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Pericles of Athens

Pericles of Athens

Vincent Azoulay
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Pericles of Athens
    Book Description:

    Pericles has had the rare distinction of giving his name to an entire period of history, embodying what has often been taken as the golden age of the ancient Greek world. "Periclean" Athens witnessed tumultuous political and military events, and achievements of the highest order in philosophy, drama, poetry, oratory, and architecture.Pericles of Athensis the first book in more than two decades to reassess the life and legacy of one of the greatest generals, orators, and statesmen of the classical world.

    In this compelling critical biography, Vincent Azoulay provides an unforgettable portrait of Pericles and his turbulent era, shedding light on his powerful family, his patronage of the arts, and his unrivaled influence on Athenian politics and culture. He takes a fresh look at both the classical and modern reception of Pericles, recognizing his achievements as well as his failings while deftly avoiding the adulatory or hypercritical positions staked out by some scholars today. From Thucydides and Plutarch to Voltaire and Hegel, ancient and modern authors have questioned the great statesman's relationship with democracy and Athenian society. Did Pericles hold supreme power over willing masses or was he just a gifted representative of popular aspirations? Was Periclean Athens a democracy in name only, as Thucydides suggests? This is the enigma that Azoulay investigates in this groundbreaking book.

    Pericles of Athensoffers a balanced look at the complex life and afterlife of the legendary "first citizen of Athens" who presided over the birth of democracy.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5117-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. FOREWORD: Introducing Azoulay’s Pericles
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Paul Cartledge

    There is no shortage of would-be biographies of Pericles, son of Xanthippus of the deme Cholargos (to give him his full, ancient Athenian democratic-citizen nomenclature). But to be frank, not many of them are much good—and that includes the best surviving ancient one, compiled by Plutarch of Chaeronea in about A.D. 100. One hint that Plutarch was not perhaps on the very top of his form here is that the ancient Roman with whom he saw fit to compare or rather contrast the Athenian Greek was Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, later nicknamed Cunctator (“the Delayer”), the man tasked with...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Pericles is a familiar figure in school textbooks and books on Greece. He enjoys the rare privilege of, on his own, embodying a whole “age,” condensing within his name the peak of Athens’s glory and the flowering of the first democracy in history. We know him from a bust made in the Roman period: the impenetrable face seems to defy the efforts of any historian. What angle can one adopt in order to apprehend this bust without prejudice? How can one suggest a new way of looking at a figure so often scrutinized? Confronting a monument such as this clearly...

  7. CHAPTER 1 An Ordinary Young Athenian Aristocrat?
    (pp. 15-27)

    In thePolitics, Aristotle defines the elite by a collection of characteristics that distinguishes it from the common people: good birth (eugeneia), wealth (ploutos), excellence (aretē), and, finally, education (paideia).¹ These were the various aspects, combined in different degrees, that defined social superiority in the Greek world. Pericles was clearly abundantly endowed with all those distinctive attributes. However, in a democratic context, such advantages could sometimes turn out to operate as obstacles or even handicaps. Not all forms of superiority were acceptable in themselves, but needed to adopt a form that was tolerated by thedēmosfor fear of arousing...

  8. CHAPTER 2 The Bases of Periclean Power: The Stratēgos
    (pp. 28-39)

    “Pericles son of Xanthippus, the foremost man of the Athenians at that time, wielding greatest influence both in speech and in action, came forward and advised them.”¹ Those are the words with which the historian Thucydides introduces the Athenian leader at the moment when, in 431 B.C., the city is about to engage in war against Sparta. At this point, the historian defines the two domains that constitute the basis of the superiority of a statesman: speech and action. And it was indeed as an orator in the Assembly, expert in handlinglogos, and as astratēgosin warfare, well...

  9. CHAPTER 3 The Bases of Periclean Power: The Orator
    (pp. 40-50)

    In the funeral oration that Pericles delivered in 431, to honor the citizens who had fallen during the first year of the Peloponnesian War, he praised the city, emphasizing the role that speech played in deliberations and decision-taking: “We Athenians decide public questions for ourselves or at least endeavor to arrive at a sound understanding of them in the belief that it is not debate that is a hindrance to action, but rather not to be instructed by debate before the time comes for action.”¹ Unlike the laconic Spartans, the Athenians indeed never hesitated to enter upon long discussions prior...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Pericles and Athenian Imperialism
    (pp. 51-66)

    The power of Pericles, founded on speech as much as on action, developed within the framework of an Athenian city that, from 450 onward, was caught up in a rapid process of democratization. Yet the increasing liberty of thedēmoswas accompanied by the enslavement of its allies within the framework of the Delian League. This league, founded in 478 B.C., progressively became an instrument in the service of Athens. The democratization of the city progressed at the same rate as its increasing power over its allies.

    What exactly was the role that Pericles played in the establishment of Athenian...

