Pericles (~-495 - ~-429)

Pericles Pericles was an Ancient Greek politician, orator and general of the 5th century BC. During his time in power, in the period between the Persian Wars and the Peloponnesian War, Athens became powerful, famous and glorious. Thus, this period is also known as the “Golden Age of Pericles”.

He was born near Athens around 495 BC. His father was also a politician and general, Xanthippos, while his mother, Agaristi, belonged to a powerful aristocratic family. His childhood was very good, and he received excellent education thanks to his family’s power, while he was taught by some of the most important philosophers of the time, such as Zenon Eleatis, Protagoras, and Anaxagoras the Klazomenian. He also studied music under the guidance of great musicians, such as Damon and Pithocleides.

In 472 BC, Pericles staged the tragedy Persians by Aeschylus, as a “leitourgos”. This was a mandatory cultural sponsorship that was imposed to the wealthiest citizens in Athens. Almost 10 years later, 463 BC must have been the year in which he decided to get involved in politics. Managing to ostracize his political opponent, Kimonas, this was considered a great political victory for Pericles. Afterwards, he started proposing many radical laws, which brought Athenian democracy to new heights. Pericles followed an extremely populist policy, which boosted his reputation and kept him in power for the following two decades. During this period, he managed to turn Athens into the most powerful city of the Mediterranean and the best known in the whole known world. In 458 BC, he decreased the financial limit necessary for someone to become an Eponymous Archon. In 454 BC, he raised the wages of the judges in Iliaia, the court of Athens. In 451 BC, he introduced the most radical law of his time, which would later have repercussions in his own life; the law would allow someone to gain the Athenian citizenship only if both of his parents were Athenians. Moreover, he passed a law, allowing lower classes to acquire higher offices than previously. Finally, one of the most important architectural marvels of the world, Acropolis, was built during his time. After the death of the leader of the Democrats, Efialtes, and his democratic reformations that Pericles continued and expanded on, Pericles eventually became the absolute political figure of Athenian life until his death in 429 BC.

According to scholars, Pericles wanted to provide deep roots for democracy in Athens, by offering a series of populist laws; these laws worked perfectly while he was in power, but after his death, Athens was drawn into political insecurity and unrest, mainly because of demagogues such as Alkiviades and Kleon. Pericles died in 429 BC, during the third year of the Peloponnesian War.

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