I want to be a star

Peter Green

  • Nemesis: Alcibiades and the Fall of Athens by David Stuttard
    Harvard, 380 pp, £21.95, April 2018, ISBN 978 0 674 66044 1

Of the many enigmas bequeathed by the ancient world to its modern students, few are more tantalising than the seemingly indestructible charisma of Alcibiades (born c.453 bce). After a lifetime of personal scandal, political failure and multiple public betrayals, including that of his country to the Spartans, this enfant terrible still remained, even as a penniless exile, the subject (as Aristophanes makes clear in The Frogs) of intense discussion in Athens. In the last resort, as the Athenians edged nearer to final defeat in their agonisingly prolonged conflict with the Spartans, there were still many who believed – whatever his chequered past – that their only hope of survival lay in the rehabilitation of Alcibiades. The degree of sheer bedazzlement that this reveals – in the face of misadventures that would have sunk most such zealous self-promoters – would alone merit a careful investigation of how Alcibiades worked his magic. The number of those seemingly taken in by him, beginning with Thucydides and including various modern scholars and writers, makes an impressive list.

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