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The Controversial Cost of the Periclean Program

The Parthenon and the propylaia alone easily cost more than the equivalent of a billion dollars in contemporary terms, a phenomenal sum for an ancient Greek city-state. The finances for the program 1perhaps came in part from the tribute paid by the members of the Delian League, although scholars debate to what extent allied funds were used. Funds certainly came from the financial reserves of the goddess, whose sanctuaries, like those of the other gods throughout Greece, received both private donations and public support. Pericles' program was so expensive, however, that his political enemies among the aristocrats railed at him for squandering public funds and ruining the city-state's budget.2 In response to the criticism, Pericles brought the issue before the assembly of male citizens: “Do you think I have spent too much?” he reportedly asked. “Entirely too much,” they shouted back. “Fine,” he retorted, “I will pay for the buildings myself and put my name on them instead of the people's.” Shamed by the implication that they lacked pride in their city-state, the men in the assembly immediately changed their minds. In an uproar they authorized Pericles to spare no expense in spending public funds to finish the project.

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