Online Encyclopedia

PERICLES (49o-429 B.C.)

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 147 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PERICLES (49o-429 B.C.), Athenian statesman, was born about 490 B.C., the son of Xanthippus and Agariste. His father'. took a prominent part in Athenian politics, and in 479 held high command in the Greek squadron which annihilated the remnants of Xerxes' fleet at Mycale; through his mother, the niece of Cleisthenes, he was connected with the former tyrants of Sicyon and the family of the Alcmaeonidae. His early training was committed to the ablest and most advanced teachers of the day: Damon instructed him in music, Zeno the Eleatic revealed to him the powers of dialectic; the philosopher Anaxagoras, who lived in close friendship with Pericles, had great influence on his cast of thought and was commonly held responsible for that calm and undaunted attitude of mind which he preserved in the midst of the severest trials. The first important recorded act of Pericles falls in 463, when he helped to prosecute Cimon on a charge of bribery, after the latter's Thasian campaign; but as the accusation could hardly have been meant seriously Pericles was perhaps put forward only as a lay-figure. Undue prominence has commonly been assigned to him in the attack upon the Areopagus in 462 or 461 (see AREOPAGUS, CIDMON). The Aristotelian Constitution of Athens shows conclusively that Pericles was not the leader of this campaign, for it expressly attributes the bulk of the reforms to Ephialtes (ch. 25), and mentions Ephialtes and Archestratus as the authors of the laws which the reactionaries of 404 sought to repeal (ch. 35): moreover, it was Ephialtes,2 not Pericles, on whom the Conservatives took revenge as the author of their discomfiture. To Ephialtes likewise we must ascribe the renunciation of the Spartan alliance and the new league with Argos and Thessaly (461). Not long after, however, when Ephialtes fell by the dagger, Pericles undoubtedly assumed the leading position in the state. '. He must have been born before 485-484, in which years his father was ostracized. On the other hand, Plutarch describes him as veos c7v, i.e. not yet 30, in 463. 2 The later eminence of Pericles has probably misled historians into exaggerating his influence at this time. Even the Const. Ath. (ch. 27) says that Pericles took " some " prerogatives from the Areopagus; this looks like a conjecture based on Arist. Pol. ii. 9 (12), 1273; Tiv Ev 'APE 7r6 y , flovA',)v 'E uhXr7)S EK6X0lio€ Kai Hcpo End of Article: PERICLES (49o-429 B.C.)
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