The Age Of Pericles

With the defeat of the Persian armies, Athens and Sparta became,

respectively, the leaders of two great parties in Greece. Athens advocated

maritime interests and democratic institutions; Sparta, was the champion

of the continental and oligarchal powers. The one was Ionian, and

organized the league of Delos, under the management of Aristides; the

other was Dorian, and chief of the Peloponnesian confederacy. The

rivalries between these leading States involved a strife between those

ideas and interests of which each was the recognized representative. Those

States which previously had been severed from each other by geographical

position and diversity of interests, now rallied under the guidance either

of Athens or Sparta. The intrigues of Themistocles and Pausanias had

prevented that Panhellenic union, so necessary for the full development of

political power, and which was for a time promoted by the Persian war.

Athens, in particular, gradually came to regard herself as a pre-eminent

power, to which the other States were to be tributary. Her empire, based

on maritime supremacy, became a tyranny to which it was hard for the old

allies to submit.

But the rivalry between Sparta and Athens was still more marked.

Sparta had thus far taken the lead among the Grecian States, and Athens

had submitted to it in the Persian invasion. But the consciousness of new

powers, which naval warfare developed, the eclat of the battles of

Marathon and Salamis, and the confederacy of Delos, changed the relative

position of the two States. Moreover, to Athens the highest glory of

resisting the Persians was due, while her patriotic and enlarged spirit

favorably contrasted with the narrow and selfish policy of Sparta.

And this policy was seen in nothing more signally than in the

oppositions he made to the new fortifications of Athens, so that

Themistocles was obliged to go to Sparta, and cover up by deceit and

falsehood the fact that the Athenians were really repairing their walls,

which they had an undoubted right to do, but which AEgina beheld with fear

and Sparta with jealousy. And this unreasonable meanness and injustice on

the part of Sparta, again reacted on the Athenians, and created great

bitterness and acrimony.

But in spite of the opposition of Sparta, the new fortifications

arose, to which all citizens, rich and poor, lent their aid, and on a

scale which was not unworthy of the grandeur of a future capital. The

circuit of the walls was fifty stadia or seven miles, and they were of

sufficient strength and height to protect the city against external

enemies. And when they were completed Themistocles--a man of great

foresight and genius, persuaded the citizens to fortify also their harbor,

as a means of securing the ascendency of the city in future maritime

conflicts. He foresaw that the political ascendency of Athens was based on

those "wooden walls" which the Delphic oracle had declared to be her hope

in the Persian invasion. The victory at Salamis had confirmed the wisdom

of the prediction, and given to Athens an imperishable glory. Themistocles

persuaded his countrymen that the open roadstead of Phalerum was insecure,

and induced them to inclose the more spacious harbors of Peireus and

Munychia, by a wall as long as that which encircled Athens itself,--so

thick and high that all assault should be hopeless, while within its

fortifications the combined fleets of Greece could safely he anchored, and

to which the citizens of Athens could also retire in extreme danger.

Peireus accordingly was inclosed at vast expense and labor by a wall

fourteen feet in thickness, which served not merely for a harbor, but a

dock-yard and arsenal. Thither resorted metics or resident foreigners, and

much of the trade of Athens was in their hands, since they were less

frequently employed in foreign service. They became a thrifty population

of traders and handy craftsmen identified with the prosperity of Athens.

These various works, absorbed much of the Athenian force and capital, yet

enough remained to build annually twenty new triremes--equivalent to our

modern ships of the line. Athens now became the acknowledged head and

leader of the allied States, instead of Sparta, whose authority as a

presiding State was now openly renunciated by the Athenians. The

Panhellenic union under Sparta was now broken forever, and two rival

States disputed the supremacy,--the maritime States adhering to Athens, and

the land States, which furnished the larger part of the army at Plataea,

adhering to Sparta. It was then that the confederacy of Delos was formed,

under the presidency of Athens, which Aristides directed. His assessment

was so just and equitable that no jealousies were excited, and the four

hundred and sixty talents which were collected from the maritime States

were kept at Delos for the common benefit of the league, managed by a

board of Athenian officers. It was a common fear which led to this great

contribution, for the Phoenician fleet might at any time reappear, and,

co-operating with a Persian land force, destroy the liberties of Greece.

