Pericles Syllabus 1
• Historical context
1a Geography, topography and resources of
Athens, Attica and the Athenian empire
• 1b Overview of the development of Athenian
• 1c Overview of Athenian social, religious and
economic structures
Pericles Syllabus 2
2 Background and rise to prominence
• 2a Family background and education
• 2b Early political career to 460 BC
Pericles Syllabus 3
3 Career
3a Democratic reforms and policies
3b Military career
3c Building program
3d Roles as general (strategos) and politician
3e Methods of maintaining leadership and influence
3f Promotion of Athenian imperialism
3g Role and influence in the development of Athens, the ‘Golden Age’
3h Relationships with prominent individuals: Aspasia, Ephialtes, Pheidias
3i Role in the Peloponnesian War (431 BC): causes, strategies and
• 3j Manner and impact of his death
Pericles Syllabus 4
4 Evaluation
4a Impact and influence on his time
4b Assessment of his life and career
4c Legacy
4d Ancient and modern images and
interpretations of Pericles.
• From his family and other connections
• Athenians EXPECTED Pericles to be
• Unique
• Out of the Ordinary
• Special
• He was from the equivalent of royalty in
democratic Athens –”Germanicus”? “Kennedy”?
• “The scion of 2 noble families” (Kagan)
• “With this family background Pericles was well
equipped for public office” (Lawless)
• “Born into a position that many in Athenian
political life would envy” (Lawless)
Pericles Rise to prominence :
Family background
Early political success
Military career
Pericles Political Career begins
Political Vacuum in Athens because:
• Aristides (The Just) was dead
• Themistocles in exile
• Cimon absent on campaigns
Family Background and Education
- Born 490 BC
- Tribe: Acamantis
- Deme: Cholargus
- ‘he was descended on both sides from the noblest
lineage in Athens’ (Plutarch)
- Father: Xanthippus belonged to a prominent political
family and was a rising politician who defeated the
at Mycale while serving as strategos, 479
- Mother: Agariste was a member of the famous
Alcmaeonid family, long involved in the political
history of Athens
- Cleisthenes was Pericles’ great uncle
The Persian Invasions
Greece 490 and 480-470 BC
- Greeks were victorious over the stronger Persian
forces- led to patriotism
- Athenians played a prominent part in the successable to capitalise on this spirit via the astuteness of
political leaders such as Themistocles and Aristides
- Delian League, 478- all the island states who wanted
protection from Persia- allowed Athenians to assume a
political and diplomatic role in the Aegean
-Young Pericles had to evacuate Athens in the wake of the
Persian invasion- politically active family- biased opinion
regarding the greatness of Athens
- Athenian success= possibility of imperial exploitation and
a means of ensuring a political career
- Post war- Athens and its popular politicians became too
preoccupied with the great military matters of the day to
concentrate on further Democratic reform
Pericles’ father Xanthippus
-despite key role as STRATEGOS
alongside Miltiades( OSTRACISED )
- liberator of(an Ionian polis in Asia
Minor) Sestos
Affect on Pericles
• At time of Pericles father Xanthippus’
ostracism in 484 BC
• Pericles was about 10 years old
• He saw need for political influence
His father’s ostracism made Pericles
wary of overexposure to the public.
This lesson was critical in his rise to
• Family connections
• ( From phil= lover of )
-to stop anyone becoming a Tyrant
-exile for 10 years from Athens
-family and property safe
-minimum of 6,000 votes required
-could be recalled in emergencies
-otherwise return=death
Aristides “The Just” ostracon
Pericles training
Traditional Athenian education
• Of the mind –knowledge and intellect
• Of the arts – poetry and music
• Body- physical education
Development of Democracy
(508-433BC) Uncle Cleisthenesenlisted the support of the masses by promising to give
them political power.
His reforms created ten new tribal divisions in which all
citizens were redistributed based upon where they
lived, not on family connections as previously.
This was designed to break up the political power of
the aristocrats.
Increased the power of the Ecclesia (Assembly) and the
Heliaea (Courts)
Ephialtes 468-67BC
• Under him the Areopagus (Old Oligarchic Council) lost
power to punish magistrates for misconduct, the power
to supervise the administration of the state, the duty of
seeming that the laws were obeyed, and the right to
investigate the lives of private citizens.
