Pericles
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Pericles

 

PericlesPericles was not only the greatest of Athenian statesmen, but one of the most remarkable characters of antiquity. The age of Pericles is memorable as the most brilliant period of Athenian art, culture and dramatic literature. Among his illustrious contemporaries were the tragedians Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles  the philosophers democritus and Socrates the lyric poet Pindar; the historians Herodotus and Thucydides the painter Polyguotus, and his personal friend the sculptor Phidias. Amid this constellation the genius of Pericles still shines conspicuous. Periclcs was the son of Xanthippus, who defeated the Per. sians at Mycale in 479 B.C By his mother, Agariste, he was connected with the princely line of Sicyon, and other noble families. The precise date of his birth is unhIown. Pericles recei,-ed the best education the times could supply, among his teachers being Danian, Zello of Elea, and the subtitle and profound Allaxagoras. Plutarch declares that Allaxagoras gave him that force and sublimity of sentiment superior to all the demagogues, and formed him to that admirable dignity of manners and uuruffled serenity which marked his charactcr amid all the storms of political life, and wall for him the surname of Olympian Zeus.

 

Pericles began his career about 470 B.C. as leader of the democratic, or progressive party, when Cimon was the leader or the aristocratic, or conscrvative party. His wealth, his noble birth, his powerful friends, bis grand manner, and even his personal resemblance to the tyrant Pisistratus, might have seemed to indicate that his natural place was on the other side; while the blunt, jovial, rough and ready Cimon, though of equally noble bith, seemed better fitted to be the leader of the popular party. Yet every action of the career of Pericles attests the sincerity of his couvictions and the ardor of his patnotlsm. " Adorning his orations," says Plutarch, with the rich colors of philosophy, adding the loftiness of imagination and all-commanding energy with which philosophy supplied him, to his native powers of genius he far excelled all other leaders." Pericles introduced the practice of paying the citizens liberally from public moneys for the performance of public duties, thus not only overcoming the lavish outlay made by the aristocratic party from their private resources, but enabling poorer citizens to give their time to matters of general concem. About 461 3.C. he deprived the Areopagus of the judicial power which had rendered it a formidable instrument of the aristocracy. When the struggle between the two parties and the two leaders reached a crisis, Pericles., according to the remarkable provision of the Athenian law, procured the ostracism of Cimon. Yet in the year 456 Pericles proposed a decree that Cimon should be recalled from exile. Pericles was now the acknowledged and undisputed master of Athens, but he ruled, not by terror and tyrannic usurpation, but in accordance with bw and by his matchless gift of persuasive eloquence.

 

During his long administration, by his profuse expenditure of public money, he made Athens the most beautiful city of Greece, and cultivated the taste of the people by excellent models of sculpture and architecture. The Acropolis was covered with magnificent temples and monuments of inimitable beauty; the Parthenon was built and adorned with the sculptures of Phidias. In this course he claimed to be fulfilling the desire of his fellow-citizens, for, as he says in one of his orations, We Athenians are lovers of the beautiful. Pursuing the policy inaugurated by the far-sighted Themistocles, Pericles urged the importance of a navy, and rendered the maritime power of Athens superior to that of any other State. He opposed ambitious schemes of foreign conquest, and preierred to win power by peaceful methods. Yet he conquered the wealthy island of Samos in 440 B.C., and he planted colonies at Chalets and Sinope. His administration rendered Athens an imperial State, with numerous allies and colonies, partly rree and partly tributary. With the wealth which flowed freely into the treasury of Athens, Pericles fortified as well as beautified his native city. Under his rule was built the Long Walls, which, connecting Athens with the Pericles, converted the capital and its seaport into one vast fortress.

