previous next
65. By these and similar words Pericles endeavoured to appease the anger of the Athenians against himself, and to divert their minds from their terrible situation. [2] In the conduct of public affairs they took his advice, and sent no more embassies1 to Sparta; they were again eager to prosecute the war. Yet in private they felt their sufferings keenly; the common people had been deprived even of the little which they possessed, while the upper class had lost fair estates in the country with all their houses and rich furniture. Worst of all, instead of enjoying peace, they were now at war. [3] The popular indignation was not pacified until they had fined Pericles; but, soon afterwards, with the usual fickleness of a multitude, they elected him general and committed all their affairs to his charge. [4] Their private sorrows were Beginning to be less acutely felt, and for a time of public need they thought that there was no man like him. During the peace while he was at the head of affairs he ruled with prudence; [5] under his guidance Athens was safe, and reached the height of her greatness in his time. When the war began he showed that here too he had formed a true estimate of the Athenian power. He survived the commencement of hostilities two years and six months; [6] and, after his death, his foresight was even better appreciated than during his life. [7] For he had told the Athenians that if they would be patient and would attend to their navy, and not seek to enlarge their dominion while the war was going on, nor imperil the existence of the city, they would be victorious; but they did all that he told them not to do, and in matters which seemingly had nothing to do with the war, from motives of private ambition and private interest they adopted a policy which had disastrous effects in respect both of themselves and of their allies; their measures, 2 had they been successful, would only have brought3 honour and profit to individuals, and, when unsuccessful, crippled the city in the conduct of the war. [8] The reason of the difference was that he, deriving authority from his capacity and acknowledged worth, being also a man of transparent integrity, was able to control the multitude in a free spirit; he led them rather than was led by them; for, not seeking power by dishonest arts, he had no need to say pleasant things, but, on the strength of his own high character, could venture to oppose and even to anger them. [9] When he saw them unseasonably elated and arrogant, his words humbled and awed them; and, when they were depressed by groundless fears, he sought to reanimate their confidence. Thus Athens, though still in name a democracy, was in fact ruled by her greatest citizen. [10] But his successors were more on an equality with one another, and, each one struggling to be first himself, they were ready to sacrifice the whole conduct of affairs to the whims of the people. [11] Such weakness in a great and imperial city led to many errors, of which the greatest was the Sicilian expedition; not that the Athenians miscalculated their enemy's power, but they themselves, instead of consulting for the interests of the expedition which they had sent out, were occupied in intriguing against one another for the leadership of the democracy4, and not only hampered the operations of the army, but became embroiled, for the first time, at home. [12] And yet after they had lost in the Sicilian expedition the greater part of their5 fleet and army, and were now distracted by revolution, still they held out three years not only against their former enemies, but against the Sicilians who had combined with them, and against most of their own allies who had risen in revolt. Even when Cyrus the son of the King joined in the war and supplied the Peloponnesian fleet with money, they continued to resist, and were at last overthrown, not by their enemies, but by themselves and their own internal dissensions. [13] So that at the time Pericles was more than justified in the conviction at which his foresight had arrived, that the Athenians would win an easy victory over the unaided forces of the Peloponnesians.

1 The Athenians follow Pericles' advice, but are not appeased until they have fined him. He soon regains their esteem, and takes the lead of affairs. After his death his wisdom was even better appreciated than during his life. His advice about the war was sound if the Athenians would only have followed it. But they were continually embarking on rash enterprises, and the city was distracted by the struggles of rival demagogues, whereas Pericles had been their natural leader.

2 Or, 'while they continued to succeed, only brought.'

3 Or, 'while they continued to succeed, only brought.'

4 Cp. 6.28.

5 Even after the Sicilian disaster they held' out against their old enemies and many new ones, and were at last only ruined by themselves. So that Pericles was quite right after all.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Notes (E.C. Marchant, 1891)
load focus Greek (1942)
load focus English (Thomas Hobbes, 1843)
load focus English (1910)
hide References (137 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: