1902 Encyclopedia > Pericles

Athenian statesman
(c. 490-429 BC)

PERICLES, a great Athenian statesman, and one of the most remarkable men of antiquity, was the son of Xanthippus, who commanded the Greeks at the battle of Mycale in 479 B.C. By his mother Agariste, niece of Clisthenes, who reformed the democracy at Athens after the expulsion of the Pisistratidae, he was connected both with the old princely line of Sicyon and with the great but unfortunate house of the Alcmaeonidae.1 The date of his birth in unknown, but his youth must have fallen in the stirring times of the great Persian war. From his friendship with the poet Anacreon, his father would seem to have been a man of taste, and as he stood in relations of hospitality to the Spartan kings his house was no doubt a political as well as literary centre. Pericles received the best education which the age could supply. For masters he had Pythoclides and the distinguished musician Damon, who infused into his music lessons a tincture of philosophy, whereby he incurred the suspicions of the vulgar, and received the honour of octracism 2. Pericles listened also to the subtle dialectics of the Eleatic Zeno. But the man who swayed him most deeply and permanently was the philosopher Anaxagoras. The influence of the speculative genius and dignified and gentle character of the philosopher who resigned his property that he might turn his thoughts more steadily to heaven, which he called his home, and who begged as his last honour that the school-children might have a holiday on the day he died, can be traced alike in the intellectual breadth and the elevated moral tone of the pupil, in his superiority to vulgar superstitions, and in the unruffled serenity which he preserved throughout the storms of political life. It was probably the grand manner of Pericles even more than his eloquence that won him the surname of Olympian Zeus.4 In his youth he distinguished himself in the field, but eschewed politics, fearing, it is said, the suspicions which might be excited in the populace not only by his wealth, high birth, and powerful friends, but by the striking resemblance to the tyrant Pisistratus which old men traced in his personal appearance, musical voice, and flowing speech. But, when the banishment of Themistocles5 and the death of Aristides had somewhat cleared the political stage, Pericles came forward as the champion of the democratic or progressive party in opposition to Cimon, the leader of the aristocratic or conservative party. The two leaders differed hardly less than their policies. Both indeed were men of aristocratic birth and temper, honourable, brave, and generous, faithful and laborious in the service of Athens. But Cimon was a true sailor, blunt, jovial, freehanded, who sang a capital song, and was always equally ready to drink or fight to whose artless mind (he was innocent of even a smattering of letters 6) the barrack-room life of the barbarous Spartans seemed the type of human perfectibility, and whose simple programme was summed up in the maxim "fight the Persians." Naturally the new ideas of political progress and intellectual development had no place in his honest head; naturally he was a sturdy supporter of the good old times of which, to the popular mind, he was the best embodiment. Pericles, grave, studious, reserved, was himself penetrated by those ideas of progress and culture which he undertook to convert into political and social realities; philosophy was his recreation; during the whole course of his political career he never accepted but once an invitation to dinner, and he was never to be seen walking except between his house and the popular assembly and senate-house. He husbanded his patrimony and regulated his domestic affairs with rigid economy that he might escape both the temptation and suspicion of enriching himself at the public expense.

