By any standards, Alcibiades had a remarkable career. He was born into one of the most influential families of Ancient Athens just at the time that the city was reaching the pinnacle of its power and status. From his earliest youth he displayed remarkable abilities, being clever, brave, strong, and extraordinarily self-confident, added to which he was universally regarded as being the most handsome youth in the city.
For a while he was a devoted disciple of Socrates, but found it difficult to renounce a life of wealth and power in favour of becoming a philosopher.
He soon became famous for his prodigious spending: he spent a fortune on horses and on one memorable occasion he entered seven chariots into the Olympic games and succeeded in winning Gold, Silver and Bronze for Athens.
It was largely due to Alcibiades that Athens found itself at war with Sparta, the other great power in Greece at the time, but even as he left the city with his army, he was suspected of having indulged in drunken revels and the desecration of the statues of the Gods the night before; an offense for which he was later recalled from the war and exiled from the city. He fled to Sparta, and almost single-handedly managed to turn the course of the war against his old city. Eventually, however, he fell out of favour in Sparta as well – possibly because he seduced the King’s wife – and was forced to flee again. He was welcomed back by the Athenian troops and under his direction the tide of war once again turned in favour of Athens, but only until Alcibiades was exiled for a second time. Athens eventually lost the war, in the course of which it went from being the most powerful and glittering city in the world to being a mere satellite of Sparta. Confused and enraged by this reversal of fortunes, the citizens identified Alcibiades as the main culprit; furthermore they decided that the only explanation for his total disrespect for morality and the customs of the city must have been due to his association with Socrates in his youth. Thus it could be said the behaviour of Alcibiades precipitated the infamous trial of Socrates himself.
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