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Pericles: A Sourcebook and Reader

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Pericles, Greece's greatest statesman and the leader of its Golden Age, created the Parthenon and championed democracy in Athens and beyond. Centuries of praise have endowed him with the powers of a demigod, but what did his friends, associates, and fellow citizens think of him? InPericles: A Sourcebook and Reader,Stephen V. Tracy visits the fifth century B.C. to find out. Tracy compiles and translates the scattered, elusive primary sources relating to Pericles. He brings Athens's political atmosphere to life with archaeological evidence and the accounts of those close to Pericles, including Thucydides, Aristophanes, Herodotus, Protagoras, Sophocles, Lysias, Xenophon, Plato, and Plutarch. Readers will discover Pericles as a formidable politician, a persuasive and inspiring orator, and a man full of human contradictions.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94362-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    The century began with the Persian Wars when the Persians attacked Greece and Athens, first in 490 under Darius and then in 480/79 under his son Xerxes. There were memorable battles: Marathon in 490 where the Athenians soundly defeated the Persians; then in 480/79 Thermopylae, scene of the slaughter of the 300 Spartans by the Persians; Salamis, where in the straits between the island and the mainland the Athenian navy defeated the Persian fleet; and finally the Spartan-led victory over the land troops of Xerxes at Plataea (see map 1). These battles Herodotus recounted in epic fashion in hisHistories....


    • Pericles’ Writings
      (pp. 27-31)

      No written work by Pericles has come down to us and, except for some speeches that he may have committed to writing and measures that he sponsored in the Council and the Assembly, we have no sure knowledge that Pericles himself wrote anything.¹ This loss of his direct words is a great pity, for contemporary and near-contemporary sources—namely, Thucydides, the comic poets, and Plato—describe him as the greatest orator of his time.² Eupolis in his comedy theDemes,which survives

      only in fragments, includes the following exchange about Pericles, a high compliment indeed (PCGV 102):

      That man...

    • The Archaeological Evidence
      (pp. 32-44)

      Despite his prominence in Athenian politics and the leading role he played in the expansion of Athens’ influence for a generation, Pericles’ name has yet to turn up completely preserved on any of the hundreds of inscriptions to have survived from the fifth century B.C.¹ Only the last two letters of his name are preserved in the fragmentary list of generals who swore to uphold the peace treaty concluded with the inhabitants of the island of Samos in 439 at the close of the bitter conflict that ended their revolt (IGI³ 48 line 43).² His name has been restored...

  9. Thucydides’ Portrait of Pericles I: Prelude to War
    (pp. 45-60)

    The historian Thucydides provides us with our only extensive portrait of Pericles by a contemporary. He portrays him as the principal leader of the Athenians at the outset of the war between the Athenians and the Spartans. The conflict eventually lasted for twenty-seven years, from 431 to 404 B.C.; but Pericles died from the plague in August or September of 429, the third year of the war. He was about sixty-five years old. Our only portrait, then, is of him in the last three years of his life. Thucydides presents him at the height of his influence as a leader....

  10. Thucydides’ Portrait of Pericles II: The First Campaign and the Funeral Oration
    (pp. 61-78)

    The actual narrative of the war starts in book 2. Indeed, Thucydides opens book 2 with the following words: “Now from this point begins the war of the Athenians and Peloponnesians and their allies.” He gives Pericles two speeches in this book, the famed funeral oration in sections 35–46 and a final speech rallying the Athenians to stay the course in sections 60–64.¹ He also summarizes in section 13 Pericles’ exhortation to his fellow citizens as they faced the fact of actual invasion.

    As the Peloponnesian invading force was starting out, King Archidamus, leader of the Spartans, sent...

  11. Thucydides’ Portrait of Pericles III: Plague, Last Speech, and Final Tribute
    (pp. 79-95)

    Following immediately on the funeral oration, that brilliant account of Athenian democracy delivered by the city’s greatest statesman, and standing in juxtaposition to it, is Thucydides’ clinically vivid description of the plague that attacked the city like an invading army (2.47–54). Thucydides details the symptoms of the disease and its inexorable progression both through the bodies of those infected and through the city. Easily spread, the plague had a devastating effect on the populace, who had come in from the countryside and were crowded into the city.¹ It attacked the very fabric of civil life that Pericles, in the...

