History – Peace of Nicias

History – Peace of Nicias

Peace of Nicias

In this article we will see: “Peace of Nicias”, history, the chronicle of human civilization, serves as a window to the past, illuminating the triumphs, struggles, and evolution of societies over millennia. Through the study of historical events, we unravel the complexities of our collective heritage and gain insight into the forces shaping our present and future.

Summary : History – Peace of Nicias

The Peace of Nicias, a pivotal moment in ancient Greek history, marked a fragile truce between Athens and Sparta after years of brutal conflict. Signed in 421 BC, this treaty aimed to bring stability to Greece, but it ultimately led to unforeseen consequences.

This tale of shifting alliances, political intrigue, and military missteps serves as a cautionary reminder of the complexities of diplomacy and the unpredictable nature of war. Through the lens of historical narrative, we explore the events leading to the Peace of Nicias and its aftermath, shedding light on the ambitions, rivalries, and tragedies of ancient Athens and Sparta.

History – Peace of Nicias

After this defeat, the Athenians agreed to listen to Nicias once again when he, driven by his fixed idea, spoke to them again about peace. In 421 BC, delegations from the two rival cities signed a treaty, the Peace of Nicias. This guaranteed fifty years of respite. As for the situation of Sparta and Athens, it was exactly the same as ten years earlier, before the war! When the terms of the treaty became known, Sparta’s allied cities were furious.

The Corinthians, absolutely enraged, began to beat the drum to gather all those who were willing to fight against the Athenians. And in Athens, to conform to tradition, the citizens started to turn in all directions like weathervanes once again.

Nicias now had a new rival in the assembly. He was a handsome young man from the nobility. His name was Alcibiades. Alcibiades was the ward of Pericles, but unlike his tutor who had been a thoughtful man, he himself was carefree and reckless. He preached war loudly and urged the Athenians to think carefully before abandoning all the magnificent prospects that their current power could offer them. He spoke to them, in particular, about Sicily and the famous capital of the island: Syracuse.

Listening to this eloquent speaker, the Athenians forgot that Sicily was far from Greece and that it was such a large island that it took eight days for a boat to sail around it. They didn’t think about the formidable defenses that a city like Syracuse could not fail to oppose to a potential assailant.

On the other hand, they remembered very well Marathon and Salamis, where they had triumphed so splendidly, only neglecting to recall that on those two occasions they had fought to liberate their homeland, and on ground as familiar to them as the streets of Athens.

After some time, everyone had Sicily in mind. When the assembly met, Nicias once again spoke in favor of peace. “Do you believe,” he asked the citizens, “that it is reasonable to undertake such an expedition? Alcibiades, moreover, is too young to command such an expedition,” he declared. “What he desires is to make a name for himself.

Do not be accomplices in his folly!” Alcibiades did not deny his ambition. He simply replied, “I believe myself to be more capable than many others to lead this expedition. We can be masters of all of Greece!” he exclaimed. “All the more reason we can subdue Syracuse.” The assembly gave him a standing ovation and voted in his favor.

Then they appointed three men to command the troops: Alcibiades himself, as expected, then Lamachos, a very skilled general who was highly anticipated, and finally Nicias, who, true to his reputation as an anti-militaristic military man, hesitated and put forward a thousand excuses before deciding to accept.

On a beautiful summer morning in 415 BC, the people of Athens gathered on the docks of Piraeus to witness the departure of the warships. They cheered loudly for the thirty thousand soldiers who embarked. And it was only after losing sight of the last ship bound for Syracuse that people decided to go back home, very pleased.

Before the end of the week, however, public opinion changed once again. Now that Alcibiades was gone, the politicians who hated him accused him of sacrilege, claiming that he was part of the group of young thugs who, on the very eve of the departure of the expedition, mutilated statues of gods in the heart of the city.

“Since this impious man is leading the expedition,” they concluded, “we must foresee that the gods will punish him by striking him and the soldiers he commands.” The Athenians, fearing divine wrath, and although Alcibiades alone had planned the campaign of Syracuse, did not hesitate to withdraw his command. They hastily sent a messenger to ask him to return to Athens to justify himself.

Alcibiades refrained from returning to his homeland. On the contrary, he went to the Peloponnese and went to Sparta. He was far too proud to stay away while the war continued without him. Since Athens rejected him, well, he would fight alongside his enemies. He thus became the advisor to the kings of Sparta and devised a plan to bring about the loss of the armies whose command had been taken from him.

Meanwhile, Nicias and Lamachos, as brave generals as they were, had faithfully led their expedition to Sicily. So much good will was poorly rewarded because there were few battles they won. Lamachos was killed, and Nicias, more pessimistic and anti-militaristic than ever, found himself alone to lead his troops in the assault on mighty Syracuse.

Poor Nicias! He was certainly not the leader needed in that situation. Timid as he was, he erred on the side of caution. When the Athenian army arrived at the walls of Syracuse, they stopped and took root there. The Syracusans, on the other hand, wasted no time. They fortified their defenses, and, even better, they called on Sparta for help! The Spartans, for once prompt to act, rushed in. Upon learning that they had landed in Sicily, Nicias breathed a sigh of relief, almost of joy. He now clearly saw what he had to do: initiate a dignified retreat.

Unfortunately, on the night when the Athenian fleet was preparing to sail away, there was a lunar eclipse. This seemed like very bad omen to the fearful Nicias. Besides, his seer advised him to wait. So he waited. Alas! While he waited so patiently, his enemies were not idle. Their fleet entered the harbor, and that was the end of Athens’ fleet.

Nicias’ soldiers abandoned their sinking ships and tried to flee by land. For days and days, the remnants of the Athenian army wandered aimlessly, without water, without food. Half of them, unable to drag themselves any longer, were easily captured by the Syracusans. These unfortunate souls were immediately sent to the Sicilian quarries.

Subjected to intensive forced labor, with nothing to protect them from the scorching summer sun or the bitter winter wind, the captives gradually weakened and most of them eventually died. The few survivors owed their salvation to, poetry!

Some Syracusans, educated and cultured, hearing prisoners of war recite tirades of verses extracted from plays they had once seen performed in Athens, arranged to buy them, asking only that they recite for them in exchange for their freedom.

When the citizens of Athens learned, from the very rare survivors who eventually returned home, what had happened in Syracuse, they did not believe at first in such a disaster. When the evidence appeared to them, they exploded. With loud cries, they began to demand other generals and a new fleet. They were determined to win at all costs.

Last word about : History – Peace of Nicias

The story of the Peace of Nicias embodies the timeless themes of ambition, hubris, and the unpredictable nature of human conflict. While it initially offered hope for peace, it ultimately led to further bloodshed and tragedy. As Athens and Sparta grappled with shifting alliances and internal strife, the consequences of their actions reverberated throughout the ancient world.

The legacy of the Peace of Nicias serves as a stark reminder of the complexities of diplomacy and the enduring human propensity for war, echoing through the annals of history as a cautionary tale for future generations.

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