 

The wonderful growth of the grand naval empire or Athens roused into bitterness the jealousy of Sparta, which claimed the military leadership of Greece. In 432 B.C. the Spartans organized a league of Hellenic States against the Athenians, and all Greece became involved in the great Pelopounesian war. The Spartans were confessedly superior on land, and thought to end the war by invading Attica, but Pericles was master of the sea. Even when Attica was ravaged by the enemy, he remained on the defensive. By his advice and direction the conntry people carried their movable property, partly to adjacent islands and partly to tile space euclosed by the Long Walls. At the end of the first campaign Pericles pronounced on those who had fallen in battle a funeral oration which, as reported by Thucydides, is one or the noblest monuments of Athenian glory. This speech, perhaps the most remarkable of all compositions of antiquity -the full transfusion of which into a modern language is an impossibility-exhibits a more complete view of the intellectual power and moral character of Pericles than all that the historians have said of him.

 

In the second campaign Pericles led in person a powerrul fleet against the Peloponnesus, and ravaged its coast, that the Lacedremonians might have the evils of war brought home to them. In 430 B.C. a great plague broke out in Athens, un· doubtedly due to the overcrowding of the country people in temporary habitations within the walls, and the privations caused by the raids of the Spartans. The fickle and impatient populace charged their misfortunes on Pericles, fined him and deprived him of command. But no other was found equal to the task, and Pericles, who had submitted gracefully to the will of the people, was again elected general and restored to all his former power. He died in the autumn of 429 B.C, during a second outbreak of the pestilence. He had lived many years in conjugal relations with the highly gifted and beautiful Aspasia, but they were not legally married be~ cause she was a foreigner. His tender regard for the welfare and life of every Athenian is attested by many recorded sayings. On his death-bed, when his friends were recounting his claims to public gratitude, he roused himself to remind them of his best title to remembrance: ee No Athenian," he said, ever put all black through me.

 

The abundance of men of genius of the first order in the little States of Greece at this lime, conferred ou the Age of Pericles a brilliance which has made it conspicuous in the history of the world. Pericles was not inferior to any of them in versatile genius or nobility of character. Emerson says: The best heads that ever existed, Pericles, Plato, Julius Desar, Shakespeare, Goethe and Milton, were well read, universally educated men." His philosophy teaches that life is to be enjoyed, death not to be feared. Though a leader of the democratic party, he did not believe in the natural equality of men; and although the head of the Athenian State, he was suspected of rejecting much of the traditional religion. He wielded the powers of bis majestic intelligence and the stores of his spacious imagination with consummate ease and mastery. In the perfect harmony and completeness of nature, and in the classic calm which is the fruit of it, Pericles is the type of the ideal spirit, not of his own age only, but of antiquity.

 

 

PERICLES ORATION.

 

THE TRUE GLORY OF ATHENS

In the year 430 B.C., Pericles pronounced the Funeral Oration of those Alhenians who had fallen in the first year of the Peloponnesian war. We present here the main part or this celebrated oration.

 

I will speak first of our ancestors, for it is right and becoming that now, when we are lamenting the dead, a tribute should be paid to their memory. There has never been a time when they did not inhabit this land, which, by their valor, they have handed down frow generation to generation.aDd we have received from them a free State. But if tbey were worthy of praise, still more were our fathers, who added to their inheritance, and after many a struggle transmitted to us, their SOilS, this great empire. Of the military exploits by which our various possessions were acquired, or of the energy with which we or our fathers drove back the tide of war, Hellenic or Barbarian, I will not speak, for the tale would be long and is familiar to you. But before I praise the dead, I should like to point out by what principles of action we rose to power, and under what institutions and through what manner of life our empire became great.

 

Our form of government does not enter into rivalry with the institutions of others. We do not copy from our neighbors, but are an example to them. It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many, and not of the few. But while the law secures equal justice to all alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence is also recognized and when a citizen is in any way distinguished he is promoted to tbe public service, not as a m3tter of privilege, but as the reward of merit Neither is poverty a bar; but a mall may benefit his country, whatever be the obscurity of his condition. There is no exclusiveness in our public life, and in our private intercourse we are not suspicious of one another, nor angry with our neighbor if he does what he likes; we do not put on sour looks at him which, though banlllcss, are not pleasant. While we are thus uuconstrained in our private intercourse, a spirit of rev~ erencc pervades our public acts; we are prevented from doing wrong by respect for authority and for the laws, having au especial regard to those whieh are ordained for the protection of the injured, as well as to those unwritten laws which bring upon the transgressor of them the reprobation of the general sentiment.

