Thucydides’ History, Book 6

Chapter 16

“It both suits me more than other men, good Athenians, to rule (for it is a necessity to begin here, since Nikias accosted me), and at the same time, I also think that I am worthy. For concerning that of which I am spoken ill, these things bear esteem to me and to my forefathers, and give aid to the fatherland. For the Hellenes also believed the city greater beyond our true power by of my magnificence during the Olympic spectacle, expecting at first that it had been reduced by war, when I had entered seven chariots, as many as no private person had previously, and I won, and I also came second, and fourth, and I otherwise prepared worthily for the victory1. For by custom, things of this sort are honourable, and meanwhile the power from doing such is inferred. And as much again as I distinguish myself in the city by the offices of the Choregos2 or in other ways, by the townsmen it is hated by nature, but for foreigners it is seen as strength. And this present folly is not unprofitable, he who by his private means aids not himself alone but also the city. Nor is it unjust that he who thinks highly of himself is not equal to others, when a man who fares poorly has an equal share of misfortune with no one ; but just as when we are unfortunate we are not greeted,  in the same way let him also be of good courage who is looked down upon by those doing well, or only if he dispenses equally to all, should he demand the same in return. And I have seen that men of this sort, as many as excel in brilliance of anything, that in their life as it is accorded them, they are aggreived, first of all by men of like status, but also whenever they are with others, whereas of men afterwards, they leave behind to some the affectation of kinship, even when it is not so, and of which fatherland they might belong, to this an exultation not as concerning the foreigners nor  those who were mistaken, but rather as concerning its own things and men nobly accomplished. And I, being a man who reaches forth, and since because of this, I have been assailed with regard to my personal affairs, I say, look to the public matters, whether I manage them worse than any. For having united the most powerful of the Peloponnese without any great risk or cost to you I arranged that the Lacedaimonians contend for everything on a single day in Mantineia ; and from this, even though they prevailed in battle, they are not yet even now firm in good courage3.”

1. The winner was expected to celebrate lavishly, hosting sacrifices and banquets.
2. The Choregos funded a theatrical play at one of the festivals in Athens. This was a costly affair, and included paying all the players, both for the performance itself and the time spent training, paying for the often elaborate costumes, and sponsoring a sacrifice and banquet. The prestige gained by it was also considerable. If someone allotted the duty wished to avoid it, he had to propose a wealthier man to replace him. Each man was then audited. If the other was indeed wealthier, he received the office. But if the original man was wealthier in the end, the two men were required to exchange their properties. Seriously!
3. This is questionable at best. The battle at Mantineia was an overwhelming victory for the Spartans. Whether this is a lie Alcibiades actually told, or if Thucydides is putting words into his mouth is a more open question.

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