The Spartans believed in deeds, not words. Nor does Pericles concede that the strict discipline of Spartan training and the secrecy of its closed society produce better soldiers than the Athenian democracy: “There is a difference between us and our opponents in how we prepare for our military responsibilities in the following ways: we open our city for everyone and do not exclude anyone for fear that he might learn or see something that would be useful to an enemy if it were not concealed. It limited the scope and power of the state, leaving enough space for individual freedom, privacy, and the human dignity of which they are a crucial part. Secondly, even those who were not citizens had relatives-husbands, sons, and fathers who were, and that alone would convince them to love the democratic Athens as well. Sparta’s great reputation depended on its extraordinary military achievements, and these were attributed in turn to its religious piety, single-minded severe system of training, the tight discipline imposed on all aspects of life, and the ascetic Spartan mores. When the Mytilenean poet Alcaeus was sent into exile the loss he complained of was not his house and fields but the scenes of political life: “I yearn, Agesilaidas, to hear the herald summon the assembly and the council” (Alcaeus, fragment 130). The institutions are democratic, but Pericles’ explanation of what that means is a refutation of the attacks made by the enemies of democracy. Pericles describes Athenian democracy as a system of government where men advance on merit rather than on class or wealth. The highest reward is the kind of immortality that was once reserved for epic heroes but which now has come to the Athenian soldiers who have died in the service of their city, and which Pericles urges the living to earn for themselves: “They gave their lives for the common good and thereby won for themselves the praise that never grows old and the most distinguished of all graves, not those in which they lie, but where their glory remains in eternal memory, always there at the right time to inspire speech and action. The newer image, provided by Sparta, took shape no earlier than the seventh century but immediately captured the imagination of many and continued to fascinate Greek thinkers for centuries. Even years after his death, he is still celebrated by people […], In an essay first printed in “The Examiner,” Jonathan Swift writes: “In describing the virtues and vices of mankind, it is convenient, upon every article, to have some eminent person […], In “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” (1793), Blake writes with a strong prophetic voice, bringing forth a new set of proverbs, a new poetics, twisting and flipping traditional wisdom. Pericles’ vision was the culmination of a long process whereby the polis had tried to impose its communal, civic values on a society that had always been organized by family, clan, and tribe. He wanted to emphasis that what they were fighting for was of the upmost importance. "Pericles' Funeral Oration" (Ancient Greek: Περικλέους Επιτάφιος) is a famous speech from Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War. In moderate material comfort, good health, long life, virtuous offspring, and an opportunity for kleos–the last two representing man’s hopes for immortality preserved in the memory of his family and his polis. Homeric virtues and values, therefore, were worldly and personal. Through such a display he hoped to win the kind of fame that would gain him immortality as the memory of his great deeds passed on through the generations, sung and embellished by bards like Homer. After the dead had been buried in a public grave, one of the leading citizens, chosen by the city, would offer a suitable speech, and on this occasion Pericles was chosen. Pericles strengthened democracy by creating a direct democracy that had not existed before and by hiring more paid public officials. Furthermore, women were not included as citizens in Athens, which would further destroy the idea of a democracy. Nor did they believe in personal immortality, in which death is a blessing, a release from a painful and wretched life and admission to paradise. The Athenian democracy would encourage merit in its traditional form and reward it with victory, glory, and immortality. This website uses cookies so that we can provide you with the best user experience possible. “And the greatest glory of a woman is to be least talked about by men”. The Athenians depicted in his Funeral Oration are idealized images, and events would soon show the darker, less admirable side of Athenian society. Many of the qualities and characteristics envisioned by Pericles are related to military excellence, as is natural in a speech delivered in wartime to encourage the struggle for victory. The separation of tasks and roles in society was critical in the development of Athenian democracy. Filed Under: Essays. Although Pericles himself seemed to firmly believe in the advantages of Athenian democracy to the point that he advocated it as the flawless system of government, there were minute flaws that contrast it to today’s democracy. Now it is for you to emulate them; knowing that happiness requires freedom and freedom requires courage, do not shrink from the dangers of war” (2.43.2-4). Finally, Pericles revels in the variety available to the citizens of Athens–an object of scorn to Plato, but another quality, we must remember, normally