Plutarch's Life of Pericles
Text by Thomas North
Pericles (ca. 495-429 B.C.)
Reading for Lesson One
Like as the eye is most delighted with the lightest and freshest colours: even so we must give our minds unto those sights which by looking upon them do draw profit and pleasure unto us. For such effects doth virtue bring: that either to hear or read them, they do print in our hearts an earnest love and desire to follow them. But this followeth not in all other things we esteem; neither are we always disposed to desire to do the things we see well done: but contrarily oftentimes, when we like the work, we mislike the workman, as commonly happens in making perfumes and purple colours. For both the one, and the other do please us well: but yet we take perfumers and dyers to be men of a mean occupation.
For it followeth not of necessity that, though the work delight, the workman must needs be praised. And so in like case, such things do not profit those which behold them, because they do not move affection in the hearts of the beholders to follow them, neither do stir up affection to resemble them, and much less to conform ourselves unto them. But virtue, by the bare statement of its actions, can so affect men's minds as to create at once both admiration of the things done and desire to imitate the doers of them. And this is the reason why methought I should continue still to write on the lives of noble men, and why I made also this tenth book: in the which are contained the Lives of Pericles and of Fabius Maximus. For they were both men very like together in many sundry virtues, and specially in courtesy and justice: and for that they could patiently bear the follies of their people, and the companions that were in charge of government with them, they were marvellous profitable members for their country. But if we have sorted them well together, comparing the one with the other: you shall easily judge, that read our writings of their Lives.
Pericles was of the tribe Acamantis, and the township Cholargus, of the noblest birth both on his father's and mother's side. Xanthippus, his father, who defeated the King of Persia's generals in the Battle of Mycale, took to wife Agariste, the grandchild of Clisthenes (who drove out the sons of Pisistratus, and nobly put an end to their tyrannical usurpation).
[omission for length and content]
Pericles was well proportioned in all the parts of his body, saving that his head was somewhat too long and out of proportion to the rest of his body. And this is the only cause why statues and images of him are made with a helmet on his head: because the workmen as it should seem (and so it is most likely) were willing to hide the blemish of his deformity. But the Attican poets did call him Schinocephalos, or squill-head, from schinos, a squill, or sea-onion.
[omission for length and content]
The master that taught him music, most authors are agreed, was Damon…but it is not unlikely, being a sophist, that he out of policy sheltered himself under the profession of music to conceal from people in general his skill in other things; and under this pretense attended Pericles, the young athlete of politics, so to say, as his training master in these exercises.
[omission for length]
Pericles also was a hearer of Zeno the Eleatic, who treated of natural philosophy in the same manner as Parmenides did, but had also perfected himself in an art of his own for refuting and silencing opponents in argument; as Timon of Phlius describes it:
Also the two-edged tongue of might Zeno, who,
Say what one would, could argue it untrue.
But he that saw most of Pericles, and furnished him most especially with a weight and grandeur of sense, superior to all arts of popularity, and in general gave him his elevation and sublimity of purpose and of character, was Anaxagoras of Clazomenae; whom the men of those times called by the name of Nous, that is, "mind," or "intelligence," whether in admiration of the great and extraordinary gift he had displayed for the science of nature, or because that he was the first of the philosophers who did not refer the first ordering of the world to fortune or chance, nor to necessity or compulsion, but to a pure, unadulterated intelligence, which in all other existing mixed and compound things acts as a principle of discrimination, and of combination of like with like. For this man, Pericles entertained an extraordinary esteem and admiration; and, filling himself with this lofty, and, as they call it, up-in-the-air sort of thought, he derived hence not merely (as was natural) elevation of purpose and dignity of language, but, besides this, a composure of countenance, and a serenity and calmness in all his movements, which no occurrence whilst he was speaking could disturb; a sustained and even tone of voice; and various other advantages of a similar kind, which produced the greatest effect on his hearers.
But for proof hereof, the report goeth, there was a naughty busy fellow on a time, that a whole day together did nothing but rail upon Pericles in the marketplace, and revile him to his face, with all the villainous words he could use. But Pericles put all up quietly, and gave him not a word again, dispatching in the meantime matters of importance he had in hand, until night came, that he went softly home to his house, shewing no alteration nor semblance of trouble at all, the man still dogging him at the heels, and pelting him all the way with abuse and foul language. And stepping into his house, it being by this time dark, he ordered one of his servants to take a light, and to go along with the man and see him safe home.
Reading for Lesson Two
The poet Ion sayeth that Pericles was a very proud man, and a stately one; and that with his gravity and noble mind, there was mingled a certain scorn and contempt of others: and contrarily, he greatly praiseth the civility, humanity, and courtesy of Cimon, because he could fashion himself to all companies. But Zenon, contrariwise, did counsel all those that said Pericles' gravity was a presumption and arrogance, that they should also follow him in his "presumption": inasmuch as this mere counterfeiting might in time insensibly instill into them a real love and knowledge of those noble qualities.
[omission for length and content]
While Pericles was yet but a young man, the people stood in awe of him, because he somewhat resembled Pisistratus; and the most ancient men of the city also were much afraid of his soft voice, his eloquent tongue, and ready utterance, because in those he was Pisistratus up and down. Moreover he was very rich and wealthy, and of one of the noblest families of the city, and those were his friends also that carried the only sway and authority in the state: whereupon, fearing least they would banish him with the banishment of Ostracismon, he would not meddle with government in any case, although otherwise he shewed himself in wars very valiant and forward, and feared not to venture his person.
But after the time that Aristides was dead, that Themistocles was driven away, and that Cimon, being ever in service in the wars as general in foreign countries, was a long time out of Greece: then he came to lean to the tribe of the poor people, preferring the multitude of the poor commonalty above the small number of nobility and rich men, the which was directly against his nature. For of himself he was not popular, nor meanly given: but he did it (as it should seem) to avoid suspicion, that he should pretend to make himself king. And because he saw Cimon was inclined also to take part with the nobility, and that he was singularly beloved and liked by all the better and more distinguished people: he to the contrary inclined himself to the common people, purchasing by this means safety to himself, and authority against Cimon.
