'Alcibiades' is a sweeping epic about the eponymous diplomat, general, Olympic champion and ‘most beautiful man in Athens’, who uses schemes and plots to bluff his way through the Peloponnesian War. This novel sheds light on the daring democratic experiment that took place two and a half millennia ago, while also serving as a cautionary tale about the destructive power of populism. Classicist and author Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer has utilised his erudition and knowledge of Classical literature and culture to paint a picture of the Greek politician, strategist and general Alcibiades in all his complexity.

Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer
Original title

Alcibiades (ca. 450-404 BCE) lived during turbulent times when the city-states of Athens and Sparta were at war. He grew up as a member of the privileged elite in Athens. At a young age he grew influential within the democratic assembly that met on the Pnyx. As the resident consul for Sparta he forged important diplomatic relationships.

After several minor triumphs on the battlefield, Alcibiades became convinced that he had to expand the Greek empire westward. He’d barely set off to conquer Sicily when a smear campaign against him was launched in Athens. He was convicted and sentenced to death. This is just the first of a series of narrow escapes, glorious triumphs and painful defeats, in the process of which he ventures into the depths of Persia.

Pfeijffer portrays his protagonist as a cunning strategist with a knack for getting out of trouble. This book is an adventure novel as well as an apologia written by Alcibiades at the end of his life to defend himself against the accusations of treason and abuse of power. In everything he did, he argues, his ultimate goal was to restore Athenian democracy to its former glory. Pfeijffer leaves it up to the reader to decide how trustworthy and noble Alcibiades’ intentions actually are. But his concerns about the well-being of democracy in the face of threats from populist politicians are sure to resonate with contemporary European readers.

‘The most ambitious historical novel to appear in the Dutch-speaking world to date.’


‘Pfeijffer immerses readers in a world so vivid and rich in detail that it is wholly convincing.’

De Groene Amsterdammer
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer (b. 1968) has published poetry, stage plays, essays, columns, travelogues, stories, political satires and nine novels.
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