Pericles of Athens
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Pericles has had the rare distinction of giving his name to an entire period of history, embodying what has often been taken as the golden age of the ancient Greek world. "Periclean" Athens witnessed tumultuous political and military events, and achievements of the highest order in philosophy, drama, poetry, oratory, and architecture. Pericles of Athens is the first book in more than two decades to reassess the life and legacy of one of the greatest generals, orators, and statesmen of the classical world.
In this compelling critical biography, Vincent Azoulay provides an unforgettable portrait of Pericles and his turbulent era, shedding light on his powerful family, his patronage of the arts, and his unrivaled influence on Athenian politics and culture. He takes a fresh look at both the classical and modern reception of Pericles, recognizing his achievements as well as his failings while deftly avoiding the adulatory or hypercritical positions staked out by some scholars today. From Thucydides and Plutarch to Voltaire and Hegel, ancient and modern authors have questioned the great statesman's relationship with democracy and Athenian society. Did Pericles hold supreme power over willing masses or was he just a gifted representative of popular aspirations? Was Periclean Athens a democracy in name only, as Thucydides suggests? This is the enigma that Azoulay investigates in this groundbreaking book.
Pericles of Athens offers a balanced look at the complex life and afterlife of the legendary "first citizen of Athens" who presided over the birth of democracy.
was by no means a scholar without influence. This British historian had been the leader of the “Philosophic Radicals” Party in the House of Commons, and, even though he wrote his work after his retirement from politics in 1841, he retained many supporters willing to spread his theories. In any case, his success was such that the English of the second half of the nineteenth century sometimes saw themselves as Athenians dressed in frock coats and top hats. This trend to draw comparisons peaked in
history of Greece for fifth-year pupils), which appeared in 1858 and ran into many further editions. Having become the general inspector of secondary education (1862–1863) and subsequently the Minister for Public Instruction (1863–1869), under the Second Empire, he found himself in an unchallengeable position to impose his view of Greece throughout the colleges and secondary schools of France. The advent of the Third Republic put the finishing touches to this slow conversion of attitudes. While
way of soothing the multitude who … were distressed over the war, he won their favor by distributions of moneys and proposed allotments (kai klēroukhias egraphen) of conquered lands; the Aeginetans, for instance, he drove out entirely and parcelled out their island among the Athenians by lot.”29 There were, in truth, several reasons why Aegina was punished in this way. In the first place, it had always been an undisciplined ally that had been late in joining the league (in around 459 B.C.), and
whose hearts were touched, eventually allowed him “to enrol his illegitimate son in the phratry-lists and to give him his own name—Pericles” (ibid.). This tension between oikos and polis, the private sphere and the public space, extended for the most part to the whole of Pericles’ entourage. Not content to set his family at a distance, the stratēgos also appeared to break with his friends so as not to provoke the phthonos (envy) of the people. PERICLES AND PHILIA: HARMFUL FRIENDSHIPS The
condition and had tipped over into overweening hubris. Plutarch was well aware of the accusation implied by such an association, and he endeavored explicitly to neutralize such attacks: “it seems to me that his otherwise puerile and pompous nickname [of “Olympian”] is rendered unobjectionable and becoming by this one circumstance, that it was so gracious a nature and a life so pure and undefiled in the exercise of sovereign power.”42 What could be more unsuitable, in a democracy, than a man who