So he presently began a new course of life, since he had taken upon him to deal in matters of state: he was never seen to walk in any street but that which led to the marketplace or council-hall. He gave up going to all feasts where he was bidden, and left the entertainment of his friends, their company and familiarity. So that in all his time wherein he governed the commonwealth, which was a long time, he never went out to supper to any of his friends, unless it were that he was once at a feast at his nephew Euryptolemus' marriage: and then he tarried there no longer, but only while the ceremony was a-doing, when they offer wine to the gods, and then immediately rose from table and went his way. For these friendly meetings are very quick to defeat any assumed superiority, and in intimate familiarity an exterior of gravity is hard to maintain. Real excellence, indeed, is most recognized when most openly looked into; and in really good men, nothing which meets the eyes of external observers so truly deserves their admiration, as their daily common life does that of their nearer friends. Pericles now to prevent that the people should not be glutted with seeing him too oft, nor that they should come much to him: they did see him but at some times, and then he would not talk in every matter, neither came much abroad among them, but reserved himself (as Critolaus said they kept the Salaminian galley at Athens) for matters of great importance.
[omission for length]
Thucydides, the son of Melesias, was one of the noble and distinguished citizens, and had been his greatest opponent; and, when Archidamus, the king of the Lacedaemonians, asked him whether he or Pericles were the better wrestler, he made this answer: "When I," said he, "have thrown him and given him a fair fall, by persisting that he had no fall, he gets the better of me, and makes the bystanders, in spite of their own eyes, believe him." Notwithstanding Pericles was ever very grave and wise in speaking. For whenever he went up into the pulpit for orations to speak to the people, he made his prayers unto the gods that nothing might escape his mouth, but that he might consider before whether it would serve the purpose of his matter he treated on.
[omission for length and content]
Reading for Lesson Three
Now Thucydides (the historian) describes the government of the commonwealth under Pericles as an aristocratical government, that went by the name of a democracy. Others say, on the contrary, that by him the common people were first encouraged and led on to such evils as the custom to divide the enemies' lands, won by conquest, among the people; and of the common money to make the people see plays and pastimes, and that appointed them reward for all things. But this custom was ill brought up. For the common people that before were contented with little, and got their living painfully with sweat of their brows: became now to be very vain, sumptuous, and riotous, by reason of these things brought up then. The cause of the alteration doth easily appear by those things. For Pericles at his first coming, sought to win the favour of the people, as we have said before, only to get like reputation that Cimon had won.
But coming far short of his wealth and ability to carry out the activities that Cimon did (such as entertaining the poor, keeping open house to all comers, clothing poor old people, breaking open besides all enclosures and pales through all his lands, that every one might with more liberty come in, and take the fruits thereof at their pleasure); and seeing himself by these great means outgone far in goodwill with the common people, by Damonides' counsel he brought in this distribution of the common money, as Aristotle writeth. And having won in a short time the favour and goodwill of the common people, by distribution of the common treasure, which he caused to be divided among them; and in a short time having bought the people over, what with moneys allowed for shows, and for service on juries, and what with other forms of pay and largess, he made use of them against the council of Areopagus, of which he himself was no member, as having never been appointed by lot either chief archon, or lawgiver, or king, or captain. For from of old these offices were conferred on persons by lot, and they who had acquitted themselves duly in the discharge of them were advanced to the court of Areopagus.
Pericles now by these means having obtained great credit and authority amongst the common people, he troubled the council of the Areopagites in such sort, that he plucked many matters from their hearing, by Ephialtes' help; and in time made Cimon to be banished from Athens, as one that favoured the Lacedaemonians, and contraried the commonwealth and authority of the people. And this was in spite of the fact that Cimon was the noblest and richest person of all the city, and one that had won so many glorious victories, and had so replenished Athens with the conquered spoils of their enemies, as we have declared in his Life: so great was the authority of Pericles amongst the people.
Now the banishment wherewith Cimon was punished (which they called Ostracismon) was limited by the law for ten years; and, in the meantime, the Lacedaemonians being come down with a great army into the country of Tanagra, the Athenians sent out their power presently against them. There Cimon, willing to shew the Athenians by his deeds that they had falsely accused him for favouring the Lacedaemonians, did arm himself, and went on his countrymen's side, to fight in the company of his tribe. But Pericles' friends gathered together, and forced Cimon to depart thence as a banished man. And this was the cause that Pericles fought that day more valiantly than ever he did, and he won the honour and name to have done more in the person of himself that day, than any others of all the army. At that battle also, all Cimon's friends, whom Pericles had burdened likewise to favour the Lacedaemonians' doings, died every man of them that day.
Then the Athenians repented them much that they had driven Cimon away, and wished he were restored, after they had lost this battle upon the confines of the country of Attica: because they feared sharp wars would come upon them again at the next spring. Which thing when Pericles perceived, he sought also to further that which the common people desired: wherefore he straight caused a decree to be made that Cimon should be called home again, which was done accordingly.
[omission for length: Cimon's return to Athens, his return to military leadership, and his death in Cyprus; this can be read in the Life of Cimon.]
Those that took part with the nobility, seeing Pericles was now grown very great, and that he went before all other citizens of Athens, thinking it good to have someone to stick on their side against him, and to lessen thereby somewhat his authority, that he might not come to rule all as he would: they raised up against him Thucydides of the town of Alopecia, a grave wise man, and near kinsman of Cimon's. This Thucydides had less skill of wars than Cimon, but understood more about civil government than he, for that he remained most part of his time within the city: where, continually inveighing against Pericles in his pulpit for orations to the people, in short time he had stirred up a like company against the faction of Pericles. For he kept the gentlemen and richer sort (which they call nobility) from mingling with the common people, as they were before, when through the multitude of the commons their estate and dignity was obscured, and trodden underfoot. Moreover he did separate them from the common people, and did assemble them all as it were into one body, who came to be of equal power with the other faction.
