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

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He was a fierce proponent of democracy, return the kind 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 because that the development of later autonomous political systems.Pericles" name method "surrounded by glory" and he would certainly live approximately his name with his initiatives to make Athens the biggest of the Greek city-states. His affect on Athenian society, politics, and culture was so great that the historian Thucydides (l. 460/455 - 399/398 BCE), his contemporary and admirer, referred to as him "the an initial citizen the Athens" (History, II.65).

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Pericles advocated the arts, literature, & philosophy & gave free reign to few of the most inspired writers, artists, & thinkers that his time.

Pericles promoted the arts, literature, and philosophy and gave cost-free rein to some of the most influenced writers, artists, and thinkers of his time. According to his contemporaries and later writers, he was encouraged and also directed in this, and in other elements of his career, through his consort Aspasia of Miletus (l. C. 470-410/400 BCE) who seeems to have served as the muse to many famous Athenians of the time.

The degree of influence Aspasia had actually over Pericles continues to be debated yet his accomplishments are well-established. Pericles increased Athens" power v his usage of the Delian organization to type the Athenian empire and led his city through the very first Peloponnesian battle (460-446 BCE) and also the an initial two year of the 2nd Peloponnesian battle (431-404 BCE). He to be still actively engaged in politics life when he passed away during The plague at Athens, 430-427 BCE, in 429 BCE.

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Early Life & increase to Power

Pericles to be 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 his mother, Agariste, a member that the powerful and significant Alcmaeonidae household who encouraged the early advance of Athenian democracy.

Pericles" family"s nobility, prestige, and also wealth enabled him to go after his inclination toward education in any type of subject the fancied. He read widely, mirroring an especial interest in philosophy, and also is well-known as the very first Athenian politician to attribute prominence to ideology as a practical self-control which could help guide and direct one"s thought and actions fairly 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 on years to be quiet and the introverted young male took to avoiding public appearances and speeches, rather preferring to dedicate his time to his studies. Later on in life, this early shyness would certainly encourage the claims of his detractors that his consort Aspasia that Miletus teach him just how to speak and also wrote his speeches because that him because, they said, there was no evidence of him finding out oratory in his youth. It to be a grave humiliation to a male of Athens, specifically a statesman, to claim a mrs was responsible for his successful career and Pericles" political enemies would emphasis on this fee repeatedly.

Pericles was connected in politics currently in the early 460"s BCE yet precisely as soon as is unknown. The prosecuted a case against his political rival Cimon (l. C. 510 - 450 BCE) in 463 BCE charging the latter with corruption in his dealings v Macedon. Cimon, kid of Miltiades (the hero the Marathon, l. C. 555 - 489 BCE), was acquitted however this may have actually been due much more to his politics connections and also influence than any failing on Pericles" part to prosecute the case.

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Cimon was the leader the the conservative party and an able army commander who had dealt with at Salamis in 480 BCE when the Greeks defeated the Persians. Throughout the Persian intrusion of 480 BCE, Athens had rallied the various other city-states to defense and, afterwards, suspect a dominant position. The Delian League, a confederation the the city-states, was formed in 478 BCE to provide defense against further Persian aggression and also Cimon was critical in persuading assorted city-states come join.

Years before Pericles entered politics, Cimon was currently influential and also had done a good deal of an excellent for the civilization of Athens and the various other city-states. People are fickle, however, and also Cimon"s accomplishments – despite they may have helped him in the situation of 463 BCE – would certainly not execute so a 2nd time.


Greek Warships

The conservative party supported the aristocratic politics assembly that the areopagus if the democratic faction in Athens urged reforms in the well-known assembly recognized as ekklesia. The leader of the autonomous party was Ephialtes (5th century BCE) that was Pericles" mentor. Cimon had served together a diplomat between Athens and Sparta a variety of times since 478 BCE and, in 465 BCE, led the Athenian random of 4,000 soldiers to aid Sparta in putting down a rebellion through helots. Sparta insulted Athens by dismissing this sizeable force while welcoming the aid of various other city-states. Athens comment by breaking your diplomatic ties through Sparta.

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The reason for Sparta"s dismissal the the Athenian pressure is unknown but it has been said that Sparta did not trust Athens to continue to be loyal and also feared they would certainly switch sides during the conflict. Early accounts merely state that the Spartans did not choose the look at of Cimon"s soldiers.

Whatever the reason was, in 461 BCE Pericles again charged Cimon with corruption – this time by explain he was aiding Spartan understanding – and succeeded in having his competitor ostracized from the city because that ten years. Shortly later on in the exact same year, Ephialtes to be assassinated; this two occasions mark the beginning of Pericles" climb to power.

