Pericles’ Funeral Oration
Pericles, the most revolutionary figure ever found in the history of Ancient Greece was born of a distinguished family about 494 B.C. probably in the country house of his father in the plain near Athens. Pericles’s father, Xanthippos, was a rising general and politician. His mother Agariste, also bore strong family values, descending from the house of Alkmeonidai. She was the niece of the great Athenian reformer, Clisthenes (“Biography of Pericles”). Pericles took the foundational education as per customs of Athens. Anaxagoras was the most esteemed teachers of Pericles.
Pericles succeeded to fill up the position of a son and a leader who had the abilities to reflect sagaciousness, sensibility and the mettle to face tough conditions and to find the ways out of the tough scenarios. It is worth noticing that Pericles had an elder brother too, Ariphrons, but as seen in different historical accounts, it seems that Ariphrons’ personality was inimical and undergird to the spell of Pericles’ audaciousness and invincibility.
Pericles had also a brother named Ariphron, no doubt an elder brother, since the eldest son usually bore his grandfather’s name; and in having to play second fiddle to his brother, who was an entirely mediocre person, one may perhaps find that touch of repression in early childhood that is so common in the career of a successful man of action. (Burn 2)
Pericles had unyielding spirit of patriotism towards Athens. At the time, when Aristides had just died; Themistocles had been put to exile and Cimon was fighting outside the country, Pericles rose up to the picture of Politics of Athens as a mainstream and politically sound regent. He played an exemplary role in infusing his brain child concept of modernized democracy where, according to him, Government was bound to turn to the people the same way as masses used to cut off their priorities to pay taxes to the national exchequer. This notion and inclination towards inculcating the sense of ownership and selflessness on every unit of the state brought meritorious admiration and trust to the shoulders of Pericles. Crossing over to the Corridors of consecration and support wasn’t easy for a newly winded voice of Pericles as he belonged to a not so rich or an influential family but his sense of affiliation and revolution brought a touch of identity to the whole Athens. He emphasized on the generality of the government leaving no room for casting any peculiar interest or whims.
Pericles condemned and managed to overthrow the oligarchy by passing decree to the Areopagas using his association with Ephialtes, an early leader of the democratic movement, to diminish the political powers of the traditional bastion of conservatism in 465 B.C… In the same picture, Cimon, son of Miltiades who was fined for 50 talents for he was accused of treason to the Athenian state, was put to exile as he conglomerated with Spartans in the wake of helot uprising. By his natural unconventional shot, Pericles managed to bring back Cimon and started efforts to mediate the issues of Hellenic states and turned every rock to bring the discrete autonomies under the umbrella of a one strong Greece nation, aiming to front any possible aggression.
As efforts were being done for securing some breath of peace amid the Hellenic states, Spartan hosted the conspiracies to bring this surge of unison to end. Behind this, aristocratic mind sets seeking ventilation in neighbors of Athens were playing the role of a chameleon.
Spartan aristocrats were utterly incapable of morally appreciating such exalted patriotism, or of understanding the political necessity for it and by their secret intrigues brought the well planned scheme to naught (“Biography of Pericles”)
This fever heating of the ties brought the two entities to brink of a possible war in future — the Peloponnesian war. In 445 B.C., the situation became really challenging for Pericles as Spartans allied with the insurgents because they couldn’t endure the emblematic philosophy of democracy of Pericles echoing across the Hellenic states. Following which, an insurrection began in different territories of Athens such as Megara, Eubea etc. Pericles ascertained that it was not easy for Athens to fight back the brewing threat to the state of Athens. Materializing the Divide and Conquer strategy, Pericles sent 10 talents as bribe to Spartans and succeeded to cross them off the picture. Spartans returned back to home. Later on, Insurgents were met with no mercy and were thoroughly crushed by Pericles’ courage ridden fleet.
As Crimson was dead near the mid 5th B.C., Thucydides led to hold the aristocratic mind set to his woos. He was the son of Milesias. He tried hard to dismantle the political of Pericles by alleging him of the charges of prodigalizing public money on personal engrossment and holding festivities. This dialogue happened in the backdrop of a very powerful assembly.
