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Ancient History Pericles Early Life Essay

1924 words - 8 pages

Final assessment

A) Pericles was born around 495 BC in the deme of Cholargos (modern day Kamatero or Peristeri), just north of Athens. He was the son of the politician Xanthippus, under whose leadership Athens had won in Mycale in 479 BC, though he had been ostracized only five years before. Pericles' mother, Agariste, was the offspring of the noble though controversial family of the Alcmaeonids. It was this marriage that boosted Xanthippus' political career. Agariste was the great-granddaughter of the tyrant of Sicyon Cleisthenes and the niece of the Athenian reformer Cleisthenes also belonging to the Alcmaeonidae family. According to Herodotus and Plutarch a few days before ...view middle of the document...

Some ancient historians said was a brothel keeper, historians traditionally said that she was a hetaera or high class escort.

In 472 BC, eight years after the defeat of the Persians at Salamis, the young Pericles, now in his late 20s, sponsored a major dramatic production for the festival of Dionysus. As well as providing entertainment for the whole city, this annual event was also an opportunity for sponsors to bring their name to wider public attention. Over a decade later is when Pericles became a statesman around 461. However his first real involvement in politics started when he became involved with a politician called Ephialtes. Together they organised a vote in the popular assembly that deprived the Areopagus, the old noble council, of its remaining powers. It was an action that would have huge consequences, and many historians believe it to mark the defining moment of Athenian democracy. Pericles had made a bold move by shifting his loyalties from the noble families who ruled Athens to the common citizens of Athens, urging the participation of all citizens in the government. And in 461 BC, Pericles eliminated his chief rival Cimon by having him ostracized, which was a form of punishment at the time that banished a guilty person from Athens for ten years. The crime for which Cimon was ostracized was that he had betrayed the city by being a friend to influential persons in Sparta.
Here were some of the laws that were enacted during Pericles administration:
• Poor persons were able to attend plays in the Athens theatre pay by tax money.
• The property requirement was lowered for people to be appointed as public servants.
• Generous wages were paid to persons serving as jurors in the Supreme Court of Athens.
• People could only gain Athenian citizenship if both of their parents were from Athens.

Most historians believe that Pericles did a good job of strengthening the democratic institutions of Athens. However, his opponents (for example Cimon) thought that he was carrying democratization too far; his populism would eventually collapse because the government was being run by unqualified people.

From about 454 BC until his death, for more than 20 years, Pericles led numerous expeditions, mainly naval ones. He never undertook of his own accord a battle involving much uncertainty and peril, he was always cautious and he did not accede to the "vain impulses of the citizens”. He based his military policy on Themistocles' principle that Athens prevalence would depend on its superior naval firepower. That is why the strengthening of the navy was one of his main preoccupations. Nonetheless, his strategic genius remains questioned and a common criticism against him is that he always was a better politician and orator than strategist.

During the Peloponnesian war, Pericles had instigated a defensive “grand strategy”, which was aimed to exhaust the enemy and the preservation of the “status quo”. The “Periclean Grand...

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