Pericles (l. 495–429 BCE) to be a significant Greek statesman, orator, and general throughout the golden e of Athens. The period 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, but on the entirety of Greek history during the 5th century BCE and even ~ his death.

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He to be a fierce proponent the democracy, return the form this took differed indigenous the modern-day day as only male citizens of Athens could participate in politics. Even so, his reforms would certainly lay the groundwork for the breakthrough of later democratic political systems.Pericles" name way "surrounded by glory" and he would live approximately his name with his initiatives to make Athens the greatest of the Greek city-states. His affect on Athenian society, politics, and culture was so good that the historian Thucydides (l. 460/455 - 399/398 BCE), his modern and admirer, dubbed him "the very first citizen of Athens" (History, II.65).

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Pericles promoted the arts, literature, & approach & gave free reign to some of the most motivated writers, artists, & thinkers of his time.

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

The level of influence Aspasia had actually over Pericles proceeds to it is in debated but his accomplishments are well-established. Pericles increased Athens" power through his usage of the Delian organization to form the Athenian empire and led his city with the very first Peloponnesian battle (460-446 BCE) and also the an initial two years of the 2nd Peloponnesian war (431-404 BCE). He was still proactively engaged in political life once he passed away during The pester at Athens, 430-427 BCE, in 429 BCE.

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Early Life & increase to Power

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

Pericles" family"s nobility, prestige, and also wealth allowed him to pursue his inclination toward education and learning in any type of subject he fancied. He read widely, reflecting an especial attention in philosophy, and is well-known as the first Athenian politician come attribute prominence to ideology as a practical technique which could assist guide and direct one"s thought and actions rather 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" early years were quiet and also the introverted young guy took to staying clear of public appearances and speeches, rather preferring to dedicate his time come his studies. Later on in life, this early shyness would encourage the cases of his detractors the his consort Aspasia the Miletus teach him exactly how to speak and wrote his speeches for him because, they said, there to be no evidence of him learning oratory in his youth. It was a grave insult to a guy of Athens, particularly a statesman, to claim a mrs was responsible for his successful career and Pericles" political opponents would focus on this fee repeatedly.

Pericles was affiliated in politics already in the beforehand 460"s BCE but precisely when is unknown. The prosecuted a case versus his political competitor Cimon (l. C. 510 - 450 BCE) in 463 BCE charging the last with corruption in his dealings through Macedon. Cimon, kid of Miltiades (the hero of Marathon, l. C. 555 - 489 BCE), to be acquitted but this may have been due more to his political connections and also influence than any kind of failing on Pericles" part to prosecute the case.

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Cimon to be the leader of the conservative party and an able army commander who had dealt with at Salamis in 480 BCE once the Greeks defeated the Persians. During the Persian intrusion of 480 BCE, Athens had actually rallied the various other city-states to defense and, afterwards, assumed a dominant position. The Delian League, a confederation of the city-states, was developed in 478 BCE to carry out defense versus further Persian aggression and Cimon was critical in persuading various city-states come join.

Years before Pericles entered politics, Cimon was already influential and also had excellent a good deal of good for the human being of Athens and also the other city-states. People are fickle, however, and also Cimon"s achievements – though they may have actually helped the in the instance of 463 BCE – would certainly not carry out so a 2nd time.


Greek Warships

The conservative party sustained the aristocratic political assembly of the areopagus when the autonomous faction in Athens urged reforms in the famous assembly well-known as ekklesia. The leader of the democratic party to be Ephialtes (5th century BCE) who was Pericles" mentor. Cimon had actually served as a diplomat in between Athens and Sparta a variety of times since 478 BCE and, in 465 BCE, led the Athenian arbitrarily of 4,000 soldiers to aid Sparta in putting down a rebellion by helots. Sparta insulted Athens by dismissing this sizeable pressure while welcoming the aid of other city-states. Athens comment by breaking your diplomatic ties v Sparta.

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The factor for Sparta"s dismissal the the Athenian pressure is unknown however it has been suggested that Sparta did not trust Athens to stay loyal and also feared they would certainly switch sides throughout the conflict. Early on accounts merely state that the Spartans did not prefer the watch of Cimon"s soldiers.

Whatever the factor was, in 461 BCE Pericles again fee Cimon v corruption – this time by claiming he to be aiding Spartan interests – and also succeeded in having actually his competitor ostracized native the city for ten years. Shortly after that in the same year, Ephialtes to be assassinated; this two occasions mark the start of Pericles" increase to power.

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

The an initial Peloponnesian War

The Delian League had existed for almost two decades at this time and had significantly become more of an expansion of Athenian power and politics than a Greek confederacy for mutual defense. City-states desired to simply pay Athens to protect them quite than send troops and also supplies for the common cause and this penchant – which Athens invited - made the city rich and powerful.