Although Athens reaped the chief benefit of this league, it was

essentially national. It was afterward indeed turned to aggrandize Athens,

but, when it was originally made, was a means of common defense against a

power as yet unconquered though repulsed.

During all the time that the fortifications of Athens and the

Peireus were being made, Themistocles was the ruling spirit at Athens,

while Aristides commanded the fleet and organized the confederacy of

Delos. It was thus several years before he became false to his Countrymen,

and the change was only gradually wrought in his character, owing chiefly

to his extravagant habits and the arrogance which so often attends


During this period, a change was also made in the civil

constitution of Athens. All citizens were rendered admissible to office.

The State became still more democratic. The archons were withdrawn from

military duties, and confined to civil functions. The stategi or generals

gained greater power with the extending political relations, and upon them

was placed the duty of superintending foreign affairs. Athens became more

democratical and more military at the same time.

From this time, 479 B.C., we date the commencement of the Athenian

empire. It gradually was cemented by circumstances rather than a

long-sighted and calculating ambition. At the head of the confederacy of

Delos, opportunities were constantly presented of centralizing power,

while its rapid increase of population and wealth favored the schemes

which political leaders advanced for its aggrandizement. The first ten

years of the Athenian hegemony or headship were years of active warfare

against the Persians. The capture of Eion, on the Strymon, with its

Persian garrison, by Cimonon, led to the settlement of Amphipolis by the

Athenians; and the fall of the cities which the Persians had occupied in

Thrace and in the various islands of the AEgean increased the power of


The confederate States at last grew weary of personal military

service, and prevailed upon the Athenians to provide ships and men in

their place, for which they imposed upon themselves a suitable

money-payment. They thus gradually sunk to the condition of tributary

allies, unwarlike and averse to privation, while the Athenians, stimulated

by new and expanding ambition, became more and more enterprising and


But with the growth of Athens was also the increase of jealousies.

Athens became unpopular, not only because she made the different maritime

States her tributaries, but because she embarked in war against them to

secure a still greater aggrandizement. Naxos revolted, but was conquered,

B.C. 467. The confederate State was stripped of its navy, and its

fortifications were razed to the ground. Next year the island of Thasos

likewise seceded from the alliance, and was subdued with difficulty, and

came near involving Athens in a war with Sparta. The Thasians invoked the

aid of Sparta, which was promised though not fulfilled, which imbittered

the relations between the two leading Grecian States.

During this period, from the formation of the league at Delos, and

the fall of Thasos, about thirteen years, Athens was occupied in

maintaining expeditions against Persia, being left free from

embarrassments in Attica. The towns of Plataea and Thespiae were restored

and repeopled under Athenian influence.

The jealousy of Sparta, in view of the growing power of Athens, at

last gave vent in giving aid to Thebes, against the old policy of the

State, to enable that city to maintain supremacy over the lesser Boeotian

towns. The Spartans even aided in enlarging her circuit and improving her

fortifications, which aid made Thebes a vehement partisan of Sparta. Soon

after, a terrible earthquake happened in Sparta, 464 B.C., which calamity

was seized upon by the Helots as a fitting occasion for revolt. Defeated,

but not subdued, the insurgents retreated to Ithome, the ancient citadel

of their Messenian ancestors, and there intrenched themselves. The

Spartans spent two years in an unsuccessful siege, and were forced to

appeal to their allies for assistance. But even the increased force made

no impression on the fortified hill, so ignorant were the Greeks, at this

period, of the art of attacking walls. And when the Athenians, under

Cimon, still numbered among the allies of Sparta, were not more

successful, their impatience degenerated to mistrust and suspicion, and

summarily dismissed the Athenian contingent. This ungracious and jealous

treatment exasperated the Athenians, whose feelings were worked upon by

Pericles who had opposed the policy of sending troops at all to Laconia.