 

And we have not forgotten to provide for our weary spirits many relaxations from toil. We have regular games and festivals throughout the year; at home the style of our life is refined, and the delight whieh we daily feel in all these things helps to banish melancholy. Because of the greatness of our city the fruits of the whole earth flow in upon us, so that we enjoy the goods of other countries as freely as of our own.

 

Then, again, our military training is, in many respects, superior to that of the Spartans. Our city is thrown open to the world, and we never expel a foreigner or prevent bim from seeing or learning anything of which the secret, if revealed to au enemy, might profit him. We rely not upon management or trickery, but upon our own hearts and hands. And in the matter of education, whereas they from early youth are always undergoing laborious exercises which are to make them brave, we live at ease, and yet are equally ready to face the perils whieh they face. And here is the proof. The Lacedre:monians come into Attica not by themselves, but with their whole confederacy following; but we Athenians go alone into a neighbor's country; and although our opponents are fighting for their homes and we on a foreign soil, we have seldom any difficulty in overcoming them. Our enemies have never yet felt our united strength. The care of a navy divides am attentiou, and on land we are obliged to send our own citizens everywhere. But they, if they meet and defeat a part of our army, are as proud as if they had routed us all; and when defeated, they pretend to have been vanquished by us all.

 

If, then, we prefer to meet danger with a light heart, but without laborious training, and with a courage which is gained by habit and not enforced by law, are we not greatly the gainers? Since we do not anticipate the pain, although, when the hour comes, we can be as brave as those who never allow themselves to rest. Thus, too, our city is equally admirable in pcace and in war. For we are lovers of the beautiful, yet simple in our tastes, and we cultivate the mind without loss of manliness. Wealth we employ, not for talk and ostentation, but when there is a real use for it. To avow poverty with us is no disgrace; the true disgrace is in doing nothing to avoid it. All Athenian citizen does not neglect the State because he L'lkcs care of his own hOlL<;ehold; and even those of liS who are engaged in business have a very fair idea of politics. We alone regard a man who takes no iuterest in public affairs not as a harmless, but as a useless character; and if but few of us are originators, we are alt sound judges of a policy. The great impediment to action is, in our opinion, not discussion, but the want of that knowledge which is gained by discussion preparatory to action. For we have a peculiar power of thinking before we act and of acting, too; whereas, other men are courageous from ignorance, but hesitate upon reflection. And they are surely to be esteemed the bravest spirits who, having the clearest sense, both of the pains and pleasures of life, do not on Utat account shrink from danger.

 

Again, in our relation to our friends we are unlike others we make friends by conferring, not by receiving favors. Now, he who confers a favor is the firmer friend, because he would fain by kindness keep alive the memory of an obligation; but the recipient is colder in his feelings, because he knows that in requiting another's generosity he will not be winning gratitude, but only paying a debl We alone do good to our neighbors, not upon a calculation of interest, but in the confidence of freedom and in a frank and fearless spirit. To sum up: I say that Athens is the school of Hellas, and that the individual Athenian, ill his own person, seems to have the power of adapting himself to the most varied fonns of action with the utmost versatility and grace. This is 110 passing and idle word, but truth and fact; and the assertion is verified by the position to which these qualities have raised the State. For in the hour of trial Athens, alone among her contemporaries, is superior to her report. No enemy who comes against her is indignant at the reverses which he SllStains at the hands of such a city; no subject complains that his masters are unworthy of him. And we shall assuredly not be without witnesses; there are mighty monuments of our power which will make us the wonder of this and of SllCceeding ages; we shall not need the praises of Homer or of any other panegyrist whose poetry may please for the moment, although his representation of the facts will not bear the light of day. For we have compelled every land and every sea to open a path for ollr valor, and have everywhere planted eternal memorials of our friendship and of our enmity. Such is the city for whose sake these men nobly fought and died; they could not bear the thought that she might bc taken from them; and every oue of us who survive should gladly toil in her behalf.

