Analysis Paper: Pericles
Throughout the last few weeks, we have talked about many different events and how they influenced ancient Greece. War, conquest, philosophy, democracy, and literature are some of the few aspects of Greek culture that we have discussed; Pericles played a big role as an Athenian general during what is now called the “Golden Age” of Greece.
Pericles, defined as “surrounded by glory” (Mark, 2009), was born in 495 B.C. to a very powerful and wealthy family. His father, Xanthippus, was a famous Athenian commander of the Persian War. His mother, Agariste, was from the very politically powerful Alcmaeonid family. It is easy to see that Pericles was naturally born as a future leader.
What is now known of Pericles comes from information told by ancient historians Thucydides. As the author of History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides used eyewitness statements as well as his own personal experiences to explain many events that took place during this time. There is speculation, however, regarding Thucydides’ statements about Pericles’ early life; as he was much younger and obviously not present during the experiences.
In 472 B.C., Pericles funded the play “The Persians” by Aeschylus; which was early view of his large wealth as well as his taste for art and politics. In 463 B.C., Pericles essentially banished a leading general, Cimon, by prosecuting him for neglecting a chance to conquer Macedonia. This was a major victory for Pericles, as it showed his continued interest in the success and expansion of the Athenian Empire. He was eventually chosen by the people as strategos, or leading general, of Athens where he continued to hold the position for almost 30 years.
The Delian League, which was formed during the Persian War, consisted of many Greek city-states and was originally formed to protect against Achaemenian Persia. After the defeat of the super-power that was Persia, the city-states united with pride and the Delian League grew even stronger with donations of wealth, ships, and troops. (Britannica, 2015). Pericles saw this as an opportunity, and decided to use funding from the Delian League to repair buildings and temples that were destroyed during the war. He also used funds to expand his naval fleet, which opened more opportunities for trading and conquering.
Democracy originated from the Greek words demos – the people and kratos – power. This is why, even today, it’s considered a government “by the people, for the people”. Pericles continued to strengthen Athenian government by introducing a direct democracy - where citizens made the decisions by which they lived. This allowed them to control nearly all parts of the political process. (Cartwright, 2014) This new way of government not only helped shape Athens, but also influenced government in western civilization for years to come.
Under the leadership of Pericles, Athens was becoming very wealthy and powerful. The city-state of