Athenian statesman, orator, strategist
Country: Greece

  1. Biography of Pericles
  2. Early Life
  3. Philosophical Influence
  4. Political Career
  5. Legacy

Biography of Pericles

Pericles was an Athenian statesman, orator, and strategist from 444 to 429 BCE. His father, Xanthippus, and his mother, Agariste, belonged to the most famous Athenian families. Xanthippus gained fame during the Greco-Persian Wars, commanding the Athenian fleet and achieving victory over the Persians at the Battle of Mycale off the coast of Asia Minor. Agariste came from the same Alcmaeonid family as Cleisthenes, a renowned political figure who established democracy in Athens.

Early Life

Pericles was born as a strong and healthy child, but he had an unusually large and shaped head, which became a lifelong feature. To conceal this, portraits of Pericles always depicted him wearing a helmet. However, comedians mocked his unusually large head and called him "Bulbous-head." Despite this physical characteristic, Pericles received an excellent education. He was trained in music, poetry, and attended lectures by the philosopher Zeno, who was skilled at debating and presenting arguments.

Philosophical Influence

Pericles formed a close bond with Anaxagoras, a philosopher from Asia Minor who was known as "The Mind." Anaxagoras believed that events were governed by reason rather than gods and that through reason, one could understand the world around us. Pericles's extensive knowledge and natural abilities made his speeches both eloquent and profound. He had a measured gait, his clothing was always neatly folded, and his speech remained consistently calm and composed.

Political Career

In his youth, Pericles feared being ostracized because of his wealth, noble lineage, and his friends who held influential positions in the state. Moreover, people claimed that Pericles resembled Pisistratus, a former tyrant of Athens. Even the elderly were amazed by how his voice and manner of speaking resembled that of the Athenian tyrant. Fear of exile led Pericles to distance himself from politics. However, he still participated in numerous military campaigns, displaying bravery and courage.

When Pericles was young, the leader of the democratic party was Ephialtes, who proposed the removal of the aristocratic council, the Areopagus, from power. Pericles was Ephialtes's closest friend and shared the same political beliefs. Enemies sent a hired assassin to Ephialtes, leading to his death. Pericles became the sole leader of the democratic party.

For forty years, Pericles stood at the helm of the state. After Thucydides' exile, his influence grew to the point where the people entrusted him with the complete management of the state. For fifteen consecutive years, Pericles was elected as a strategist. He worked diligently for the welfare of the state, refusing to make any concessions to the whims of individual citizens and resisting the masses when, under the influence of the moment, they made ill-advised decisions. He governed with the support of the people, but occasionally, he had to lead the people against their will for the greater good of the state. He emulated a physician, who, for the benefit of the patient, inflicts pain or prescribes a bitter, yet healing, medicine.


As Pericles lay on his deathbed, his friends and relatives gathered by his side, reminiscing about his greatness and wisdom. For forty years, he had been actively involved in politics, achieving victories over Athens' enemies. His friends spoke, thinking that the dying Pericles could not hear them. Suddenly, Pericles raised himself and said, "You praise me for what others have accomplished, but you say nothing of the greatest achievement I made. Throughout my years of leadership, not a single Athenian was executed by my order."

It was only after Pericles's death that the Athenians realized the extraordinary leader they had lost. Even his opponents were forced to admit that Pericles's immense authority, based on the love and support of the people, was the saving grace of the state. Many had failed to notice this while he was alive, but now that he was gone, it became clear to everyone.