Alcibiades had no sooner sailed, however, than his enemies, grown bolder, began to talk louder, and soon convinced the people of his guilt. In their wrath, the Athenians now sent a messenger to Sicily to overtake him, and bid him return to Athens to be tried.
His friends, seeing the excitement of the people, and fearing that they would condemn him in anger, sent word to him not to return, but to wait until the popular fury had had time to blow over.
In obedience to this advice, Alcibiades left the fleet, and, instead of going to Athens, went straight to Sparta, where he took up his abode. Here the changeable youth adopted the Spartan dress, lived with the utmost simplicity and frugality, and even used the laconic mode of speech.
As he was tall and strong, and a very good athlete, he soon won the admiration of the Spartans, and made many friends. During his stay here, he heard that he had been tried at Athens, although absent, found guilty of sacrilege, and even sentenced to death.
This ingratitude on the part of his people so angered Alcibiades, that he told the Spartans all the Athenian plans, and showed how to upset them. By his advice, the Spartans sent aid to the Greeks in Sicily, helped them to resist the Athenian attack, and even captured both generals and seven thousand soldiers, who were put to death.
The Spartans, still under Alcibiades’ instructions, now took and fortified the small town of Decelea, only twelve miles from Athens. Here they kept an armed force, ready to spring out at any minute and molest the Athenians, who thus found themselves in a continual state of warfare and insecurity.
The small cities and islands which the Athenians had won by force now seized this favorable opportunity to revolt; and the Persians, at Alcibiades’ invitation, joined them, and again began to wage war with the proud city.
The Athenians were almost in despair. They had enemies on all sides, and were also worried by the quarrels of aristocrats and democrats within the city. These two political parties were now so opposed to each other, that nothing could make them friends.
The army, longing for action, and without a leader, finally took matters into their own hands. They recalled Alcibiades, and asked him to help them. The young man, who was generous and kind-hearted, immediately responded to this appeal; and, now that it was too late, he repented of what he had done, and began to do all in his power to defeat the enemy he had aroused.
By his eloquence and skill, Alcibiades finally succeeded in winning the Persians over to side with the Athenians, and to fight against the Spartans; but all his efforts to make up for the past were vain. His treachery had ruined Athens; and when he led the troops against the Spartans, the Athenians were completely defeated.