Nicias in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)

An Athenian general who was a man of birth and fortune; but one in whom a generous temper, popular manners, and considerable political and military talent were marred by unreasonable diffidence and an excessive dread of responsibility. Nicias, however, signalized himself on several occasions. He took the island of Cythera from the Lacedaemonians, subjugated many cities of Thrace which had revolted from the Athenian sway, shut up the Megarians within their city-walls, cutting off all communications from without, and taking their harbour Nisaea. When the unfortunate expedition against Syracuse was undertaken by Athens, Nicias was one of the three commanders who were sent at its head, the other two being Alcibiades and Lamachus. He had previously, however, used every effort to prevent his countrymen from engaging in this affair, on the ground that they were only wasting their resources in distant warfare and multiplying their enemies. After the recall of Alcibiades, the natural indecision of Nicias, increased by ill-health and dislike of his command, proved a principal cause of the failure of the enterprise. In endeavouring to retreat by land from before Syracuse, the Athenian commanders, Nicias and Demosthenes (the latter had come with re-enforcements), were pursued, defeated, and compelled to surrender. The generals were put to death (B.C. 414); their soldiers were confined at first in the quarry of Epipolae, and afterwards sold as slaves. There is a life of Nicias by Plutarch.

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