Parallel - Fabius Maximus
- Cimon - Pericles's political rival in his early career. After his death, Pericles still wants to keep Cimon's sons in their place (below himself).
- Aspasia - his second (common law?) wife, infamous for several reasons in this Life: she may have run a brothel, she may have encouraged Pericles and Athens to besiege the island of Samos and conquer it, turning it into an Athenian naval base.
- Damon - ostensibly his music teacher, though Plutarch implies that Damon had deeper theories about music and its influence on the human soul.
- Anaxagoras - Pre-Socratic philosopher practicing in Athens, educated Perciles and developed a lifelong friendship with him.
- Alcibiades - Nephew of Pericles, mostly making a cameo appearance towards the end but a brief glimpse of the mercurial personality who will attempt to lead the Athenians as Pericles had but end up betraying them and leading them closer to destruction on at least two occasions.
- Tanagra (10.1-2)
- Chersonese, Naxos, Andros, Sybaris (Italy, changed to Thuriī) and Bisaltae (Thrace) (11.5)
- 4 regions of Greece Ambassadors Sent To (17.2):
- Ionians and Dorians in Asia (incl. Rhodes and Lesbos)
- Hellespont and Thrace (to Byzantium)
- Boeotia, Phocis, and Peloponnesus then through Ozolian Locrians to Acarnania and Ambracia
- From Euboea to Oeteans the Malian Gulf the Phthiotic Achaeans and Thessaly
- Pegae (Megarid) (19.2)
- Nemea (19.3)
- Achaea, Acarnania, Oeniadae, Achelous R. (19.4)
- Euboea - Chalcidice and Hestiae
- Samos (24.1)
- Miletus and Priene (24-28)
- Corcyra (29)
- Acharnae (33.4)
C. 1 - Introduction - Seeing and Learning
- Caesar’s rebuke of people who squander on animals our innate inclination to love our fellow men.
- Our souls naturally love seeing and learning, but we should correct those who waste this tendency on things unworthy of our eyes and ears.
- Thus, we should choose to see and learn about what is best.
- i.e. virtuous deeds, which lead us to imitation. Admiration of the deed does not always encourage us to imitation: a craftsman’s final product doesn’t make us want to be like the craftsman.
- 2 illustrative anecdotes: Antisthenes and the piper; Philip correcting Alexander for playing the harp too well.
C. 2 - The Greatest Good of Virtue
- Working with one’s hands means indifference to higher things. No young man seeing a statue wants to be a sculptor; no young man a poet because of the delight of certain poems.
- No logical connection between the work being worthy of esteem and the workman. Except virtue, common to all humanity, which no sooner do we see it that we wish we could emulate it.
- Good things from luck, we wish to enjoy; but good things from virtue, we want to perform. We may receive the first, but we want to give the second. The good causes us to seek it…
- So, I continue writing the lives, now focusing on Pericles and Fabius Maximus, alike in their gentleness and rectitude, endurance of follies of their people and colleagues, and of the greatest service to their countries. But judge what I’ve written.
C. 3 - Pericles Birth and Background
- His father fought at Mycale against the Persians. His maternal great-grandfather was Cleisthenes, the founder of Athenian democracy.
- His mother dreamed she gave birth to a lion, and then bore Pericles a few days later. Personal appearance handsome, but his head too long, so artists depict him with a helmet. Poets called him squill-head.
- Comic quotes mocking his head.
C. 4 - Pericles' Teachers
- Music - Damon; Aristotle says Pythocleides. Damon really a sophist pretending to be a musician, acting more as political trainer for Pericles.
- Damon later ostracized and made fun of by the comic poets. Damon:Pericles::Chiron:Achilles
- Zeno of Elis taught him to refute in an unassailable way.
- Anaxagoras did the most to teach Pericles, and was called “Mind” in his day not only out of respect of his intellect, but because he first pointed out to the Greeks that the cosmos was ordered by mind, not chaos or necessity.
C. 5 - Pericles' Character
- Pericles’s spirit under the influence of philosophy: solemn, lofty discourse, composure that almost never laughed, imperturbable, not bombastic in his speech.
- Anecdote to prove his tranquility: Some hack had bothered him all day and he ensures that the man goes home with a lighted torch.
- Poet Ion thinks Pericles spoke and acted arrogantly and contemptuously, and praises Cimon instead.