Cimon here was antagonistic to Pericles, and wished to cement the more

complete union of Greece against Persia, and maintain the union with

Sparta. Cimon, moreover, disliked the democratic policy of Pericles. But

the Athenians rallied under Pericles, and Cimon lost his influence, which

had been paramount since the disgrace of Themistocles. A formal resolution

was passed at Athens to renounce the alliance with Sparta against the

Persians, and to seek alliance with Argos, which had been neutral during

the Persian invasion, but which had regained something of its ancient

prestige and power by the conquest of Mycenae and other small towns. The

Thessalians became members of this new alliance which was intended to be

antagonistic to Sparta. Megara, shortly after, renounced the protection of

the Peloponnesian capital, and was enrolled among the allies of Athens,--a

great acquisition to Athenian power, since this city secured the passes of

Mount Gerania, so that Attica was protected from invasion by the Isthmus

of Corinth. But the alliance of Megara and Athens gave deep umbrage to

Corinth as well as Sparta, and a war with Corinth was the result, in which

AEgina was involved as the ally of Sparta and Corinth.

The Athenians were at first defeated on the land; but this defeat

was more than overbalanced by a naval victory over the Dorian seamen, off

the island of AEgina, by which the naval force of AEgina hitherto great,

was forever prostrated. The Athenians captured seventy ships and commenced

the siege of the city itself. Sparta would have come to the rescue, but

was preoccupied in suppressing the insurrection of the Helots. Corinth

sent three hundred hoplites to AEgina and attacked Megara. But the

Athenians prevailed both at AEgina and Megara, which was a great blow to


Fearing, however, a renewed attack from Corinth and the

Peloponnesian States, now full of rivalry and enmity, the Athenians, under

the leadership of Pericles, resolved to connect their city with the harbor

of Peireus by a long wall--a stupendous undertaking at that time. It

excited the greatest alarm among the enemies of Athens, and was a subject

of contention among different parties in the city. The party which Cimon,

now ostracised, had headed, wished to cement the various Grecian States in

a grand alliance against the Persians, and dreaded to see this long wall

arise as a standing menace against the united power of the Peloponnesus.

Moreover, the aristocrats of Athens disliked a closer amalgamation with

the maritime people of the Peireus, as well as the burdens and taxes which

this undertaking involved. These fortifications doubtless increased the

power of Athens, but weakened the unity of Hellenic patriotism; and

increased those jealousies which ultimately proved the political ruin of


Under the influence of these rivalries and jealousies the

Lacedaemonians, although the Helots wore not subdued, undertook a hostile

expedition out of the Peloponnesus, with eleven thousand five hundred men,

ostensibly to protect Doris against the Phoecians, but really to prevent

the further aggrandizement of Athens, and this was supposed to be most

easily effected by strengthening Thebes and securing the obedience of the

Boeotian cities. But there was yet another design, to prevent the building

of the long walls, to which the aristocratical party of Athens was

opposed, but which Pericles, with long-sighted views, defended.

This extraordinary man, with whom the glory and greatness of Athens

are so intimately associated, now had the ascendency over all his rivals.

