The Peloponnesian war was not going so well for Athens. So the Athenians decided to try a really dramatic, aggressive move. A young Athenian general named Alcibiades (al-se-BUY-a-dees) had a plan. He convinced the Athenian Assembly to send almost the entire Athenian army and navy to the island of Sicily. Sicily was where the Spartans were getting their food from. So if the Athenians could capture Sicily, they could cut off the supplies of the Spartans and make them stop fighting. The Athenians agreed to send the young Alcibiades and a very old general named Nicias (NICK-ee-ass) to lead the army in Sicily.
But a few days before they were supposed to leave, somebody broke a whole lot of good-luck statues all over Athens. People were very upset. Some people thought it was Alcibiades and his friends who did it. There was a lot of discussion, but finally they decided to let Alcibiades lead the army anyway. So they all sailed off to Sicily.
Then once Alcibiades and Nicias had sailed off to Sicily, the Athenians began to think about it again. This time the Athenians decided to make Alcibiades stand trial for breaking the statues. They sent a ship to bring him back to Athens. Alcibiades pretended to go along, but half-way home, when the ships put in for the night in southern Italy, Alcibiades ran away and joined the Spartans!
Without Alcibiades, the Athenians couldn’t fight very well. And Alcibiades gave the Spartans good advice about how to fight the Athenians. He advised the Spartans to build a navy, and not just fight on land. In the end, the Spartans defeated the Athenian army in Sicily, and almost all of the Athenian men were killed. The Spartans forced thousands of Athenian prisoners of war to work as slaves in stone quarries under terrible conditions, where most of them died in a few months.