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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Nikias : an Athenian general of the fifth century B.C. Postgate, Marion Myfanwy


My thesis is a biography of Nikias, an Athenian general and politician who lived from c. 470 to 413 B.C. Chapter I gives an account of the sources I have used (chiefly Thucydides' History), and Chapter II information about his family. The remaining chapters are a chronological account of his career: Chapter III dealing with the first portion of the Peloponnesian War known as the Archidamian War (431-421); Chapter IV, the Peace of Nikias (421) and the following uneasy years of truce; and Chapter V, the Sicilian Expedition (415-413), the second portion of the Peloponnesian War, which was not concluded until 404. Parts of the thesis cover material not directly pertaining to Nikias but needed for an understanding of his actions. I have intended as my theme a defence of his career. Most scholars are agreed that Nikias was a respectable man, but decry his abilities as a general and politician. They think of his final disgrace in Sicily and analyse the earlier portions of his career in light of his eventual failure; not considering that Nikias was by then changed into an old and sick man. It is impossible to recreate Nikias as a brilliant politician and strategist; he was not. Nevertheless I hope my account will make readers judge him more fairly than they perhaps have done before.

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