Pericles was a famous statesman and general in Ancient Greece. He was born into a wealthy family.
Thanks to his family’s wealth, Pericles was able to have some of the best teachers in all of Greece. He loved to learn and studied music, politics, ethics, and philosophy extensively.
- Occupation: Statesman and General
- Born: 495 BC in Athens, Greece
- Died: 429 BC in Athens, Greece
- Best known for Leader of Athens during its golden age
Pericles was lucky enough to be born into a wealthy family in Athens in the year, 495 BC. He was the son of a popular general, who was named Xanthippus.
He loved to learn and was able to get a good education thanks to his family’s wealth.
However, Pericles’ childhood was not a settled one. He grew up during the Persian Wars. When Pericles was only three years old, Athens was attacked by the Persians but defeated them at the Battle of Marathon.
This was not the end, however, of Persia’s attacks on Greece. Ten years later, the Persians returned in greater numbers.
The Greeks had to flee Athens, which the Persians mostly destroyed. With the help of other Greek city-states, the Persians were eventually defeated at the Battle of Salamis and Pericles was able to go back to Athens.
Supporting the Arts
Pericles was a big supporter of the arts. When he was a young man, he regularly would use his family’s wealth to support different writers and actors.
One of the men he supported was named Aeschylus, who wrote the play The Persians. This play told how Athens had defeated the Persians at the Battle of Salamis.
This play helped to make Pericles a popular figure in Athens, making it easier for him to ascend to a leadership role later in life.
Pericles was a big supporter of the idea of democracy. Early on in his political career, he, with the help of his allies, defeated a powerful council of leaders.
By stripping these men of their authority and power, Pericles helped to further the democratic ideals that Athens would become famous for in later years.
This move also helped to make him an extremely popular figure with the citizens of Athens. It allowed him to become the most prominent politician in all of Athens.
Once he had firmly established himself as a powerful and popular politician, Pericles became a general in the Athenian army.
During this time in his life, he was in charge of several highly successful military campaigns. He led the forces that took control of the city of Delphi from the Spartans.
Pericles also conquered the Gallipoli and turned it into a colony of Athens, which helped to increase the power and influence of the city-state.
When he returned home from his military expeditions, Pericles set to work helping to reform the government so that it would be more democratic.
He introduced a lot of new laws and ideas. One of the more popular ideas he had was to allow people serving on a jury to get paid.
While this might not seem like that big of a deal, it allowed poor people to serve on a jury. Previously, only the wealthy could take time off of work to serve on a jury, which made it impossible for all juries to be a fair representation of the populace.
Pericles is famous for many different things, but he is best-known for his building projects. He wanted the power and glory of Athens to be well-known throughout the world, so he planned out several awe-inspiring building works.
Pericles’ most famous building project is the Parthenon, which was built on a high hill in Athens called the Acropolis. It was a temple to the goddess Athena.
The Parthenon was built between the years 447 BC and 438 BC. It was made with over 20 thousand tons of marble.
Golden Age of Athens
During Pericles’ lifetime, he led Athens to what is now known as its Golden Age. Many famous buildings were built during this time.
That wasn’t all that flourished during the Golden Age, however. The arts and education were also allowed to grow. It was during this time that great philosophers like Socrates were teaching.
As it’s Golden Age continued, Athens became more and more powerful. This was quite alarming to other Greek city-states.
These other city-states worried that Athens had too much influence in the region. As such, the Peloponnesian War began between Sparta and Athens in 431 BC.
Pericles was also a famous public speaker. One of the most famous speeches he ever gave was called the Funeral Oration.
This speech was given during the war with Sparta and was used to honor all of the soldiers who had already died.
In the speech, Pericles described what they were fighting for. He championed Athens ideals and democracy.
Pericles’ strategy for the war with Sparta was to fight all of the battles on the sea. While Sparta had a very strong army, Athens had a much more powerful navy.
This strategy might have proved effective, but we will never know. A plague struck Athens, resulting in the deaths of thousands of people.
In 429 BC, Pericles also died from the plague. Athens would eventually lose the war, and the Golden Age would come to an end.
Interesting Facts about Pericles
- The Golden Age of Athens is also called the “Age of Pericles.”
- He had two sons, though no one knows what his wife’s name was.
- Pericles was elected to be a general, known as a strategos, for 29 years in a row.
- He once said, “Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.”