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The statue1 of Athena was a work of Pheidias, and Pericles, the son of Xanthippus, had been appointed overseer of the undertaking. But some of the assistants of Pheidias, who had been prevailed upon by Pericles' enemies, took seats as suppliants at the altars of the gods; and when they were called upon to explain their surprising action, they claimed that they would show that Pheidias had possession of a large amount of the sacred funds, with the connivance and assistance of Pericles the overseer. [2] Consequently, when the Assembly convened to consider the affair, the enemies of Pericles persuaded the people to arrest Pheidias and lodged a charge against Pericles himself of stealing sacred property. Furthermore, they falsely accused the sophist2 Anaxagoras, who was Pericles' teacher, of impiety against the gods3; and they involved Pericles in their accusations and malicious charges, since jealousy made them eager to discredit the eminence as well as the fame of the man.4 [3]

But Pericles, knowing that during the operations of war the populace has respect for noble men because of their urgent need of them, whereas in times of peace they keep bringing false accusations against the very same men because they have nothing to do and are envious, came to the conclusion that it would be to his own advantage to embroil the state in a great war, in order that the city, in its need of the ability and skill in generalship of Pericles, should pay no attention to the accusations being lodged against him and would have neither leisure nor time to scrutinize carefully the accounting he would render of the funds. [4]

Now when the Athenians voted to exclude the Megarians from both their market and harbours, the Megarians turned to the Spartans for aid. And the Lacedaemonians, being won over by the Megarians, in the most open manner dispatched ambassadors in accordance with the decision of the Council of the League,5 ordering the Athenians to rescind the action against the Megarians and threatening, if they did not accede, to wage war upon them together with the forces of their allies. [5] When the Assembly convened to consider the matter, Pericles, who far excelled all his fellow citizens in skill of oratory, persuaded the Athenians not to rescind the action, saying that for them to accede to the demands of the Lacedaemonians, contrary to their own interests, would be the first step toward slavery. Accordingly he advised that they bring their possessions from the countryside into the city and fight it out with the Spartans by means of their command of the sea.

1 The gold and ivory statue in the Parthenon.

2 The general name given the teachers of advanced education in the fifth century.

3 Anaxagoras was one of the most distinguished physical philosophers of Greece, who maintained that the universe was directed by unchangeable Mind and tried to give a natural explanation of eclipses, rainbows, the heavenly bodies, of which he said the sun was a mass of blazing metal larger than the Peloponnesus, and other phenomena of nature. Of course such teaching ran counter to the popular polytheism of the day.

4 It is more than likely that the accusations against these two friends of Pericles fell some years before the outbreak of the war (cp. Adcock in Camb. Anc. Hist. 5, pp. 477-480). At any rate Thucydides' account of the causes of the war makes no mention of either Pheidias or Anaxagoras.

5 The Peloponnesian League.

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