- Ion demanding that virtue have parts that it does not need (cf. a dramatic tetralogy). (Interesting to note that the dramatic trilogy that does survive is not accompanied by its satyr play). When some complained that Pericles’s austerity was just a thirst for reputation, Zeno encouraged them to have more such thirst, since by faking it at first they may come to practice it eventually.
C. 6 - Philosophy v. Superstition
- Anaxagoras also inoculates Pericles against superstition, the feeling of amazement produced by what happens in the regions above us.
- A seer tells Pericles that a one-horned ram was recently born, foretelling that the two powerful parties of the city will eventually yield to one leader. Anaxagoras cuts the skull open and shows the biological explanation.
- In the moment, Anaxagoras won. In the long run, Pericles got all the power and the seer seemed to be right.
C. 7 - Entrance into Politics
- Pericles avoids politics at first because he looks like Peisistratus and fears ostracism because he’s wealthy and well-connected. So he earns his stripes in the military.
- Power Vacuum: Aristides dead, Themistocles banished, Cimon on campaign, Pericles enters politics as a populist, advocating for the poor.
- He saw that Cimon already had the support of the aristocratic faction and so he sought to balance that power with his own power-base. He also wanted to avoid being called a tyrant.
- He also ceases to be intimately involved in anyone’s private life at this point, refusing all dinner invitations and coming out in public only to conduct public business. One exception for a kinsman’s wedding, but he doesn’t stay long.
- Thus, he could “keep up appearances” and not make the people sick of him by seeing him all the time. He often carried less important policy by delegating speeches to friends.
- Ephialtes was one such colleague, diminishing the power of the Council of the Areopagus and giving the people too much undiluted freedom, causing them to act tyrannically.
C. 8 - Lofty Speaking Style
- The effect of studying science with Anaxagoras: loftiness of thought and perfection of execution.
- His nickname became the Olympian, either from his lofty thought, how he adorned Athens with temples, or for his abilities as a statesman and general.
- The comic poets mostly make fun of his way of speaking as “thundering and lightning”
- Once a Spartan asked who was the better wrestle and Thuc. Responded that whenever he threw him, Pericles was able to convince the people watching that Pericles had won the match. Pericles cautious and careful in his speeches, praying to the gods to help him choose every word wisely.
- He left behind the decrees passed by the assembly and a handful of sayings.
- A passage from a less famous funeral oration calling those who die in battle “immortal”
C. 9 - Pericles' Populist Rise
- Thucydides describes the rule of Pericles as democratic in name but actually government by the greatest citizen. Plutarch counters with many of the populist moves he pulled. (Plutarch primarily trying to balance out Thucydides’s influence)
- To balance against Cimon, he enters political life as a populist. Can’t distribute his own wealth like Cimon, but he can re-distribute the people’s wealth.
- Plutarch calls juror wages and festival-grants bribery of the people to oppose the Areopagus. Since Pericles had never been elected as an archon, he wasn’t a member of the Council of the Areopagus
- With an ally in Ephialtes and Cimon ostracized, Pericles is ascendant over the Areopagus, in spite of all the good Cimon had done for Athens.
C. 10 - Pericles' Friends and Rivals
- Pericles prevents Cimon from proving his Athenian loyalty in the battle of Tanagra.
- Pericles fights boldly in the battle, but so too did all of Cimon’s “pro-Spartan” Athenian friends die and the Athenians regretted banishing Cimon, especially as the Spartans had won.
- As popular opinion changes, so does Pericles, introducing the motion to bring him back. Cimon settles the peace between Sparta and Athens. The Spartans hate Pericles.
- Some say a secret pact made between the two men, giving Cimon control at sea and Pericles control at home.
- Pericles least harmful of all Cimon’s prosecutors.
- Pericles certainly did not assassinate Ephialtes, not because he was in all point irreproachable but he was the kind of person who wouldn’t have committed savage or brutal acts.
- Plutarch agrees with Aristotle as to how Ephialtes died and Cimon died on campaign in Cyprus.
C. 11 - Pericles Wields Power
- A balancing force to Pericles’s rule put forth by the aristocrats in the person of Thucydides of Alopece.
- Wrestled Pericles into balance (with oratorical skills). Thus keeps the influence of the aristocracy together, preventing the dilution of their power.