The steps by which he rose to the commanding position which he occupied in later life cannot be traced with certainty. According to Plutarch, Pericles, whose fortune did not allow him to imitate the profuse hospitality by which Cimon endeared himself to the people, sought to outbid him by a lavish distribution of the public moneys among the proper classes; this device was suggested to him by Damonides, says Plutarch on the authority of Aristotle. We may doubt the motive alleged by Plutarch, but we cannot d oubt the fact that Pericles did extend, if not originated, the practice of distributing large sums among the citizens either as gratuities or as payment; for services rendered,—a practice which afterwards attained most mischievous proportions. According to Plato (Gorgias, 515 E), it was a common saying that Pericles, by the system of payments which he introduced, has corrupted the Athenians, rendering them idle, cowardly, talkative, and avaricious. It was Pericles who introduced the payment of jurymen, and, as there were 6000 of them told off annually for duty, of whom a great part sat daily, the disbursement from the treasury was great, while the poor and idle were encouraged to live at the public expense. But the payment for attendance on the public assembly or parliament (of which all citizens of mature age were members), though probably suggested by the payment of the jurymen, was not introduced by Pericles, and indeed does not seem to have existed during his lifetime.7 It was he who instituted the payment of the citizens for military service,8—a measure but for which the Athenians would probably not have prolonged the Peloponnesian War as they did, and in particular would not have been so ready to embark on the fatal Sicilian expedition. There was more justification, perhaps, for the practice, originated by Pericles, of supplying the poorer citizens from the public treasury with the price of admission to the theatre. For in an age when the study of the poets formed a chief element of education, and when the great dramas of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides were being put on the stage in all their freshness, such a measure may almost be regarded as a state provision for the education of the citizens. It was part of the policy of Pericles at once to educate and delight the people by numerous and splendid festivals, processions, and shows. But the good was mixed with seeds of evil, which took root and spread, till, in the days of Demosthenes, the money which should have been spent in fighting the enemies of Athens was squandered in spectacles and pageants. The Spectacular Fund or Theorikon has been called the cancer of Athens. Vast sums were further spent by Pericles in adorning the city with those buildings which even in their ruins are the wonder of the world. Amongst these were the Parthenon, or Temple of the Virgin (Athene), and the Erechtheum, both on the Acropolis, the former completed in 438,1 the latter left unfinished at Pericles’s death; the magnificent Propylea or vestibule to the Acropolis, built 437-432; and the Oldeum or music-hall, on the south-eastern slope of the Acropolis, completed before 444. The musical contests instituted by Pericles, and for which he himself laid down the rules and acted as judge, took place in the Odeum. Many artists and architects were entrusted with the execution of these great works, but under the direction of the master-mind of Phidias, sculptor, architect, painter,—the Michelangelo of antiquity. But Pericles fortified as well as beautified Athens. It had been the policy of Themistocles to make her primarily a naval and commercial power, and to do so he strengthened the marine, and gave to the city as far as possible the advantages of an insular situation by means of fortification, which rendered both it and its port (the Piraeus) impregnable on the land side. By thus basing the Athenian state on commerce instead of, like Salon, on agriculture,2 he at the same time transferred the political predominance to the democratic or progressive party, which is as naturally recruited from a commercial as a conservative or aristocratic party is from an agricultural population. This policy was fully accepted and carried out by Pericles. It was in his time and probably by his advice that the Long Walls were built, which, connecting Athens with Piraeus, converted the capital and its seaport into one vast fortress.3 Further in order to train the Athenians in seamanship, he kept a fleet of sixty ships at sea eight months out of every year. The expenses entailed by these great schemes were chiefly defrayed by the annual tribute, which the confederates of Athens originally furnished for the purpose of waging war against Persia, but which Athens, as head of the league, subsequently applied to her own purposes. If, as seems probable, the transference of the treasury of the league from Delos to Athens, which sealed the conversion of the Athenian headship into an empire, took place between 460 and 454, the step was probably suggested or supported by Pericles, and at all events he managed the fund after its transference.4/ But, though the diversion of the fund from its original purpose probably did not begin with Pericles, yet, once established, he maintained it unwaveringly. The Athenians, he held, fulfilled the trust committed to them by defending their allies against all comers, and the tribute (increased during his administration from 460 to 600 talents annually) was their wages, which it was their right and privilege to expend in works which by employment labour and stimulating commerce were a present benefit, and by their beauty would be "a joy for ever." That Athens ruled by force, that her empire was in fact a tyranny, he fully admitted, but he justified that tyranny by the high and glorious ends which it subserved.5

The rise of Pericles to power, though it cannot be followed step by step, has an obvious and sufficient explanation in his combined wisdom and eloquence. Plato traces his eloquence largely to the influence of Anaxagoras; intercourse with that philosopher (he says) filled the mind of Pericles with lofty speculations and a true conception of the nature of intelligence, and hence his oratory possessed the intellectual grandeur and artistic finish characteristic of the highest eloquence (Phaedrus, 270 A). The range and compass of his rhetoric were wonderful, extending from the most winning persuasion to the most overwhelming denunciation. The comic poets of the day, in general very unfriendly to him, speak with admiration of his oratory" "greatest of Grecian tongues," says Cratinus’ "persuasion sat on his lips, such was his charm," and "he alone of the orators left his sting in his hearers," says Eupolis; "he lightened, he thundered," says Aristophanes. His speeches were prepared with conscientious care; before rising to speak he used to pray that no appropriate word might fall from his lips.6 He left no written speeches,7 but the few sayings of his which have come down to us reveal a passionate imagination such as breathes in the fragments of Sappho. Thus, in speaking of those who had died in war, he said that the youth had perished from the city like the spring from the year.8 He called the hostile island of Aegina "the eye-sore of the Piraeus," and declared that he saw war "lowering from Peloponnesus." Three of his speeches have been reported by Thucydides, who may have heard them, but, though their substance may be correctly recorded, in passing through the medium of the historian’s dispassionate mind they have been shorn of the orator’s imaginative glow, and in their cold iron logic are hardily to be distinguished from the other speeches in Thucydides. An exception to this is the speech which Thucydides reports as having been delivered by Pericles over the slain in the first year of the Peloponnesian War. This speech stands quite apart from others; and as well in particular touches (e.g., the saying that "the grave of great men is the world") as in its whole tenor we catch the ring of a great orator, such as Thucydides with all his genius was not. It is probably a fairly close report of the speech actually delivered by Pericles.

