Pericles (l. 495–429 BCE) to be a prominent Greek statesman, orator, and also general throughout the golden age of Athens. The duration in which that led Athens, in fact, has been dubbed the age of Pericles due to his influence, not just on his city"s fortunes, yet on the totality of Greek history during the 5th century BCE and also even ~ his death.

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He was a fierce proponent that democracy, return the form this take it differed indigenous the contemporary day as just male citizens of Athens can participate in politics. Also so, his reforms would certainly lay the groundwork for the advancement of later democratic political systems.Pericles" name way "surrounded through glory" and he would certainly live as much as his name with his efforts to do Athens the best of the Greek city-states. His affect on Athenian society, politics, and society was so good that the historian Thucydides (l. 460/455 - 399/398 BCE), his contemporary and admirer, dubbed him "the first citizen that Athens" (History, II.65).


Pericles supported the arts, literature, & approach & gave cost-free reign to some of the most inspired writers, artists, & thinkers the his time.

Pericles promoted the arts, literature, and also philosophy and also gave complimentary rein to some of the most motivated writers, artists, and thinkers of his time. According to his contemporaries and later writers, he was encouraged and directed in this, and in other facets of his career, by his consort Aspasia that Miletus (l. C. 470-410/400 BCE) that seeems to have actually served together the muse to countless famous Athenians the the time.

The level of influence Aspasia had actually over Pericles continues to be debated however his success are well-established. Pericles increased Athens" power with his use of the Delian league to kind the Athenian empire and also led his city v the first Peloponnesian war (460-446 BCE) and also the an initial two years of the second Peloponnesian battle (431-404 BCE). He to be still actively engaged in politics life when he died during The afflict at Athens, 430-427 BCE, in 429 BCE.

Early Life & climb to Power

Pericles to be born in Athens, in 495 BCE, come an aristocratic family. His father, Xanthippus (l. C. 525-475 BCE) was a respected politician and war hero and his mother, Agariste, a member the the powerful and significant Alcmaeonidae household who encouraged the early breakthrough of Athenian democracy.

Pericles" family"s nobility, prestige, and also wealth permitted him to pursue his inclination toward education and learning in any kind of subject the fancied. He check out widely, showing an especial attention in philosophy, and also is well-known as the very first Athenian politician come attribute prominence to viewpoint as a practical technique which could aid guide and direct one"s thought and also actions quite than a mere speculative past-time or the profession of the Sophists.

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Athens Acropolis
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Pericles" beforehand years to be quiet and also the introverted young male took to preventing public appearances and also speeches, rather preferring to dedicate his time come his studies. Later on in life, this initial shyness would certainly encourage the claims of his detractors that his consort Aspasia the Miletus teach him how to speak and also wrote his speeches because that him because, they said, there to be no evidence of him learning oratory in his youth. It to be a grave insult to a guy of Athens, particularly a statesman, to case a woman was responsible for his effective career and also Pericles" political enemies would focus on this charge repeatedly.

Pericles was connected in politics currently in the at an early stage 460"s BCE however precisely when is unknown. He prosecuted a case against his political rival Cimon (l. C. 510 - 450 BCE) in 463 BCE charging the last with corruption in his dealings through Macedon. Cimon, boy of Miltiades (the hero of Marathon, l. C. 555 - 489 BCE), was acquitted but this may have actually been due more to his politics connections and also influence than any kind of failing ~ above Pericles" part to prosecute the case.

Cimon was the leader the the conservative party and an able armed forces commander who had fought at Salamis in 480 BCE as soon as the Greeks defeated the Persians. During the Persian intrusion of 480 BCE, Athens had rallied the various other city-states come defense and, afterwards, assumed a dominant position. The Delian League, a confederation that the city-states, was created in 478 BCE to carry out defense against further Persian aggression and Cimon was critical in persuading various city-states come join.

