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.
surplus of the tribute brought to Athens, with the expenses for military operations already deducted. 31. See earlier, chapter 4. 32. Thucydides, 2.13.3–5. 33. Of course, it might have been a way of safeguarding appearances where the accounts were concerned: even today, after all, in the state budget there are many “slippages” between different categories of expenses. 34. See later, chapter 8. 35. Kallet-Marx 1989, 252–266; Giovannini 1990 and Giovannini 1997; but see Samons 1993. It is
An Ambiguous Solemnity At the Assembly’s tribune, Pericles was several times confronted by the people’s anger, but never betrayed the slightest annoyance. This imperturbability was highlighted in 430 B.C., when the Athenians accused him of being responsible for the many disasters that had struck them. As Plutarch, following Thucydides, points out: “Pericles was moved by no such things, but gently and silently underwent the ignominy and the hatred [tēn adoxian kai tēn epekhtheian].”21 Far from
emphasized the role played by ceremony in the construction of the authority of Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire: the great king chose to live partly cloistered away, so as to appear only at particularly ritualized and majestic moments. To some extent, Pericles appropriated certain elements of that Eastern tradition, adapting it to the democratic context—just as he seems to have been inspired by the architecture of the Persian Empire when he built the Odeon on the slopes of the
the war against Samos, which lasted from 441 to 439. Second, Pericles did render his accounts after the Euboean revolt, in 447/6, despite the fact that he was reelected as stratēgos for the following year. “When Pericles, in rendering his accounts for this campaign, recorded an expenditure of ten talents as ‘for sundry needs,’ the people approved it without officious meddling and without even investigating the mystery” (Plutarch, Pericles, 23.1). So it is clear that stratēgoi did render their
Age. That which commonly possesses people so in favour of Antiquity is their being out of humour with their own times, and Antiquity takes advantage of their spleen. They cry up the Ancients in spite to their contemporaries. Thus, when we lived, we esteemed our ancestors more than they deserved; and, in requital, our posterity esteem us at present more than we deserve.41 However, the appearance of Pericles here is still very discreet. Although mentioned in passing, the stratēgos is not