Pericles, an Athenian statesman, born in Athens about 495 B. 0., died there in 429. He was of an ancient and noble family; his father was Xanthippus, who, with the Spartan general Leotychides, defeated the Persians at Mycale; his mother was Agariste, niece of Olisthenes, who expelled the Pisistratidae from Athens. On the father's side he was connected with the family of Pisistratus, and on the mother's side he was descended from the princes of Sicyon and the Alcmaeonidae. He was instructed by Damon, Zeno, and Anaxa-goras, with the last of whom he was intimate. In 469 he began to take part in public affairs, and soon became the leader of the popular party, as Cimon was of the aristocracy. When the Messenians rose against Sparta in 464, and fortified themselves on Mt. Ithome, the Spartans invoked the aid of the Athenians to reduce the place. Oimon was sent with a large force; but he failed to reduce the fortress, was slighted by the Spartans, and returned home in disgrace. Between Pericles and Cimon there was a hereditary feud; for it was Xanthippus, the father of Pericles, who had impeached Miltiades, the father of Oimon. Taking advantage of the unpopularity which the ill fortune at Mt. Ithome brought upon Oimon and the aristocracy, Pericles caused a measure to be carried in the popular assembly, by which the court of the areopagus was nearly shorn of its political power.
This was a fatal blow to the aristocracy, and constituted, with other changes, a political revolution. Among these changes were the institution of dicasteries or jury courts, in which jurors were paid for their attendance, and the almost complete abrogation of the judicial power of the senate of 500. The ascendancy of Pericles and the popular party thus established cost many a violent struggle. The poet AEschylus enlisted all his powers, in the drama of the "Eumenides," against these innovations; but his opposition resulted only in his own flight from the city, while Cimon himself, who had before narrowly escaped banishment, was soon after driven into exile by ostracism (about 459). On the other hand, Ephialtes, a leader with Pericles of the popular party, a man of rigid integrity, who had been most conspicuous in the passage of the obnoxious measure against the areopagus, was, at the time of Cimon's recall from banishment (about 454), assassinated by a Boeotian emissary of the aristocracy. The humbled aristocracy afterward united themselves under the party lead of Thucydides, the son of Melesias. In the popular assembly they were drilled into a compact party organization, occupying seats together instead of being mixed up with the general mass of citizens.
They complained of the administration of Pericles, that the fund derived from the confederacy of Delos, intended for purposes of general defence against the Persians, had been misapplied in the adornment and strengthening of Athens. Pericles claimed the right to use in this way so much of the public treasure as was not needed for the common defence. He was sustained, and Thucydides driven into banishment. This annihilated the aristocratic party, and left to Pericles the undisputed conduct of affairs. He had succeeded to the political principles of Themistocles, and he labored first to make Athens the capital of Greece, the centre of political power and influence, and the seat of art and refinement; and secondly to elevate the public spirit of his countrymen. He gave respectability and value to the elective franchise by setting close guards against a fraudulent abuse of it, and thus made even the humblest citizen feel something of the dignity of Athenian citizenship. He trained the people to naval affairs by sending out every year a squadron of 60 triremes to cruise for eight months in the AEgean. He planned great architectural works to embellish and strengthen the city.
He built the Odeon for theatrical exhibitions, and the Parthenon with the Propylaea. To render secure the communication of Athens with the sea, chiefly through his advice, the long walls had been built to the Piraeus and Phalerum; and to increase this security he added a third wall, and improved and beautified the Piraeus. He further provided for the poorer classes and strengthened the state by an enlightened system of colonization. For the entertainment of the people he added to the pomp and magnificence of popular spectacles, established new ones, and made the theatres and public festivals accessible to the poorer classes. He democratized the legislative and judicial functions of government by paying jurors and legislators. Literature, architecture, painting, and sculpture rose under him to the highest perfection. In his foreign policy he aimed at the aggrandizement of Athens and the extension and consolidation of her sway. Beginning as an ally, he in a few years reduced a portion of the confederate states to the condition of tributaries, and bound the rest to military service and a conformity of foreign policy. Upon each of the subject states he imposed a democratic form of government, and transferred important trials from the local courts to the tribunals of the capital.
The annual tribute or contribution to the confederate fund, the custody of which had already been transferred from Delos to Athens, he raised from 460 talents ($500,000) to 600 talents, although the object of its establishment, namely, to resist a Persian invasion, no longer occupied the public mind. During his administration, 1,000 Athenians were settled in the Thracian Chersonese, 500 in the island of Naxos, and 250 in the island. of Andros. He appropriated the Greek city of Sinope, on the shores of the Euxine, for the maintenance of 600 Athenian citizens. The islands of Lem-nos, Imbros, and Seyros, together with a large tract in Eubcea, were covered with Athenian proprietors. Colonies were planted at Thurii in Italy, near the site of the ancient Sybaris, and at Amphipolis on the Strymon. To the former foreigners were invited from all parts of Greece. The overshadowing influence of Pericles made him an object of envy, jealousy, and hatred. His public and private life were both in turn assailed. When the Peloponnesian war impended, the hostile faction excited the public mind against him to a dangerous pitch. But his influence continued predominant.
An attempt, instigated by the Lacedaemonians, was made to sacrifice him on account of a taint of sacrilege in his family (see AlomAEonidAE), but it failed. His enemies tried to wound him through his friends. Anaxagoras, the philosopher, was indicted for impiety and banished. Aspasia was included in the same charge, but the eloquence of Pericles moved the dicastery to acquit her. Scandals were propagated to sully his character in connection with this remarkable woman. (See Aspasia.) Unable to ruin his reputation, his enemies attacked him through his friends. Phidias was unsuccessfully indicted for embezzlement, and subsequently for impiety in having introduced among the figures on the shield of his statue of Athena portraits of- himself and of Pericles, for which he was imprisoned. In the first campaign of the Peloponnesian war Pericles was denounced for his defensive policy; in the second campaign he took command of a fleet and devastated the coast of the Peloponnesus. On his return he was charged with peculation, fined, and deprived of his command, but soon afterward was reelected general.
The plague carried off many of his friends, his sister, and his sons Xanthus and Paralus; but, either by the repeal of the law respecting legitimacy which was adopted by his influence, or by a special vote, his son Pericles by Aspasia was legitimated. Pericles fell a victim to the prevailing epidemic about a year afterward. "When dying, he reminded those who stood about his bed, recounting his deeds, " that not a citizen of Athens had been obliged to put on mourning on his account." Plato extols his "majestic intelligence," and Thucydides describes him as " powerful from dignity of character as well as from wisdom." - See "The Age of Pericles," by W. Watkiss Llovd (2 vols., London, 1875).