The first public appearance of Pericles of which we have record probably fell about 463. When Cimon, on his return from the expedition to Thasos, was tried on the utterly improbable charge of having been bribed by the Macedonian king to betray the interests of Athens, Pericles was appointed by the people to assist in conducting the prosecution; but, more perhaps from a conviction of the innocence of the accused than, as was said, in compliance with the entreaties of Cimon’s sister Elpinice, he did not press the charge, and Cimon was acquitted. Not long afterwards Pericles struck a blow at the conservative party by attacking the Areopagus, a council composed of life-members who had worthily discharged the duties of archon. The nature of the functions of the Areopagus at this period is but little known; it seems to have had a general supervision over the magistrates, the popular assembly, and the citizens, and to have exercised this supervision in an eminently conservative spirit. It sat also as a court for the trial of certain crimes, especially murder. Pericles seems to have deprived it of nearly all its functions, except its jurisdiction in cases of murder.1 The poet Aeschylus composed his Eumenides in vindication of the ancient privileges of the Areopagus. Though Pericles was the real author of the attack on the Areopagus, the measure was nominally carried by Aphialtes. It was, indeed, part of Pericles’s policy to keep in the background, and to act as far as possible through agents, reserving himself for great occasions. Ephialtes, a friend of Pericles, and a patriot of inflexible integrity, paid dearly for the distinction; he fell by the had of an assassin employed by the oligarchical party,—an event the more striking from the rarity of political assassinations in Greek history. The popular party seems to have immediately followed up its victory over the Areopagus by procuring the ostracism of Cimon,2 which strengthened the hands of Pericles by removing his most influential opponent (461). Pericles took par in the battle of Tanagra (457) and bore himself with desperate bravery. After the battle Cimon was recalled from banishment, and it was Pericles who proposed and carried the decree for his recall. In 454 Pericles led an Athenian squadron from the port of Pegae on the Corinthian Gulf, landed at Sicyon, and defeated the inhabitants who ventured to oppose him; then, taking with him a body of Achaeans, he crossed to Acarnania, and besieged the town of Aeniadae, but had to return home without capturing it. Not long afterwards3 Pericles conducted a successful expedition to the Thracian Chersonese, where he not only strengthened the Greek cities by the addition of 1000 Athenian colonists, but also protected them against the incursions of the barbarians by fortifying the isthmus from sea to sea. This was only one of Pericles’s many measures for extending and strengthening the naval empire of Athens. Colonies were established by him at various times in Naxon, Andros, Oreus in Euboea (in 446), Brea in Macedonia (about 443), and Aegina (in 431). They served the double purpose of establishing the Athenian power in distant parts and of relieving the pressure of population at Athens by providing the poorer citizens with lands. Somewhat different were the famous colonies established under Pericles’s influence at Thurii in Italy, on the site of the ancient Sybaris (in 443), and at Amphipolis on the Strymon (in 437), for, though planted under the conduct of Athens, they were not exclusively Athenian colonies, other Greeks being allowed, and even invited, to take part in them. This was especially true of Thurii, which was in a manner a national Greek colony, and never stood in a relation of subjection to Athens. On one occasion (some time apparently between 454 and 449)4 Pericles sailed at the head of a splendid armament to the Black Sea, where he helped and encouraged the Greek cities and overawed the barbarians. At Sinope he left a force of ships and men under the gallant Lamachus, to co-operate with the inhabitants against the tyrant Timesileus, and on the expulsion of the tyrant and his party he carried a decree for the dispatch of 600 Athenian colonists to Sinope, to occupy the lands vacated by the exiles. But, wit the sober wisdom which characterized him, Pericles never allowed his plans to exceed the bounds of the possible; he was no political dreamer like Alcibiades, to be dazzled with the vision of a universal Athenain empire in Greece, Italy, and Africa, such as floated before the minds of many in that and the following generations.5 The disastrous expedition which the Athenians sent to Egypt, to support the rebel Inarus against Persia (460-455), received no countenance from Pericles.

