pericles Probably the best known statesman Greece ever had, Pericles was the son of the army commander Xanthippus who had defeated the Persians in the battle of Mycale in 479 BC.

He studied under the Sophist and master of Music Damon, and the philosopher Anaxagoras as well as Zenon of Elea. As a character, he won recognition by the Athenians by being dignified, eloquent, upright and patriotic and his friends were important people such as Sophocles, Herodotus, Phidias, Socrates and Protagoras.

Pericles was also considered as an eloquent speaker who "carried the thunder and lightning on his tongue". Although he was from an aristocratic family, he was the leader of the peoples' party. His mistress was the intelligent and beautiful Aspasia, whom he was to marry later on in life. Together the couple would host meetings of intellectuals and their wives in their home.

Pericles' rule as a statesman in Athens and he was an eager supporter of democracy. He wanted all citizens of Athens to take an active part in politics, and he was the first to pay servants to the state. Members of the council were chosen by all Athenians, and Pericles restored and built many temples and structures, such as the Parthenon on the Acropolis, employing the poorest citizens.

Pericles spent huge amounts of money for the improvement of Athens. He commissioned the artist Phidias for the construction of many brilliant artworks. Parthenon was build on the plans of Iktinos and Kallikrates while Mnesikles worked for the construction of the Propylaea of the Acropolis.
One of the most expensive and most impressive statues was the gold and ivory statue of Athena. He also reconstructed the port of Piraeus and completed the fortifications of Themistocles and Cimon with the long walls, which joined Athens with Piraeus. During the time of his rule, Athens became the commercial, intellectual and artistic center of Hellenism and rightly this era was called the Golden Age.

He had the aristocratic leader Cimon ostracized, thus becoming the foremost leader of Athens for 15 years. Under Pericles, Athens became the most splendid of Greek city-states, both politically and culturally with its fleet, making allies with other city-states in the Delian League against the enemy Persia, and with Pericles' favouritism of art and literature.

This eventually caused the fear and jealousy of the other states, leading to the Peloponnesian war in 431 BC. Pericles let all residents of Attica take refuge in Athens, but was himself charged and fined for misuse of public funds. He was re-elected, though, but soon died of the plague that had struck the overcrowded and undernourished city and that killed amongst others his two sons.

Pericles' opponents had first not dared attacking the man himself, and so went after his friends, for example the sculptor Phidias by accusing him of embezzlement and Anaxagoras, accusing him of impiety.

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