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The expedition was hampered from the outset by uncertainty in its purpose and command structure—political maneuvering in Athens swelled a lightweight force of twenty ships into a massive armada, and the expedition's primary proponent, Alcibiades, was recalled from command to stand trial before the fleet even reached Sicily. Syracuse, the most powerful state in Sicily, responded exceptionally slowly to the Athenian threat and, as a result, was almost completely invested before the arrival of back up in the form of Spartan general, Gylippus, who galvanized its inhabitants into action.From that point forward, however, as the Athenians ceded the initiative to their newly energized opponents, the tide of the conflict shifted.Athens managed to recover remarkably well from the expedition materially, with the principle issue being the loss of manpower rather than the loss of ships.To small Sicilian cities, Athens was a potential counter to the powerful city of Syracuse, which was strong enough to potentially dominate the island.

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Thucydides observed that contemporary Greeks were shocked not that Athens eventually fell after the defeat, but rather that it fought on for as long as it did, so devastating were the losses suffered.In 416, however, a second Sicilian conflict provided the invitation Athens had sought in 422.The city of Segesta—an Athenian ally in the 420s—went to war against Selinus and, after losing an initial battle, sent to Athens for help.Five days after that first debate, a second assembly was held to arrange the logistics of the expedition.There, Nicias attempted to persuade the assembly to overturn its previous decision regarding whether to send an expedition at all.

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