When Cimon died in 449 the aristocratical party sought to counterbalance the power of Pericles by putting forward Thucydides, son of Melesias, as the new head of the party. He seems to have been an honest patriot, but, as the event proved, he was no match for Pericles. The Sacred War in 448 showed once more that Pericles knew how to defend the interests of Athens. The Phocians, under the protection of Athens, had wrested the control of the Delphic oracle from their enemies the Delphians. The latter were friendly to Sparta, and accordingly the Spartans marched into Phocis and restored the oracle to the Delphians. Athenian force placed the oracle once more in the hands of the Phocians. As the seat of the great oracle, Delphi was to ancient Greece much what Rome was to mediaeval Europe, and the friendship of the god, or of his priests, was to small political advantage. When the Athenians dispatched a small force under Tolmides to crush a rising in Boeotia, they did so in spite of the warnings of Pericles. These warning were soon justified by the unfortunate battle of Coronea (447), which deprived Athens at a blow of the continental dominion she had acquired at a blow of the continental dominion she had acquired a few years before by the battle fo Aenophyta (456). The island of Euboea now revolted from Athens, and hardly had PEricles crossed over with an army to reduce it when word came that the Megarians had massacred the Athenian garrison, and, in league with Corinth, Sicycon, and Epidaurus, were up in arms, while a Peloponnesian army under King Plistoanax was on the point of invading Attica. Pericles recrossed in haste to Attica. The Peloponnesians returned home, having advanced no rather than Eleusis and Thria. It was said that Pericles had bribed Cleandridas; certain it is that both Cleandridas and Plistoanax were charged at Sparta with having misconducted the expedition and were found guilty, having saved Attica, Pericles returned to Euboea, reduced it to subjection, expelled the Histiaenas, and settled the Athenian colony of Oreus (446) on their lands. The thirty years’ peace, concluded soon afterwards (445) with Sparta, was probably in large measure the work of Pericles. The Athenians had evacuated Boeotia immediately after the battle of Coronea, and by the terms of the peace they now renounce their other continental possessions, - Achae, Troezen, Nisaa, and Paga. The peace left Pericles at liberty to develop his schemes forpromoting the internal welfare of Athens, and for making it the centre of the intellectual and artistic life of Greece. But first he had to settle accounts with his political rival Thucydides; the struggle was soon decided by the ostracism of the latter in 444. Thenceforward to the end of his life Pericles guided the destinies of Athens alone; in the words of the historian Thucydides, the government was in name a democracy, but in fact it was the rule of the first citizen. The unparallel ascendancy which he wielded so long over the fickle people is one of the best proofs of his extraordinary genius. He owed it entirely to his personal character, and he used it for the wisest and purest purposes. He was neither a vulgar demagogue to truckle to the passions and caprices of the mob, nor a vulgar despot to cow it by a hireling soldiery; he was a citizen among citizens, who obeyed him because they trusted him, because they knew that in his lands the honour and interests of Athens were safe. The period during which he ruled Athens was the happiest and greatest in her history, as it was one of the greatest ages of the world. Other ages have had their bright particular stars; the age of Pericles is the Milky Way of great men. In his lifetime there lived and worked at Athens the poets Aeschylus, Sophocles, Europides, Cratinus, Crates, the philosophers Anaxagoras, Zeno, Protagnotus, and the sculptors Myron and Phidias. Contemporary with these, though not resident at Athens, were Herodotus, the father of history; Hippocrates, the father of medicine; Pindar, "the Theban eagle"; the sculptor Polyclitus; and the philosophers Empedocles and Democritus, the latter joint author with Leucippus of the atomic theory. When Pericles died other stars were rising or soon to rise above the horizon,—the historians Thucydides and Xenophon, the poets Eupolis and Aristophanes, the orators Lysias and Isocrates, and the gifted but unscrupulous Alcibiades. Plato was born shortly before or after the death of Pericles. Of this brilliant circle Pericles was the centre. His generous and richly-endowed nature responded to all that was beautiful and noble not only in literature and art but in life, and it is with justice that the age of Pericles has received its name from the man in whom, more than in any other, all the various lines of Greek culture met and were harmonized. In this perfect harmony and completeness of nature, and in the classic calm which was the fruit of it, Pericles is the type of the ideal spirit, not of his own age only, but of antiquity.

It seems to have been shortly after the ostracism of Thucydides that Pericles conceived the plan of summoning a general congress of all the Greek states to be held at Athens. Its objects were the restoration of the temples which the Persians had destroyed, the fulfillment of the vows made during the war, and the establishment of a general peace and the security of the sea. Invitations went sent to the Greeks of Asia, the island from Lesbos to Rhodes, the Hellespont, Thrace, Byzantium, Boeotia, Phocis, Peloponnesus, Locris, Acarnania, Ambracia, and Thessaly. The aim of Pericles seems to have been to draw the bonds of union closer between the Greek and to form a national federation. The beneficent project was defeated by the short-sighted opposition of the Spartans. But, if in this scheme Pericles were rose above the petty jealousies of Greek politics, another of his measures proves that he shared the Greek prejudices as to birth. At an early period of his career (apparently about 460) he enacted, or perhaps only revived1, a law confining the rights of Athenian citizenship to persons both of whose parents were Athenian citizenship to persons both of whose parents were Athenian citizens. In the year 444, on the occasion of a scrutiny of the lost of citizens, nearly 5000 persons claiming to be citizens were proved to be aliens under this law, and were ruthlessly sold into slavery.