- Deep gash comes forth, which before was implicit, between the Demos and the Oligoi.
- Pericles entertains the people, with annual naval commitments to keep the people in fighting shape.
- Pericles settles the Chersonese, Naxos, and Andros, Sybaris and Thrace with Athenian, sending away the idle and lazy, and garrisoning the allies with permanent reinforcements.
C. 12 - Public Projects of Pericles
- The sacred edifices Pericles raised were the most contentious ones. Pericles moved the money stored at Delos to Athens.
- “For fear the Barbarians were threatening it” makes Athens feel like a tyrant decorated by the war-taxes levied on the rest of Greece.
- Pericles’s reasoning: when the barbarians attack us then they can hold us accountable to how we spend the money. In the meantime, we have kept them safe and it’s not their concern how we use the money.
- ”It is fitting that once we have furnished ourselves for the war, we spend the abundance on everlasting glory… rouse every art; stir every hand; bring “the whole city under pay”
- The wars provided opportunities for the warlike, but he also wanted to give opportunities to the artisans and craftsmen.
- Works in stone, bronze, gold, ivory, gold, ebony, cypress and all sorts of imports kept their navy and their craftsmen busy.
- On land: rope, leather, roads, mines, and each particular art under the general command until every capacity the city had was put to good use.
C. 13 - The List of Works and Architects
- Most wonderful thing: the speed with which these arose… all in a single generation.
- Take time to make it last… normally true
- The works under Pericles thus more magnificent because they were finished quickly BUT lasted a long time.
- Phidias general overseer.
- Parthenon architects - Callicrates and Ictinus.
- Coroebus started sanctuary for the Eleusinian mysteries, finished by Metagenes and Xenocles the pinnacle.
- Long Wall - Callicrates; The Odeum, modeled on the Persian King’s pavilion.
- More comic poets railing against him: squill-head with an odeon on his head. Pericles adds musical competition to the PanAthenaic Festival, which are heard in the Odeon.
- Propylaea - five years to finish - Mnesicles the architect. The goddess showed her favor in its construction.
- One builder falls and seems paralyzed or about to die and Pericles has a dream in which Athena tells him how to treat the man. Pericles erects Athena Hygieia statue in thanksgiving.
- Phidias produced the chryselephantine statue of the goddess. Some envied Phidias’s high position of power.
- 10-11. Comic poets try more to slander Pericles with accusations of lust and deception.
- (12)The truth is difficult to obtain through research, lapse of time an obstacle to their proper perception (not hindsight is 2020), while contemporary research tends toward hatred or flattery and thus also distorts the truth.
C. 14 - The Fall of Thucydides' Faction
- Pericles asks is he has spent too much, when the Athenians say yes, he offers to inscribe his own name on all the dedications.
- Whether from magnanimity or ambition, they all own the expenditure and ostracize Thucydides.
C. 15 - Political Unity under Pericles
- The Athenian empire described, all under Pericles’s control
- He throws off the old disguise and rules as a kingly or aristocratic statesman, doing what is in the best interest of all
- Leading still with persuasion and instruction, he ruled like a doctor rules a patient.
- He alone could manage the distempers that arise in a people who run such a large empire using people’s hope and fear like rudders to check arrogance and allay despair. Thus Plato was right and rhetoric is an enchantment of the soul “pulling the right strings”
- Not only his power as a speaker, but the reputation of his life and his superiority to bribes. He was superior to kings and tyrants because he was not doing it to enrich his own estate.
C. 16 - Pericles, Power, and Philosophy
- Even at the time, Thucydides and the comic poets knew his power. The latter called it too oppressive to fit with a democracy.
- He ruled this way for forty years
- Fifteen of the years he had no political rival serving as general
- Managed his wealth with an exacting accounting that was not liked by his wives or sons.
- Evangelus, the servant of his household monetary policy, trained better than any servant in this line. Not totally a philosopher (like Anaxagoras who abandoned everything), but CLOSE.
- The difference between a speculative philosopher and a statesman: philosopher can hold wealth in contempt, statesman must consider it a noble thing (as means to helping others).
- Anaxagoras death scene - Pericles hadn’t given enough to the philosopher who gave him so much light.
