SHORTLY after the remarkable events of the Olympic festival described in my last chapter, the Argeians and their allies sent a fresh embassy to invite the Corinthians to join them. But Spartan envoys were present also, and though the discussions were much protracted, no new resolution was adopted.
In spite of this first failure, the new alliance of Athens and Argos manifested its fruits vigorously in the ensuing spring. Under the inspirations of Alkibiadês, Athens was about to attempt the new experiment of seeking to obtain intra-Peloponnesian followers and influence. At the beginning of the war she had been maritime, defensive, and simply conservative, under the guidance of Periklês. After the events of Sphakteria, she made use of that great advantage to aim at the recovery of Megara and Bœotia, which she had before been compelled to abandon by the Thirty Years' truce - at the recommendation of Kleon. In this attempt she employed the eighth year of the war, but with signal ill success; while Brasidas during that period broke open the gates of her maritime empire, and robbed her of many important dependencies. The grand object of Athens then became, to recover these lost dependencies, especially Amphipolis: Nikias and his partisans sought to effect such recovery by making peace, while Kleon and his supporters insisted that it could never be achieved except by military efforts. The expedition under Kleon against Amphipolis had failed - the peace concluded by Nikias had failed also: Athens had surrendered her capital advantage without regaining Amphipolis; and if she wished to regain it, there was no alternative except to repeat the attempt which had failed under Kleon. And this perhaps she might have done (as we shall find her projecting to do in the course of about four years forward), if it had not been, first, that the Athenian mind was now probably sick and disheartened about Amphipolis, in consequence of the disgrace so recently undergone there; next, that Alkibiadês was prompted by his personal impulses to turn the stream of Athenian ardour into a different channel. Full of antipathy to Sparta, he regarded the interior of Peloponnesus as her most vulnerable point, especially in the present disjointed relations of its component cities. Moreover, his personal thirst for glory was better gratified amidst the centre of