The period of the thirty years’ peace was not one of uninterrupted tranquility for Athens. In 440 a war broke out between the island of Samos (a leading member of the Athenian confederacy) and Miletus. Athens sided with Miletus; Pericles sailed to Samos with an Athenian squadron, and established a democracy in place of the previous oligarchy. After his departure, however, some of the exiled oligarchs, in league with Pissuthnes, satrap of Sardis, collected troops and, crossing over to Samos, overpowered the popular party and revolted from Athens. In this revolt they were joined by Byzantium. The situation was critical; the example set by Samos and Byzantium might be followed by the other confederates. Pericles discerned the danger and met it promptly. He led a squadron of sixty ships against Samos; and, after detaching some vessels to summon reinforcements from Chilos and Lesbos, and others to look out for the Phoenician fleet which the Persians were expected to send to the help of Samos, he gave battle with forty-four ships to the Samian fleet of seventy sail and defeated it. Having received reinforcements of sixty-five ships, he landed in Samos and laid siege to the capital. But, when he sailed with sixty shops to meet the Phoenician vessels which were reported to be near, the Samians sallied out with their vessels, defeated the besiegers, and remained masters of the sea for fourteen days. On his return, however, they were again blockaded, and were compelled to surrender, nine months after the outbreak of the war (spring of 439).

Though Pericles enjoyed the confidence of the people as a whole, his policy and opinions could not fail to rouse the dislike and suspicious of many, and in the last years of his life his enemies combined to assail him. Two points in particular were singled out for attack, his administration of the public moneys and his religious opinions. With regard to the former there must always be a certain number of persons who will not believe that others can resists and despise a temptation which to themselves would be irresistible; with regard to the latter, the suspicion that Pericles held heretical views on the national religion was doubtless well grounded. At first, however, his enemies did not venture to impeach himself, but struck at him in the persons of his friends. In 4322 Phidias was accused of having appropriated some of the hold destined for the adornment of the statue of Athene in the Parthenon. But by the prudent advice of Pericles the golden ornaments had been so attached that they could be taken off and weighed, and when Pericles challenged the accusers to have recourse to this test the accusation fell to the ground. More dangerous, for more true, was the charge against Phidias of having introduced portraits of himself and Pericles into the battle of the Amazons, depicted on the shield of the goddess: the sculptor appeared as a bald old man lifting a stone, while Pericles was represented as fighting an Amazon, his face partly concealed by his raised spear. To the pious Athenians this seemed a desecration of the temple and accordingly Phidias was clapped into gaol. Whether he died there or at Elis is uncertain.3 Even more deeply was Pericles wounded by the accusation leveled at the woman he loved. This was the famous Aspasia, a native of Miletus, whose talents won for her general admiration at Athens. Pericles divorced his wife, a lady of good birth who had borne him to two sons, Xanthippus and Paralus, but with whom, he was unhappy, and attached himself to Aspasia. With her he lived on terms of devoted affection to the end of his life, though, as she was a foreigner, their union was not a legal marriage. She enjoyed a high reputation as a teacher of rhetoric, and seems to have been the centre of a brilliant intellectual society, which included Socrates and his friends. The comic poet, Hermippus, brought her to trial on the double charge of impiety and of corrupting Athenian women for the gratification of Pericles. A decree was further carried by a religious fanatic named Diopithes, whereby all who denied the existence of the gods or discussed the nature of the heavily bodes were to be tried as criminals. This blow was aimed directly at the aged philosopher Anaxagoras, but indirectly at his pupil Pericles as well as at Aspasia. When this decree was passed, and apparently while the trial of Aspasia was still pending, Pericles himself was called upon by a decree of the people to render an account of the money which had passed through his hands. The result is not mentioned, but we cannot doubt that the matter either was dropped or ended in an acquittal. The perfect integrity of Pericles is proved by the unimpeachable evidence of his contemporary, the historian Thucydides. Aspasia was acquitted, but not before Pericles had exerted all his eloquence in her behalf. Anaxagoras, tried on the charge of impiety, was obliged to quit the city.1