C. 17 - Pericles' Failed Panhellenic Meeting
- PanHellenic meeting in Athens to discuss sanctuaries burned down by the Persians, safety at sea, and oaths fulfilled to the gods.
- Groups of five men over fifty sent out as ambassadors to four regions of Greece.
- The Spartans refuse to attend and way many of the Greeks with them.
C. 18 - Pericles as General
- Cautious general - didn’t admire those who took bigger risks than himself.
- Thus Pericles resists a general who recruits men to invade Boeotia at an inopportune time, invoking not just himself but the wisest of all counsellors, Time.
- Because the general and many brave citizens died, the Athenians realized Pericles was right.
C. 19 - The Exploits of Pericles in Battle
- Pericles’s finest battle exploit - saving the Greeks who lived there from invading Thracians.
- (3) He also circumnavigated the Peloponnesus, setting up a trophy against the Sicyonians (at Nemea), adding allies from the Achaeans, and punishing the Acarnanians.
C. 20 - Bold to Barbarians, Humane to Hellenes
- In the Black Sea, to which Pericles sails around 436 B.C., he deals boldly with barbarians and humanely with hellenes. He leaves 13 ships with the Sinopians to fight the tyrant, Timesileos.
- They drive the tyrant and his followers from the city. Pericles passes a bill sending 600 volunteer Athenians to Sinope as colonists, dividing up the land and houses of the former tyrant. But Pericles not carried away by success like the citizens of Sinope were.
- The Passion for Sicily, or Tuscany, or Carthage now loomed large in Athenian life because their empire seemed unstoppable.
C. 21 - Restraining the Voracity of the People
- Pericles focuses the people’s energy and resources on protecting and guarding what they had already won, not expanding to far-flung places. Greatest achievement was holding the Spartans in their place.
- The Sacred War - Who owns Delphi? Delphian (supported by Sparta) or Phocians (supported by Athens). First right of consulting the oracle…
C. 22 - Limits of the Athenian Empire
- Fights in Euboea and then turns to face the invading Spartans.
- Facing, but not engaging the Spartans, he finds the young king’s most trusted advisor and bribes him.
- Spartans fine their king, sending him into exile because he can’t pay the fine, and sentence the advisor to death. The advisor was the father of Gylippus whose story is told in the life of Lysander.
C. 23 - Pericles Purchases Peace (or Time?)
- Renders account to the Athenians with ten talents for “sundry needs” and Theophrastus later points out this was used to bribe the necessary people in Sparta to delay war, not buying peace but time.
- Pericles banishes the knightly class from Chalcidice and removes all the Hesiaeans replacing them with Athenians because the H.’s had killed an Athenian ship captain.
C. 24 - Aspasia's Influence
- Samos ordered to stop fighting with the Milesians, but they ignore Athenian command. Many suspect that Pericles’ move against the Samians motivated by Aspasia, his wife.
- Born in Miletus, Aspasia models herself on an Ionian woman who brought consorts to the King of Persia and gained political influence over Persian affairs.
- Aspasia also had political wisdom; Socrates sometimes came to see her, and his friends often brought their wives to hear her speech. She ran a brothel.
- She lives with Lysicles, a sheep-dealer, after her death and raises a common man to higher stature.
- Pericles had been married to a wife who gave him two sons, but after they mutually agree on a separation, he brings Aspasia into his house.
- He would kiss her on leaving and returning to his house. The Comic poets mock her by comparing her to Omphale (a captor of Heracles), Deianeira (destroyer of men), and Hera (carping wife).
- Even Cyrus, the Persian rebel, later in the war named his favorite concubine after her who later had great influence with the real King.
C. 25 - Samian War
- Miletus and Samos fighting over control of Priene. The Athenians order both to stop fighting and let Athens arbitrate. Pericles conquers Samos and takes 50 hostages to Lemnos.
- Samos turned into a democracy; Pericles refuses all audacious bribes.
- Samos revolts after they steal back their hostages. Pericles wins a victory against ~2:1 odds.
C. 26 - Pericles Slips
- Pericles seizes the harbor of Samos and besieges the city, then he leaves with 60 ships for one of two reasons Plutarch gives.
- With such a small number of ships remaining behind, the Samians attempt to resist and win.
- The Samians brand their prisoners’ foreheads with owls. The Athenians had branded Samians heads earlier with the image of the Samian ship (boar’s head design for prow and ram, with a broader, deeper design).