associated with aristocracy. Last but not least, he continually praises the advantages Athenian democracy holds over Sparta, but only those who are citizens enjoy the full benefits of that democracy, not to mention that a limited part of the population were citizens. The official funeral oration for the Athenian soldiers who died at one of the opening battles of the Peloponnesian War by the leader of democratic Athens, Pericles. Many are now confronting long-suppressed ethnic divisions that threaten to destroy the needed unity and harmony. It talks about democracy and Athenian patriotism. Pericles’ Funeral Oration is a speech given to the community of Athens during a time of war. After all, throughout the speech, he seems to refer to only those who are well off, never mentioning those who are not citizens or even the poor. “First,” he said, ‘I shall make clear through what practices we have come to our present position and with what political constitution and way of life our city has become great.” The institutions are democratic, but Pericles’ explanation of what that means is a refutation of the attacks made by the enemies of democracy. He rejected the notion that democracy turned its back on excellence, reducing all to equality at a low level. .he may not wander about comfortably acting like someone with a clean reputation or else he is beaten by his betters. And they especially need leaders with the talents to persuade their impatient citizens that these political institutions are the necessary first foundation for a decent regime and a good life for all. for print copy click here. Pericles’ Ideology of Democratic Society. “One’s sense of honor is the only thing that does not grow old”. Xenophon gives a good example of the absence of any privacy in Sparta: “In other cities whenever a man shows himself to be a coward his only punishment is that he is called a coward. “All the same, those of you who are of the right age must bear up and take comfort in the thought of having more children.” He also tells those who are young to continue to produce children in order to supply Athens with more fighting force if necessary. . "I Want To Speak Of How Our Empire Became Great" When wealthy aristocrats won victories in athletic contests, they could pay poets like Pindar to preserve their memories in verse; they could sponsor public monuments by great architects and sculptors; the richest of them could even erect temples to the gods, dedicated in their own names. “But this is good fortune for men to end their lives with honor…”. They did not believe that man was entirely trivial, a mere bit of dust in the vast Cosmic order, such that his passing was a thing of no account. The Athenians gave him a public burial on the spot where he fell [only the men who died at Marathon received the same extraordinary honor] (1.30). . Pericles emphasizes the greatness of a democracy in his funeral oration. Main fax: 202.862.7177, © 2021 American Enterprise Institute |. He was interested in music and received a special education from … Since the time of Homer the Greek thirst for glory had centered on brave deeds in war: What would replace these in a world at peace? The world has been astounded to see thin shoots of democracy trying to break through the hard surface of oppression. When he refers to women, he says that they should stay at home and take care of the house. Their national poet, Tyrtaeus, specifically rejected the Homeric values and replaced them with a single definition of arete: the courage to stand bravely in the ranks of a hoplite phalanx fighting for Sparta. Greeks deprived of the political life felt the loss keenly. Pericles took a different view: “We believe,” he said,that words are no barrier to deeds, but rather that harm comes from not taking instruction from discussion before the time has come for action. Only facing dangers that the mind can comprehend deserves to be called bravery, and that is what is expected of the men in his polis. But a free and democratic people, one not constantly fearful of deadly rebellions by furious helots, cannot simply be told permanently to subordinate their personal pursuits to the needs of society. They excluded money, the arts and sciences, philosophy, aesthetic pleasures, and the life of the mind in general, for all these things might foster individualism and detract from devotion to the polis. Athens is called a democracy because the many rule, not the few; everyone knew that in Sparta a small minority dominated the vast majority. Pericles is trying to encourage and raise the spirits of the citizens of Athens because according to him, they live in the greatest city on earth. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” depicts an image of the modern city that is marked by paralysis, alienation, decay, and repression. The average citizen could not look even to his polis for the satisfaction of his greatest spiritual needs. An examination of the few successful democracies in history suggests that they need to meet three conditions if they are to flourish. By recognizing only individuals, not separate groups, its laws preserved the unity needed by all healthy societies and avoided the shattering rivalries that destroy them. But soon after Pericles gave that prideful speech, the original democracy got sick. Pericles delivered a rousing speech lauding democracy on the occasion of funerals, shortly after the start of the war. At times, the third qualification is the most important and can compensate for weaknesses in the other two. His life has neither law nor order; and this distracted existence he terms joy and bliss and freedom; and so he goes on” (Republic 56lC). Pericles describes Athenian democracy as a system of government where men advance on merit rather than on class or wealth. His father, Xanthippus (c. 525-475 BCE) was a respected politician and war hero and his mother, Agariste, a member of the powerful and influential Alcmaeonidae family who encouraged the early development of Athenian democracy.Pericles’ family's nobility, prestige, and wealth allowed him to pursue his inclination toward education in any subject he fancied. Get tips and ideas in OUTLINE. Above all, Pericles helped the Athenians to understand that their private needs, both moral and material, required the kind of community Athens had become. Overall, Pericles’s speech acted as an instigator of pride and morale for fellow Athenians at the time, but now emphasize the level of patriotism that fueled Athenian democracy. Although those who were not citizens would not love the city as much as those who were, the overwhelming sense of patriotism would ensure that even those who were not citizens would be swept along. Repeated failures had taught the Persians they could not challenge Athenian naval power, while adherence to the right strategy–a refusal to fight a large land battle–deprived Sparta and its allies of any hope for victory. This famous speech by Athenian ruler Pericles praising democracy, after the first year of war with Sparta, describes a form of government that is about to end and not be revived for almost 2,000 years. The Funeral Oration of Pericles. With a fleet that commanded the seas, the guaranteed revenues needed to support its navy and provide supplies against any siege, and a city and port defended by impregnable walls, Athens had achieved unprecedented security. The Spartans were famous for their brevity and distrust of subtle reasoning, but Pericles praises the democracy’s fondness for debate and discussion. These aristocratic values never lost their powerful attraction to all Greeks, and Pericles claimed them for the Athenian democracy. For Athenians, the individual and familial values sung by Homer remained vital and attractive; yet their polis needed a Spartan commitment and devotion to meet the challenge of the Persian invasions, of the acquisition of the empire, and of the jealousy of Sparta and her allies. Pericles therefore asserts that “we conduct our public life as free men [eleuthero.i]” (2.37.2). By applauding Athenian democracy, citizens would feel a sense of inclusion in their love for Athens and strive to protect their city. One way that it gained the needed commitment was by creating, for the first time in history, a true political life which allowed its active citizens to exercise human capacity previously employed by very few. Most believe that Pericles was praising Athenian democracy, yet some claim that he was, in … In 431 BCE, at the end of the first year of the Peloponnesian War, held their traditional public funeral for all those who had been killed. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again. Special offer for readers. He believed that man’s capacities and desires could be fulfilled at the highest level only through participation in the life of a community governed by reasoned discussion and guided by intelligence. .he must support his unmarried sisters at home and explain to them why they are still spinsters, he must live without a wife at his fireside. Pericles glorifies the “equal justice to all” under the law that all men of Athens share and glorifies their superiority over their peer poleis. “The people who have the most excuse for despising death are not the wretched and unfortunate…but those who run the risk of a complete reversal in their lives…” Also, Pericles attempts to convince the citizens that there should be no fear of death if one already has an honorable life, as they would be forever respected after their death. . That is why Thucydides had so much respect for a man like Pericles that he decided to mention many of the speeches made by him during the Peloponnesian is his histories. Death is the end; beyond it is silence and darkness. The aristocrat believed that the poor were not free, because their poverty deprived them of leisure and, therefore, of the opportunity to take part in public life. Most believe that Pericles was praising Athenian democracy, yet some claim that he was, in fact, downplaying the importance of democracy. Judgment was rendered according to their laws, once again, by courts made up of citizens. American Enterprise Institute Wars were frequent, and in order to survive and flourish each polis required devotion and sacrifice from its citizens. In our time democracy is taken for granted, but it is one of the rarest, most delicate, and fragile flowers in the jungle of human experience. In the opening scene of the Iliad, Achilles’ honor and reputation are diminished by Agamemnon’s arrogance, so he retires from the battle and sulks in his tent while the Greeks suffer a series of costly defeats. They followed a written code that was exclusively in the interest of the ruling class. In a democracy, “class considerations [are not] allowed to interfere with merit” – any man capable enough to rule is allowed to do so. He calls for those who are well off to join the battle, knowing that they will be the least