Pericles – History, Accomplishments & Facts
Pericles was an influential figure during the golden age of Athens. The Athenian statesman and philosopher left an indelible mark on Greek civilization and countless other civilizations around the world. Committed to the principles of democracy, Pericles is said to have held tremendous amount of influence not just in Athens, but also among other Greek city-states. This was evident when an alliance of Greek city-states (i.e. the Delian League) transferred their treasury from Delos to Athens in 454 b.c.
Who exactly was Pericles – and what were his most stellar achievements and contributions to ancient Greece?
In the article below World History Edu explores the life, accomplishments and major facts about the political, militaristic and cultural achievements of Pericles.
Biography of Pericles
Born around 495 B.C., Pericles, also known as Athens’ “first citizen”, was a democratic Athenian legislator who strengthened the foundations of Athenian democracy. His greatest achievement, the one which allows his name to carry on, came when he dismantled the Areopagus, the old noble council of few elite Athenians that dictated the agenda of the whole city-state.
Prior to Pericles’ reforms, i.e. “radical democracy”, laws and the legislature were nothing more than self-serving entities for the few elites. As result of his contributions his name is often associated with democracy.
Pericles was born into a somewhat aristocratic family in Athens. Pericles’ father is often said to be Xanthippus, a wealthy aristocrat who had holdings in many ventures in Athens. His mother was Agariste, a woman from the Alcmaeonid family.
Pericles got married in his 20s only for him to divorce the woman after 10 or so years. It’s also been noted that he had a romantic relationship with Aspasia, a woman from Miletus
By his early 20s he had become famous for his patronage and promotion of aristocratic arts. It’s been stated that Pericles, at the Dionysia Festival in 427 b.c., single-handedly sponsored the Greek play Persians, which was written by famous Greek tragedian Aeschylus.
Over time, Pericles used ventured into politics, becoming a very influential of Athens. In 463 b.c., he led the prosecution team that failed in bringing a case against Cimon, an Athenian general and statesman, who was accused of not ceasing the opportunity to conquer Macedonia. Two years later, he and his allies had successfully forced Cimon to go into exile.
Pericles, along with fellow politician and reformer Ephialtes, were responsible introducing a number of reforms that ended the autocratic reign of the few elites in the society. His political development effort was a way to give the lower-class Greeks representation and political power.
In 461 b.c. Ephialtes was murdered, leaving Pericles as the most influential Athenian politician. He would spend the rest of his life steering the affairs of the assembly and political affairs of Athens towards greater democracy.