He is considered the ablest of all the statesmen which Greece produced. He

was of illustrious descent, and spent the early part of his life in

retirement and study, and when he emerged from obscurity his rise was

rapid, until he gained the control of his countrymen, which he retained

until his death. He took the side of the democracy, and, in one sense, was

a demagogue, as well as a statesman, since he appealed to popular passions

and interests. He was very eloquent, and was the idol of the party which

was dominant in the State. His rank and fortune enabled him to avail

himself of every mode of culture and self-improvement known in his day. He

loved music, philosophy, poetry, and art. The great Anaxagoras gave a

noble direction to his studies, so that he became imbued with the

sublimest ideas of Grecian wisdom. And his eloquence is said to have been

of the most lofty kind. His manners partook of the same exalted and

dignified bearing as his philosophy. He never lost his temper, and

maintained the severest self-control. His voice was sweet, and his figure

was graceful and commanding. He early distinguished himself as a soldier,

and so gained upon his countrymen that, when Themistocles and Aristides

were dead, and Cimon engaged in military expeditions, he supplanted all

who had gone before him in popular favor. All his sympathies were with the

democratic party, while his manners and habits and tastes and associations

were those of the aristocracy. His political career lasted forty years

from the year 469 B.C. He was unremitting in his public duties, and was

never seen in the streets unless on his way to the assembly or senate. He

was not fond of convivial pleasures, and was, though affable, reserved and

dignified. He won the favor of the people by a series of measures which

provided the poor with amusement and means of subsistence. He caused those

who served in the courts to be paid for their attendance and services. He

weakened the power of the court of the Areopagus, which was opposed to

popular measures. Assured of his own popularity, he even contrived to

secure the pardon of Cimon, his great rival, when publicly impeached.

Pericles was thus the leading citizen of his country, when he

advocated the junction of the Peireus with Athens by the long walls which

have been alluded to, and when the Spartan army in Boeotia threatened to

sustain the oligarchal party in the city. The Athenians, in view of this

danger, took decisive measures. They took the field at once against their

old allies, the Lacedaemonians. The unfortunate battle of Tanagra was

decided in favor of the Spartans, chiefly through the desertion of the

Thessalian horse.

Cimon, though ostracised, appeared in the field of battle, and

requested permission to fight in the ranks. Though the request was

refused, he used all his influence with his friends to fight with bravery

and fidelity to his country's cause, which noble conduct allayed the

existing jealousies, and through the influence of Pericles, his banishment

of ten years was revoked. He returned to Athens, reconciled with the party

which had defeated him, and so great was the admiration of his magnanimity

that all parties generously united in the common cause. Another battle

with the enemy was fought in Boeotia, this time attended with success, the

result of which was the complete ascendency of the Athenians over all

Boeotia. They became masters of Thebes and all the neighboring towns, and

reversed all the acts of the Spartans, and established democratic

governments, and forced the aristocratical leaders into exile. Phocis and

Locris were added to the list of dependent allies, and the victory

cemented their power from the Corinthian Gulf to the strait of Thermopylae.

Then followed the completion of the long walls, B.C. 455, and the

conquest of AEgina. Athens was now mistress of the sea, and her admiral

displayed his strength by sailing round the Peloponnesus, and taking

possession of many cities in the Gulf of Corinth. But the Athenians were

unsuccessful in an expedition into Thessaly, and sustained many losses in

Egypt in the great warfare with Persia.

After the success of the Lacedaemonians at Tanagra they made no

expeditions out of the Peloponnesus for several years, and allowed Boeotia

and Phocis to be absorbed in the Athenian empire. They even extended the

truce with Athens for five years longer, and this was promoted by Cimon,

who wished to resume offensive operations against the Persians. Cimon was

allowed to equip a fleet of two hundred triremes and set sail to Cyprus,

where he died. The expedition failed under his successor, and this closed

all further aggressive war with the Persians.

The death of Cimon, whose interest it was to fight the Persians,

and thus by the spoils and honors of war keep up his influence at home,

left Pericles without rivals, and with opportunities to develop his policy

of internal improvements, and the development of national resources, to

enable Athens to maintain her ascendency over the States of Greece. So he

gladly concluded peace with the Persians, by the terms of which they were

excluded from the coasts of Asia Minor and the islands of the AEgean; while

Athens stipulated to make no further aggression on Cyprus, Phoenicia,

Cilicia, and Egypt.

Athens, at peace with all her enemies, with a large empire of

tributary allies, a great fleet, and large accumulations of treasure,

sought now to make herself supreme in Greece. The fund of the confederacy

of Delos was transferred to the Acropolis. New allies sought her alliance.

It is said the tributary cities amounted to one thousand. She was not only

mistress of the sea, but she was the equal of Sparta on the land. Beside

this political power, a vast treasure was accumulated in the Acropolis.

Such rapid aggrandizement was bitterly felt by Corinth, Sicyon, and

Sparta, and the feeling of enmity expanded until it exploded in the

Peloponnesian war.