• These powers were transferred to the Boule,(New Council
of 500) the Ecclesia ( Assembly or the voters ) and the
• Leaving the Areopagus with only its powers of jurisdiction
over cases of intentional homicide and the supervision of
religious ceremonies.
• Ephialtes was assassinated in 462-61, Pericles succeeded
Aristides (530?-467? BC)
• introduced in 487 a decree to the Ecclesia
whereby five hundred candidates from those
citizens ‘eligible’ were elected, fifty from each
tribe, as candidates for selection by lot for the
archon’s positions.
• He also increased the number of citizens ‘eligible’
for the archonship and increased the power of
the Ecclesia, reducing the power of the
• He introduced Ostracism and increased the
‘Council of 400’ to 500.
• Pericles attached himself to the People’s Party and took up the
cause of the poor and many (rather than the rich and few)
despite his aristocratic background
• Afraid of being suspected of aiming at a dictatorship because he
continually took the office of strategos- recognised that Cimon
supported and was admired by the aristocratic party- began to
ingratiate (suck up to) himself with the people as a way of securing
power against his rival and preserving his ambitions of leadership.
• He had many opponents but they were never able to match the
admiration and awe the common people held for
484-469 BC
• saw the rise and fall of the most famous names in Athenian
political history, e.g. Themistocles, Aristides and Cimon• their political activities and ideas would have affected
Pericles’ political outlook, without their reforms Pericles
would not have been able to build up the Empire.
• - “he was shy as a young man. The fact that he was rich and
that he came of a distinguished family and
possessed exceedingly powerful friends made the fear of
ostracism very real to him, and at the beginning he took
no part in politics but devoted himself to soldiering, in
which he showed great daring and enterprise.- (Plutarch)
• he served with Cimon and the Delian League fleet
- Educated by the several of the most influential and
controversial thinkers of the age
- Damon – music, poetry etc.
- probably due to him that Pericles entered Politics as a radical
- ostracised for being an intriguer and supporter of tyranny
- Zeno - lessons in rhetoric: the study of debating and arguing
- Anaxagoras- taught him dignity of spirit and a nobility of
utterance … also a composure of countenance.
- Under his guidance, Pericles learnt to rise above the orators
who deliberately said what the crowd wanted to hear in order
to win popularity
- Learned to rise above the common fear of the supernatural
- Traditional education- training in rhetoric, oratory and
philosophy, recital of epic poems as well as appreciation of
music and gymnastics.
Pericles Tutors 1
• “Hiding his true talents under the veil of
music” (Plutarch)
• Used music to teach Pericles about Athenian
Pericles Tutors 2
• Taught him the political skill
of Counter Questioning
• Invaluable skill in Oratory
• Traps opponent through questioning
Pericles Tutors 3
• Taught him a cautious manner ,built upon his
experience of ostracism (Plutarch)
• Scientist and philosopher, accused by Pericles’
enemies for “dangerous (scientific) ideas”
• Also influenced Euripides
Pericles Tutors 3
• An alien (non Athenian ) resident (for over 30 years)
• Taught Pericles to “rise above the desire to be merely
• Shaped his innovative democratic ideas
( Longman )
• Taught him grace and humility (Kagan)
• Taught him the value of rational thought and
explaining phenomena
Pericles political reforms
• Radicalised democracy
• Opening it to the influence of the lower
• Payment for Jury service
• Rotation of magistracies etc
• Mass participation in governing
Paid jurors
Paid Jury Service
• From Aristophanes’ play “The Wasps” we
learn that jurors were paid 3 obols a day
Pericles constant fear
• He very closely resembled physically the
tyrant Peisistratus
• He too was from a rich family background and
had powerful friends
• The majority of the people in Athens were
from the lower classes
• Anyone who was thought to be getting too
dangerous could be ostracised
Athenians remembered the tyrant
Athenian Social Classes
the 500 Bushel men were the richest
then the Knights ,
then Zeugitae .
The working class
or Thetes were a large
majority in Athens
Social classes
• Metics were foreigners and not allowed
citizenship ,although their children could
become citizens if born in Athens
• Slaves had no citizenship or rights
Pericles 1st Public Act
• As Choregos ,he produced a play by Aeschylus called “The
Persians” which celebrated their victory over Xerxes in 480 BC
• This was massively popular in
• Wealthy citizen’s public
political duty=Increased chance of election
due to public recognition
• Could not FAIL with a topic as popular as
the Persian War !!!
