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A Sourcebook and Reader

Stephen V. Tracy

Publication Year: 2009

Pericles, Greece's greatest statesman and the leader of its Golden Age, created the Parthenon and championed democracy in Athens and beyond. Centuries of praise have endowed him with the powers of a demigod, but what did his friends, associates, and fellow citizens think of him? In Pericles: A Sourcebook and Reader, Stephen V. Tracy visits the fifth century B.C. to find out. Tracy compiles and translates the scattered, elusive primary sources relating to Pericles. He brings Athens's political atmosphere to life with archaeological evidence and the accounts of those close to Pericles, including Thucydides, Aristophanes, Herodotus, Protagoras, Sophocles, Lysias, Xenophon, Plato, and Plutarch. Readers will discover Pericles as a formidable politician, a persuasive and inspiring orator, and a man full of human contradictions.

Published by: University of California Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-9


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pp. vii-x

List of Passages Translated

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pp. xi-xiv

List of Illustrations

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pp. xv-xvi

Abbreviations and Primary Sources

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pp. xvii-xx

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pp. xxi-xxiv

This book about Pericles will fill, I hope, a need of teachers and students at high schools and colleges who are studying the golden age of Athens. That period is usually called the Periclean Age after Athens’ greatest leader, Pericles. However, despite the undeniable importance of the man, there exists no book in English that collects in one place the scattered primary evidence about his life. ...

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pp. 1-24

The century began with the Persian Wars when the Persians attacked Greece and Athens, first in 490 under Darius and then in 480/79 under his son Xerxes. There were memorable battles: Marathon in 490 where the Athenians soundly defeated the Persians; then in 480/79 Thermopylae, scene of the slaughter of the 300 Spartans by the Persians; ...

The Primary Sources

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Pericles’ Writings

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pp. 27-31

No written work by Pericles has come down to us and, except for some speeches that he may have committed to writing and measures that he sponsored in the Council and the Assembly, we have no sure knowledge that Pericles himself wrote anything.1 This loss of his direct words is a great pity, for contemporary and near-contemporary sources— ...

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The Archaeological Evidence

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pp. 32-44

Despite his prominence in Athenian politics and the leading role he played in the expansion of Athens’ influence for a generation, Pericles’ name has yet to turn up completely preserved on any of the hundreds of inscriptions to have survived from the fifth century B.C.1 ...

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Thucydides’ Portrait of Pericles I: Prelude to War

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pp. 45-60

The historian Thucydides provides us with our only extensive portrait of Pericles by a contemporary. He portrays him as the principal leader of the Athenians at the outset of the war between the Athenians and the Spartans. The conflict eventually lasted for twenty-seven years, from 431 to 404 B.C.; ...

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Thucydides’ Portrait of Pericles II: The First Campaign and the Funeral Oration

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pp. 61-78

The actual narrative of the war starts in book 2. Indeed, Thucydides opens book 2 with the following words: “Now from this point begins the war of the Athenians and Peloponnesians and their allies.” He gives Pericles two speeches in this book, the famed funeral oration in sections 35–46 and a final speech rallying the Athenians to stay the course in sections 60–64.1 ...

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Thucydides’ Portrait of Pericles III: Plague, Last Speech, and Final Tribute

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pp. 79-95

Following immediately on the funeral oration, that brilliant account of Athenian democracy delivered by the city’s greatest statesman, and standing in juxtaposition to it, is Thucydides’ clinically vivid description of the plague that attacked the city like an invading army (2.47–54). ...

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Aristophanes and Old Comedy: Caricature and Personal Attack

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pp. 96-108

Political leaders the world over are routinely subject to criticism. It is apparently human nature to attack those in positions of power. Democracies in particular foster climates of free speech, and leaders in democracies, therefore, are often subject to public ridicule. Never has that been more true than in the Athens of Pericles’ time. ...

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pp. 109-115

Pericles’ contemporaries Sophocles and Protagoras, as we will see, depict him as he dealt with the onslaught of the plague, at the end of his life. By contrast, the historian Herodotus of Halicarnassus, who was somewhat younger than Pericles, looks back to Pericles’ birth. ...

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pp. 116-118

Protagoras of Abdera, the most famous sophist of the age, visited Athens on several occasions, probably for extended periods of time. He came once about 443 B.C. in preparation for creating a law code for the settlement at Thurii. Pericles almost certainly picked him for the task. ...

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Sophocles’ Oedipus: In the Image of Pericles

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pp. 119-127

Sophocles and Pericles were two of Athens’ leading intellectuals. They were also almost exact contemporaries, Sophocles being perhaps a year or two older than Pericles. Although Sophocles was primarily a poet and Pericles a statesman, they knew one another very well, having served together as generals in putting down the Samian revolt in 440–439 B.C. ...

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Lysias, Xenophon, and Plato

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pp. 128-142

The life of the speechwriter Lysias straddled the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. Born about 450 B.C., in his formative years he must have been aware of Pericles, whether he personally had direct contact with him or not. Lysias did not begin producing speeches until about thirty years after Pericles’ death.1 ...

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Plutarch and the Biographical Tradition

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pp. 143-149

Biography was not a developed genre in the ancient world even in the late first and early second century A.D. when Plutarch flourished. Interest in important individuals probably always existed, but persons or groups, such as soldiers killed in battle, were surely first celebrated in a formal manner in eulogies at funerals. ...

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Afterword: The Legend of Pericles

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pp. 150-156

Except for Plutarch the authors discussed all lived at the same time as Pericles, or within a generation of his death. Many were his coevals and in a position either to have been personally acquainted with him or to have known people who were. Some, such as Anaxagoras, Protagoras, and Sophocles, were probably his good friends. ...

Appendix: The Dryden Translation of Plutarch’s Life of Pericles

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pp. 157-200

Recommended Reading

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pp. 201-202


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pp. 203-214


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pp. 215-220

E-ISBN-13: 9780520943629
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520256040

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2009