He was one of those people that everyone loves. You've met them; they're everywhere. Handsome, charming, soft spoken; and not arrogant - never arrogant, he was, after all, an aristocrat, but an aristocrat of the people.
He lisped; so what's a lisp? Demothscenes lisped. He taught himself to speak around his lisp, to speak so loud, and clear, and smoothly, without any alteration in his tone, that even his enemies would listen to him go on in the Agora and be amazed, and be worried about their ability to keep their adherents to their own point of view.
And yet, they all admired him. Oh how well the guy knew how to live! Women, power, war, and wine; if he wanted it he had it, because he was charming and charm is clearly a gift from the gods. The men loved him; the women loved him; even Socrates, the incorruptible, had to fight with his own soul, late at night, in his chambers, telling himself: "Virtue is more important than lust; virtue is more important than lust".
Oh, sure, there were things wrong with him; Pericles taught him, after all. Great man, built the Parthenon; but wasn't he the ruin of the state? Very well, then, not the ruin; but he did piss off some important people. And a dissimulator, too: they say he used to drop all his aristocratic friends the moment he went into politics; taught himself to hang around the markets, buying the cheapest vegetables and fruit. Alcibiades had a bid of that in him, to be sure; why he could use his charm to convince you of something one day, and damn, convince you of the opposite the next.
Money, women, (whores), and wine - he had it all; but he wanted Glory. It was the day's of Glory: who didn't want it. And where was Glory to be had? Sicily. Sicily was just sitting there, in the middle of the water, large, fertile, and rich. It just wanted to be taken and the Athenians had a right to it, a birthright!
What birthright? Better not go into the details. The details didn't really matter anyway, not to the Hoi Polloi and the elite: well, they were as willing to turn a blind eye in an excuse as everybody else.
The only problem Alcibiades had, charming as he was, was: he had enemies. Athens was just that kind of country; they invented the ostracism you know: pick someone popular, put his name in a jar, and if enough people vote for him, out he goes for ten years; for some half-baked reason or no reason at all. Some of them were older, wiser than the young man; and they decided let him go to Sicily; he's overextended himself; just the perfect time to lay our trap.
The Generals - his friends and enemies alike - were worried about the expedition anyway - it was sort of like America at the end of WWII - we just beat Hitler and you think we're gonna fight the Russians? They had just beat off the Persians - and barely, too; the alliance of the Greeks was beginning to crumble; an Athenian Sicily would be a great boon - but if they lost? < /p>
That's silly, they couldn't lose: not under the command of Alcibiades.
Still, the old men thought, it couldn't hurt to be prudent; and they picked as Alcibiades co-general the most efficient old man that Athens had: Niciades. Countless time his caution had saved the country, even during the darkest days when he had to face off all the citizens clamoring for war. Go off and watch the young man, they told him. Are you crazy? He responded in council after council: we can't win a war in Sicily. I say don't go. Let Alcibiades work off his ambition somewhere else? Let him go off and screw his whores since that's what seems to interest him almost as much as war?
But it didn't help. In the noble method of committees ever since time began, they sent him off as a compromise between leaving the campaign in Alcibiades hands and calling off the war. It was right after he left for the war that the envious enemies of Alcibiades struck: they declared him guilty of defying the Gods and let him know that he was to return at once and be tried for sacrilege: and if convicted, be put to death.
He fled of course; he left Nicias to lose the war; Nicias wasn't a bad general, not exactly, but was much better on the defense than on the offense; never feeling comfortable enough to attack he presided over the massacre of the entire Athenian army by a ragtag band of Latin sailors. Alicibides headed for Persia; when asked by one of his followers whether he didn't trust the Athenians to give him a fair trial he said, "Where my life is concerned, I don't trust my mother; maybe she'll put a black ball in the pot instead of a white one by accident."
He never really had a country, and now he proved it; first he went to Persia and offered his services to the Persian king. He spent a few years screwing around with the Emperor's wives and dressing in flowing Oriental robes. Spoke Persian fluently, of course; and probably just as pleasantly, with that slight little charming lisp. Then when things got hot in Persia, he moved to Sparta; this time he had to drop the flowing robes and wear simple, undyed cloth; eat a sparse diet; and affect Spartan Virtue as best as he could. Still, he managed to impregnate the wife of the Spartan King. (He was later to say he did this so his seed would inherit the Spartan throne.) He had to take his chances back in Athens after that. The Athenians (lucky for him) were sick of getting their buttocks kicked by different armies commanded by their former general, over and over again; and welcomed him home - in time to watch his country, weakened by his own attacks against them, lose. He fled again - he could expect no quarter from Sparta, after all, the least from Sparta's cuckolded ephor - and one of his many enemies did for him in the countryside soon after.
Socrates knew he would end up this way: he saw something extraordinary in the dashing young man and tried to turn him to philosophy. It filled him with nothing but half-lived remorse. He broke in drunk to Socrates' banquet and told the assembled crowd (while groping Socrates with drunken arms) - "I love this man; for every time I talk to him he makes me seemed ashamed, and seems to show me that I am not living in the way that I ought;" and yet, though he had Socrates himself to show him the way he had to live, he followed his own internal fire until he burned himself to death in his own flame.