Years before Pericles gotten in politics, Cimon was already influential and also had done a an excellent deal of an excellent for the civilization of Athens and the various other city-states. People are fickle, however, and also Cimon"s success – despite they may have helped the in the instance of 463 BCE – would certainly not execute so a second time.

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Greek Warships

The conservative party supported the aristocratic political assembly the the areopagus if the autonomous faction in Athens motivated reforms in the renowned assembly known as ekklesia. The leader that the autonomous party was Ephialtes (5th century BCE) who was Pericles" mentor. Cimon had actually served as a diplomat between Athens and also Sparta a variety of times due to the fact that 478 BCE and, in 465 BCE, led the Athenian random of 4,000 soldiers to assist Sparta in putting down a rebellion through helots. Sparta insulted Athens by dismissing this sizeable pressure while welcoming the assist of other city-states. Athens responded by breaking your diplomatic ties v Sparta.

The reason for Sparta"s dismissal of the Athenian force is unknown however it has actually been suggested that Sparta did not trust Athens to remain loyal and also feared they would switch sides throughout the conflict. Beforehand accounts merely state the the Spartans walk not favor the watch of Cimon"s soldiers.

Whatever the reason was, in 461 BCE Pericles again fee Cimon v corruption – this time by explain he was aiding Spartan understanding – and succeeded in having his rival ostracized native the city because that ten years. Shortly later on in the exact same year, Ephialtes to be assassinated; these two events mark the start of Pericles" rise to power.


During the period of Pericles, Athens blossomed together a facility of education, art, culture, & democracy.

The first Peloponnesian War

The Delian League had actually existed for almost 20 years at this time and had significantly become more of an extension of Athenian power and also politics 보다 a Greek confederacy for common defense. City-states desired to simply pay Athens to protect them rather than send troops and also supplies because that the typical cause and also this penchant – i m sorry Athens welcomed - made the city rich and also powerful.

Historian Edith Hamilton elaborates:

Back in 480, ~ the final defeat the the Persians, the Athenians had actually been chosen to lead the brand-new confederacy of complimentary Greek states. It was a lofty post and they were proud to organize it, however the duty demanded a high degree of disinterestedness. Athens could be the leader the the cost-free only if she taken into consideration the welfare of others on the same level v her own. During the war through Persia she had been maybe to do that…As head of the league, too, for a time she had actually not let her strength corrupt her. But only for a quick time. The temptation to gain still more power confirmed as constantly irresistible. Very soon the free confederacy was being turned into the Athenian Empire. (117)

The first Peloponnesian battle was fought in between Athens and also Sparta for dominance although the actual dispute would mainly involve Athens and Corinth, an ally of Sparta. Greek was not a joined country right now but a confederacy the city-states bound together v “shared blood, shared language, shared religion, and shared customs” (Herodotus as cited in Boardman, 127). Certain city-states would align themselves through either Athens or Sparta, the two many powerful, relying on self-interest and this created the internet of partnerships which would form the opposing sides of the war.

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Delian League
Marsyas (CC BY-SA)

Sparta feared that Athens" farming power to be a threat yet could not hope to defeat the Athenian marine which had actually only come to be larger and an ext effective because the win at Salamis in 480 BCE. Corinth, however, had a fleet and also so did another ally, Aegina, i beg your pardon the Spartan coalition made use of. Although these alliances – as well as the helot revolt and the Spartan insult to Athens - are generally cited as the source of the conflict, Edith Hamilton increases on these claims:

The real cause of the war was no this or the trivial disturbance, the rebellion of a distant colony, the break of an unimportant treaty, or the like. It was something much beneath the surface, deep under in human nature, and the cause of all the wars ever fought. The motive strength was greed, that strange enthusiasm for power and also possession i m sorry no power and no possession satisfy. Power, or its identical wealth, developed the desire for more power, more wealth. The Athenians and the Spartans battled for one reason just – due to the fact that they were an effective and as such were compelled come seek much more power. (114)

Pericles, together commander-in-chief, led the Athenian forces in a variety of battles however neither side can gain a far-ranging advantage. A truce was lastly agreed to, orchestrated through Cimon, who returned from his exile in 451 BCE and also served as intermediary on Pericles" behalf. The truce enabled Pericles to focus his fist on various other areas. That issued his so-called conference Decree in 449 BCE inviting all the city-states to gather because that talks ~ above a merged country but when Sparta refused to attend, the to plan stalled. Hostilities were not resumed, however, and the an initial Peloponnesian battle concluded through a treaty which established boundaries to the reach of both Athens and Sparta.