Since Thucydides describes the rule of Pericles as an aristocratical government, that went by the name of a democracy, but was, indeed, the supremacy of a single great man, while many others say, on the contrary, that by him the common people were first encouraged and led on to such evils as appropriations of subject territory, allowances for attending theatres, payments for performing public duties, and by these bad habits were, under the influence of his public measures, changed from a sober, thrifty people, that maintained themselves by their own labours, to lovers of expense, intemperance, and licence. (Clough, and Plutarch 188)
In this premise, Pericles clarified his position as a true democratic spirit by enunciating his idea of the generality of the government that the aristocratic despots were so afraid of. In reply to the allegations of Thucydides, he succeeded to hurl tremendous appreciation by saying that he would utilize his expenses only if the people would allow him to put his name on the buildings and other belongings not theirs. This sarcasm not only brought a logical end to the ideology of aristocracy, thereby ostracizing of Thucydides, but the emergence of a new and visionary state of Athens, rendering it consecrate to Hellas.
Athens had become the envy of the world, partly because of its wealth, partly because of its splendor, partly because of the freedom enjoyed by its citizens. Athens’ navy was unrivaled, its empire unparalleled, its civic and cultural institutions unequalled. The city was “open to the world,” a cosmopolitan center; political life was “free and open,” as was private life: “We do not get into a state with our next-door neighbor,” Pericles said, “if he enjoys himself in his own way.” (Kimball)
During the period of Pericles ‘dominance, Arts and Sculpture took new heights of perfection and creativity. Athenian teachers used to teach in schools of Rome, despite the much agony between the Empires. He also encouraged music, drama and aesthetics. Pericles believed that the Athenians owed Parthenon, Propylae, the Odeum and numberless other public and sacred edifices (“Biography of Pericles”).
In 431 B.C., Peloponnesian war broke out and it brought tremors to the sovereignty of Athens. Spartans initially invaded the city of Attica with gruel some force. Seeing this, Pericles castled up the rural population. The Athenian forces fought back and resultantly bagged the victory off Naupactus.
Meanwhile a plague (perhaps bubonic) wiped out (430 — 428) probably a quarter of the population of Athens, and Pericles died. His successor, Cleon, won a great victory at Sphacteria (now Sfaktiria) and refused a Spartan bid for peace. (“Peloponnesian War”)
Pericles before his death in 429 B.C., delivered an eulogy for war dead Athenian soldiers leaving a great impact on the minds of his Athenian people. His style in the funeral oration was that of a hero who wanted to transcend his immaculate philosophy and vision of democratic Athens to the war torn people. He wanted to immortalize the concept of his way of democracy; the democracy resting on the foundation of freedom and tolerance. He didn’t just portray any political arrangement rather he preached his public of a new way of life. As he said,” We (Athenians ) are free and tolerant in our private lives; but in public affairs we keep to the law.” In another extract, he addressed to his public in this way,
If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences…if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition. The freedom we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life. There, far from exercising a jealous surveillance over each other, we do not feel called upon to be angry with our neighbor for doing what he likesâ€¦ (“Pericles’ funeral Oration”)
His words gave the foundation to the recurring modern world phrase “Equal justice under law.” Pericles also exhorted the Athenians to live up to the standard of soldiers who had given their lives in the initial battles of Peloponnesian war.
Clough, Arthur Hugh, and Plutarch. Plutarch: The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. Trans. John Dryden. New York: Modern Library, 1932. Questia. Web. 14 Sept. 2011.
“Peloponnesian War.” The Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. 2009. Questia. Web. 14 Sept. 2011.
Kimball, Roger. “Freedom and Duty: Pericles and Our Times.” The National Interest Spring 2002: 81+. Questia. Web. 14 Sept. 2011.
“Biography of Pericles.” Sacklunch. 14 Sept. 2011. http://www.sacklunch.net/biography/P/Pericles.html
“Pericles’ funeral Oration.” Wikipedia. 14 Sept. 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pericles’_Funeral_Oration
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