But the contention between these two groups was as a deep cut, which divided the city wholly. Therefore Pericles giving yet more liberty unto the common people, did all things that might be to please them, ordaining continual plays and games in the city, many feasts, banquets, and open pastimes to entertain the commons with such honest pleasures and devices: and besides all this, he sent yearly an army of threescore galleys unto the wars, into the which he put a great number of poor citizens that took pay of the state for nine months of the year, and thereby they did learn together, and practice to be good seamen.
Furthermore he sent into the Chersonese a thousand free men of the city to dwell there, and to divide the lands amongst them; five hundred also into the Isle of Naxos; into the Isle of Andros, two hundred and fifty; into Thrace, a thousand to dwell with the Bisaltes; and other also into Italy, when the city of Sybaris was built again, which afterwards was surnamed the city of the Thurians. All this he did to rid the city of a number of idle people, who through idleness began to be curious, and to desire change of things; as also to provide for the necessity of the poor townsmen that had nothing. This served also to intimidate, also, and check their allies from attempting any change, by posting such garrisons, as it were, in the midst of them.
Reading for Lesson Four
But that which delighteth most, and is the greatest ornament unto the city of Athens, which maketh strangers most to wonder, and which alone doth bring sufficient testimony to confirm that which is reported of the ancient power, riches, and great wealth of Greece to be true and not false, are the stately and sumptuous buildings which Pericles made to be built in the city of Athens. Yet this was that of all his actions in the government which his enemies most looked askance upon and cavilled at in the popular assemblies, crying out how that the commonwealth of Athens had lost its reputation and was ill-spoken of abroad for removing the common treasure of the Greeks from the Isle of Delos into their own custody; and how that their fairest excuse for so doing, namely, that they took it away for fear the barbarians should seize it, and on purpose to secure it in a safe place, this Pericles had made unavailable, and how that:
"Greece cannot but resent it as an insufferable affront, and consider herself to be tyrannized over openly, when she sees the treasure, which was contributed by her upon a necessity for the war, lavished out by us upon our city, to gild her all over, and to adorn and set her forth, as it were some vain woman, hung round with precious stones and figures and temples, which cost a world of money."
Pericles replied to the contrary, and declared unto the Athenians:
"that they were not bound to make any account of this money unto their friends and allies, considering that they fought for their safety, and that they kept the barbarous people far from Greece, without troubling them to set out any one man, horse, or ship of theirs, the money only excepted, which is no more theirs that paid it, than theirs that received it; so they bestow it to that use they received it for. And their city being already very well furnished, and provided of all things necessary for the wars, it was good reason they should employ and bestow the surplus of the treasure in things, which in time to come (and being thoroughly finished) would make their fame eternal."
Moreover he said that,
"whilst they continue building, they should be presently rich, by reason of the diversity of works of all sorts, and other things which they should have need of; and to compass these things the better, and to set them in hand, all manner of artificers and workmen (that would labour) should be set a-work. So should all the townsmen and inhabitants of the city receive pay and wages of the common treasure: and the city by this means should be greatly beautified, and much more able to maintain itself. For such as were strong and able men, of body and of age to carry weapons, had pay and entertainment of the commonwealth, which were sent abroad unto the wars: and others that were not meet for wars, as craftsmen, and labourers: he wished also they should have part of the common treasure, but not without earning it."
[omission for length]
For some gained by bringing material such as stones, brass, ivory, gold, ebony, and cypress. Others got to work and fashioned it: as carpenters, gravers, founders, casters of images, masons. Divers hewers of stone, dyers, goldsmiths, joiners working in artificers' ivory, painters, men that set in sundry colours of pieces of stone or wood, and turners. Other gained to bring stuff, and to furnish them: as merchants, mariners, and shipmasters, for things they brought them by sea. And by land others got also: as cart makers, carriers, carters, cord makers, saddlers, collar-makers, and pioneers to make ways plain, and miners, and such like. Furthermore, every science and craft, as a captain having soldiers, had also their army of the workmen that served them, labouring truly for their living, who served as apprentices and journeymen under the workmasters: so the work by this means did disperse abroad a common gain to all sorts of people and ages, what occupation or trade soever they had. And thus came the buildings to rise in greatness and sumptuousness, being of excellent workmanship, and for grace and beauty not comparable: because every workman in his science did strive what he could to excel others, to make his work appear greatest in sight, and to be most workmanly done in show.
Reading for Lesson Five
But the greatest thing to be wondered at was the speed and diligence of all the building. For where every man thought those works were not likely to be finished in many men's lives and ages, and from man to man: they were all done and finished whilst one only governor continued still in credit and authority. And yet they say, that in the same time, as one Agatarchus boasted himself, that he had quickly painted certain beasts: Zeuxis, another painter, hearing him, answered:
"And I contrarily do rejoice, that I am a long time in drawing of them. For commonly slight and sudden drawing of anything, cannot take deep colours, nor give perfect beauty to the work: but length of time, adding to the painter's diligence and labour in making of the work, maketh the colours to continue forever."
For this cause therefore the works Pericles made are more wonderful: because they were perfectly made in so short a time, and have continued so long a season.
[omission for length]
Now the chief surveyor general of all these works was Phidias (but there were many other excellent work masters in every science and occupation). For the Temple of Pallas, which is called the Parthenon was built by Ictinus, and Callicrates: and the Chapel of Eleusin was first founded by Coroebus.
[omission for length]
The Odeon, or music-room, which in its interior was full of seats and ranges of pillars, and outside had its roof made to slope and descend from one single point at the top, was constructed, we are told, in imitation of the king of Persia's pavilion; this, likewise, by Pericles' order.
Pericles, also eager for distinction, then first obtained the decree for a contest in musical skill to be held yearly at the Panathenaea; and he himself, being chosen judge, arranged the order and method in which the competitors should sing and play on the flute and on the harp. And both at that time, and at other times also, they sat in this music-room to see and hear all such trials of skill.
The gate and entering into the castle was made and finished within the space of five years, under the charge of Mnesicles, that was master of the works. And whilst these gates were a-building, there happened a wonderful chance, which declared very well that the goddess Minerva did not mislike the building, but that it pleased her marvellously. For one of the workmen that wrought there fell by mischance from the height of the castle to the ground, which fall did so sore bruise him, and he was so sick with all, that the physicians and surgeons had no hope of his life. Pericles being very sorry for his mischance, the goddess appeared to him in his sleep in the night, and taught him a medicine, with the which he did easily heal the poor bruised man, and that in short time. And this was the occasion why he caused the image of the goddess Minerva (otherwise called "Of Health") to be cast in brass, and set up within the temple of the castle, near unto the altar which was there before, as they say.