 

I have dwelt upon the greatness of Athens because I want to show you that we arc contending for a higher prize than those who enjoy none of these privileges, and to establish by manifest proof the merit of these men whom I am now commemorating. Their loftiest praise has been already spoken. For in magnifying the city I have magnified them, and men like them, whose virtues made her glorious. And of how few Hellenes can it be said as of them, that their deeds, when weighed in the balance, have been found equal to their fame! He thinks that a death such as theirs gives the true measure of a man' s worth; it may be the front revelation of his virtues, but is at any rate their final seal or even those who come short in other ways may justly plead the valor with which they have fought for their country. They have blotted out the evil with the good, and have benefited the State more by their public services than they have injured her by their private actions. None of these men were enervated by wealth or hesitated to resign the pleasures of life; none of them put off the evil day in the hope, natural to poverty, that a man, though poor, may one day become rich. But, deeming that the punishment of their enemies was sweeter than any of these things, and that they could fall in no nobler cause, they determine at the hazard of their lives to be honorably avenged, aucl to leave the rest. 'rhey resigned to hope their unknown chance of happincss; but ill the face of death they resolved to rely upon themselves alone. And when the moment came they were resolved to resist and suffer rather than to By and save their lives. They shrank from the word of dishonor, but on the battle-field their feet stood fast, and in an instant, at the height of their fortune, they passed away from the scene, not of their fcar, but of their glory.

 

Such was the end of these men.They were worthy of Athens, and the living need not desire to have a more heroic spirit, although they may pray for a less fatal issue. The value of such a spirit is not to be expressed in words. Any one can discourse to you forever about the advantages of a brave defense which you know already. But instead of listening to him I would have you, day by day, fix your eyes upon the greatness of Athens, until you become filled with love of her; and when you are impressed by the spectacle of her glory, reflect that this empire has been acquired by men who knew their duty and had the courage to do it; who, in the hour of conflict, had the fear of dishonor always present to them, and who, if ever they failed in an enterprise, would not allow their virtues to be lost to their country, but freely gave their lives to her as the fairest offering which they could prescnt at her feast. The sacrifice which they collectively made was individually repaid to them, for they received again, each one for himself, a praise which grows not old and the noblest of all sepulcher-I speak not of that in which their remains are laid, but of that in which their glory survivesand is proclaimed always and on every fitting occasion, both in word and deed. For the whole earth is the sepulchre of famons men. Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions in their own country, but in foreign lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone, but in the hearts of men. Make them your examples, and, esteeming courage to be freedom and freedom to be happiness, do uot weigh too nicely the perils of war. To a man of spirit cowardice and disaster coming together are far more bitter than death, striking him unperceived at a time when he is full of courage and animated by the general hope. -Translated by PROF. B. JOWETT.

 

 

PERICLES AND ASP ASIA.

This was the ruler of the land, When Athens was the land of fame; This was the light that led the band, Wben each was like a living flame; The centre of earth's noblest ring, Of more than men, the more than king. Yet not by fetter, nor by spear. His sovereignty was held, or won  Feared, but atone as freemen fear  Loved, but as freemen love, alone; He waved the sceptre o'er his kind By nature's first great title-mind. Resistless words were on his tongue; Then eloquence first flashed below; Full·armed, to life the portent sprung, Minerva, ftom the thunderous brow; And his the sole, the sacred hand That shook her aegis o'er the land. Then throned, immortal, by his side, A woman sits, with eye sublime,Aspasin,- all his spirit's bride; But if their solellln love were crime, Pity the beauty and the sage, Their crime was in that darkened age. He perished, but his wreath was Wall ; He perished ill his height of fame; Then sank the cloud on Athens sun, Yet still she conquered in his name. Filled with his soul, she could not die: Her conquest was posterity.

WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR.

 

Pericles