Alkibiades

Alkibiades (ca. 450-404 v.C.) was an Athenian aristocrat from an eminent family. Like all Athenian upper-class boys, he trained in the gymnasion. He is told to have wrestled with the famous philosopher Sokrates as sparring-partner. Alkibiades was a fine sportsman, but he deliberately chose not to participate in athletic contests. He preferred the expensive and prestigious horse races, which were reserved for the rich.

P207In 416 BC, in the middle of the Peloponnesian war, he won an exceptional victory in the four-horse chariot races at the Olympic games: he was first, second and fourth. He had participated with not less than seven four-horse chariots. No citizen, king or city had ever done that before him: he set a record. This brought him an enormous fame. He ordered artists to paint and sculpture him and, though in his time it was no longer the habit, he asked the poet Euripides to write a victory ode in the style of Pindar. Moreover, he stood treat for whole Olympia.
After his victory he was engaged in a lawsuit about the winning team of horses, that was bought from the city Argos. The accusor claimed that he had asked Alkibiades to act as mediator, but that he had kept the horses for himself. Besides his Olympic victory, Alkibiades won the chariot races at the Pythian, Nemean and Panathenaic games.

Already during his career as a sportsman, Alkibiades was an influential and ambitious politician. He used his victory to his political advantage and claimed the generalship over the expedition to Sicily for himself. In his speech before the assembly he argued that his Olympic victory was also a victory of Athens. Because of his victories, money, ambition, noble origin and exuberant way of living, Alkibiades was both admired and mistrusted. He was appointed as general, but after he had left for Sicily, he was called back for several lawsuits. He fled to Sparta and there he became adviser against Athens. Later, he deserted to the Persians. From there, he effected his return to Athens and he won some military victories for his home town. Eventually he would retire to the court of a Persian satrap in Asia Minor, where he was killed is 404 BC.

© KU Leuven, 2012