But it was Phidias who wrought the goddess' image in gold, and he has his name inscribed on the pedestal as the workman of it, and indeed the whole work in a manner was under his charge; and he had, as we have said already, the oversight over all the artists and workmen, through Pericles' friendship for him; and this, indeed, made him much envied, and his patron shamefully slandered with stories.
[omission for content]
But Pericles perceived that the orators of Thucydides' faction, in their common orations, did still cry out upon him that he did vainly waste and consume the common treasure, and that he bestowed upon the works all the whole revenue of the city. One day when the people were assembled together, before them all he asked them if they thought that the cost bestowed were too much. The people answered him, "A great deal too much." "Well," said he then, "the charges shall be mine (if you think good), and none of yours: provided that no man's name be written upon the works, but mine only."
When Pericles had said so, the people cried out aloud, they would none of that (either because that they wondered at the greatness of his mind, or else for that they would not give him the only honour and praise to have done so sumptuous and stately works), but willed him that he should see them ended at the common charges, without sparing for any cost.
Reading for Lesson Six
At length, coming to a final contest with Thucydides which of the two should ostracize the other out of the country, and having gone through this peril, he threw his antagonist out, and broke up the confederacy that had been organized against him.
So that now all schism and division being at an end, and the city brought to evenness and unity, he got all Athens, and all affairs that pertained to the Athenians, into his own hands: their tributes, their armies, and their galleys, the islands, the sea, and their wide-extended power, partly over other Greeks and partly over barbarians; and all that empire which they possessed, founded and fortified upon subject nations and royal friendships and alliances.
After this he was no longer the same man he had been before, nor as tame and gentle and familiar as formerly with the populace, so as readily to yield to their pleasures and to comply with the desires of the multitude, as a steersman shifts with the winds. Quitting that loose, remiss, and in some cases, licentious court of the popular will, he turned those soft and flowery modulations to the austerity of aristocratical and regal rule. But he yet held still a direct course, and kept himself ever upright without fault, as one that did, said, and counselled that which was most expedient for the commonwealth. He many times brought on the people, by persuasions and reasons, to be willing to grant that which he preferred unto them; but many times also, he drove them to it by force, and made them against their wills do that which was best for them. He followed the method of a wise physician, who, in a long and changeable disease, doth grant his patient sometimes to take his pleasure of a thing he liketh, but yet after a moderate sort; and another time also he doth give him a sharp or bitter medicine that doth vex him, though it heal him.
For there arising and growing up, as was natural, all manner of distempered feelings among a people which had so vast a command and dominion, he alone, as a great master, knowing how to handle and deal fitly with each one of them, and, in an especial manner, making that use of hopes and fears, as his two chief rudders: with the one to check the career of their confidence at any time; with the other to raise them up and cheer them when under any discouragement. He plainly showed by this that rhetoric, or the art of speaking, is, in Plato's language, the government of the souls of men, and that her chief business is to address the affections and passions, which are, as it were, the strings and keys to the soul, and require a skillful and careful touch to be played on as they should be.
All of which, not the force of his eloquence only brought to pass, as Thucydides (the historian) witnesseth: but the reputation of his life, and the opinion and confidence they had of his great worthiness, because he would not any way be corrupted with gifts, neither had he any covetousness in him.
For, when he had brought his city not only to be great, but exceeding great and wealthy, and had in power and authority exceeded many kings and tyrants, yea even those which by their wills and testaments might have left great possessions to their children: he never for all that increased his father's goods and patrimony left him by the value of a groat in silver. And yet the historiographer Thucydides doth set forth plainly enough the greatness of his power [omission for length]. For after he had prevailed against the politician Thucydides, and had banished him, he yet remained chief above all others for the space of fifteen years. He had therefore attained a regal dignity to command all, which continued as aforesaid, where no other captain's authority endured but one year.
Pericles was not altogether idle or careless in looking after his own finances. His paternal estate, which of right belonged to him, he so ordered that it might neither through negligence be wasted or lessened, nor yet, being so full of business as he was, cost him any great trouble or time with taking care of it; and put it into such a way of management as he thought to be the most easy for himself, and the most exact. All his yearly products and profits he sold together in a lump, and supplied his household needs afterwards by buying everything that he or his family wanted out of the market.
[omission for length: how Pericles' tight management of household finances irritated his family members, but nevertheless kept him from going into debt]
But these things were far contrary to Anaxagoras' wisdom. For he, despising the world, and casting his affection on heavenly things, did willingly forsake his house, and suffered all his land to lie fallow and to be grazed by sheep like a common.
But (in my opinion) great is the diversity between a contemplative life and a civil life. For the one employeth all his time upon the speculation of good and honest things: and to attain to that, he thinketh he hath no need of any exterior help or instrument. The other applying all his time upon virtue, to the common profit and benefit of men: he thinketh that he needeth riches, as an instrument not only necessary, but also honest. As, look upon the example of Pericles: who did relieve many poor people.
However, there is a story that Anaxagoras himself, while Pericles was taken up with public affairs, lay neglected; and that, now being grown old, he wrapped himself up with a resolution to die for want of food; which being by chance brought to Pericles' ear, he was horror-struck, and instantly ran thither, and used all the arguments and entreaties he could to him, lamenting not so much Anaxagoras' condition as his own, should he lose such a counsellor as he had found him to be; and that, upon this, Anaxagoras unfolded his robe, and, showing himself, made answer: "Pericles," said he, "even those who have occasion for a lamp supply it with oil."