It was while Athena was at this height of power and renown that

further changes were made in the constitution by Pericles. Great authority

was still in the hands of the court of the Areopagus, which was composed

exclusively of ex-archons, sitting for life, and hence of very

aristocratic sentiments. It was indeed a judicial body, but its functions

were mixed; it decided all disputes, inquired into crimes, and inflicted

punishments. And it was enabled to enforce its own mandates, which were

without appeal, and led to great injustice and oppression. The

magistrates, serving without pay, were generally wealthy, and though their

offices were eligible to all the citizens, still, practically, only the

rich became magistrates, as is the case with the British House of Commons.

Hence, magistrates possessing large powers, and the senate sitting for

life, all belonging to the wealthy class, were animated by aristocratic

sympathies. But a rapidly increasing democracy succeeded in securing the

selection of archons by lot, in place of election. This threw more popular

elements into the court of Areopagus. The innovations which Pericles

effected, of causing the jury courts, or Dikasteries, to be regularly

paid, again threw into public life the poorer citizens. But the great

change which he effected was in transferring to the numerous dikasts,

selected from the citizens, a new judicial power, heretofore exercised by

the magistrates, and the senate of the Areopagus. The magistrate, instead

of deciding causes and inflicting punishment beyond the imposition of a

small fine, was constrained to impanel a jury to try the cause. In fact,

the ten dikasts became the leading judicial tribunals, and as these were

composed, each, of five hundred citizens, judgments were virtually made by

the people, instead of the old court. The pay of each man serving as a

juror was determined and punctually paid. The importance of this

revolution will be seen when these dikasts thus became the exclusive

assemblies, of course popular, in which all cases, civil and criminal,

were tried. The magistrates were thus deprived of the judicial functions

which they once enjoyed, and were confined to purely administrative

matters. The commanding functions of the archon were destroyed, and he

only retained power to hear complaints, and fix the day of trial, and

preside over the dikastic assembly. The senate of the Areopagus, which had

exercised an inquisitorial power over the lives and habits of the

citizens, and supervised the meetings of the assembly--a power uncertain

but immense, and sustained by ancient customs,--now became a mere nominal

tribunal. And this change was called for, since the members of the court

were open to bribery and corruption, and had abused their powers, little

short of paternal despotism. And when the great public improvements, the

growth of a new population, the rising importance of the Penaeus, the

introduction of nautical people, and the active duties of Athens as the

head of the Delian confederacy--all, together, gave force to the democratic

elements of society, the old and conservative court became stricter, and

more oppressive, instead of more popular and conciliatory.

But beside this great change in the constitution, Pericles effected

others also. Under his influence, a general power of supervision, over the

magistrates and the assembly, was intrusted to seven men called

Nomophylakes, or Law Guardians, changed every year, who sat with the

president in the senate and assembly, and interposed when any step was

taken contrary to existing laws. Other changes were also effected with a

view to the enforcement of laws, upon which we can not enter. It is enough

to say that it was by means of Pericles that the magistrates were stripped

of judicial power, and the Areopagus of all its jurisdiction, except in

cases of homicide, and numerous and paid and popular dikasts were

substituted to decide judicial cases, and repeal and enact laws; this,

says Grote, was the consummation of the Athenian democracy. And thus it

remained until the time of Demosthenes.

But the influence of Pericles is still more memorable from the

impulse he gave to the improvements of Athens and his patronage of art and

letters. He conceived the idea of investing his city with intellectual

glory, which is more permanent than any conquests of territory. And since

he could not make Athens the centre of political power, owing to the

jealousies of other States, he resolved to make her the great attraction

to all scholars, artists, and strangers. And his countrymen were prepared

to second his glorious objects, and were in a condition to do so, enriched

by commerce, rendered independent by successes over the Persians, and

jealous Grecian rivals, and stimulated by the poets and philosophers who

flourished in that glorious age. The age of Pericles is justly regarded as

the epoch of the highest creation genius ever exhibited, and gave to

Athens an intellectual supremacy which no military genius could have


The Persian war despoiled and depopulated Athens. The city was

rebuilt on a more extensive plan, and the streets were made more regular.

