The city made trial of its other generals and counsellors for the conduct of the war, but since no one appeared to have weight that was adequate or authority that was competent for such leadership, it yearned for Pericles, and summoned him back to the bema and the war-office.1
He was lying dejectedly at home because of his sorrow, but was persuaded by Alcibiades and his other friends to resume his public life.
When the people had apologized for their thankless treatment of him, and he had undertaken again the conduct of the state, and been elected general, he asked for a suspension of the law concerning children born out of wedlock,—a law which he himself had formerly introduced,—in order that the name and lineage of his house might not altogether expire through lack of succession.
The circumstances of this law were as follows. Many years before this,2
when Pericles was at the height of his political career and had sons born in wedlock, as I have said, he proposed a law that only those should he reckoned Athenians whose parents on both sides were Athenians. And so when the king of Egypt sent a present to the people of forty thousand measures of grain, and this had to be divided up among the citizens, there was a great crop of prosecutions against citizens of illegal birth by the law of Pericles, who had up to that time escaped notice and been overlooked, and many of them also suffered at the hands of informers.
As a result, a little less than five thousand were convicted and sold into slavery, and those who retained their citizenship and were adjudged to be Athenians were found, as a result of this scrutiny, to be fourteen thousand and forty in number.
It was, accordingly, a grave matter, that the law which had been rigorously enforced against so many should now be suspended by the very man who had introduced it, and yet the calamities which Pericles was then suffering in his family life, regarded as a kind of penalty which he had paid for his arrogance and haughtiness of old, broke down the objections of the Athenians. They thought that what he suffered was by way of retribution, and that what he asked became a man to ask and men to grant, and so they suffered him to enroll his illegitimate son in the phratry-lists and to give him his own name. This was the son who afterwards conquered the Peloponnesians in a naval battle at the Arginusae islands,3
and was put to death by the people along with his fellow-generals.