Reading for Lesson Seven
The Lacedaemonians began to show themselves troubled at the growth of the Athenian power. Pericles, on the other hand, to elevate the people's spirit yet more, and to raise them to the thought of great actions, proposed a decree to summon all the Greeks, in what part soever, whether of Europe or Asia, every city, little as well as great, to send their deputies to Athens to a general assembly, or convention, there to consult and advise concerning the Greek temples which the barbarians had burnt down, and the sacrifices which were due from them upon vows they had made to their gods for the safety of Greece when they fought against the barbarians; and also concerning the navigation of the sea, that they might henceforward pass to and fro and trade securely and be at peace among themselves.
[omission for length: the list of cities and states invited to this conference]
Nothing was effected, nor did the cities meet by their deputies, as was desired: the Lacedaemonians, as it is said, crossing the design underhand, the attempt being disappointed and baffled first in Peloponnesus. I thought fit, however, to introduce the mention of it, to show the spirit of the man and the greatness of his thoughts.
Furthermore, when Pericles was chosen general in the wars, he was much esteemed because he ever took great regard to the safety of his soldiers. For by his goodwill he would never hazard battle which he saw might fall out doubtful, or in any way dangerous. He did not envy the glory of generals whose rash adventures fortune favoured with brilliant success, however much they were admired by others, nor did he think them worthy of his imitation; but he always used to say to his citizens that, so far as lay in his power, they (those generals) should continue immortal, and live forever.
And when he saw that Tolmides, the son of Tolmaeus (trusting to his former victories, and the praise and commendation of his good service) did prepare upon no occasion, and to no purpose, to enter into the country of Boeotia, and that he had procured also a thousand of the lustiest and most valiant men of the city, to be contented to go with him in that journey, over and above the rest of the army he had levied: he went about to turn him from his purpose, and to keep him at home, by many persuasions he used to him before the people's face, and spoke certain words at that time that were remembered long after: "That if he would not believe Pericles' counsel, yet that he would tarry time at the least, which is the wisest counsellor of men." These words were prettily liked at that present time. But within few days after, when news was brought that Tolmides himself was slain in a battle he had lost, near unto the city of Coronea, wherein perished also many other honest and valiant men of Athens: his words spoken before did then greatly increase Pericles' reputation and goodwill with the common people, because he was taken for a wise man, and one that loved his citizens.
But of all his journeys he made, being general over the army of the Athenians, the journey to the Chersonese was best thought of and esteemed, because it fell out to the great benefit and preservation of all the Grecians inhabiting in that country. For besides that he brought thither a thousand citizens of Athens to dwell there (in which doing he strengthened the cities with so many good men), but also by shielding the neck of land (which joins the peninsula to the continent) with bulwarks and forts from sea to sea, he put a stop to the inroads of the Thracians, who lay all about the Chersonese; and closed the door against a continual and grievous war.
Nor was he less admired and talked of abroad for his sailing around the Peloponnesus, having set out from the port of Megara with a hundred galleys. For he not only laid waste the sea coast, as Tolmides had done before; but also, advancing far up into the mainland with the soldiers he had on board, by the terror of his appearance he drove many within their walls; and at Nemea, with main force, routed and raised a trophy over the Sicyonians, who stood their ground and joined battle with him. And having taken on board a supply of soldiers into the galleys out of Achaia, then in league with Athens, he crossed with the fleet to the opposite continent, and, sailing along by the mouth of the river Achelous, overran Acarnania and shut up the Oeniadae within their city walls; and having ravaged and wasted their country, weighed anchor for home with the double advantage of having shown himself formidable to his enemies, and at the same time safe and energetic to his fellow-citizens.
[omission for length: further adventures at that time]
Reading for Lesson Eight
After this, having made a truce between the Athenians and Lacedaemonians for thirty years: he proclaimed open wars against those of the Isle of Samos, accusing them that, being commanded by the Athenians to pacify the quarrels which they had against the Milesians, they would not obey.
But because some hold opinion that he took upon him this war against Samos for the love of Aspasia: it shall be no great digression of our story, to tell you by the way, what manner of woman she was, and what a marvellous gift and power she had, that she could entangle with her love the chiefest rulers and governors at that time of the commonwealth, and that the philosophers themselves did so largely speak and write of her.
First of all, it is certain that she was born in the city of Miletum, and was the daughter of one Axiochus: she gave herself to entertain the greatest persons and chiefest rulers in her time. Some say that Pericles resorted unto her because she was a wise woman, and had great understanding in matters of state and government. For Socrates himself went to see her sometimes with his friends; and other men brought their wives many times with them to hear her talk.
Yet notwithstanding it seemeth most likely that the affection Pericles did bear her grew rather of love, than of any other cause. For he was married unto a kinswoman of his own; but not liking her company, he gave her with her own goodwill and consent unto another, and married Aspasia whom he dearly loved. Forever when he went abroad, and came home again, he saluted her with a kiss.
[omission for content]
But to our matter again. Pericles was charged that he made wars against the Samians, on the behalf of the Milesians: for these two cities were at wars together, fighting for the city of Priena, but the Samians were the stronger. Now the Athenians commanded them to lay aside their arms, and to come and plead their matter before them, that the right might be decided: but they refused it utterly. Wherefore Pericles went thither and took away their oligarchical government; taking for hostages fifty of the chiefest men of the city; and as many children, which he left to be kept in the Isle of Lemnos. Some say every one of these hostages offered to give him a talent; and besides those, many others offered him the like, who were anxious not to have a democracy.
Moreover, Pissuthnes the Persian, lieutenant to the king of Persia, for the goodwill he bare those of Samos, did send Pericles ten thousand crowns to release the hostages. But Pericles never took a penny: and having that done that which he determined at Samos, and established a democracy among them, he returned again to Athens.
Notwithstanding, the Samians rebelled immediately after, having recovered their hostages again, by means of this Pissuthnes that stole them away, and did furnish them also with all their munition of war. Whereupon Pericles returning against them once more, he found them not idle, nor amazed at his coming, but resolutely determined to receive him, and to fight for the dominion of the sea. So there was a great battle fought between them, near the Isle of Tragaea. And Pericles won the battle: having, with four and forty sail only, nobly overcome his enemies, which were threescore and ten in number, whereof twenty of them were ships of war.
