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(Time. Hi. 91 ; Diod. xii. 65.) He was one of the generals in b. c. 425, when the Spartans were shut up in Sphacteria. The amusing circumstances under which he commissioned his enemy, Cleon, to reduce the island, have already been described in the article cleon [Vol. I. p. 797]. In the same year Nicias led an expedition into the territory of Gorinth. He defeated the Corinthians in battle, but, apprehending the arrival of reinforcements for the. enemy's troops, he re-embarked his forces. Two of the slain, however, having been left behind, whom the Athenians had not been able to find at the time, Nicias resigned the honours of victory for the purpose of recovering them, and sent a herald to ask for their restoration. He then proceeded to Crommyon, where he ravaged the land, and then directed his course to the territory of Epidaurus. Having carried a wall across the isthmus connecting Methone with the main land, and left a garrison in the place, he returned home. (Thuc. iv. 42—45 ; Diod. xii. 65.) In b. c. 424, with two colleagues, he led an expedition to the coasts of Laconia and captured the island of Cythera, a success gained with the greater facility, as he had previously had negotiations with some of the Cytherians. He stationed an Athenian garrison in the island, and ravaged the coast of Laconia for seven days. On his return he ravaged the territory of Epidaurus in Laconia, and took Thyrea, where the Spartans had settled the Aegi-netans after their expulsion from their own island. These Aeginetans having been conveyed to Athens were put to death by the Athenians. (Thuc. iv. 54 ; Diod. 1. c.) In b. c. 423, Nicias and Nico-stratus were sent with an army to Chalcidice to check the movements of Brasidas. They obtained possession of Mende, and blockaded Scione ; while thus engaged they entered into an agreement with Perdiccas. Having finished the eircumvallation of Scione, they returned home. (Thuc. iv. 130— 132.)
The death of Cleon removed out of the way of Nicias the only rival whose power was at all commensurate with his own, and he now exerted all his influence to bring about a peace. He had secured the gratitude of the Spartans by his humane treatment of the prisoners taken at Sphacteria, so that he found no difficulty in assuming the character of mediator between the belligerent powers. The negotiations ended in the peace of B. c. 421, which was called the peace of Nicias on account of the share which he had had in bringing it about. (Thuc. v. 16, 19, 24, vii. 86.) In consequence of the opposition of the Boeotians, Corinthians, and others, and the hostile disposition of Argos, this peace was soon followed by a treaty of defensive alliance between Athens and Sparta. According to Theophrastus, Nicias, by bribing the Spartan commissioners, contrived that Sparta should take the oaths first. Grounds for dissatisfaction, however, speedily arose between the two states. The jealousy felt by the Athenians was industriously increased by Alcibiades, at whose suggestion an embassy came from Argos in b. c. 420, to propose an alliance. The Spartan envoys who came to oppose it were entrapped by Alcibiades into exhibiting an appearance of double dealing, and it required all the influence of Nicias to prevent the Athenians from at once concluding an alliance with Argos. He induced them to send him at the head of an embassy to Sparta to
demand satisfaction with respect to the points on which the Athenians felt themselves aggrieved. The Spartan government would not comply with their demands, and Nicias could only.procure a fresh ratification of the existing treaties. On his return the alliance with Argos was resolved on. (Thuc. v. 43, 46.)
The dissensions between Nicias and Alcibiades now greatly increased, and the ostracism of one or other began to be talked of. The demagogue Hyperbolus strove to secure the banishment of one of them that he might have a better chance of making head against the other. .But Nicias and Alcibiades, perceiving his designs, united their influence against their common enemy, and the ostracism fell on Hyperbolus.
In b.c. 415, the Athenians resolved on sending their great expedition to Sicily, on the pretext of assisting the Segestaeans and Leontines. Nicias, Alcibiades, and Lamachus were appointed to the command. Nicias, who, besides that he disapproved of the expedition altogether, was in feeble health, did all that he could to divert the Athenians from this course. He succeeded in getting the question put again to the vote ; but even his representations of the magnitude of the preparations required did not produce the effect which he wished. On the contrary, the Athenians derived from them grounds for still greater confidence ; and Nicias and the other generals were empowered to raise whatever forces they thought requisite. When the armament arrived at Rhegium, finding the hopes which the Athenians had entertained with regard to the Segestaeans futile, in a conference of the generals Nicias proposed that they should call upon the Segestaeans to provide pay, if not for the whole armament, at least for the amount of the succours which they had requested, and that, if they furnished these, the forces should stay till they had brought the Selinuntines to terms, and then return home, after coasting the island to display the power of Athens. But the intermediate plan of Alcibiades was finally adopted. After the recall of Alcibiades Nicias found no difficulty in securing the concurrence of Lamachus in his plans. jFrom Catana, which had come over to the Athenians and been made their head-quarters, Nicias and Lamachus proceeded with all their forces towards Segesta. On their way they captured Hyccara. Nicias went himself to Segesta, but could only obtain thirty talents. On their return they seem to have remained almost inactive for some time, but in the autumn they prepared to attack Syracuse. By a skilful stratagem the Athenians without molestation took possession of a station near the Olympieum, by the harbour of Syracuse. A battle took place the next day, in which the Syracusans were defeated. But, being in want of cavalry and money, the Athenians sailed away, and for the first part of the winter took up their station at Naxos. They were unsuccessful in their endeavours to induce Camarina to join them, but secured the assistance of several of the Sicel tribes. Even some Etruscan cities promised aid, and envoys were sent to Carthage. From Naxos Nicias removed to Catana. Additional supplies were sent from Athens, and arrived at Catana in the spring (b. c. 414). Nicias now made preparations for seizing Epipolae, in which he was successful ; and the eircumvallation of Syracuse was immediately commenced. The work proceeded rapidly, and. all attempts of the Syracusans to stop