Pericles Military Career
• As an ephebe ( young soldier )
• Under Cimon v Dolopian Pirates
• Battle of Eurymedon River 466BC
v Persians
Although Pericles viewed the
maintaining of Athenian naval
empire to be essential, in his
position as leader of Athens, his
capability is unmistakable due to his
contribution in lcompleting
democracy and building program
Pericles 1st Speech
• On the subjugation of (rebelling Delian League
member) Naxos
• Popular topic with the ordinary people
Role as a Strategos and Politician
• Strategos
· The office of strategos was seen as the key political position at this
· 10 generals elected annually- one from each tribe
· commanded military and naval expeditions
· could conduct preliminary negotiations with foreign states
· could convene the Ecclesia and give advice
· responsible to the Ecclesia and could only act under its
· subject to public scrutiny- could be brought to trial, fined or
- Pericles was fined and removed from office in 431 the people
blamed him for persuading them to undertake the
Peloponnesian War
· Pericles was elected 16 times, 15 times in a row
Pericles’ roles as general (strategos)
and politician
• The government of Athens in the time of Pericles is usually regarded as
the best example of direct demokratia (democracy).
The word demokratia comes from a combination of two Greek words;
demos (people) and kratein (to rule).
Demokratia therefore means government by the people.
• Pericles was first and foremost an Athenian citizen. He was a member of
the upper classes but had the same rights and privileges as every other
Athenian citizen.
• This meant he could vote and stand for election to any of the magistracies
in Athens.
• (Aristotle, a Greek fourth century philosopher who wrote “The Athenian
Constitution”, claims there were 700 magistracies.) He could also
participate in the Heliaea (people’s court) or Boule (council) if selected by
lot and in the Ecclesia (assembly).
Pericles Oratory Skills
• He could convince the people of anything
Cimon’s Big Gamble
• He wanted Athens to help Sparta after a
terrible earthquake in Laconia
• He put his whole prestige on the line to
persuade the Athenian Demos (people) to
vote for this goodwill aid
Different Foreign Policy options
• Cimon Pro Sparta
Pericles Pro Athens
Cimon favoured Sparta
• The 2 most important Greek states
• Remember the success of Persian war alliance
• He genuinely admired the Spartans
• He named one of his sons
Lacedaemonius (Spartan name)
The 464 BC Athenian relief expedition
• After the earthquake the Spartans were afraid
that the democratic Athenians might trigger a
large scale helot (slave) revolt
The 4,000 Athenians
were sent home
Cimon was disgraced
Athens turns against Sparta
• While the Athenians were sent home other cities
expeditions were allowed to stay
• Sparta thought the Athenians might join forces
with the rebelling helots
• Athens was hugely insulted
• This meant that anti-Spartan feeling grew in
Athens. Cimon was disgraced
• Some helots fled to Athens and were resettled at
Naupactus, to the annoyance of Sparta
Role of strategos
• The magistracy that Pericles did stand for was that of
strategos. This had become the main political position in
at this time.
• Like all the magistrates, the strategos had to undergo public
scrutiny. This meant he could be brought to trial or fined if
the Athenians suspected him of any wrong doing in relation
to his work.
• In 431-30 BC Pericles was fined and removed
from office because Athenian citizens were upset about the
hardships they had to face during those first two years of
the Peloponnesian War.
“Through his constant re-election
he obviously fulfilled the wishes of
majority” (Salmon)
Democracy = an indicator of a forward society
Good Governing
• “When Pericles was at the head of affairs the
state was wisely led and firmly guarded”
( Thucydides )
• Pericles remained out of public life in private
matters ,focussing his rise purely on political
( Clare)
Thucydides Quotes
Even though Pericles was an Athenian citizen who held his position
constitutionally, Thucydides still wrote:
“So, in what was nominally a democracy, power was really in the hands of the first
(Thucydides 2, 65)
Earlier in the same passage Thucydides wrote:
“The reason for this was that Pericles, because of his position, his intelligence, and
his known integrity, could respect the liberty of the people and at the same time
hold them in check. It was he who led them, rather than they who led him........”
