Last Updated 28 Jan 2021

Pericles and Athens

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Pericles became the leader of Athens at the end of the Peloponnesian War and was responsible for the rebuilding and reconstructing of this city. He became very powerful and well known through out the age of the 5th century, so powerful that this became known as the age of Pericles. He was the son of Xanthippus and Agariste. His father, Xanthippus was a military leader during the Peloponnesian Wars and was the victor at the Battle of Mycale. He would later ostracize himself in the spring of 484.Pericles came from a line of royalty which made it all the more easier for him to come to power.

The helots revolt in Sparta and the current leader of Athens, Cimon lead troops to aid Sparta which the people of Athens did not agree with. The Spartans sent them back to Athens in fear that the democratic ideas of Athens would take effect in Sparta. When Cimon returned he was ostracized by the people of Athens and Pericles came into power in 460. The things discussed in this essay will tell why Pericles was a good attribute to the city-state of Athens.The three most important contributions that he made to Athens are the long wall, the structures he built on the Acropolis, and his military achievements. From 458-456 Pericles constructed the long walls of Athens. After fighting the Persians in the Greco-Persian Wars the walls that were once built to protect the city of Athens were destroyed.

The new walls that Pericles planned to make were going to be much greater than the walls that once protected Athens. These walls would stretch to the coast of Piraeus which was about 4. 5 miles outside the city of Athens. This was a peninsula and also gave them access to three harbors.Eventually, Piraeus would become one of the major military harbors for Athens and the construction of the middle wall will begin in 440. The middle wall was supposed to be in the same proportion as the wall that was built in Piraeus. It was built so that in the case of sea invasion, it would buy them enough time to retreat to the more narrow walls of the Piraeus-Athens wall, where the Athenians would make their stand.

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These were not only used for military purposes but also the economic use. Over time the port of Piraeus became more of a use of trade rather than a military base.These walls provided a safe route from the sea port all the way to the city with out the fear of a siege. This also worked to an advantage in the military aspect because they could transport troops from the city of Athens all the way to the port without fear of attack from the North Long Wall and The South Long Wall. This structure was important to the city of Athens in more than one way. The most important ways were mainly economic and military purposes, but this was a great contribution that Pericles made. Another remarkable contribution that Pericles made to Athens were the structures which were built in the Acropolis.

Most of the Acropolis had been destroyed or was in ruins after war with the Persians. Since this was around the time of Pericles coming to power most people looked to him for hope of rebuilding their city. Pericles began the reconstruction of the Acropolis around 460 and hired the best sculptors and architects to work on this project. The people who were put in charge of rebuilding the Acropolis were Phidias, Ictinus, and Callicrates. Ictinus and Callicrates were well known architects in Athens and would construct one of the most well known structures of all time the Parthenon.Pericles was in the process of reconstructing the long walls at this time therefore he had to leave this project to his two trusted architects. The Parthenon was built in the place of the Temple to Athena and would at one point be used as the treasury for the Delian League.

In 437 the Propylaea, or the gates to the Acropolois, were being built by Mnesicles. These gates had columns made of Pentelic Marble which were built in place of the old gates which somewhat remained. Behind the gates a structure made by the great sculptor Phidias called the Promachos Athena stood at enormous heights.This was a gigantic bronze statue of Athena that was created in the time from 450-448 The last major structure that was being built during the time that Pericles ruled Athens was the Temple of Athena Nike. This smaller structure, went under construction in 432 and before it was completed Pericles died. It would be completed in 421 during the time of Nicias which was a short term of peace. The structures which were created in the time period from 460-430 were unbelievable thus it was given the name the Golden Age.

The final remarkable thing to discuss about the life of Pericles is his ilitary achievements. Over the time period of the Golden Age, Pericles was elected Strategos for 29 years in a row. He was more of a conservative leader in the war and did not partake in battles in which there was doubt about which they could win. In his 29 years as a general he led many expeditions, most of which were naval. Like Themistocles, Pericles believed that in order for Athens to stay in power and be predominant they had to trust in their naval power. The Peloponnesians who were almost unstoppable on land placed a fear in Athens so Pericles built up the strongest navy in Greece.The people of Athens were greedy and wanted Athens to gain land and power, however Pericles did not give in to these wants by the people.

Instead, he used orating skills which he is known for, to convince the people that he knew what was best for Athens. Historians say that if the Athenians wouldn’t have reversed the plans of Pericles that they could have one the war against Sparta, instead they were defeated by Sparta in 404, 25 years after the death of Pericles. Pericles was a great leader and orator as many people know but what most people leave out is the fact that he was a great strategist.He had great war tactics and was very wise about who he chose to fight, which is why he stayed in power for so long. In conclusion, Pericles’ influence on Athens was predominantly good. His orating skills surpassed anyone’s of his age, he had his way with words and gained the trust of the people of Athens not only by this but by his actions. He brought a feeling of hope to the Athenian people and that is why he was exalted.

There are few who can compare to the accomplishments that were made by this man. Some of the most important artifacts in history were created and preserved because of him.Athens under Pericles rule was a great power and he is easily one of the greatest leaders in history. In a time of despair and need for a leader he stepped up and recreated one of the most well known ancient civilizations of all time. His accomplishments range far and wide from long wall fortress for protection, to the amazing structures in which he built on the Acropolis, and he was a great leader, not only politically but in the military. It is safe to say that what this man did was good to say the least. Everything he did was to benefit the great city-state of Athens.

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