says we got to get out of here. They're getting ready to go but there's a lunar eclipse and Nikkius who Thucydides says is a little over addicted to beliefs of this kind, listens to the soothsayers and waits out the 27 days of purification after an eclipse. It's catastrophic, first The Syracusans had wanted nothing more than to drive the Athenians out of the Great Harbor. But then after defeating them, their plan changes. They set up a barricade of old ships, hulks, chained together, and trap the Athenians. So the Athenians are now trapped behind the counterwall on land Behind this blockade at sea. There is another battle in the great harbor and the Athenians are decisively defeated and Nikkius and Demosthenes decide to flee overland. Thucydides account again is unsparing. Tormented by heat and thirst, by the constant raiding from the Syracusans and their allies on land, finally the remaining Athenians come to a small river, the Assinarus. And if you can picture it, the river is here. There's a height on the other side. And the Athenians are so desperate to get to the water that they sort of trample each other. Whereas from the height on the other side, the Syracusans are raining down arrows and missles, and the Athenians, so tormented by thirst, keep going to the water. As fouled as it was by mud and blood and filth. Demosthenes and Nikkius are killed. The remaining Atheniana are captures and put in to work in the quarries in Syracuse. They're enslaved. This, according to Thucydides, was the greatest Hellenic achievement of this war or any other. At once most glorious to the victors, most calamitous to the conquered. They were beaten at all points and all together; all that they suffered was great. They were destroyed as the saying goes, with the total destruction. Their fleet, their army, everything was destroyed and few of the many returned home. Such were the events in Sicily. Immediately thereafter, There were, there was a flurry of revolts among the allies. And there was political upheaval at Athens. And we'll see what happens next in our next lecture.