- Origin of the Samaena (ship described above) name. Aristophanes reference to the Samians.
C. 27 - The Siege of Samos
- Pericles returns and conquers the rebels and walls in the city to besiege it with money and time, rather than wounds and death for his fellow-citizens.
- The Athenians draw lots and one-eighth of them feast and make merry if they draw the white bean. Etymology of the Athenians calling a relaxing day a “white day”
- Pericles reported to have used siege-engines, with the help of Artemon the engineer. Poems of Anacreon don’t add up to this chronology.
- Artemon further an image of a fearful luxury with a shield held above his head and constantly carried around in a hammock.
C. 28 - Samos Surrenders
- 8 months later, Samos surrenders, Pericles tears down their walls, confiscates their ships, and fines them heavily. Then one person reports a tragedy that is in none of the other sources, including Thucydides, Ephorus, and Aristotle.
- Duris the Samian says Pericles brought in the naval leaders to the marketplace of Miletus and crucified them. They suffered for ten days before P gave the order to bash their heads in and throw them out of the city without burial.
- This historian, already reputed as inaccurate, trumped up to slander Athens. Pericles gives his first funeral oration after the Samian War, winning himself great acclaim.
- While everyone else admires P, Elpinice, sister of Cimon, reminds him that P lost brave citizens not in fighting foreigners, but in fighting fellow Greeks and former allies.
- Ion claims Pericles thought himself better than Agamemnon for taking down the most powerful city in Ionia in 9 months instead of 10 years.
- \6. Thucydides does remind us that the Samians came the closest to matching and even exceeding Athenian naval power.
C. 29 - Peloponnesian War - Setup
- P encourages the Athenians to aid Corcyra in her revolt from Corinth.
- So he sends Cimon’s son with too few ships to do the job, setting him up to look like a Spartan sympathizer.
- Plutarch mentions that Pericles had worked tirelessly against Cimon’s sons, calling them all foreigners (they’re named after foreign parts and had an Arcadian as their mother). Pericles later sends more ships, but they arrive after the battle.
- Corinth and Megara complain to Sparta about Athens, particularly being precluded from their market-places and harbors, contrary to natural law and Greek oaths. Potidaea revolts from Athens and the island of Aegina also complains.
- Archidamus, king of Sparta, tries to bring about a peaceful resolution and it all hinges on the “Megaran decree” which Pericles is adamantly opposed to repealing. Thus, he alone is responsible for the war.
C. 30 - The Megaran Decree
- Embassy tries to convince P to take the law down or “turn the tablet to the wall.” P implacable.
- P public accusation of the Megarans is that they abused the Eleusinian mysteries.
- An Athenian, Anthemocritus, killed in Megaran territory around this time, further inflaming hatreds.
- Megarans deny the murder and try to blame Pericles and Aspasia.
C. 31 - The Fall of Phidias
- All agree P refused to repeal the decree, though some say from nobility and others from a prideful love of strife and to scorn Spartan power.
- Worst charge: Phidias earns the jealousy of his assistants who bring a charge of embezzlement against him in court.
- Charge of stealing some of the gold put on the statue of Athena. Since all the gold could come off, they took it off and weighed it.
- Evidence notwithstanding, they seemed most annoyed with the fact that Phidias put a portrait of himself and Pericles into the battle of the Amazons depicted on Athena’s shield.
- Phidias imprisoned and dies in prison, some say of sickness, others of poison. His accuser relieved from taxes for the rest fo his life.
C. 32 - Aspasia's Downfall
- Aspasia put on trial for impiety and teaching doctrines related to the heavens without belief in the gods.
- While they are attacking Aspasia, they also place a stricter guard over the accounts Pericles must give to the Athenians as to how they spend their money.
- He helps Aspasia win acquittal and sends Anaxagoras away from the city. To prevent himself from being brought to trial, he refuses to move on the Megaran issue and knows that war with Sparta will cause the people to put their trust in him again.
C. 33 - Sparta Invades
- Sparta orders an old pollution to be cleansed (Cylon’s revolution (HERODOTUS reference???). P wins more confidence form the upshot of this affair.
- Pericles promises that, if his lands are untouched by Spartan invasion, he’ll give his land to the Athenian people.
