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THE LIFE OF PERICLES
Pericles was the Athenian leader who helped to rebuild Athens after the Persian Wars. Under his
leadership, Athens entered its Golden Age. It was a peaceful and prosperous time for the citystate. Pericles was also dedicated to building Athenian democracy. Below is a biography of
Pericles. You will also read an excerpt from a speech given by Pericles at the funeral of
Athenians killed in battle.
Pericles was born around the year 490 BCE. Pericles was educated in many subjects when he
was young, including music, debate, and philosophy. When he entered public life, he quickly
rose to leadership because of his knowledge and skill.
Pericles was only a teenager during the Persian Wars. During these insane battles Athens was
destroyed and Pericles was determined to rebuild Athens. He pushed for the expansion of the
Delian League. The league was organized to prepare for any future Persian threat. He also built
up the Athenian military.
Pericles made Athens safe again but also he made it beautiful. He created many public and
religious buildings. The most famous is the Parthenon, the temple to the goddess Athena.
Pericles encouraged the growth of music and drama.
Pericles believed that Athens led all the Greeks in culture. He called Athens the "school of
Greece." He also thought that Athens should lead the Greeks in government. He was a strong
supporter of democracy. He believed that all men over the age of 18 had an equal right to
participate in government.
Pericles believed that it was
not just a privilege to serve in
government, but also a
responsibility. Citizens had
certain duties to perform,
including voting and holding
public office. During his
speeches Pericles always
praised Athenian democracy
but he also reminded the
citizens of their
responsibilities.
Pericles died in 429 BCE of a disease that also killed one quarter of the population of Athens.
Pericles' contributions were long lasting. Even today, his ideas on citizenship influence modern
democratic governments around the world.
Base your answers to questions 1 and 2 on the “Life of Pericles” reading.
1. Describe what Pericles’ childhood was like and why that was important to his career.
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2. Describe Pericles’ beliefs about democracy and citizenship.
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Base your answer to question 3 on the excerpt below. The excerpt is from a speech by Pericles
and was intended to honor citizens who had died defending Athens in the Peloponnesian War.
“Our constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of
the whole people. When it is a question of settling private disputes (arguments), everyone is
equal before the law; when it is a question of putting one person before another in positions of
public responsibility, what counts is not membership of a particular class, but the actual ability,
which the man possesses…[We are taught] to obey the judges and the laws.
We believe that a man who takes no part in these duties [of the citizen] not as unambitious [not
motivated] but as useless. We Athenians decide on public questions for ourselves or at least
attempt to arrive at an understanding of them.”
Source: The Funeral Oration of Pericles as recorded by Thucydides in his book History of the
Peloponnesian War.
3. According to Pericles, what are two responsibilities of a citizen in a democracy?
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Writing Assignment (Due Wednesday, 11/4 on loose leaf)
Pericles was well remembered for the speech he gave during the Peloponnesian War to honor
Athenian soldiers lost in battle. Your task is to honor Pericles with a speech. Your speech must
 Have details about the life of Pericles.
 Discuss Pericles' beliefs about democracy.
 Present evidence for why Pericles was a role model of a good citizen.
 Include a quote from Pericles about citizenship.