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Perĭcles

Περικλῆς).


1.

The greatest of Athenian statesmen. He was the son of Xanthippus and Agaristé, both of whom belonged to the noblest families of Athens. The fortune of his parents procured for him a careful education, which his extraordinary abilities and diligence turned to the best account. He received instruction from Damon , Zeno of Elea, and Anaxagoras. With Anaxagoras he lived on terms of the most intimate friendship till the philosopher was compelled to retire from Athens. From this great and original thinker Pericles was believed to have derived not only the cast of his mind, but the character of his eloquence, which, in the elevation of its sentiments and the purity and loftiness of its style, was the fitting expression of the force and dignity of his character and the grandeur of his conceptions. Of the oratory of Pericles no specimens remain to us, but it is described by ancient writers as characterized by singular force and energy. He was described as thundering and lightening when he spoke, and as carrying the weapons of Zeus upon his tongue (Quint.x. 1, 82).

In B.C. 469 Pericles began to take part in public affairs, forty years before his death, and was soon regarded as the head of the more democratic part in the State in opposition to Cimon. He gained the favour of the people by the laws which he succeeded in passing for their benefit. Thus it was enacted through his means that the citizens should receive from the public treasury the price of their admittance to the theatre, amounting to two oboli apiece; that those who served in the courts of the Heliaea should be paid for their attendance; and that those citizens who served as soldiers should likewise be paid. It was at his instigation that his friend Ephialtes proposed, in 461, the measure by which the Areopagus was deprived of those functions which rendered it formidable as an antagonist to the popular party. This success was followed by the ostracism of Cimon, who was charged with Laconism, and Pericles was thus placed at the head of public affairs at Athens. Pericles was distinguished as a general as well as a statesman, and frequently commanded the Athenian armies in their wars with the neighbouring States. In 454 he commanded the Athenians in their campaigns against the Sicyonians and Acarnanians; in 448 he led the army which assisted the Phocians in the Sacred War; and in 445 he rendered the most signal service to the State by recovering the island of Euboea, which had revolted from Athens. Cimon had been previously recalled from exile without any opposition from Pericles, but had died in 449. On his death the aristocratic party was headed by Thucydides, the son of Melesias; but on the ostracism of the latter in 444 the organized opposition of the aristocratic party was broken up, and Pericles was left without a rival. Throughout the remainder of his political course no one appeared to contest his supremacy; but the boundless influence which he possessed was never perverted by him to sinister or unworthy purposes. So far from being a mere selfish demagogue, he neither indulged nor courted the multi

Pericles. (Vatican.)

tude. The next important event in which Pericles was engaged was the war against Samos, which had revolted from Athens, and which he subdued after an arduous campaign, 440. The poet Sophocles was one of the generals who fought with Pericles against Samos (Thuc.i. 115-117).

For the next ten years, till the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, the Athenians were not engaged in any considerable military operations. During this period Pericles devoted especial attention to the Athenian navy, as her supremacy rested on her maritime superiority, and he adopted various judicious means for consolidating and strengthening her empire over the islands of the Aegaean. The funds derived from the tribute of the allies and from other sources were, to a large extent, devoted by him to the erection of those magnificent temples and public buildings which rendered Athens the wonder and admiration of Greece. Under his administration the Propylaea and the Parthenon and the Odeum were erected as well as numerous other temples and public buildings. With the stimulus afforded by these works architecture and sculpture reached their highest perfection, and some of the greatest artists of antiquity were employed in erecting or adorning the buildings. The chief direction and oversight of the public edifices was intrusted to Phidias. (See Phidias.) These works, calling into activity almost every branch of industry and commerce at Athens, diffused universal prosperity while they proceeded, and thus contributed in this, as well as in other ways, to maintain the popularity and influence of Pericles. But he still had many enemies, who were not slow to impute to him base and unworthy motives. From the comic poets Pericles had to sustain numerous attacks. They exaggerated his power, spoke of his party as Pisistratids, and called upon him to swear that he was not about to assume the tyranny. His high character and strict probity, however, rendered all these attacks harmless. But as his enemies were unable to ruin his reputation by these means, they attacked him through his friends. His friends Phidias and Anaxagoras, and his mistress Aspasia (q.v.), were all accused before the people. Phidias was condemned and cast into prison; Anaxagoras was also sentenced to pay a fine and leave Athens (see Anaxagoras); and Aspasia was only acquitted through the entreaties and tears of Pericles (Plut. Per. 24).

The Peloponnesian War has been falsely ascribed to the ambitious schemes of Pericles. It is true that he counselled the Athenians not to yield to the demands of the Lacedaemonians, and he pointed out the immense advantages which the Athenians possessed in carrying on the war; but he did this because he saw that war was inevitable; and that as long as Athens retained the great power which she then possessed, Sparta would never rest contented. On the outbreak of the war in 431 a Peloponnesian army under Archidamus invaded Attica; and upon his advice the Athenians conveyed their movable property into the city and their cattle and beasts of burden to Euboea, and allowed the Peloponnesians to desolate Attica without opposition. Next year (430 B.C.), when the Peloponnesians again invaded Attica, Pericles pursued the same policy as before. In this summer a plague made its appearance in Athens. The Athenians, being exposed to the devastation of the war and the plague at the same time, began to turn their thoughts to peace, and looked upon Pericles as the author of all their distresses, inasmuch as he had persuaded them to go to war. Pericles attempted to calm the public ferment; but such was the irritation against him that he was sentenced to pay a fine (Thuc.ii. 64). The ill-feeling of the people having found this vent, Pericles soon resumed his accustomed sway, and was again elected one of the generals for the ensuing year (429 B.C.). Meantime Pericles had suffered in common with his fellow-citizens. The plague carried off most of his near connections. His son Xanthippus, a profligate and undutiful youth, his sister, and most of his intimate friends died of it. Still he maintained unmoved his calm bearing and philosophic composure. At last his only surviving legitimate son, Paralus, a youth of greater promise than his brother, fell a victim. The firmness of Pericles then at last gave way; as he placed the funeral garland on the head of the lifeless youth, he burst into tears and sobbed aloud. He had one son remaining, his child by Aspasia; and he was allowed to enroll this son in his own tribe and give him his own name. In the autumn of 429 Pericles himself died of a lingering sickness. He survived the commencement of the war two years and six months. The name of the wife of Pericles is not mentioned. She had been the wife of Hipponicus, by whom she was the mother of Callias. She bore two sons to Pericles, Xanthippus and Paralus. She lived unhappily with Pericles, and a divorce took place by mutual consent, when Pericles connected himself with Aspasia. Of his strict probity he left the decisive proof in the fact that at his death he was found not to have added a single drachma to his hereditary property. His greatest fault as a statesman was his inability to see that personal government in the long run is injurious to a nation; for it impairs the capacity of the people for self-government, and on the death of the chief leaves them helpless and inexperienced. On his death-bed his friends were commenting on his victories and triumphs, when he interrupted them with the remark, “That which you have left unnoticed is that of which I am the proudest; no Athenian ever wore mourning through any act of mine.” His life is sketched for us by Thucydides and Plutarch. See also the sketch by E. Abbott (London, 1891); and for a comprehensive account of his times, Lloyd, The Age of Perikles (London, 1875); Filleul, Histoire du Siècle de Periclès (Paris, 1873); also Frey, Leben des Perikles (Bern, 1889).


2.

Son of the preceding, by Aspasia, was one of the generals at the battle of Arginusae, and was put to death by the Athenians with the other generals, B.C. 406.

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