[omission for length: Pericles put the city of Samos under siege]
Melissus (the son of Ithagenes, a great philosopher) being at that time general of the Samians: he perceiving that few ships were left behind at the siege of the city, and that the captains also that had charge of them were no very expert men of war, he persuaded his citizens to make a sally upon them. Whereupon they fought a battle, and the Samians overcame; the Athenians were taken prisoners, and they sunk many of their ships. Now they being lords again of the sea, did furnish their city with all manner of munition for wars, whereof before they had great want.
[omission for length]
Pericles being advertised of the overthrow of his army, returned presently to the rescue. Melissus went to meet him, and gave him battle: but he was overthrown and driven back into his city, where Pericles walled them in round about the city, desiring victory rather by time and charge, than by danger, and loss of his soldiers. But when he saw that they were weary with tract of time, and that they would bring it to hazard of battle, and that he could by no means withhold them: he then divided his army into eight companies, whom he made to draw lots, and that company that lighted on the white bean, they should be quiet and make good cheer, while the other seven fought. And they say that from thence it came, that when any have made good cheer, and taken pleasure abroad, they do yet call it a white day, because of the white bean.
[omission for length]
At the last, at nine months' end the Samians were compelled to yield. So Pericles took the city, and razed their walls to the ground: he brought their ships away, and made them pay a marvellous great tribute, whereof part he received in hand, and the rest payable at a certain time, taking hostages with him for assurance of payment.
But Duris the Samian describes these matters marvellous pitifully, burdening the Athenians, and Pericles himself, with unnatural cruelty: whereof neither Thucydides, nor Ephorus, nor Aristotle himself maketh mention. And sure I cannot believe it is true what is written.
[omission for length and content]
Reading for Lesson Nine
After this was over, the Peloponnesian War beginning to break out in full tide, he advised the people to send help to the Corcyraeans, who were attacked by the Corinthians; and to secure to themselves an island possessed of great naval resources, since the Peloponnesians were already all but in actual hostilities against them.
The people readily consenting to the motion, and voting an aid and succour for them, he despatched Lacedaemonius, Cimon's son, having only ten ships with him, as it were out of a design to affront him; for there was a great kindness and friendship betwixt Cimon's family and the Lacedaemonians. Therefore did Pericles cause Lacedaemonius to have so few ships delivered him, and further, sent him thither against his will, to the end that if he did so notable exploit in this service, that then they might the more justly suspect his goodwill to the Lacedaemonians. But Pericles being blamed for that he sent but ten galleys only, which was but a slender aid for those that had requested them, and a great matter to them that spoke ill of them: he sent thither afterwards a great number of other galleys, which came when the battle was fought.
But the Corinthians were marvellous angry, and went and complained to the council of the Lacedaemonians, where they laid open many grievous complaints and accusations against the Athenians, and so did the Megarians also: alleging that contrary to common right and the articles of peace sworn to among the Greeks, they had been kept out and driven away from every market and from all ports under the control of the Athenians. The Aeginetans, also, professing to be ill-used and treated with violence, made supplications in private to the Lacedaemonians for redress, though not daring openly to call the Athenians in question.
In the meantime also, the city of Potidaea, subject at that time unto the Athenians (and which was built in old time by the Corinthians) did rebel, and was besieged by the Athenians, which did hasten on the wars. Notwithstanding this, ambassadors were first sent unto Athens upon these complaints; and Archidamus, king of the Lacedaemonians, did all that he could to pacify the most part of these quarrels and complaints, attempting to reconcile the friends and allies. So it is very likely that the war would not upon any other grounds of quarrel have fallen upon the Athenians, could they have been prevailed with to repeal the ordinance against the Megarians, and to be reconciled with them. Upon which account, since Pericles was the man who mainly opposed the idea of repealing it, and stirred up the people's passions to persist in their contention with the Megarians, he was regarded as the sole cause of the war.
[omission for length and content]
Yet some hold opinion that Pericles did it of a noble mind and judgement, to be constant in that he thought most expedient. For he judged that this commandment of the Lacedaemonians was but a trial, to prove if the Athenians would grant them: and if they yielded to them in that, then they manifestly shewed that they were the weaker. Others contrarily say, that it was done of a self-will and arrogance, to show his authority and power, and how much he did despise the Lacedaemonians.
But the shrewdest proof of all, that bringeth best authority with it, is reported after this sort. Phidias the image maker (as we have told you before) had undertaken to make the image of Pallas: and being Pericles' friend, was in great estimation about him. But that procured him many ill-willers. His enemies enticed Menon, one of the workmen that wrought under Phidias; and made him come into the marketplace to pray assurance of the people that he might openly accuse Phidias, for a fault he had committed about Pallas' image. His accusation was heard openly in the marketplace, but no mention was made of any theft at all: because that Phidias (through Pericles' counsel) had from the beginning so laid on the gold upon the image, that it might be taken off, and weighed every whit. Whereupon Pericles openly said unto his accusers, "Take off the gold and weigh it."
But the reputation of his works was what brought envy upon Phidias, especially that where he represents the fight of the Amazons upon the goddess' shield; he had introduced a likeness of himself in a bald old man holding up a great stone with both hands, and had put in a very fine representation of Pericles fighting with an Amazon [omission]. So Phidias was clapped up in prison, and there died of a sickness, or else of a poison (as some say) which his enemies had prepared for him: and all to bring Pericles into further suspicion, and to give them the more cause to accuse him. But howsoever it was, the people gave Menon his freedom, and set him free; and gave the captains charge they should see him safely kept, and that he took no hurt.
[omission for length and content]
[omission: During a time of zealous public inquisition, Aspasia and Anaxagoras were both accused of heresy.]
As for Aspasia, Pericles saved her, even for the very pity and compassion the judges took of him, for the tears he shed in making his humble suit for her, all the time he pleaded her case: as Aeschines writeth. But for Anaxagoras, fearing that he could not do so much for him: he sent him out of the city. And finding that in Phidias' case he had miscarried with the people, being afraid of impeachment, he kindled the war, which hitherto had lingered and smothered, and blew it up into a flame: hoping by that means to disperse and scatter these complaints and charges, and to allay their jealousy; the city usually throwing herself upon him alone, and trusting to his sole conduct, upon the urgency of great affairs and public dangers, by reason of his authority and the sway he bore. These are given out to have been the reasons which induced Pericles not to suffer the people of Athens to yield to the proposals of the Lacedaemonians; but their truth is uncertain.
