NICIAS was the leader of the aristocratic party at Athens and one of the foremost figures in Athenian history during the Peloponnesian War. Although he opposed the democratic tendencies which gave the tone to Attic politics at this time, his high character for piety and honesty, combined with his wealth and influence, gained the confidence of the people, and raised him to the highest offices in their gift. His abilities were not equal to the duties he was called on to perform, and in the severe trial of the Sicilian expedition his conduct showed such timidity in critical situations, such wavering in the general plans of warfare, such obstinacy in details where piety or superstition were concerned, that the disastrous end of the siege of Syracuse must be mainly laid to his charge. It is unnecessary here to write his life, a task which would be almost equivalent to writing the history of Athens for a number of years. See GREECE, vol. xi. p. 102.