When the rivalry between Athens and Sparta renewed itself at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War in 431, thinking at the time pointed to an inevitable Spartan victory. In the past, hoplite warfare had dominated Greek military thinking and thus Sparta which possessed a far superior number of hoplites should have been destined to win the war. What the Spartans failed to understand was that Pericles and Athenians did not intend to wage a "traditional" war. They were planning new strategy, a defensive war which limited the Spartan military strength and used their naval superiority to harass the Peloponnese. (Buckley 1996:331) Pericles foretold that Athens would be victorious if she bided her time and took care of her navy. (Thucydides 2.65) .
Following the death of Pericles a number of different citizens rose to prominence in Athens policy making with regard to the war. While there were many notable figures throughout the course of the Peloponnesian War, "no major figure in Athenian history was so colourful or so unconventional as Alcibiades." (Westlake 1968:212) Alcibiades was blessed with birth, wealth and prestige. He was personally ambitious and according to Plutarch wanted to gain the upper hand over his rivals. He was a born politician who sought to advance his own position as exhibited by his betrayal of Athens and Sparta at different stages in the war.
During the Peace of Nicias, Alcibiades was an active advocate for a strengthening of Athens relations with Argos in an attempt to weaken Sparta. He wished to achieve greater recognition and thus when the opportunity to expand the Athenian empire arose in 415, he was the most vocal supporter of the Sicily campaign. (Thuc. 6. 16-18) After the fleets departure Alcibiades political enemies engineered his recall to stand trial. Buckley states that in hindsight, Thucydides believed that "Alcibiades recall and condemnation was the crucial factor in the defeat of the Sicilian expedition.