The Story of the Greeks
Page: 72This constant flattery was very bad for the young man; and, as he was anxious to please everybody, it often led him to do foolish things. He gave costly banquets, drove fast horses, boasted a great deal, and even started out for his first battle in a magnificent suit of armor all inlaid with gold.
His shield was also inlaid with gold and ivory, and on it was a picture of Cu´pid throwing the thunderbolts of Jove (Zeus). All his flatterers, instead of telling him frankly that such armor was ridiculous, admired him greatly, and vowed that he looked like the god of the sun.
In the midst of the battle, Alcibiades, who was very brave, rushed into the thick of the foe. His armor was not as strong as a plainer suit would have been; and he soon found himself hemmed round, and almost ready to fall. His fine friends had of course deserted the lad; but, fortunately for him, Socrates was there. The philosopher rushed into the midst of the fray, caught up the young man in his strong arms, and bore him off the battlefield to a place of safety, where he tenderly bound up his wounds.
As Alcibiades was a good-hearted youth, he felt deeply grateful to Socrates for saving his life, and ever after[Pg 163] proudly claimed him as a friend. In spite of the philosopher's advice, however, the young man continued to frequent the same society; and, as he was genial and open-handed with all, he daily grew more popular.
As the Greeks all loved the Olympic games, Alcibiades was always seen there. He took part in the chariot races especially; and his horses won three prizes in succession, to the delight of his admirers.
Alcibiades was shrewd enough, in spite of all his vanity, to understand that the people of Athens loved him principally because he was handsome and rich. He also knew that they delighted in gossip, and he sometimes did a thing merely to hear them talk about it.
He had a very handsome dog, for instance; and for a little while its beauty was praised by every one. But the Athenians soon grew used to the animal, and ceased to talk about it. Then Alcibiades had the dog's tail cut off, and of course every one began to exclaim about that.
Some of the Athenians became so inquisitive that they asked why he had done so, and he laughingly answered that it was merely in order to supply them with material for conversation and wonder.
Alcibiades was so merry and light-hearted that he treated even serious matters in a joking way. We are told, that, when he was first admitted to the city coun[Pg 164]cil, he acted like a schoolboy, and mischievously let loose a captive quail, which ran in and out among the feet of the councilors, and fluttered about so wildly as to upset the gravity of the whole assembly.
On another occasion the councilors were all waiting for Alcibiades to begin their proceedings. He entered the hall with a crown of flowers on his head; begged them to excuse him, because he could really not attend to business, as he had a banquet at his house; and asked them to adjourn and go home with him.