likely to throw away their good fortune. Instead, we put our trust not in secret weapons, but in our own courage when we are called upon to act. At an early date they had abandoned the normal means whereby men provide for themselves and their families, including all economic activity: farming, pasturing, trade, craft, and industry. And we decide public questions ourselves, or at least come to a sound understanding of them” (2.40.2). (Ancient History Sourcebook: Thucydides (c.460/455-c.399 BCE): Pericles’ Funeral Oration from the … The Spartans, from their earliest childhood, seek to acquire courage by painfully harsh training, but we, living our unrestricted life, are no less ready to meet the same dangers they do. The willingness to perform military service for his homeland is the most fundamental and demanding duty of the citizen. The following speech is recorded in the History of the Peloponnesian Wars, written by the famous historian Thucydides, whose account of this conflict covered the causes of the war up to its conclusion in 404B.C. No one, moreover, if he has it in him to do some good for the city, is barred because of poverty or humble origins” (Thucydides 2.37.1). It contained a clear, if often implicit, contrast with the Spartan way of life, which so many Greeks admired but which Pericles regarded as inferior to the Athens he portrayed. They need leaders who understand that individual freedom, self-government, and equality before the law are of the highest value in themselves. In 1939 “Der Schulungsbrief,” a monthly review of the Nazi party, published a Greek text: “Rede des Perikles,” Pericles’ Funeral Oration, a speech that was originally delivered in 431 BC by Athen’s elected leader, Pericles, in honor of those recently fallen during the first year of … (Woodruff XXVI.) Sparta had a stronger army, but Athens had the stronger navy. Cookie information is stored in your browser and performs functions such as recognising you when you return to our website and helping our team to understand which sections of the website you find most interesting and useful. “Neither rich man nor poor is prevented from taking part in politics by the pursuit of his economic interests, and the same people are concerned both with their own private business and with political matters; even those who turn their attention chiefly to their own affairs do not lack judgment about politics. In the Athens of Pericles, however, the general prosperity and payment for public service gave the average man a degree of leisure unknown in other states. Thucydides, Pericles' Funeral Oration Most of those who have spoken here before me have commended the lawgiver who added this oration to our other funeral customs. Here Pericles has identified a critical element of his vision for Athens: its commitment to reason and intelligence. But the Funeral Oration was intended to inspire the Athenians with a vision of excellence that justified their current efforts. America was “a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Victory would mean “a new birth of freedom,” and would ensure that “government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” The fallen soldiers’ purpose was to preserve a Constitution and a way of life that was unique and worthy of sacrifice. Although it is true that Pericles seems to refer to only those who are well off in society, he includes everyone by continuously saying that those who are patriots and love Athens will fight for the city. The Plague and Death Pericles strategy against Sparta was to fight them at sea and not on land. He certainly played the chief role in transforming it from a limited democracy where the common people still deferred to their aristocratic betters to a fully confident popular government in which the mass of the people were fully sovereign in fact as well as theory. That conception ran counter to Greek experience, which had always been full of turbulence and warfare. The Spartan imposed a property qualification for participation in public life; any Athenian citizen could sit on juries or the council and vote and speak in the assembly. . In contrast, Pericles points to the limited jurisdiction of the Athenian regime, which leaves a considerable space for individualism and privacy, free from public scrutiny: “Not only do we conduct our public life as free men but we are also free of suspicion of one another as we go about our every-day lives. The Athenians, on the other hand, respected a broader and fairer concept of the law, with no less reverence: “While we are tolerant in our private lives, in public affairs we do not break the law chiefly because of our respect for it. Prufrock is a modern man who can […], Alfieri’s commentary on the action of the play is integral to Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge, communicating directly to the audience and presenting the events from a more […], Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid appears to be a light-hearted film about companionship, fighting, and trickery, but an examination from a cultural standpoint reveals the film’s intellectual depth. Their love for Athens: its commitment to reason and intelligence speaker was almost desperately needed to raise the.. Still seem to indicate some of the ruling class political community and a sovereign entity competing a! Far as to adopt the Spartan way of life would produce responsibility at home back! 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