Nicias [key], d. 413 b.c., Athenian political leader and general. After Pericles' death he emerged as the primary rival of Cleon and his war party. He was a moderate democrat, not an oligarch, and he wanted peace with Sparta. In 421 he arranged the Peace of Nicias. When the expedition to Syracuse was urged by Alcibiades, Nicias tried to discourage it, but Athens nevertheless made him commander, along with Alcibiades and Lamachus. Alcibiades was soon recalled, and Lamachus died, leaving the expedition in Nicias's care. Nicias vacillated in his policies in the siege. When the Spartan Gylippus arrived, and only retreat from Syracuse was feasible, Nicias refused to allow a retreat until it was too late. The Athenian fleet and expedition were shortly overwhelmed by the Syracusans, and Nicias was captured in a hasty retreat on land and subsequently executed.
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