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The Destruction of the Herms:

While these preparations were going on it was found that in one night nearly all the stone Hermae in the city of Athens had had their faces disfigured by being cut about. These are a national institution, the well-known square-cut figures, of which there are great numbers both in the porches of private houses and in the temples. No one knew who had done this, but large rewards were offered by the state in order to find out who the criminals were, and there was also a decree passed guaranteeing immunity to anyone, citizen, alien, or slave, who knew of any other sacrilegious act that had taken place and would come forward with information about it. The whole affair, indeed, was taken very seriously, as it was regarded as an omen for the expedition, and at the same time as evidence of a revolutionary conspiracy to overthrow the democracy.

Information was in fact forthcoming from some resident aliens and some personal servants. They had nothing to say about the Hermae, but told of some other cases which had happened previously when statues had been defaced by young men who were enjoying themselves after having had too much to drink, and also of mock celebrations of the mysteries held in private houses. One of those accused was Alcibiades, and this fact was taken up by those who disliked him most because he stood in the way of their keeping a firm hold themselves of the leadership of the people, and who thought that, if they could drive him out, they would step into the first place. They therefore exaggerated the whole thing and made all the noise they could about it, saying that the affair of the mysteries and the defacement of the Hermae were all part of a plot to overthrow the democracy, and that in all this Alcibiades had had a hand; evidence for which they found in the unconventional and undemocratic character of his life in general.

Alcibiades denied the charges made against him on the spot and was prepared to stand his trial before sailing on the expedition, the preparations for which had now been completed, and to be examined as to whether he had done any of the things with which he was accused; he should suffer the penalty, if found guilty, and, if acquitted, should take up his command. He begged them not to listen to attacks made on him in his absence, but, if he was really guilty, to put him to death there and then, and he pointed out how unwise it would be to send him out in command of such a large army with such serious accusations still hanging over his head. His enemies, however, were afraid that, if the case was brought on at once, he would have the goodwill of the army and that the people would be lenient to him because of the popularity he had won by getting the Argives and some of the Mantineans to join in the expedition. They therefore did all they could to put things off and prevent the trial taking place, and produced some more speakers who said that Alcibiades ought to sail now, and not hold up the departure of the army, but that he should be tried on his return within a fixed number of days. Their plan was to bring some more serious accusation against him (which hey could do all the more easily when he was away) and then to send for him and bring him back to stand his trial. It was decided, therefore, that Alcibiades should sail.

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