(Thucydides 2. 65)
Under Pericles the Athenian government became more democratic than it had
been previously.
Pericles’ importance to Athens in summed up by Thucydides:
“ was under him that Athens’ was at her greatest”
(Thucydides 2. 65)
The speeches of Pericles were not written down and preserved.
However, Thucydides in his history of the Peloponnesian War provides some
idea of Pericles' power as an orator.
•The Funeral Oration that he has Pericles deliver in honour of the dead
during the first year of the Peloponnesian War is especially noble:
•"Of all cities Athens alone is even greater than her fame."
•“She needs no poet to sing her praises; every land and every sea can furnish
proofs of her enterprise and success.
•Her enemies when defeated are not disgraced; her subjects confess that she is
worthy to rule them."
•Of Athens' dead he says: "To men who fall as they have fallen death is no evil."
For the whole Earth is the Sepulchre of famous men; and their story is not graven
only on Stone over their native earth, but lives on far away, without visible symbol,
woven into the stuff of other men's lives.
Pericles on the eve of war. "Nor is it any longer possible for you to give up this
empire . . . Your empire is now like a tyranny: it may have been wrong to take it; it is
certainly dangerous to let it go."
But the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before
them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it. -Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War
Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.
Future ages will wonder at us, as the present age wonders at us now.
If Athens shall appear great to you, consider then that her glories were purchased
by valiant men, and by men who learned their duty.
•Instead of looking on discussion as a stumbling block in the way of action, we
think it an indispensable preliminary to any wise action at all.
•Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics
won't take an interest in you.
•Make up your mind that happiness depends on being free, and freedom
depends on being courageous.
•Time is the king of all men, he is their parent and their grave, and gives them
what he will and not what they crave.
•Wait for that wisest of all counsellors, Time.
Bury and Meiggs
“Pericles brought to fulfilment the
sovereignty of the people”
And this mildly negative quote :
He originated little ,however
completed the work of others
Citizenship Restriction
• “It was now in the interest of every Athenian
that there should be as few citizens as
possible to participate in the new privileges of
citizenship” (Bury and Meiggs)
Problems with Athenian Democracy
• the exclusion of women from public life
• Athenian reliance on slavery, including the
abuse of those slaves
• The cruel treatment of other Greek
• Rebelling states were sometimes settled by
Athenian poor settlers in Cleruchies
Problems with Cleruchies (colonies)
• Riotous disruptive element
removed from Athens
• Chance for disadvantaged
and landless poor at a new
start in life
• Maintained Athenian
control of rebelling islands
• Locals resented loss of their
• Locals resent Athenian
• Locals disrupted by wild
new settlers
Pericles’ Aspasia
Other Greek Women
• She was a foreigner ,from Miletus
and therefore not a citizen
• She sharply divided public
opinion about Pericles
• enemies of Pericles were
enraged that she was a hetaera
(high class courtesan)
• He left his wife and 2 sons and
lived with Aspasia
• She was attractive and intelligent,
the centre of attention at
Pericles’ table
• Other Athenian women were
not included in dinner party
• They believed she was a
prostitute and corrupt,
running a brothel
• She was his mistress until 445
BC when he divorced his 1st
• Their son Pericles Jnr would
not have been eligible for
citizenship under his own
restrictive laws
Enemies of Aspasia
• She was taken to court and accused of
impiety-Pericles got her off
• She was accused of starting an unpopular war
with Samos, an enemy of Miletus (her home)
by influencing Pericles
• The kidnap of 2 of Aspasia’s prostitutes by
rogue Megarians was said to have resulted in
the Megarian Decree which started the
Peloponnesian War
• PRACTICAL – Repair destruction of Persian
War –Athens sacked twice by Persians
• SACRED-to thank the gods especially the
patron Athene
• AESTHETIC-to glorify his city
• MANPOWER- to provide employment for
many tradesmen workers artisans etc
The Periclean building program
•Most of the major temples were rebuilt under the
leadership of Pericles during the Golden Age of Athens
(460–430 BC).
•Phidias, a great Athenian sculptor, and Ictinus and
Callicrates, two famous architects, were responsible
for the reconstruction.
•During the 5th century BC, the Acropolis gained its
final shape.