The long walls to the Peiraeus were completed--a double wall, as it were,

with a space between them large enough to secure the communication between

the city and the port, in case an enemy should gain a footing in the wide

space between the Peiraean and Thaleric walls. The port itself was

ornamented with beautiful public buildings, of which the Agora was the

most considerable. The theatre, called the Odeon, was erected in Athens

for musical and poetical contests. The Acropolis, with its temples, was

rebuilt, and the splendid Propylaea, of Doric architecture, formed a

magnificent approach to them. The temple of Athenae--the famous

Parthenon--was built of white marble, and adorned with sculptures in the

pediments and frieze by the greatest artists of antiquity, while Phidias

constructed the statue of the goddess of ivory and gold. No Doric temple

ever equaled the severe proportions and chaste beauty of the Parthenon,

and its ruins still are one of the wonders of the world. The Odeon and

Parthenon were finished during the first seven years of the administration

of Pericles, and many other temples were constructed in various parts of

Attica. The genius of Phidias is seen in the numerous sculptures which

ornamented the city, and the general impulse he gave to art. Other great

artists labored in generous competition,--sculptors, painters, and

architects,--to make Athens the most beautiful city in the world.

"It was under the administration of Pericles that Greek literature

reached its culminating height in the Attic drama, a form of poetry which

Aristotle justly considers as the most perfect; and it shone with

undiminished splendor to the close of the century. It was this branch of

literature which peculiarly marked the age of Pericles--the period between

the Persian and Peloponnesian wars. The first regular comedies were

produced by Epicharmus, who was born in Cos, B.C. 540, and exhibited at

Syracuse. Comedy arose before tragedy, and was at first at the celebration

of Dionysus by rustic revelers in the season of the vintage, in the form

of songs and dances. But these were not so appropriate in cities, and the

songs of the revelers were gradually molded into the regular choral

dithyramb, while the performers still preserved the wild dress and

gestures of the satyrs--half goat and half man--who accompanied Dionysus."

The prevalence of tales of crime and fate and suffering naturally

impressed spectators with tragic sentiments, and tragedy was thus born and

separated from comedy. Both forms received their earliest development in

the Dorian States, and were particularly cultivated by the Megarians.

"Thespis, a native of Icaria, first gave to tragedy its dramatic

character, in the time of Pisistratus, B.C. 535. He introduced the

dialogue, relieved by choral performances, and the recitation of

mythological and heroic adventures. He traveled about Attica in a wagon,

which served him for a stage; but the art soon found its way to Athens,

where dramatic contests for prizes were established in connection with the

festivals of Dionysus. These became State institutions. Choerilus, B.C.

523, and Phrynichus followed Thespis, and these ventured from the regions

of mythology to contemporaneous history."

It was at this time that AEschylus, the father of tragedy, exhibited

his dramas at Athens, B.C. 500. He added a second actor, and made the

choral odes subordinate to the action. The actors now made use of masks,

and wore lofty head-dresses and magnificent robes. Scenes were painted

according to the rules of perspective, and an elaborate mechanism was

introduced upon the stage. New figures were invented for the dancers of

the chorus. Sophocles still further improved tragedy by adding the third

actor, and snatched from AEschylus the tragic prize. He was not equal to

AEschylus in the boldness and originality of his characters, or the

loftiness of his sentiments, or the colossal grandeur of his figures; but

in the harmony of his composition, and the grace and vigor displayed in

all the parts--the severe unity, the classic elegance of his style, and the

charm of his expressions he is his superior. These two men carried tragedy

to a degree of perfection never afterward attained in Greece. It was not

merely a spectacle to the people, but was applied to moral and religious

purposes. The heroes of AEschylus are raised above the sphere of real life,

and often they are the sport of destiny, or victims of a struggle between

superior beings. The characters of Sophocles are rarely removed beyond the

sphere of mortal sympathy, and they are made to rebuke injustice and give

impressive warnings.