  11. CHAPTER 5 A Periclean Economy?
    (pp. 67-83)

    Today, an “economy” means the production, distribution, and consumption of goods, both material and immaterial. But this term, which was forged in Athens in the classical period, had a sense that was very different from its contemporary one. In the fourth century,oikonomiadefined, first, the way of managing anoikos, an agricultural property. It was only by extension that the term came to designate the management of the resources of a city, or even an empire. This mismatch betweenoikonomiaand “economy,” the ancient formulation and the modern definition, for a long time led historians to doubt the existence,...

  12. CHAPTER 6 Pericles and His Circle: Family and Friends
    (pp. 84-93)

    In most human societies, an individual counts for nothing outside the several groups to which he or she belongs. The individual’s place in society depends largely on the influence of his or her family circle and his or her network of friends. The Greek cities were no exception to that rule: there were no “self-made men” in Antiquity! In Athens as elsewhere, one’s family and friends were indispensable sources of support for anyone desiring a political career. All the same, in a democratic context, what was normally a trump card could turn out to be a handicap. To come from...

  13. CHAPTER 7 Pericles and Eros: Caught between Civic Unity and Political Subversion
    (pp. 94-106)

    Eros, not love: this terminological choice is no mere flirtatious quibble. It is intended to draw attention to how far apart the two terms are. In the Greek world,erosdid not correspond to any romantic sentiment, nor did it bear any similarity to the wishy-washy notion nowadays conjured up by “love.” Whether homosexual or heterosexual,eroswas first and foremost a connective force or, at times, a disconnective one.¹

    First, as a connective force:eroslinked individuals together, as indeed didphilia, friendship. However, whereas friendship presupposed a form of equality between the partners,erosfunctioned in a hierarchical...

  14. CHAPTER 8 Pericles and the City Gods
    (pp. 107-126)

    Nothing was more alien to the Greeks than the notion of a separation between Church and State. In Athens, the community provided a tight framework for religious manifestations while, symmetrically, religion was deeply embedded in civic life.¹ Within this context, participation in the rituals was an action highly political—in the broadest sense of the term.

    In the first place, religious practices shaped in the citizens a sense of belonging. When, at the end of the Peloponnesian War, the herald Cleocritus urged the Athenians to seek reconciliation after having torn one another apart, he appealed to the memory of that...

  15. CHAPTER 9 After Pericles: The Decline of Athens?
    (pp. 127-136)

    InThe Peloponnesian War, Thucydides treats the death of Pericles as a turning point in the history of Athens. He represents Pericles’ “reign” as a clear dividing line between a community led by a virtuous elite and a democratic city abandoned to the hands ofkakoi—the despicable demagogues. Once Plutarch had put the finishing touches to it, this Manichean vision was often readopted by modern historiography, without the slightest criticism.¹ Yet the ancient sources are by no means unanimous on the subject. Some ancient authors rejected the historiographical model that represents a rise up to Pericles, followed by a...

  16. CHAPTER 10 The Individual and Democracy: The Place of the “Great Man”
    (pp. 137-156)

    Now, at the end of this biographical odyssey, let us return, if not to the shores of Ithaca, at least to the question that served as its starting point. Was Pericles an all-powerful figure or an evanescent one? How, exactly, did the actions of thestratēgosand the will of the people interact? Can we settle for the forthright conclusion expressed by Thucydides in his final panegyric forstratēgos: “Athens, though in name a democracy, gradually became in fact a government ruled by its foremost citizen” (2.65.9)? According to the ancient authors, there seemed to be no doubt about it....

  17. CHAPTER 11 Pericles in Disgrace: A Long Spell in Purgatory (15th to 18th Centuries)
    (pp. 157-191)

    TheOeuvres Complètes(Complete Works) of Voltaire, published in 1771, contain an intriguing conversation between Pericles, a Russian, and an eighteenth-century Greek.¹ After such a long time in the Underworld, thestratēgosis keen to find out what modern men think of him. Addressing his compatriot, he naively asks, “But tell me, is not my memory still venerated in Athens, the town where I introduced magnificence and good taste?” To his great disappointment, his Greek companion has never heard either of him or even of Athens: “So you are as little acquainted with the famous and superb town of Athens...

  18. CHAPTER 12 Pericles Rediscovered: The Fabrication of the Periclean Myth (18th to 21st Centuries)
    (pp. 192-226)

    From the Renaissance right down until the beginning of the nineteenth century, Pericles was seldom raised to the rank of a model. For most of the time, he was arrogantly ignored and remained in the shadow of the great men of Sparta and Rome. When his memory was recalled, it was mainly to his disadvantage; depicted, as he was, now as a corrupting demagogue, now as a corrupt warmonger, for the elite groups of the modern era his role was that of a scarecrow. That critical approach, inspired by Plutarch, became even more entrenched in the eighteenth century and peaked...

  19. NOTES
    (pp. 227-264)
    (pp. 265-286)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 287-294)