Aspasia & the Funeral Oration

Throughout the war, Pericles was involved in various cultural initiatives in Athens which carried him right into regular contact with the leading pundits of the city. Amongst these to be the foreign-born writer and teacher Aspasia of Miletus and, in 445 BCE, he divorced his mam (name unknown) and also began (or continued) a romantic partnership with Aspasia. Aspasia"s talent together a writer, and also close association with Pericles, motivated his enemies to insurance claim she to be the author of his greatest speeches however it seems clear he had a gift for oratory from a young age, long prior to he met her, as shown in speeches such as the one which exiled Cimon.


The most famous of this speeches is his Funeral Oration, given at the conclusion of the very first Peloponnesian War. In this work, Pericles praises the soldiers who fell in battle, the courage of their Athenian ancestors, the families who sacrificed love ones because that the city, and also encourages survivors to respect the memory of the fallen. His primary focus, however, is the glory of Athens and how distinct it is amongst all the various other cities of the world. The speech, tape-recorded by Thucydides, highlights how Athenian democracy encourages an individual freedom and sets the city except the remainder as an example to all:

Our structure does not copy the laws of bordering states; us are rather a pattern to others 보다 imitators ourselves. Its management favours the countless instead of the few; this is why the is called a democracy. If we look come the laws, castle afford same justice to every in their private differences; if no social standing, development in windy life drops to reputation for capacity, class considerations not being allowed to interfere v merit; no one again does poor bar the way, if a male is may be to offer the state, he is no hindered by the obscurity the his condition. The freedom which we gain in our government extends likewise to our plain life. There, much from exercising a jealous monitoring over each other, we perform not feel called upon to be angry through our neighbor because that doing what the likes, or also to indulge in those injurious looks which cannot fail to it is in offensive, although they inflict no positive penalty. But all this situation in our private relations does not make us lawless as citizens. Against this fear is ours chief safeguard, teaching us to follow the magistrates and also the laws, specifically such together regard the protection of the injured, whether they room actually ~ above the statute book, or belong to that password which, although unwritten, yet cannot be damaged without acknowledged disgrace. (History, II.34-46)

Although definitely an idealized vision of Athens, Pericles" speech continues to resonate in that is advocacy for a cost-free and autonomous state and the benefits such a device offers. Throughout the work, he emphasizes how the city has been may be to attain its greatness v the freedom of thought and also expression the the people. Back democracy was occurring in Athens long prior to Pericles, his initiatives enabled it to flourish and, as it did, for this reason did Athenian culture.

Cultural Achievements

During the period of Pericles, Athens blossomed together a facility of education, art, culture, and democracy. Artists and also sculptors, playwrights and also poets, architects and also philosophers all discovered Athens an exciting and also enlivening atmosphere for their work. Athens under Pericles experienced the rebuilding and also expansion that the agora and also construction the the temples of the Acropolis including the glory of the Parthenon, started in 447 BCE. The artist Polygnotus (l. 5th century BCE) created his renowned works which were later on immortalized by the writer Pausanias (l. C. 110 - 180 CE).

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Playwrights Aeschylus (l. C. 525 - c. 456 BCE), Sophocles (l. C. 496 - c. 406 BCE), Euripides (l. C. 484 - 407 BCE), and Aristophanes (l. C. 460 - c. 380 BCE) - in short, every one of the good Greek authors for the phase - invented theater as it is now known during this period. Hippocrates (l. C. 460 - c. 370 BCE), who influenced the Hippocratic Oath tho taken by doctors today, practiced medicine at Athens if Herodotus (l. C. 484 - 425/413 BCE), the dad of History, traveled and also wrote his famous work.

