Cleon had thus performed his promise. On the day after the victory he and Demosthenes started with the prisoners for Athens, where they arrived within 20 days from the time of Cleon's departure. Altogether, this affair was one of the most favourable for the Athenians that had occurred during the war. The prisoners would serve not only for a guarantee against future invasions, which might be averted by threatening to put them to death, but also as a means for extorting advantageous conditions whenever a peace should be concluded. Nay, the victory itself was of considerable importance, since it enabled the Athenians to place Pylus in a better posture of defence, and, by garrisoning it with Messenians from Naupactus, to create a stronghold whence Laconia might be overrun and ravaged at pleasure. The Lacedaemonians themselves were so sensible of these things, that they sent repeated messages to Athens to propose a peace, but which the Athenians altogether disregarded.
The eighth year of the war (B.C. 424) opened with brilliant prospects for the Athenians. Elate with their continued good fortune, they aimed at nothing less than the recovery of all the possessions which they had held before the Thirty Years' Truce. for this purpose they planned an expedition against Boeotia. But their good fortune had now reached its culminatiug point. They were defeated by the Boeotians with great loss at the battle of Delium, which was the greatest and most decisive engagement fought during the first period of the war an interesting feature of the battle is that both Socrates and his pupil Alcibiades were engaged in it, the former among the hoplites, the latter in the cavalry. Socrates distinguished himself by his bravery, and was one of those who, instead of throwing down their arms, kept together in a compact body, and repulsed the attacks of the pursuing horse. His retreat was also protected by Alcibiades.
This disastrous battle was speedily followed by the overthrow of the Athenian empire in Thrace. At the request of Perdiccas, King of Macedonia, and of the Chalcidian towns, who had sued for help against the Athenians, Brasidas was sent by the Lacedaemonian government into Macedonia, at the head of a small body of troops. On his arrival in Macedonia he proclaimed that he was come to deliver the Grecian cities from the tyrannous yoke of Athens. His bravery, his kind and conciliating demeanour, his probity, moderation, and good faith, soon gained him the respect and love of the allies of Athens in that quarter. Acanthus and Stagirus hastened to open their gates to him; and early in the ensuing winter, by means of forced marches, he suddenly and unexpectedly appeared before the important Athenian colony of Amphipolis on the Strymon. In that town the Athenian party sent a message for assistance to Thucydides, the historian, who was then general in those parts. Thucydides hastened with seven ships from Thasos, and succeeded in securing Eion at the mouth of the Strymon; but Amphipolis, which lay a little higher up the river, allured by the favourable terms offered, had already surrendered to Brasidas. For his want of vigilance on this occasion, Thucydides was, on the motion of Cleon, sentenced to banishment, and spent the following twenty years of his life in exile. Torone, Scione, and other towns also revolted from Athens.
In the following year (B.C. 422) Cleon was sent to Macedonia to recover the Athenian dependencies, and especially Amphipolis. He encamped on a rising ground on the eastern side of the town. Having deserted the peaceful art of dressing hides for the more hazardous trade of war, in which he was almost totally inexperienced, and having now no Demosthenes to direct his movements, Cleon was thrown completely off his guard by a very ordinary stratagem on the part of Brasidas, who contrived to give the town quite a deserted and peaceful appearance. Cleon suffered his troops to fall into disorder, till he was suddenly surprised by the astounding news that Brasidas was preparing for a sally. Cleon at once resolved to retreat. But his skill was equal to his valour. He conducted his retreat in the most disorderly manner. His left wing had already filed off and his centre with straggling ranks was in the act of following, when Brasidas ordered the gates of the town to be flung open, and, rushing out at the head of only 150 chosen soldiers, charged the retreating columns in flank. They were immediately routed; but Brasidas received a mortal wound and was carried off the field. Though his men were forming on the hill, Cleon fled as fast as he could on the approach of the enemy, but was pursued and slain by a Thracian peltast. In spite, however, of the disgraceful flight of their general, the right wing maintained their ground for a considerable time, till some cavalry and peltasts issuing from Amphipolis attacked them in flank and rear, and compelled them to fly. On assembling again at Eion it was found that half the Athenian hoplites had been slain. Brasidas was carried into Amphipolis, and lived long enough to receive the tidings of his victory. He was interred within the walls with great military pomp in the centre of what thenceforth became the chief agora; he was proclaimed oecist, or founder of the town; and was worshipped as a hero with annual games and sacrifices.
By the death of Brasidas and Cleon the two chief obstacles to a peace were removed; for the former loved war for the sake of its glory, the latter for the handle which it afforded for agitation and for attacking his political opponents. The Athenian Nicias, and the Spartan king Pleistoanax, zealously forwarded the negotiations, and in the spring of the year B.C. 421 a peace for 50 years, commonly called the PEACE OF NICIAS, was concluded on the basis of a mutual restitution of prisoners and places captured during the war.
THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR.--SECOND PERIOD, FROM THE PEACE OF NICIAS TO THE DEFEAT OF THE ATHENIANS IN SICILY, B.C. 421-413.
Several of the allies of Sparta were dissatisfied with the peace which she had concluded; and soon afterwards some of them determined to revive the ancient pretensions of Argos, and to make her the head of a new confederacy, which should include all Greece, with the exception of Sparta and Athens. The movement was begun by the Corinthians, and the league was soon joined by the Eleans, the Mantineans, and the Chalcidians.
Between Sparta and Athens themselves matters were far from being on a satisfactory footing. Sparta confessed her inability to compel the Boeotians and Corinthians to accede to the peace, or even to restore the town of Amphipolis. Athens consequently refused to evacuate Pylus, though she removed the Helots and Messenians from it. In the negotiations which ensued respecting the surrender of Pylus, Alcibiades took a prominent part. This extraordinary man had already obtained immense influence at Athens. Young, rich, handsome, profligate, and clever, Alcibiades was the very model of an Athenian man of fashion. In lineage he was a striking contrast to the plebeian orators of the day. He traced his paternal descent from Ajax, whilst on his mother's side he claimed relationship with the Alcmaeonidae and consequently with Pericles. On the death of his father Clinias Pericles had become his guardian. From early youth the conduct of Alcibiades was marked by violence, recklessness, and vanity. He delighted in astonishing the more sober portion of the citizens by his capricious and extravagant feats. He was utterly destitute of morality, whether public or private. But his vices were partly redeemed by some brilliant qualities. He possessed both boldness of design and vigour of action; and, though scarcely more than thirty at the time of which we are now speaking, he had already on several occasions distinguished himself by his bravery. His more serious studies were made subservient to the purposes of his ambition, for which some skill as an orator was necessary. In order to attain it he frequented the schools of the sophists, and exercised himself in the dialectics of Prodicus, Protagoras, and above all of Socrates.