•After winning at Eurymedon in 468 BC, Cimon and
Themistocles ordered the reconstruction of southern
and northern walls, and Pericles entrusted the building
of the Parthenon to Ictinus and Phidias.
•Monumental gates with columns of
Pentelic marble, partly built upon the
old Propylaea of Pisistratus.
•These colonnades were almost
finished in the year 432 BC and had
two wings, the northern one serving
as picture gallery.
Temple of Athene Nike
• Begun in 432 BC
• Finished 421 BC
• Goddess of Victory especially against
Statue of Athene Promachos
• Phidias' gigantic bronze
statue of ("she who fights in
the front line"), built
between 450 BC and 448
• The base was 1.50 m high,
while the total height of the
statue was 9 m.
• The goddess held a lance
whose gilt tip could be seen
as a reflection by crews on
ships rounding Cape
Sounion, and a giant shield
on the left side.
The Parthenon
Pericles entrusted the building of the
Parthenon to Ictinus and Phidias.
Expression of the confidence of the
Athenians in this newly naked imperialism.
• When work began on the
Parthenon in 447 BC, the
Athenian Empire was at the
height of its power.
• Work on the temple continued
until 432; the Parthenon, then,
represents the tangible and
visible flowering of Athenian
imperial power, unencumbered
by the depredations of the
Peloponnesian War.
• Likewise, it symbolizes the power
and influence of the Athenian
politician, Pericles, who
championed its construction.
The Long Walls
Reconstruction drawing
Early days
The "Long Walls" were built after
Xerxes' invasion of Greece (480-479);
their construction was proposed by
the actual building started in 461,
when Athens was at war with Sparta
(the First Peloponnesian War). The
proposal to execute the old plan was
made by Cimon.
The western wall connected the
southwest of Athens with its port
Piraeus and was about six kilometres
long; the eastern wall continued from
the south of the city to another port,
Phaleron, which was about 5½
kilometres away.
The Long Walls
Pericles contribution
Between the two walls, a large
triangle of land could be used for
agriculture. The walls were finished
in 457, although later, Pericles took
the initiative for doubling the
western wall (445-443).
The upper walls were made from
sun-dried bricks. There were towers
at regular intervals.
The Long Walls enabled Athens to
survive any siege. As long as it was
connected to its ports and controlled
the sea, no enemy could capture the
During the Peloponnesian War (431404), the Athenians simply evacuated
the countryside, left it to the
Spartans, and lived in Athens itself,
which could receive supplies from
across the sea.
• For Persian War – add HERODOTUS
• For Delian League
Peloponnesian War –add THUCYDIDES
• ANYTIME –add Plutarch
-add Pamela Bradley
How to mix in your Sultanas
“as described by......
“as recorded by......
“according to....
“as mentioned by .....
The Athenian economy
•thriving and bustling commercial
centre of Hellas
•Very busy port at Piraeus
•Contributions from Delian league
•Silver and gold from Mt Laurion mines
•All of Greece came to Athens to trade
Pericles Death
“ the course of
events soon
brought home
the worth of Pericles to Athens and made them sharply
conscious of his loss” (Plutarch)
The Death of Pericles was the end of an epoch
Ostracised Leaders
488/7 Hipparchus, son of Charmus
487/6 Megacles, son of Hippocrates
486/5 Callias "the Mede"
485/4 Xanthippus, son of Ariphron, father of Pericles
484/3 Callixenus, son of Aristonymus
483/2 Aristides "the Just"
472/1 Themistocles (year uncertain)
462/1 Cimon, son of Miltiades
461/0 Alcibiades, son of Cleinias
444/3 Thucydides, son of Milesias
416/5 Hyperbolus, son Antiphanes
Pericles was a giant compared to his
contemporaries and successors
The fact that Pericles was
• = a tragic flaw in Athenian democracy?
• = “dud” leaders afterwards
• Athens Golden Age till 431 BC
• The Destruction of Athens after the
Peloponnesian War 404BC
However the result of the
Peloponnesian War as a consequence
of his actions mar his ability to stand
as a successful leader
Pericles Prominence
• “that few would be able to beat”
Golden Age of Athens
•Athens glowed her brightest in the 30
years of Pericles leadership
•Our city is an education for Greece
(Thucydides )