It was in the same year (432) that the great contest between Athens and Sparta, known as the Peloponnesian War, broke out. We may dismiss as a vulgar calumny the statement, often repeated in antiquity,2 but quite unsupported by Thucydides, that the war was brought about by Pericles for the purpose of avoiding a prosecution. The war was in truth inevitable; its real cause was Sparta’s jealousy of the growing power of Athens; its immediate occasion was the help lent by Athens to Corcyra in its war with Corinth. At first, with a hypocritical regard for religion, the Spartans demanded as a condition of peace that the Athenians should expel the race of the Alcmaeonidae (including, of course, Pericles), whose ancestors had been guilty of sacrilege about two centuries before. The Athenians retorted in kind, and, after a little more diplomatic fencing, the Spartans were constrained to show their hand by demanding bluntly that Athens should give back to the Greeks their independence,—in other words, renounce her empire and abandon herself to the tender mercies of Sparta. Pericles encouraged the Athenians to reject the demand. He pointed out that Athens possessed advantages over the Peloponnesians in superior wealth and greater unity of counsels. He advised the Athenians, in case of war, not to take the field against the numerically superior forces of the Peloponnesians, but to allow the enemy to ravage Attica at will, while they confined themselves to the defence of the city. Through their fleet they would maintain communication with their island empire, procure supplies, and harass the enemy by sudden descents on his coasts. By pursuing this defensive policy without attempting to extend their empire, he predicted that they would be victorious. The people hearkened to him and replied to the Spartan ultimatum by counter-demands, which they knew would not be accepted. Pericles had not neglected in time of peace to prepare for war, and Athens was now well equipped with men, money, and ships. In June of the following summer (431) a Peloponnesian army invaded Attica. By the advice of Pericles the rural population, with their movables, had taken refuge in the city, while the cattle had been sent for safety to the neighbouring islands. The sight of their country ravaged under their eyes excited in the Athenians a longing to march out and meet the enemy, but in the teeth of popular clamour and obloquy Pericles steadily adhered to his defensive policy, content to protect the suburbs of Athens with cavalry. Meanwhile, Athenian fleets retaliated upon the enemy’s coasts. About the same time, as a punishment for the share that they were supposed to have had in bringing on the war, the whole population of Aegina was expelled from their island to make room for Athenian colonists. This measure, directed by Pericles, relieved to some extent the pressure in the overcrowned capital, and secured a strong outpost on the side of the Peloponnesus. In the autumn, after the Peloponnesian army had been obliged by want of provisions to quit Attica and disband, Pericles conducted the whole available army of Athens into the territory of Megara, and laid it waste.

It was a custom with the Athenians that at the end of a campaign the bones of those who had fallen in battle should be buried with public honours in the beautiful suburb of Ceramicus, the Westminster of Athens, and the vast crowd of mourners and spectators gathered about the grave was addressed by a citizen chosen for his character and abilities to pay the last tribute of a grateful country to its departed brave. On the present occasion the choice fell on Pericles. Once before, at the close of the Samian War, it had been his lot to discharge a similar duty. The speech which he now delivered, as reported to us by Thucydides, is one of the noblest monuments of antiquity. It is indeed the creed of Athens and of Greece. In its aristocratic republicanism—recognizing at once the equal legal rights and the unequal intrinsic merits of individuals—it differs alike from the monarchical spirit of mediaeval and modern Europe, with its artificial class distinctions, and from that reactionary communism which preaches the natural as well as the legal equality of men. In its frank admiration of art and letters, and all the social festivals which humanize and cheer life it is as far from the sullen asceticism and the wild debauchery of the East, as the grave and manly simplicity of its style is removed from the fanciful luxuriance of Oriental rhetoric. Finally, in the words of comfort and exhortation addressed to the bereaved, the speech—to adopt Thirlwall’s description of another great effort of Athenian oratory3—"breathes the spirit of that high philosophy which, whether learnt in the schools or from life, has consoled the noblest of our kind in prisons, and on scaffolds, and under every persecution if adverse fortune."