But the Lacedaemonians knowing well that if they could weed out Pericles, and overthrow him, they might then deal as they would with the Athenians: they commanded them they should purge their city of "the Pericles pollution" (referring to some scandal relating to his mother's family). But this fell out contrary to the hope and expectation of those that were sent to Athens for this purpose. For instead of bringing Pericles into further suspicion and displeasure, the citizens honoured him the more, and had a better affiance in him than before, because they saw his enemies did so much fear and hate him.
Wherefore, before King Archidamus entered with the army of the Peloponnesians into the country of Attica, Pericles told the Athenians that if King Archidamus fortuned to waste and destroy all the country about, and should spare his lands and goods for the old love and familiarity that was between them, or rather to give his enemies occasion falsely to accuse him: that from thenceforth, he gave all the lands and tenements he had in the country unto the commonwealth.
Reading for Lesson Ten
So it fortuned that the Lacedaemonians, with all their friends and confederates, brought a marvellous army into the country of Attica, under the leading of King Archidamus, burning and spoiling all the countries he came alongst. They came unto the town of Acharnes, where they encamped, supposing the Athenians would never suffer them to approach so near, but that they would give them battle for the honour and defense of their country, and to show that they were no cowards. But Pericles wisely considered how the danger was too great to hazard battle, where the loss of the city of Athens stood in peril, seeing there were threescore thousand footmen of the Peloponnesians, and of the Boeotians together: for so many was their number in the first voyage they made against the Athenians. And as for those that were very desirous to fight, and to put themselves to any hazard, being mad to see their country thus wasted and destroyed before their eyes, Pericles did comfort and pacify them with these words:
"That trees being cut and hewn down, did spring again in short time; but men being once dead, by no possibility could be brought again."
Therefore he never dared assemble the people in council, fearing lest he should be enforced by the multitude to do something against his will. But as a wise captain of a ship, when he sees a storm coming on the sea, gives order to make all things safe in the ship, preparing everything ready to defend the storm, according to his art and skill, not harkening to the passengers' fearful cries and pitiful tears, who think themselves cast away: even so did Pericles rule all things according to his wisdom: having walled the city substantially about, and set good watch in every corner. He passed not for those that were angry and offended with him; neither would be persuaded by his friends' earnest requests and entreaties; neither cared for his enemies' threats nor accusations against him; nor yet reckoned of all their foolish scoffing songs they sang of him in the city, to his shame and reproach of government, saying that he was a cowardly captain, and that for dastardliness he let the enemies take all, and spoil what they would.
Cleon, also, already was among his assailants, making use of the feeling against him as a step to the leadership of the people, as appears in these verses of Hermippus:
Satyr-king, instead of swords,
Will you always handle words?
Very brave indeed we find them,
But a Teles lurks behind them.
All these notwithstanding, Pericles was never moved in anything, but with silence did patiently bear all injuries and scoffings of his enemies; and did send, for all that, a navy of a hundred sail unto Peloponnesus; whither he would not go in person, but stayed behind, to keep the people in quiet until such time as the enemies had raised their camp, and were gone away.
Yet to soothe the common people, jaded and distressed with the war, he relieved them with distributions of public moneys, and ordained new divisions of subject land. For having turned out all the people of Aegina, he parted the island among the Athenians according to lot. Some comfort, also, and ease in their miseries, they might receive from what their enemies endured. For the fleet, sailing round the Peloponnese, ravaged a great deal of the country, and pillaged and plundered the towns and smaller cities; and by land he himself entered with an army the Megarian country, and made havoc of it all. Whence it is clear that the Peloponnesians, though they did the Athenians much mischief by land, yet suffering as much themselves from them by sea, would not have protracted the war to such a length, but would quickly have given it over, as Pericles at first foretold they would, had not some divine power crossed human purposes.
Reading for Lesson Eleven
For first of all there came such a sore plague among the Athenians, that it took away the flower of Athens' youth, and weakened the force of the whole city besides. Furthermore, the bodies of them that were left alive being infected with this disease, their hearts also were so sharply bent against Pericles that, the sickness having troubled their brains, they fell to flat rebellion against him, as the patient against his physician, or children against their father, even to the hurting of him (at the provocation of his enemies). Those enemies bruited abroad that the plague came of no cause else but of the great multitude of the countrymen that came into the city on heaps, one upon another's neck in the heart of the summer, where they were compelled to lie many together, smothered up in little tents and cabins, remaining there all day long, cowering downwards and doing nothing, where before they lived in the country in a fresh open air, and at liberty. "And of all this," said they, "Pericles is the only cause, who, procuring this war, hath pent and shrouded the countrymen together within the walls of a city, employing them to no manner of use nor service, but keeping them like sheep in a fold, maketh one to poison another with the infection of their plague sores running upon them, and giving them no leave to change air, that they might so much as take breath abroad."
Pericles, to remedy this, and to do their enemies a little mischief, armed a hundred and fifty ships, and shipped into them a great number of armed footmen and horsemen also. Hereby he put the citizens in good hope, and the enemies in great fear, seeing so great a power. But when he had shipped all his men, and was himself also ready to hoist sail, suddenly there was a great eclipse of the sun, and the day was very dark, so that all the army was stricken with a marvellous fear, as of some dangerous and very ill token towards them. Pericles seeing the master of his galley in amaze withal, not knowing what to do: cast his cloak over the master's face, and hid his eyes, asking him whether he thought that any hurt or no. The master answered him, he thought it none. Then said Pericles again to him, "There is no difference between this and that, saving that the body which maketh the darkness is greater, than my cloak which hideth thy eyes."
But Pericles hoisting sail notwithstanding, did no notable or special service answerable to so great an army and preparation. For he, laying siege unto the holy city of Epidaurus, when every man expected they should have taken it, was compelled to raise his siege for the plague that was so vehement: that it did not only kill the Athenians themselves, but all others also (were they never so few) that came to them, or near their camp.