  12. Aristophanes and Old Comedy: Caricature and Personal Attack
    (pp. 96-108)

    Political leaders the world over are routinely subject to criticism. It is apparently human nature to attack those in positions of power. Democracies in particular foster climates of free speech, and leaders in democracies, therefore, are often subject to public ridicule. Never has that been more true than in the Athens of Pericles’ time. One of the major forms of entertainment was the presentation at state expense of comedies that bristled with explicit attacks on public figures, who were often present in the audience. These plays are what we call Old Comedy. The only extant complete examples of Old Comedy...

  13. Herodotus
    (pp. 109-115)

    Pericles’ contemporaries Sophocles and Protagoras, as we will see, depict him as he dealt with the onslaught of the plague, at the end of his life. By contrast, the historian Herodotus of Halicarnassus, who was somewhat younger than Pericles, looks back to Pericles’ birth. We do not know exactly when Herodotus was born, but a date around 485 B.C. is not far off the mark. He died around 420, or slightly later. At some point Herodotus participated in the colony in southern Italy at the new city of Thurii (see map 2) that was established with Pericles’ support in 444/3....

  14. Protagoras
    (pp. 116-118)

    Protagoras of Abdera, the most famous sophist of the age, visited Athens on several occasions, probably for extended periods of time. He came once about 443 B.C. in preparation for creating a law code for the settlement at Thurii. Pericles almost certainly picked him for the task. Plato in hisProtagorasrecords another visit about 432. In that dialogue he depicts Pericles’ sons, Xanthippus and Paralus, as present at his discourse, which takes place at the home of Callias, their half brother on their mother’s side. Protagoras, who was born about 490 and died about 420, was just slightly younger...

  15. Sophocles’ Oedipus: In the Image of Pericles
    (pp. 119-127)

    Sophocles and Pericles were two of Athens’ leading intellectuals. They were also almost exact contemporaries, Sophocles being perhaps a year or two older than Pericles. Although Sophocles was primarily a poet and Pericles a statesman, they knew one another very well, having served together as generals in putting down the Samian revolt in 440–439 B.C. We can surmise, therefore, that both were strongly committed to maintaining Athens’ empire. Indeed, we have inscriptional evidence that in 443/2 Sophocles also served as chief Hellenotamias, in charge of collecting and tracking payments from the subject allies.¹ Furthermore, if an anecdote from the...

  16. Lysias, Xenophon, and Plato
    (pp. 128-142)

    The life of the speechwriter Lysias straddled the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. Born about 450 B.C., in his formative years he must have been aware of Pericles, whether he personally had direct contact with him or not. Lysias did not begin producing speeches until about thirty years after Pericles’ death.¹ In his speechAgainst Eratosthenes(4) he tells us that “Cephalus, my father, was persuaded by Pericles to come to Athens”; so his father at least had some personal acquaintance with Pericles. Lysias’s wealthy mercantile family was from the city of Syracuse in Sicily and acquired metic or resident...

  17. Plutarch and the Biographical Tradition
    (pp. 143-149)

    Biography was not a developed genre in the ancient world even in the late first and early second century A.D. when Plutarch flourished. Interest in important individuals probably always existed, but persons or groups, such as soldiers killed in battle, were surely first celebrated in a formal manner in eulogies at funerals. A few highlights from the biographical tradition that was probably available to Plutarch follow.

    In the fifth century, Ion of Chios (ca. 450 B.C.) wrote gossipy sketches of famous Athenians he visited, and Stesimbrotos of Thasos (ca. 420 B.C.) wroteOn Themistocles, Thucydides[the politician],and Pericles,which...

  18. Afterword: The Legend of Pericles
    (pp. 150-156)

    Except for Plutarch the authors discussed all lived at the same time as Pericles, or within a generation of his death. Many were his coevals and in a position either to have been personally acquainted with him or to have known people who were. Some, such as Anaxagoras, Protagoras, and Sophocles, were probably his good friends. The historian Thucydides too doubtless knew him personally and saw him on the street and in the assembly, but, inasmuch as he was at least thirty years younger than Pericles, it is doubtful that Pericles had any close association with him. Very few of...

    (pp. 157-200)
    (pp. 201-202)
    (pp. 203-214)
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 215-220)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 221-221)