This article will be the first installment on a series of articles about the lives and works of Pericles, a great Athenian Statesman and one of the founders of democracy. Democracy comes from a contraction of the two Ancient Greek words, Δημος, meaning the people, and Κρατης, meaning power. Quite literally the philosophy that the government should be run by and for the people. This article will provide a brief introduction to the Ancient Statesman that was Pericles and will be followed by a series of articles that expands on different parts of his recorded life and philosophical and political ideas.
Pericles was a symbol of many, not just of his country but of what it truly means to be an outstanding citizen who fights for political, social and economic justice, and for all people and righteous causes.
Pericles was born circa 495 B.C. in Athens, Greece to a well-known family, the powerful and influential Alcmaeonid family. In a later article, I will expand on the significance and rise to power of the Alcmaeonid family, as they were one of Athens most prominent families but also were considered to be cursed by the gods. As a teenager, he inherited a great deal of money from his family and used it mainly to be a patron of the arts in the city he loved.
His love for the arts continued throughout his whole life and career, as later when he was an elected leader of Athens, from 460-429 B.C., he organized the construction of the Parthenon. Pericles played a massive role in the formation of the concept of democracy as we know it and the enactment of democratic institutions in Ancient Greece. Because of his profound influence, the years 460 to 429 have often been referred to as the Age of Pericles.
He played a huge role in the reformation of the Athenian constitution into a functional democratic document, which he was able to do as a result of his prominence in the law courts and outspokenness in the Assembly. In addition to being a political figurehead for Athens, he also led several military missions that increased the power and influence of Athens.
Pericles was able to have the reach he did because of his profoundly influential philosophy and the respect he garnered from those he leads. He was a true Vitruvian man in that he was a pillar for the arts, a military leader, a philosopher, politician, and more.