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

The an initial Peloponnesian War

The Delian League had actually existed because that almost 20 years at this time and had significantly become more of an extension of Athenian power and politics than a Greek confederacy for shared defense. City-states preferred to merely pay Athens to defend them fairly than send troops and also supplies because that the typical cause and also this penchant – i beg your pardon Athens welcomed - make the city rich and also powerful.

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Historian Edith Hamilton elaborates:

Back in 480, after ~ the final defeat that the Persians, the Athenians had actually been liked to command the brand-new confederacy of free Greek states. It was a lofty post and they to be proud to host it, but the role demanded a high degree of disinterestedness. Athens could be the leader of the complimentary only if she taken into consideration the welfare of rather on the very same level through her own. During the war with Persia she had been may be to perform that…As head the the league, too, because that a time she had not let her power corrupt her. But only for a quick time. The temptation to gain still more power proved as always irresistible. Very soon the cost-free confederacy to be being turned into the Athenian Empire. (117)

The very first Peloponnesian war was fought between Athens and also Sparta for prominence although the actual conflict would generally involve Athens and also Corinth, an ally of Sparta. Greece was no a joined country at this time but a confederacy the city-states bound together through “shared blood, mutual language, mutual religion, and shared customs” (Herodotus as cited in Boardman, 127). Particular city-states would align themselves through either Athens or Sparta, the two most powerful, depending upon self-interest and also this created the internet of alliances which would kind the opposing political parties of the war.


Delian League
Marsyas (CC BY-SA)

Sparta feared the Athens" cultivation power to be a threat yet could not hope to defeat the Athenian navy which had actually only end up being larger and more effective since the success 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 usage of. Although these alliances – as well as the helot revolt and also the Spartan insult to Athens - are typically cited together the resource of the conflict, Edith Hamilton increases on this claims:

The real cause of the battle was not this or the trivial disturbance, the rebellion of a remote colony, the break of an not important treaty, or the like. It was something much beneath the surface, deep down in person nature, and also the reason of every the wars ever before fought. The motive power was greed, that strange passion for power and also possession i m sorry no power and also no possession satisfy. Power, or its indistinguishable wealth, developed the desire for an ext power, much more wealth. The Athenians and the Spartans battled for one reason just – due to the fact that they were powerful and thus were compelled come seek an ext power. (114)

Pericles, together commander-in-chief, led the Athenian forces in a number of battles but neither side could gain a far-ranging advantage. A truce was ultimately agreed to, orchestrated through Cimon, who returned from his exile in 451 BCE and served together intermediary ~ above Pericles" behalf. The truce allowed Pericles to focus his attention on various other areas. The issued his so-called congress Decree in 449 BCE inviting every the city-states come gather because that talks on a linked country yet when Sparta refuse to attend, the plan stalled. Hostilities were not resumed, however, and also the an initial Peloponnesian battle concluded with a treaty which established borders to the reach of both Athens and also Sparta.

Aspasia & the Funeral Oration

Throughout the war, Pericles was engaged in various cultural initiatives in Athens which brought him into regular contact with the leading pundits of the city. Among these to be the foreign-born writer and also teacher Aspasia the Miletus and, in 445 BCE, he divorced his wife (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 opponents to claim she to be the author of his best speeches but it appears clear he had a gift for oratory indigenous a young age, long before he met her, as confirmed in speeches such together the one which exiled Cimon.

The most well known of these speeches is his Funeral Oration, offered at the conclusion of the an initial Peloponnesian War. In this work, Pericles praises the soldiers who fell in battle, the bravery of your Athenian ancestors, the families who sacrificed love ones because that the city, and encourages survivors to respect the memory of the fallen. His primary focus, however, is the glory that Athens and how distinct it is amongst all the various other cities the the world. The speech, taped by Thucydides, highlights exactly how Athenian democracy encourages personal freedom and also sets the city except the remainder as an example to all:

Our constitution does no copy the legislations of bordering states; we are rather a pattern to others 보다 imitators ourselves. Its management favours the many instead that the few; this is why that is referred to as a democracy. If we look come the laws, they afford same justice to all in their private differences; if no society standing, advance in windy life drops to call for capacity, course considerations no being permitted to interfere with merit; nor again does poor bar the way, if a guy is able to offer the state, that is not hindered by the obscurity that his condition. The liberty which we gain in our federal government extends likewise to our ordinary life. There, far from exercising a jealous monitoring over every other, we execute not feel dubbed upon to it is in angry v our neighbor because that doing what he likes, or even to indulge in those injurious look at which cannot fail to be offensive, although castle inflict no positive penalty. Yet all this situation in our personal relations does no make us lawless together citizens. Against this fear is our chief safeguard, teaching us to follow the magistrates and the laws, specifically such as regard the protection of the injured, whether they are actually on the state book, or belong to that code which, although unwritten, however cannot be damaged without identified disgrace. (History, II.34-46)

Although certainly an idealized vision the Athens, Pericles" speech continues to resonate in its advocacy because that a cost-free and democratic state and also the benefits such a mechanism offers. Transparent the work, the emphasizes exactly how the city has been may be to attain its greatness through the freedom of thought and expression the the people. Although democracy was occurring in Athens long prior to Pericles, his initiatives allowed it to prosper and, together it did, therefore did Athenian culture.

