Along with Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, Pericles (490–429 B.C.) ranks as one of the three greatest democratic statesmen in history. He so embodied the leading currents of his day that his name came to stand for an entire era: the Periclean Age. His powerful mind and wide-ranging interests enabled him to guide Athens to a position of preeminence as the intellectual and artistic center of the world and to create a legacy that endures to our own day. This lecture focuses on a critical moment in the life of Pericles and in the history of Athens: his decision to lead his country into the great war with Sparta. Our lecture on Pericles is one of four devoted to leading figures in the culture and society of Athens in the Periclean Age. Together, they present a composite portrait of Pericles that is quite different from that drawn in conventional histories.
Questions to Consider:
1. What would be your list of the qualities that a great statesman must possess?
2. Epidamnus, Sarajevo, Kossovo: What similarities and differences do you see in the events of 435–431 B.C., 1914, and 1999?