A History of Greece: From the Time of Solon to 403 B.C

By George Grote; J. M. Mitchell et al. | Go to book overview
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21 [LI]

FROM THE TROUBLES IN KORKYRA, IN THE FIFTH YEAR OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR, DOWN TO THE END OF THE SIXTH YEAR

ABOUT the same time as the troubles of Korkyra occurred, Nikias the Athenian general conducted an armament against the rocky island of Minôa, which lay at the mouth of the harbour of Megara, and was occupied by a Megarian fort and garrison. It was fortified and made an Athenian possession, since it was eminently convenient to keep up an effective blockade against the Megarian harbour, which the Athenians had hitherto done only from the opposite shore of Salamis. 1

Though Nikias, son of Nikêratus, had been for some time conspicuous in public life, and is said to have been more than once Stratêgus along with Periklês, this is the first occasion on which Thukydidês introduces him to our notice. He appears to have enjoyed, on the whole, a greater and more constant personal esteem than any citizen of Athens, from the present time down to his death. In wealth and in family, he ranked among the first class of Athenians: in political character, Aristotle placed him, together with Thukydidês, son of Melêsias, and Theramenês, above all other names in Athenian history - seemingly even above Periklês. 2

Such a criticism, from Aristotle, deserves respectful attention, though the facts before us completely belie so lofty an estimate. It marks, however, the position occupied by Nikias in Athenian politics, as the principal person of what may be called the conservative party, succeeding Kimon and Thukydidês, and preceding Theramenês. Nikias represents the party accommodating itself to a sovereign democracy, and existing in the form of common sentiment rather than of common purposes. And it is a remarkable illustration of the real temper of the Athenian people, that a man of this character, known as an aristocrat, but not feared as such, and doing his duty sincerely to the democracy,

1 Minôa has now ceased to be an island, and is a hill on the mainland near the shore. - ED.

2 Plutarch, Nikias, c. 2, 3; [Ath. Pol., c. 28. - ED.]

-553-

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