Comedy also made a great stride during the administration of

Pericles; but it was not till his great ascendency was at its height that

Aristophanes was born, B.C. 444. The comedians of the time were allowed

great license, which they carried even into politics, and which was

directed against Pericles himself.

The Athenian stage at this epoch was the chief means by which

national life and liberty were sustained. It answered the functions of the

press and the pulpit in our day, and quickened the perceptions of the

people. The great audiences which assembled at the theatres were kindled

into patriotic glow, and were moved by the noble thoughts, and withering

sarcasm, and inexhaustible wit of the poets. "The gods and goddesses who

swept majestically over the tragic stage were the objects of religious and

national faith, real beings, whose actions and sufferings claimed their

deepest sympathy, and whose heroic fortitude served for an example, or

their terrific fate for a warning. So, too, in the old comedy, the

persons, habits, manners, principles held up to ridicule were all familiar

to the audience in their daily lives; and the poet might exhibit in a

humorous light objects which to attack seriously would have been a treason

or a sacrilege, and might recommend measures which he could only have

proposed in the popular assembly with a halter round his neck." This

susceptibility of the people to grand impressions, and the toleration of

rulers, alike show a great degree of popular intelligence and a great

practical liberty in social life.

The age of Pericles was also adorned by great historians and

philosophers. Herodotus and Thucydides have never been surpassed as

historians, while the Sophists who succeeded the more earnest philosophers

of a previous age, gave to Athenian youth a severe intellectual training.

Rhetoric, mathematics and natural history supplanted speculation, led to

the practice of eloquence as an art, and gave to society polish and

culture. The Sophists can not indeed be compared with those great men who

preceded or succeeded them in philosophical wisdom, but their influence in

educating the Grecian mind, and creating polished men of society, can not

be disproved. Politics became a profession in the democratic State, which

demanded the highest culture, and an extensive acquaintance with the

principles of moral and political science. This was the age of lectures,

when students voluntarily assembled to learn from the great masters of

thought that knowledge which would enable them to rise in a State where

the common mind was well instructed.

But it must also be admitted that while the age of Pericles

furnished an extraordinary stimulus to the people, in art, in literature,

in political science, and in popular institutions, the great teachers of

the day inculcated a selfish morality, and sought an aesthetic enjoyment

irrespective of high moral improvement, and the inevitable result was the

rapid degeneracy of Athens, and the decline even in political influence,

and strength, as was seen in the superior power of Sparta in the great

contest to which the two leading States of Greece were hurried by their

jealousies and animosities. The prosperity was delusive and outside; for

no intellectual triumph, no glories of art, no fascinations of literature,

can balance the moral forces which are generated in self-denial and lofty

public virtue.

It was while the power and glory of Pericles were at their height

that he formed that memorable attachment to Aspasia, a Milesian woman,

which furnished a fruitful subject for the attacks of the comic poets. She

was the most brilliant and intellectual woman of the age, and her house

was the resort of the literary men and philosophers and artists of Athens

until the death of Pericles. He formed as close a union with her as the

law allowed, and her influence in creating a sympathy with intellectual

excellence can not be questioned. But she was charged with pandering to

the vices of Pericles, and corrupting society by her example and


The latter years of Pericles were marked by the outbreak of that

great war with Sparta, which crippled the power of Athens and tarnished

her glories. He also was afflicted by the death of his children by the

plague which devastated Athens in the early part of the Peloponnesian war,

to which attention is now directed. The probity of Pericles is attested by

the fact that during his long administration he added nothing to his

patrimonial estate. His policy was ambitious, and if it could have been

carried out, it would have been wise. He sought first to develop the

resources of his country--the true aim of all enlightened statesmen--and

then to make Athens the centre of Grecian civilization and political

power, to which all other Stales would be secondary and subservient. But

the rivalries of the Grecian States and inextinguishable jealousies would

not allow this. He made Athens, indeed, the centre of cultivated life; he

could not make it the centre of national unity. In attempting this he

failed, and a disastrous war was the consequence.

Pericles lived long enough to see the commencement of the contest which

ultimately resulted in the political ruin of Athens, and which we now


Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings The Antediluvian World facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail