Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"Life of Nicias," by Plutarch

"Nicias" by Joachim von Sandrat (1606-1688)
"Life of  Nicias," our selection this month, comes from Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. The work is also known as the Parallel Lives, as it contains side-by-side biographies of noteworthy personages of Greco-Roman antiquity, with commentary on the successes and failures of each pair.

Nicias was an Athenian political and military leader of the 5th-century B.C., and the selection relates tales of his penchant for pomp and circumstance, his political rivalries (especially with Alcibiades), and the Athenian military expedition to Sicily, which ended disastrously in 413 B.C.

Bust of Plutarch (ca. 46-ca.119)
in his home village of Chaeronia, Greece
It's a rich narrative, worthy of an epic motion picture.  At its center is the personage of Nicias, the reluctant warrior. He vied with more hawkish elements in Athens's political arena, and negotiated a truce with Sparta and her allies that bears his name.  In Plutarch's telling, is Nicias a hero or anti-hero?

You decide.