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Historian Edith Hamilton elaborates:

Back in 480, after the last defeat the the Persians, the Athenians had been favored to command the brand-new confederacy of totally free Greek states. It to be a lofty post and also they were proud to organize it, however the duty demanded a high degree of disinterestedness. Athens might be the leader of the complimentary only if she taken into consideration the welfare of others on the very same level v her own. Throughout the war v Persia she had been able to carry out that…As head that the league, too, for a time she had actually not let her strength corrupt her. But only because that a quick time. The temptation to gain still an ext power verified as constantly irresistible. Really soon the complimentary confederacy to be being turned right into the Athenian Empire. (117)

The an initial Peloponnesian war was fought between Athens and Sparta for prominence although the actual problem would mostly involve Athens and Corinth, an allied of Sparta. Greece was no a joined country right now but a confederacy that city-states tied together with “shared blood, common language, shared religion, and also shared customs” (Herodotus together cited in Boardman, 127). Specific city-states would certainly align themselves v either Athens or Sparta, the two most powerful, depending upon self-interest and also this developed the net of alliances which would kind the opposing sides of the war.


Delian League
Marsyas (CC BY-SA)

Sparta feared that Athens" growing power was a threat yet could not hope to loss the Athenian marine which had only come to be larger and an ext effective because the success at Salamis in 480 BCE. Corinth, however, had actually a fleet and also so did an additional ally, Aegina, i m sorry the Spartan coalition made use of. Return these alliances – and the helot revolt and the Spartan humiliation to Athens - are generally cited together the source of the conflict, Edith Hamilton increases on these claims:

The real reason of the war was no this or the trivial disturbance, the revolt of a remote colony, the break of an not important treaty, or the like. It was something far beneath the surface, deep under in human being nature, and the cause of every 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, produced the desire for more power, much more wealth. The Athenians and also the Spartans combated for one reason just – because they were powerful and as such were compelled come seek an ext power. (114)

Pericles, as commander-in-chief, led the Athenian pressures in a number of battles but neither side could gain a significant advantage. A truce was lastly agreed to, orchestrated by Cimon, who returned from his exile in 451 BCE and also served as intermediary top top 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 every the city-states to gather for talks ~ above a unified country but when Sparta refused to attend, the plan stalled. Hostilities were no resumed, however, and the very first Peloponnesian war concluded v a treaty which established limits to the with of both Athens and Sparta.

Aspasia & the Funeral Oration

Throughout the war, Pericles was engaged in various social initiatives in Athens which carried him into regular call with the leading pundits of the city. Amongst these was the foreign-born writer and also teacher Aspasia of Miletus and, in 445 BCE, he divorced his mam (name unknown) and began (or continued) a romantic partnership with Aspasia. Aspasia"s talent together a writer, and also close association with Pericles, encouraged his adversaries to case she was the author of his biggest speeches yet it seems clear he had actually a gift for oratory native a young age, long before he met her, as evidenced in speeches such as the one i beg your pardon exiled Cimon.

The most well known of this speeches is his Funeral Oration, offered at the conclusion the the very first Peloponnesian War. In this work, Pericles praises the soldiers who fell in battle, the courage of your Athenian ancestors, the households who sacrificed love ones because that the city, and encourages survivors to honor the storage of the fallen. His primary focus, however, is the glory the Athens and also how unique it is amongst all the other cities of the world. The speech, tape-recorded by Thucydides, highlights just how Athenian democracy encourages personal freedom and also sets the city apart from the rest as an instance to all:

Our structure does no copy the regulations of neighboring states; we are fairly a sample to others than imitators ourselves. Its management favours the many instead of the few; this is why it is called a democracy. If we look come the laws, castle afford same justice to every in their personal differences; if no society standing, advancement in windy life falls to reputation for capacity, course considerations not being allowed to interfere with merit; no one again does poverty bar the way, if a male is maybe to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition. The flexibility which we reap in our government extends additionally to our ordinary life. There, much from working out a jealous security over every other, we execute not feel dubbed upon to it is in angry with our neighbor for doing what he likes, or even to indulge in those injurious look at which can not fail to it is in offensive, although lock inflict no hopeful penalty. Yet all this instance in our private relations does not make us lawless together citizens. Versus this are afraid is our chief safeguard, teaching united state to follow the magistrates and the laws, specifically such together regard the protection of the injured, even if it is they room actually ~ above the state book, or belong to that password which, return unwritten, however cannot be damaged without identified disgrace. (History, II.34-46)

Although absolutely an idealized vision that Athens, Pericles" speech proceeds to resonate in that is advocacy for a free and autonomous state and the services such a system offers. Throughout the work, the emphasizes how the city has actually been maybe to achieve its greatness with the liberty of thought and also expression that the people. Although democracy was developing in Athens long before Pericles, his initiatives allowed it to thrive and, together it did, so did Athenian culture.

