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Pericles and Athens in the 5th century BC

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´╗┐Year 12 assessment ? Kristina Cullen Pericles and Athens in the 5th century BC 1. Pericles, family background and education, teachers. 300 Pericles was born in Athens in the state of Attica in 494 BC into a very distinguished Athenian family. His father, Xanthippus, belonged to an eminent political family and served as strategos during the Persian War in 479 BC attaining hero status as a result. Pericles? mother, Agariste, was a member of the Alcmaeonid family, famous for its long involvement in Athens? political history. Cleisthenes, the famous reformer of the Athenian government in 507 BC, was Pericles? great-uncle. Pericles had a traditional education for an Athenian boy of the fifth century. This involved training in rhetoric, oratory and philosophy, recital of the epic poems of Homer, appreciation of music and gymnastics. Pericles was educated by the sophist Daman, who taught him politics, by Zeno the Eleatic who taught him argumentation, and by Anaxagoras who taught him nobility of purpose and character. Largely due to the teachings of Anaxagoras, Pericles was very careful of the way in which he spoke, and what he chose to say. 1. Early political career of Pericles to 40BC, association with Ephialtes 300 Pericles started his political career at an early age. At first, however, he restrained his ambitions because he was fearful that due to his social standing, he would be considered to be a tyrant or even dangerous for Greece. To get around this problem, he promoted the interests of the demos -- the most numerous classes of middle and low income citizens -- so as to avoid their suspicion. Pericles started his political career in the law courts and was one of the leading prosecutors in getting Cimon ostracized from Athens in 461B.C. Having got rid of his political opponent and the murder of his other political rival Ephialtes in 461B.C. Pericles was able to consolidate his position as leading statesmen for Athens. ...read more.


The lived together as man and wife right up to Pericles death. The city?s laws prevented marriage between them, which is very ironic. Although Pericles had major respect for her and even treated her as a equal, unusually for a respectable man and a man of Pericles standing. They were often criticized or there relationship. They had a son together called Pericles, who because of their illegal relationship could not be a citizen. Many people thought Aspasia had too much influence on Pericles and some accused her of persuading Pericles to go to war with Samos to help her native Miletus. Some even blamed her for the war with Sparta. 1. His citizenship law 200 The citizenship in Athens before 451 BC was heredity in the male line meaning if you were male and your father was a citizen, and then you would be enrolled in your dene (which was the point at which you actually became a citizen at eighteen years old. This was similar with many ancient civilizations; citizenship wasn?t given to women, children or slaves. Pericles source for his citizenship law lays in the constitution of Athens which is attributed to Aristotle here it states? it was decreed, on the motion of Pericles that a person should not have the rights of citizenship unless both of his parents had been citizens? a very similar statement is made in Plutarch?s lives, where it is said that ? he (Pericles) proposed claim Athenian parentage on both sides could be counted as Athenian citizens? therefore unlike pre times citizenship was no longer to be heredity purely on the male father. And Athenian women could gain the benefits of citizens; there status determined weather or not their sons became citizens. Because Pericles makes this the new law because he wanted to reduce the number of people who were entitled to the benefits of citizenship. Aristotle adds it was because of ?the increasing number of citizens? the sources available suggest the law was not applied retrospecticly, so anyone who was an Athenian before he decrees wouldn?t loose their status. ...read more.


As the leading citizen of Athens, his death- according to Plutarch- made the people acutely aware of his loss. His death was followed by corruption and wrongdoing in Athens, which Pericles had suppressed. After his death, the Athenian state declined in power and magnificence, and eventually lost the Peloponnesian war and was overtaken by Sparta. According to Aristotle, ?as Pericles was the leader of the people, things went tolerably well with the state; but when he was dead, there was a great change for the worse?. Plutarch has written that people who resented Pericles? power turned to other orators and popular leaders after his death and had to admit that ?no man for all his majesty was ever more moderate, or, when clemency was called for, better able to maintain his dignity.? This praise of Pericles is perhaps not entirely true as Plutarch was a great admirer of Pericles. One of the victims of the plague that swept Athens in 430 BC was Pericles himself. According to the historian Thucydides: '...The plague seized Pericles, not with sharp and violent fits, but with a dull lingering distemper, wasting the strength of his body and undermining his noble soul.' The city was devastated; morale was at its lowest ebb. In despair the popular assembly sent a peace delegation to Sparta, and turned on the man they blamed for starting the war: Pericles. Tried in the courts he had helped to reform, Pericles was stripped of his office and heavily fined. Yet even now the people were reluctant to be rid of the man who had guided them for so long. Soon after they reinstated him. But Pericles was a broken man. The plague had claimed his two legitimate sons and in an attempt to have his son by Aspasia declared as his heir he sought to repeal his own citizenship law. The man who had renounced all superstition also turned to charms to ward off the plague. In the fall of 429, at the age of about 65, Pericles, the mastermind of Athenian glory, died. ...read more.

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