Cultural Achievements

During the period of Pericles, Athens blossomed together a facility of education, art, culture, and democracy. Artists and sculptors, playwrights and also poets, architects and also philosophers all found Athens one exciting and enlivening environment for your work. Athens under Pericles witnessed the rebuilding and expansion that the agora and construction the the temples of the Acropolis including the glory of the Parthenon, begun in 447 BCE. The artist Polygnotus (l. 5th century BCE) produced his renowned works i beg your pardon were later on 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 also Aristophanes (l. C. 460 - c. 380 BCE) - in short, all of the great Greek writers for the stage - created 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 medication at Athens if Herodotus (l. C. 484 - 425/413 BCE), the father of History, traveled and wrote his famous work.

Great sculptors choose Phidias (l. C. 480 - c. 430 BCE), who created the statue of Zeus in ~ Olympia (considered among the 7 Wonders of the ancient World), and the statue that Athena Parthenos for the Parthenon worked at his craft and Myron (l. C. 480 - c. 440 BCE) the sculptor created his masterpiece well-known as the Discus Thrower.

The good philosophers Protagoras (l. C. 485 - c. 415 BCE) Zeno that Elea (l. C. 465 BCE), and Anaxagoras (l. C. 500 - c. 428 BCE) to be all an individual friends of Pericles. Anaxagoras, in fact, is claimed to have actually influenced Pericles" public demeanor and also acceptance of fate, especially after the death of Pericles" sons indigenous plague. Socrates (l. C. 470/469 - 399 BCE), the founder of western philosophy, likewise lived and taught in Athens throughout this duration and his student – many notably Plato (l. 428/427 - 348/347 BCE) – would certainly go top top to discovered their very own philosophical colleges and readjust western assumed forever.

The 2nd Peloponnesian battle & Death

The age of Pericles, however, can not critical any an ext than any kind of other in history. At the beginning of 431 BCE Athens entered into the second Peloponnesian War with Sparta i beg your pardon would end in Athens" defeat; but Pericles would not live to see the autumn of his city. In his Funeral Oration, Pericles claimed that, “Grief is felt not so much for the want of what we have never known as because that the ns of that to i m sorry we have been lengthy accustomed” (History, II.43). The Athenians current at the speech would definitely have keenly feeling this specific line in referral to those they had lost but, by the finish of the second war through Sparta, his words would certainly no doubt have actually resonated even much more as Athens lost every little thing it had functioned so hard for.


Soon after ~ the war began, the great leader who had directed the city with the first conflict died in 429 BCE; the torment struck the city and Pericles was amongst its victims. Bereft the his leadership, the Athenians make mistake ~ mistake in their armed forces decisions leading at some point to your defeat by the Spartans in 404 BCE, the devastation of your city"s walls, and also their occupation and rule through Sparta.

In his History that the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides provides clear what a disaster Pericles" death was for Athens in that those who came ~ him desired to be popular rather than effective and, in for this reason doing, doomed the city to ruin:

The reason strong in both repute and intellect and also was conspicuously incorruptible, hosted the masses on a irradiate rein, and also led them quite than let them command him. This was since he go not need to adapt what he stated in bespeak to please his hearers, in an effort to get power by improper means, yet his standing enabled him even to speak versus them and also provoke your anger. Anytime he witnessed that they were arrogant and undeservedly confident, he would speak to strike terror right into them; and when he observed them unreasonably afraid he would regain their confidence when more. The result was in concept democracy but in fact preeminence by the an initial man. (II. 64-65)

His successors never lived up to Pericles" right leadership and also Athens endured accordingly. Return Thucydides admired and also supported Pericles, over there is no reason to conclude the his insurance claims are merely a kind of bias. History bears out Thucydides" view in that, v the fatality of Pericles, Athens dropped into an intellectual, cultural, and also spiritual darkness i m sorry the Athenians would struggle with over the following 30 years, finishing in the execution the Socrates in 399 BCE.

Although Pericles has been criticized as a “populist” that appealed to the baser instincts of the people, and a war-monger who encouraged both wars through Sparta, he fairly obviously to be able to create an environment of liberty of thought and expression which brought about some of the greatest contributions to world culture ever made.

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The period of Greek background in which that lived and reigned is rightly known as the period of Pericles because his initiatives enabled that era come flourish. Even at war, Pericles to be able to keep the society stability vital for art, literature, and also philosophy come flourish and the functions of this age proceed to influence and inspire people around the world in the present day.