Cultural Achievements

During the period of Pericles, Athens blossomed as a center of education, art, culture, and also democracy. Artists and sculptors, playwrights and also poets, architects and also philosophers all discovered Athens one exciting and enlivening setting for your work. Athens under Pericles saw the rebuilding and expansion that the agora and construction the the holy places of the Acropolis consisting of the glory that the Parthenon, begun in 447 BCE. The artist Polygnotus (l. Fifth century BCE) developed his famed works i beg your pardon were later immortalized by the writer Pausanias (l. C. 110 - 180 CE).


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, all of the an excellent Greek authors for the phase - developed theater together it is currently known throughout this period. Hippocrates (l. C. 460 - c. 370 BCE), who inspired the Hippocratic Oath still taken by physicians today, practiced medicine at Athens when Herodotus (l. C. 484 - 425/413 BCE), the father of History, traveled and also wrote his famous work.

Great sculptors choose Phidias (l. C. 480 - c. 430 BCE), who created the statue that Zeus in ~ Olympia (considered one of the seven Wonders of the ancient World), and the statue of Athena Parthenos because that the Parthenon worked at his craft and also Myron (l. C. 480 - c. 440 BCE) the sculptor produced his masterpiece well-known as the Discus Thrower.

The good 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 of Pericles. Anaxagoras, in fact, is stated to have influenced Pericles" public demeanor and also acceptance of fate, specifically after the fatality of Pericles" sons from plague. Socrates (l. C. 470/469 - 399 BCE), the founder of west philosophy, additionally lived and also taught in Athens during this duration and his students – many notably Plato (l. 428/427 - 348/347 BCE) – would go ~ above to found their very own philosophical colleges and readjust western assumed forever.

The second Peloponnesian war & Death

The age of Pericles, however, could not last any much more than any other in history. At the start of 431 BCE Athens gone into into the 2nd Peloponnesian War v Sparta which would end in Athens" defeat; but Pericles would not live to see the fall of his city. In his Funeral Oration, Pericles claimed that, “Grief is felt not so much for the desire of what we have never recognized as because that the loss of the to i m sorry we have been long accustomed” (History, II.43). The Athenians existing at the speech would absolutely have keenly felt this details line in referral to those they had lost but, by the finish of the second war v Sparta, his words would certainly no doubt have resonated even more as Athens lost everything it had operated so hard for.


Soon after ~ the battle began, the great leader who had directed the city through the very first conflict passed away in 429 BCE; the torment struck the city and also Pericles was amongst its victims. Bereft the his leadership, the Athenians made mistake after ~ mistake in their army decisions leading ultimately to their defeat by the Spartans in 404 BCE, the damage of your city"s walls, and their occupation and rule by Sparta.

In his History that the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides renders clear what a disaster Pericles" death was because that Athens in that those that came after him wanted to be well-known rather than efficient and, in for this reason doing, doomed the city to ruin:

The factor strong in both repute and intellect and also was conspicuously incorruptible, hosted the masses ~ above a irradiate rein, and also led them quite than let them lead him. This was since he go not need to adapt what he claimed in bespeak to you re welcome his hearers, in an attempt to acquire power by not correct means, but his standing permitted him also to speak against them and also provoke your anger. At any time he witnessed that they to be arrogant and also undeservedly confident, he would speak come strike terror into them; and also when he observed them unreasonably afraid he would gain back their confidence when more. The an outcome was in theory democracy but in fact dominance by the first man. (II. 64-65)

His successors never lived as much as Pericles" appropriate leadership and Athens suffered accordingly. Although Thucydides admired and supported Pericles, there is no reason to conclude that his cases are just a form of bias. Background bears the end Thucydides" check out in that, v the fatality of Pericles, Athens dropped into an intellectual, cultural, and also spiritual darkness i beg your pardon the Athenians would battle with end the next 30 years, culminating in the execution that Socrates in 399 BCE.

Although Pericles has been criticized together a “populist” who appealed come the baser instincts the the people, and also a war-monger who encouraged both wars v Sparta, he rather obviously to be able to develop an environment of freedom of thought and also expression which brought about some that the best contributions come world society ever made.

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The duration of Greek background in which that lived and also reigned is rightly well-known as the period of Pericles due to the fact that his initiatives permitted that era to flourish. Also at war, Pericles was able to preserve the social stability important for art, literature, and philosophy come flourish and also the works of this age proceed to influence and inspire people approximately the human being in the present day.