The fortitude of the Athenians was put to a still severer test in the following summer (430), when to the honors of war (the Peloponnesians had again invaded Attica) were added the horrors of the plague, which spread havoc in the crowded city. Pericles himself escaped the scourge4 but many of his relations and best friends, amongst them his sister and his two sons Xanthippus and Paralus, were struck down. With the elder of his sons, Xanthippus, a worthless young man, the father had been on bad terms, but the death of his surviving son, at an interval of a few days, affected him deeply, and, when he came to lay the wreath upon the corpse, though he struggle hard to maintain his habitual calm, he broke down, and fro the first time in his public life burst into a passion of weeping.5 But neither private grief nor public calamity shook for a moment the lofty courage and resolution with which he continued to the last to oppose a firm front alike to enemies without and to cravens within. While refusing as before to risk a battle in Attica, which he allowed the Peloponnesians to devastate at pleasure, he led in person a powerful fleet against Peloponnesus, ravaged the coast, and destroyed the town of Prasiae in Laconia. But the Athenians were greatly disheartened; they sued for peace, and when their suit was rejected by Sparta they vented their ill-humour on Pericles, as the author of the war, by subjecting him to a fine. However, they soon repented of this burst of petulance, and atoned for it by re-electing him general1 and placing the government once more in his hands. Further, they allowed him to legitimate his son by Aspasia, that his house might not be without an heir. He survived this reconciliation about a year, but his name is not again mentioned in connexion with public affairs. In the autumn of 429 he died. We may well believe that the philosophy which had been the recreation of his happier days supported and consoled him in the clouded evening of his life. To his clement nature it was a peculiar consolation to reflect that he had never carried political differences to the shedding of blood. Indeed, his extraordinary, almost fatherly, tenderness for the life of every Athenian citizen is attested by various of his savings.2 On his deathbed, when the friends about him were telling his long roll of glory, rousing himself from a lethargy into which he had fallen, he reminded them of his fairest title to honour: "No Athenian," he said, "ever put on black through me."

He was buried amongst the great dead in the Ceramicus, and in after years Phormio, Thrasybulus, and Chabrias slept beside him.3 In person he was graceful and well made, save for an unusual height of head, which the comic poets were never weary of ridiculing. In the busts of him which we possess, his regular features, with the straight Greek nose and full lips, still preserve an expression of Olympian repose.

The chief, perhaps the only trustworthy, authority for the life of Pericles is the history of his contemporary Thucydides. The biography by Plutarch is compiled from Thucydides, Ephorus, Ion, Stesimbrotus, Duris of Samos, Aristotle, Idomeneus, Aeschines, and Heraclides Ponticus, together with the comic poets Cratinus, Teleclides, Hermippus, Plato, Eupolis, and Aristophanes. Ephorus, a pupil of Isocrates, must have had plenty of means of ascertaining the facts, but how little his judgment is to be trusted is shown by his account of the origin of the Peloponnesian War,—an account also followed by Diodorus Siculus, whose history adds nothing of importance to the narratives of Thucydides and Plutarch. Ion and Stesimbrotus were contemporaries of Pericles, but as both were admirers of Cimon and opposed to the policy of Pericles, their accounts have to be received with caution. (J. G. FR.)


FOOTNOTES (page 529)

(1) Herod., vi. 131.

(2) Plut., Per., 4; cp. Plato, Laches, pp. 180-197,200, and Rep., 400, 424.

(3) If the statement reported by Diogenes Laertius (ii. 3, 7), that Anaxagoras spent thirty years at Athens, is correct, he probably arrived there about 462, and Pericles must have reached maturity before he met him (see Zeller, Die Philosophie der Griechen, i. p. 865 sq.).

(4) It is said that once, when Pericles was transacting business in public, a low fellow railed at him all day long, and at nightfall dogged him to his house, reviling him in the foulest language. Pericles took no notice of him till he reached his own door, when he bade one of the servants take a torch and light the man home.

(5) Variously placed in 476 (Krüger), 471 (Clinton), and 470 (Curtius). Considerable divergence of opinion prevails as to the dates of most events between the Second Persian War and the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War (see Pierson, in Philologus, 1869; Classen’s Thucydides, book i. Anh.). Pericles, who died in 429, is said to have had a public life of forty years; hence he probably began to take part in politics about 469.

(6) Plut., Cim., 4. It is amusing to read of this stout old salt sitting in judgment on the respective merits of Aeschylus and Sophocles (ib., 8).

(7) See Boeckh, Staatshaushaltung der Athener, i. p. 320; Curtius, Griech, Gesch., ii. pp. 227, 842.

(8) Ulpian on Demosth,m GREEK., 50 A, ap. Boeckh, i. 377.

FOOTNOTES (page 530)

(1) The date of the commencement of the Parthenon is variously put at 444 (Leake), 454 (Michaelis), and 460 (Wachsmuth). From an inscription it would see, that the building of the temple extended at least as far back as 447. See Curtius, Gr. Gesch., ii. p. 852.

(2) Solon’s classification of the citizens for political purposes rested exclusively on the possession of cultivated land.

