The World’s Famous Orations, Vol 1

Author: Alcibiades  | Date: 414 B.C.


In Support of the Athenian Expedition to Sicily*
(414 B.C.)

In this way, then, did my youth and preternatural folly, as it is thought, deal with the power of the Peloponnesians by means of suitable arguments; and, gaining credit by my vehemence, obtained their assent. And now too be not afraid of it; but while I am still in the flower of it, and Nicias appears fortunate, avail yourselves fully of the services of each of us. And with regard to the expedition to Sicily, change not your determination from an idea that it would be undertaken against a great power. For it is only with a mixed rabble that its cities are populous; and they easily admit changes in their government, and adopt new ones. And for this reason no one is furnished, as though in behalf of his own country, either with arms for the person, or with ordinary resources, as regards the country; but whatever each one thinks that he can get from the people, either by persuading them through his oratory, or by factious measures, and will so find a home in another land, incase of his not being successful, with that he provides himself. It is not likely, then, that a populace of such a character should either listen to any counsel with one heart, or apply themselves to action in common; but they would severally side with whatever was said to please them; especially if they are torn by factions, as we hear.

Again, with regard to heavy-armed troops, neither have the Siceliots so many as are boasted of, nor did the rest of the Greeks prove so numerous as they severally reckoned themselves; but Greece had very much misstated them, and was with difficulty equipped with them in sufficient numbers on the outbreak of this war. The states in those parts, then, from what I learn by report, are of this character, and still more easy to deal with—for we shall have many barbarians, who from hatred of the Syracusans will join us in attacking them—and those here will not prove an obstacle, if you take a right view of the matter. For our fathers had these very men, whom they say you would leave behind you in hostility when sailing there, and the Mede beside, as their enemies; and still they won their empire; tho strong in nothing else but the superiority of their fleet. And as things stand now, never yet were the Peloponnesians more hopeless with regard to us; and even if they are ever so confident, for invading our country indeed they are strong enough, even tho we do not undertake the expedition; but with their naval force they cannot hurt us [tho we do not undertakeit], for we have a fleet left behind that is a match for them.

On what reasonable argument, then, could we ourselves shrink from it; or on what plea addressed to our allies there could we refuse to succor them? For since we have entered into league with them, we ought to assist them, and not to object that they too have not assisted us. For we united them with us, not that they might come here to help us in their turn, but that by annoying our enemies there they might prevent their coming here to attack us. And it is in this way that empire has been won, both by us and by all others who have enjoyed it; I mean, by readily taking part with those barbarians or Greeks who from time to time called them to their aid; since if all should remain quiet, or nicely choose whom they ought to assist; we should make but slight additions to it, but should rather run a risk of losing even what it now is. For men do not only defend themselves against a superior when he has attacked them, but also strike the first blow, to prevent his attacking them. And it is not possible for us to portion out exactly how far we wish to hold dominion; but since we are in our present position, we must form designs against some, and not give up others; because we should be subjected to the rule of another party, if we did not ourselves rule over others. Nor must you take the same view of quiet as the rest of the world, unless you will also receive fresh institutions assimilating totheirs. Considering, then, that we shall rather aggrandize our possessions here, if we go in quest of those there, let us make the expedition; that we may both prostrate the pride of the Peloponnesians, by being seen, regardless of present peace, to sail even against Sicily; and at the same time, by either ruling, as we most probably shall, over the whole of Greece, through being joined by those there, or at any rate by injuring the Syracusans, by which both ourselves and our allies will be benefited.

And as for security, whether for remaining there, in case of any success, or for returning, our fleet will provide us with it; for by sea we shall be superior to all the Siceliots put together. And let not the non-interfering policy which Nicias recommends in his speeches, nor his setting the young against the old, divert you from your purpose; but acting in your usual order, just as our fathers, by consulting young with old, raised the state to its present height, do ye now too, in the same manner, endeavor to advance it; being convinced that youth and old age can do nothing without each other; but that the period of levity, and of mid-age, and of extreme preciseness, will have most power when joined together; and that the state, if it remain quiet, will be worn out on itself, like anything else, and its skill in everything grow dull; while by entering into contest it will continually gain fresh experience, and will find self-defense habitual to it, not in word, but rather in deed. Mydecided opinion then is, that I think a state of no inactive character would most quickly be ruined by a change to inactivity; and that those men live most securely, who regulate their affairs in accordance with their existing habits and institutions, even though they may be of an inferior character, with the least variation.

*Delivered in Athens as reported by Thucydides. Translated by Henry Dale.


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Chicago: Alcibiades, "I in Support of the Athenian Expedition to Sicily*(414 B.C.)," The World’s Famous Orations, Vol 1, trans. Henry Dale in The World’s Famous Orations, ed. William Jennings Bryan (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, December, 1906), 44–47. Original Sources, accessed July 22, 2024,

MLA: Alcibiades. "I in Support of the Athenian Expedition to Sicily*(414 B.C.)." The World’s Famous Orations, Vol 1, translted by Henry Dale, in The World’s Famous Orations, edited by William Jennings Bryan, Vol. The World#8217;s Famous Orations, New York, Funk and Wagnalls, December, 1906, pp. 44–47. Original Sources. 22 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Alcibiades, 'I in Support of the Athenian Expedition to Sicily*(414 B.C.)' in The World’s Famous Orations, Vol 1, trans. . cited in December, 1906, The World’s Famous Orations, ed. , Funk and Wagnalls, New York, pp.44–47. Original Sources, retrieved 22 July 2024, from