Wherefore perceiving the Athenians were marvellously offended with him, he did what he could to comfort them, and put them in heart again: but all was in vain, he could not pacify them. For by the most part of voices, they deprived him of his charge of general, and condemned him in a marvellous great fine and sum of money, the which those that tell the least do write, that it was the sum of fifteen talents: and those that say more, speak of fifty talents.
Now his common griefs were soon blown over: for the people did easily let fall their displeasures towards him, as the wasp leaveth her sting behind her with them she hath stung. But his own home and household causes were in very ill case: both for that the plague had taken away many of his friends and kinsmen from him, as also for that he and his house had continued a long time in disgrace.
For Xanthippus (Pericles' son and heir), being a man of a very ill disposition and nature, and having married a young woman very prodigal and lavish of expense: he grudged much at his father's hardness, who scantly gave him money, and but little at a time. Whereupon he sent on a time to one of his father's friends, in Pericles' name, to pray him to lend him some money, who sent it unto him. But afterwards when the friend came to demand it again, Pericles did not only refuse to pay it him, but further, he put him in suit. But this made the young man Xanthippus so angry with his father that he spoke very ill of him in every place where he came; and, in mockery, reported how his father spent his time when he was at home, and the talk he had with the sophists and the master rhetoricians.
[omission for length: further quarrels between Pericles and his son]
But so it is, this quarrel and hate betwixt the father and the son continued without reconciliation unto the death. For Xanthippus died in the great plague, and Pericles' own sister also; moreover, he lost at that time, by the plague, the greater part of all his friends and kinsfolks, and those specially that did him greatest pleasure in governing of the state. But all this did never pull down his countenance, nor anything abate the greatness of his mind, what misfortunes soever he had sustained. Neither saw they him weep at any time, nor mourn at the funerals of any of his kinsmen or friends, but at the death of Paralus, his younger son: for the loss of him alone did only melt his heart. Yet he did strive to show his natural constancy, and to keep his accustomed modesty. But as he would have put a garland of flowers upon his son's head, sorrow did so pierce his heart when he saw his face, that then he burst out in tears, and shed copious tears: which they never saw him do before, all the days of his life.
Reading for Lesson Twelve and Examination Questions
The city having made trial of other generals for the conduct of war, and orators for business of state, when they found there was no one who was of weight enough for such a charge, or of authority sufficient to be trusted with so great a command, regretted the loss of him, and invited him again to address and advise them, to reassume the office of general. He, however, lay at home in dejection and mourning; but was persuaded by Alcibiades and others of his friends to come abroad and show himself to the people; who having, upon his appearance, apologized for their untowardly treatment of him, he undertook the public affairs once more.
[omission for length and content: Pericles, reinstated as governor of Athens, attempted to revoke a law which he had made himself, giving citizenship only to children born of two Athenian parents. This change was now personally important to him since his surviving son (by Aspasia) did not meet that requirement. After discussion, it was agreed to allow Pericles the Younger full citizenship.]
About the time when he son was enrolled, it should seem the plague seized Pericles, not with sharp and violent fits, as it did others that had it, but with a dull and lingering distemper, attended with various changes and alterations, slowly, by little and little, wasting the strength of his body, and undermining the noble faculties of his soul. So that Theophrastus, in his Morals, when discussing whether men's characters change with their circumstances, and their moral habits, disturbed by the ailings of their bodies, leave aside the rules of virtue, has left it upon record that Pericles, when he was sick, showed one of his friends that came to visit him an amulet or charm that the women had hung about his neck; as much as to say, that he was very sick indeed when he would admit of such a foolery as that was.
In the end, Pericles drawing close to death, the nobility of the city, and such his friends as were left alive, standing about his bed, began to speak of his virtue, and of the great authority he had borne; considering the greatness of his noble acts, and counting the number of the victories he had won (for he had won nine battles as general of the Athenians, and had set up as many tokens and triumphs in honour of his country). They reckoned up among themselves all these matters as if he had not understood them, imagining his senses had been gone. But he, contrarily, being yet of perfect memory, heard all what they had said, and thus he began to speak unto them:
"That he marvelled why they had so highly praised that in him which was common to many other captains, and wherein fortune dealt with them in equality alike; and all this while they had forgotten to speak of the best and most notable thing that was in him, which was this: that no Athenian had ever worn a black gown through his occasion."
And sure so was he a noble and worthy person. For he did not only shew himself merciful and courteous, even in most weighty matters of government, among so envious people and hateful enemies: but he had this judgement also to think, that the most noble acts he did were these, that he never gave himself unto hatred, envy, nor choler, to be revenged of his most mortal enemy, without mercy shewed towards him, though he had committed unto him such absolute power and sole government among them.
[omission for length]
The course of public affairs after his death produced a quick and speedy sense of the loss of Pericles. Those who, while he lived, resented his great authority as that which eclipsed themselves, presently after his quitting the stage, making trial of other orators and demagogues, readily acknowledged that "there never had been in nature such a disposition as his was, more moderate and reasonable in the height of that state he took upon him, or more grave and impressive in the mildness which he used. And that invidious arbitrary power, to which formerly they gave the name of monarchy and tyranny, did then appear to have been the chief bulwark of public safety; so great a corruption and such a flood of mischief and vice followed which he, by keeping it weak and low, had withheld from notice, and had prevented from attaining incurable height through a licentious impunity."
AmblesideOnline Plutarch Readings:
Aemilius Agis Alcibiades Alexander Aristides Brutus Julius Caesar Camillus Cato Cicero Coriolanus Crassus Demetrius Demosthenes Dion Fabius Gracchus Nicias Pericles Philopoemen Phocion Pompey Publicola Pyrrhus Solon Themistocles Timoleon Titus Flamininus
Aemilius Agis Alcibiades Alexander Aristides Brutus Julius Caesar Camillus Cato Cicero Coriolanus Crassus Demetrius Demosthenes Dion Fabius Gracchus Nicias Pericles Philopoemen Phocion Pompey Publicola Pyrrhus Solon Themistocles Timoleon Titus Flamininus