(3) There were three of these walls, of which the northern (to Piraeus) and the southern (to Phalerum) were completed after the battle of Aenophyta (Thycyd., i. 108) in 456. The foundation of these two walls seems to have been laid by Cimon (Plut, Cim., 13) about 462. See Leake’s Topography of Athens, i. p. 424. Some scholars, relying on an interpretation of Thucydides (i. 107, 108), suppose that these walls were begun in one year and finished in the next. But considering the length of the walls (8 miles) and their massiveness (as shown by their remains) this seems quite impossible. The middle wall, which ran parallel to the northern wall and at no great distance from it, was built later (it was not begun before 449, Andocides, De pace cum Laced., 7, and the progress was slow, Plut., Per., 13), and there is no doubt that Pericles advised its construction (Plato, Gorgians, 455 E). The wall to Pharlerum seems afterwards to have fallen into decay, and the middle wall then went by the name of the southern, and it and the northern were known as the Long Walls (Harpocration, s.v. ______; Leake, i. p. 427).

(4) Justin, iii, 6, 4; Diod, xii. 38; Curtius, Gr. Gesch., ii. 168, 837.

(5) Cp. Thucyd., i. 143, and ii. 63, 64; Plut., Per., 12.

(6) Compare the story in Plutarch (De educ. Puer., 9), that on one occasion, though repeatedly called on by the people to speak, he declined to do so, saying that he was unprepared.

(7) Plut., Per., 8. In the time of Cicero there were some writings bearing his name (Brutus, 7, 27; De Or., ii. 22, 93), but they were no doubt spurious. Cp. Quintilian, iii. 1, 12; xii. 2, 22 and 10, 49.

(8) Cope (on Aristotle, Rhetoric, i. 7, 34) denies that Pericles was the author of the saying. His only plausible ground is that a similar saying is attributed to Gelon by Herodotus (vii. 162). But from the clumsy way in which the smile is there applied it has all the appearance of being borrowed, and Herodotus, who long survived Pericles, may have borrowed it from him. It is more open to question whether the smile occurred in the funeral speech delivered at the close of the Samian War, or in that during the Peloponnesian War, but the former is more probable. In Thucydides’s report of the latter speech the simile does not occur.

FOOTNOTES (page 531)

(1) Cp. Philochorus, 141 b, in Müller’s Fragm. Hist. Graec., vol. i.; Plut., Per., 9, and Cim., 15; Aristotle, Pol., 1274 a, 7; Thirwall’s Hist. of Greece, ii. pp. 458, 459.

(2) The ostracism of Cimon lasted between four and five years (Theopompus, 92, in Fr. Hist. Gr.; cp. Corn. Nep., Cimon, 3). Hence, if his recall took place shortly after the battle of Tanagra (Plut., Cim., 17, and Per., 10), say at the beginning of 456, he must have been ostracized about the middle or latter part of 461. Diodorus (xi. 77) placed the attack on the Areopagus in 460; but, if that attack preceded (as Plutarch implies) the banishment of Cimon, it would be necessary, in order to harmonize Diodorus and Theopompus, to place the recall of Cimon in 455 or 454—i.e., between one and two years after the battle of Tanagra—and this seems forbidden by Plutarch’s narrative.

(3) In 453, according to Diod., xi. 88.

(4) The expedition is only recorded by Plutarch (Per., 20), and is mentioned by him immediately after the expedition against Aeniadae (454) and before the Sacred War (449).

(5) Thucyd., vi. 15, 90; Diod., xii. 54; Plut., Per., 20, and Alcib., 17; Pausan., i. 11, 7.

FOOTNOTES (page 532)

(1) See Schömann’s Antiquities of Greece, p. 357, Eng. Tr.; Hermann’s Staatsalterthümer, § 118.

(2) A scholiast on Aristoph., Pax, 605, places the condemnation of Phidias seven years before the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, or in 438 (according to Palmer’s correction); see Müller ad l., in Frag. Hist. Gr., v. p. 18.

(3) Different views of the fate of Phidias are taken by scholars. See PHIDIAS.

FOOTNOTES (page 533)

(1) The accounts of the issue of the trial are somewhat discrepant; see Zeller, Die Philosophie der Griechen, i. p. 872.

(2) Aristophanes, Pax, 605 sq. with school. And l.; Diod., xii. 38-40; Plut., Per., 31, 32; Aristodemus, xvi; Suidas, s.v. "______."

(3) The speech of Demosthenes "On the Crown."

(4) Plutarch, admitting that Pericles was not attacked by the plague in its acute form, believes that it so far affected him as to throw him into a lingering decline. But we do not gather from Thucydides’s description of the plague that it ever had this effect.

(5) Not inconsistent with this are the accounts of the general fortitude with which he bore his bereavement (Plut., Consol. Ad Apoll., 33; Aelian, Var. Hist., ix. 6; Val. Max., v. 10).

The above article was written by: James G. Frazer, M.A., D.C.L., LL.D., Litt.D.; Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge; Barrister; author of Totemism; The Golden Bough; and Pausanias, and other Greek Sketches.

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