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Pericles: “In Praise of Athens”
In 431 BC, at end of the first years of a war against Sparta, the Athenian leader, Pericles, delivered a speech to
honor the soldiers who had been killed in battle. The following are excerpts from that speech:
No other form of government rivals our own institutions. We have not
copied the governments of our neighbors, but rather, have set an
example for them. We are called a democracy because the power to
makes laws is given to many rather than a few.
While every citizen has an equal opportunity to serve the public, we
reward our most distinguished citizens by asking them to make our
political decisions. Nor do we discriminate against the poor. A man
may serve his country no matter how low his position on the social
scale. We do not allow secrecy in our public affairs…
Our military training is also superior to that of our enemies in many
respects. Our city is thrown open to the world. We have never
expelled a foreigner nor prevented him from seeing or learning
anything that might help him defeat us if he became our enemy.
An Athenian citizen does not put his private affairs before the
affairs of the state; even our merchants and businessmen know
something about politics. If a man take no interest in public affairs
he is not harmless – he is useless. We think before we act, but we do
not allow thinking to interfere with acting.
Other Famous Quotes by Pericles
“We do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man
who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at
“When it is a question of settling private disputes, everyone us
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.”