- Spartans invade and camp at Acharnae, hoping to lure the Athenians into pitched battle.
- P sees it as folly to stake the city’s independence on one battle with 60,000 hoplites, calming the hawks who wanted to fight immediately.
- P refuses to call an assembly thinking the people may get carried away, and locks the city down.
- Friends, enemies, and cranks all complain.
- Poets too…
C. 34 - Early Victories, Then Plague
- P puts up with hatred and sends the first navy out while remaining behind to watch the city. He redistributes the land on Aegina after deporting the Aeginatens.
- Pericles looks close to winning: threatening the Peloponnesus from the sea and the Megarid from land.
- PLAGUE drives the citizens mad against Pericles.
C. 35 - Pericles's Last Battle
- An eclipse further scares the Athenians as they prepare to send forth 150 ships.
- Puts his cloak in front of his helmsman and asks him what the difference (except for size) between his cloak and what covered the sun.
- P sets sail anyway, lays siege to Epidaurus but can’t take it because the plague is already ravaging his men.
- Pericles stripped of his command and fined somewhere between fifteen and fifty talents.
C. 36 - The Depths
- His household was a mess since he’d lost several close friends already to the plague and he was currently feuding about his eldest son’s spending habits.
- Xanthippus tricks a friend of Pericles into lending him money with Pericles guaranteeing payback. Pericles refuses to pay back the loan and even takes the man to court who demands repayment.
- P and Protagoras discuss who is at fault in the strictest sense for an accidental death by javelin: the judges who set up the contest, or the javelin itself. Xanthippus dies of plague.
- P lost his sister and a large portion of his relatives as well as many capable political colleagues, but he held it together (at least in public) until the death of his last legitimate son: Paralus.
- Then when Pericles wept, he wailed harder than he ever had in his life.
C. 37 - Pericles Returns
- The citizens, unsure where to turn for leadership, call Pericles back to the office of strategos. Alcibiades helps encourage him back into public life.
- He asks for a law he had put in place to be changed so that his one surviving illegitimate son might carry on his name.
- The Law: Only sons with both parents as citizens should be reckoned Athenian citizens. When the King of Egypt sent a gift of grain, all kinds of prosecutions sprang up to ensure only the real citizens would receive the grain.
- Those convicted of this law (~5000) were sold into slavery. Total citizen body at this time, after the purge: 14040.
- Now Pericles was calling for the suspension of this law, yet the Athenians saw how much he had already suffered. They allow his son to be enrolled in the citizen lists, but this son also does not outlive the war, dying at the hands of the Athenian citizens at the battle of Arginusae. (406 BC)
C. 38 - A Plague on Pericles
- The plague attack Pericles slowly
- Do we lay aside virtuous greatness when bodily sufferings are worst? Pericles allowed an amulet to be put on him as he suffered.
- His remaining friends sit around his deathbed and discuss his nine famous victories for the Athenians people and his other excellences.
- They thought he was unconscious, but he was listening and corrected them, saying fortune gave him those victories but his greatest accomplishment was that he never caused any Athenian to put on mourning (I don’t get it).
C. 39 - A Fitting Olympian
- Admired for his gentleness and loftiness of spirit, both of which he maintained through immense difficulties, never stooping to act out of envy or writing off an enemy forever.
- While it is silly to put much stock in nicknames, his Olympian nickname works if we believe, unlike the poets, that the gods can work only good in the universe if they be gods.
- Plutarch gives one example of the poets’ inconsistency by referring to the Odyssey Book 6 and the security and tranquillity of where they live contrasting with the malice and hatred of how they live.
- His extensive power saved, rather than weakened, the Athenian constitution since Athens was so infected with corruption and baseness.
Helpful External Resources
- Pericles in Paint
- A helpful article on How to Build a Greek Temple - particularly helpful with the Phidias section and Pericles's beautification project
Three speeches of Pericles as reported in Thucydides:
- Book I, sections 140-143: Pericles asserts that Athens must not give in to Spartan demands
- Book II, sections 35-46: Pericles's funeral oration praising Athens in the most famous rhetoric handed down from the ancient world.
- Book II, sections 60-64: While dying of the plague himself, Pericles encourages the Athenians to stick to naval engagements and not overreach or expand their empire during this war with Sparta.