Great sculptors like Phidias (l. C. 480 - c. 430 BCE), who developed the statue the Zeus in ~ Olympia (considered among the 7 Wonders the the old World), and also the statue the Athena Parthenos because that the Parthenon functioned at his craft and Myron (l. C. 480 - c. 440 BCE) the sculptor produced his masterpiece recognized as the Discus Thrower.

The an excellent philosophers Protagoras (l. C. 485 - c. 415 BCE) Zeno of Elea (l. C. 465 BCE), and also Anaxagoras (l. C. 500 - c. 428 BCE) to be all personal friends the Pericles. Anaxagoras, in fact, is said to have influenced Pericles" public demeanor and acceptance the fate, specifically after the death of Pericles" sons indigenous plague. Socrates (l. C. 470/469 - 399 BCE), the founder of western philosophy, likewise lived and also taught in Athens during this period and his college student – most notably Plato (l. 428/427 - 348/347 BCE) – would go top top to discovered their own philosophical colleges and adjust western believed forever.

The second Peloponnesian war & Death

The period of Pericles, however, could not critical any more than any kind of other in history. In ~ the start of 431 BCE Athens gotten in into the 2nd Peloponnesian War with Sparta i m sorry would end in Athens" defeat; but Pericles would not live to view the fall of his city. In his Funeral Oration, Pericles stated that, “Grief is felt no so much for the want of what we have actually never known as because that the lose of that to i m sorry we have actually been long accustomed” (History, II.43). The Athenians existing at the decided would absolutely have keenly felt this specific line in referral to those they had lost but, by the finish of the 2nd war with Sparta, his words would certainly no doubt have resonated even much more as Athens lost everything it had operated so difficult for.

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Soon after ~ the war began, the great leader who had directed the city through the first conflict died in 429 BCE; the afflict struck the city and Pericles was among its victims. Bereft the his leadership, the Athenians made mistake ~ mistake in their military decisions leading at some point to their defeat by the Spartans in 404 BCE, the destruction of their city"s walls, and their occupation and rule by Sparta.

In his History that the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides renders clear what a catastrophe Pericles" death was for Athens in the those who came ~ him preferred to be popular rather than reliable and, in therefore doing, doomed the city to ruin:

The reason strong in both repute and intellect and was conspicuously incorruptible, organized the masses top top a light rein, and led them rather than allow them lead him. This was because he go not need to adapt what he said in order to you re welcome his hearers, in an effort to acquire power by wrong means, but his standing allowed him even to speak versus them and also provoke their anger. Whenever he experienced that they were arrogant and also undeservedly confident, he would certainly speak to strike terror right into them; and when he witnessed them unreasonably afraid he would restore their confidence when more. The an outcome was in theory democracy but in fact rule by the very first man. (II. 64-65)

His successors never lived as much as Pericles" right leadership and also Athens endured accordingly. Back Thucydides admired and also supported Pericles, there is no reason to conclude the his cases are merely a kind of bias. Background bears the end Thucydides" check out in that, v the death of Pericles, Athens fell into an intellectual, cultural, and also spiritual darkness i beg your pardon the Athenians would struggle with end the next 30 years, culminating in the execution that Socrates in 399 BCE.

Although Pericles has been criticized as a “populist” who appealed come the baser instincts of the people, and also a war-monger who encouraged both wars v Sparta, he fairly obviously to be able to produce an atmosphere of flexibility of thought and also expression which caused some of the biggest contributions to world culture ever made.

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The duration of Greek history in which that lived and also reigned is rightly well-known as the period of Pericles due to the fact that his initiatives enabled that era to flourish. Even at war, Pericles to be able to preserve the social stability vital for art, literature, and also philosophy to flourish and also the works of this age continue to influence and inspire people around the civilization in the current day.