The history of Ancient Greece remembers many names of great philosophers, artists, and military leaders. One of them was Pericles, the outstanding public figure, orator, and leader of the Athenian regiments. He became famous as the founder and supporter of ancient democracy, and due to his accomplishments, Pericles is often called the man who led Athens to the Golden Age. He is remembered as one of the wisest and greatest rulers who, despite his belonging to an aristocratic family, did everything possible to improve the lives of ordinary people and glorify his fellow citizens. The reign of Pericles is considered the heyday of Athens, and his merits are not limited to cultural contributions. Pericles led the people of Athens into prosperity because he improved the city’s military strength through the Delian League, developed democracy by encouraging civic participation, and enhanced Athens’s architecture by rebuilding the Acropolis.
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The Delian League: Pericles’ Political Contribution
Not satisfied with the dominant military role at sea, Pericles used the Delian League as an instrument of military land expansion, thereby increasing the influence of Athens and, at the same time, ensuring the protection of its interests. According to Planeaux (2019), “Pericles sought to change the nature and focus of the Delian League from primarily conducting a war against Persia to promoting a Panhellenic alliance that would ensure a continued peace” (para. 63). A tense situation caused by external aggression required the pooling of forces to strengthen the military might of Athens, and using the Delian League as an instrument of rallying allowed the ruler to prevent losing their possessions and avoid the collapse of the Hellenic settlements. As Planeaux (2019) notes, “war had brought the League together, let the maintenance of peace and security henceforth cement it” (para. 63). For Pericles, this meant an opportunity to control the integrity of Athens and apply the Delian League to protect the interests of the city. Therefore, the strengthening of military power due to the League may be considered Pericles’ significant achievement along with his political contributions to Athens’ development.
Pericles’ Democracy: Political Contribution
The turn from tyranny to democratic views played a significant role in shaping the image of Pericles as a wise and responsible politician who was ready to reckon with people’s views and interests. Perry (2018) states that “Pericles’ elitist democracy is relevant to contemporary democracies” since his approach assumed the expression of will through voting, which was uncharacteristic for the period of his reign and contradicted the classical ideas about the absolute power of monarchs (p. 235). Despite a tough foreign policy, Pericles believed that resolving internal issues could not be the prerogative of one person, and the regime of absolute power might be destructive to the city that was planned to be made the center of culture and free society. According to Bucy (2017), Pericles hoped for perfect democracy as a phenomenon that allowed the discussion of pressing issues in a natural form of discussion. Managing different aspects of life requires various knowledge, and the participation of the city’s residents could help make more objective decisions. Thus, Pericles’ democracy was distinguished by a loyal approach to people’s rights, which also manifested itself in his cultural contribution to Athens’ development.
Rebuilding the Acropolis: Pericles’ Cultural Accomplishment
The desire to revive destroyed cultural values characterized Pericles as a politician who was interested in preserving Athens’ heritage. The example of rebuilding the Acropolis proves that the ruler was preoccupied with the fate of the place that was originally considered sacred, and, as Santillian and Aird (2018) state, the restoration of this cultural site after almost 50 years of its destruction was important in raising the morale of the Athenians. Destroyed by the Persians, the Acropolis was a symbol of defeat and one of the signs of Athens’ weakness. According to Santillian and Aird (2018), Pericles was convinced that the city needed the protection of cultural heritage and buildings that were of historical value because failure to protect national wealth would characterize the Athenians as defenseless. Despite the creation of a powerful army and navy, Pericles’ subjects lived in constant readiness for war, and the restoration of the Acropolis may be considered an effective method to increase the morale of Athens’ citizens. Therefore, the ruler’s contribution to the preservation of the cultural heritage of the city is colossal, and Pericles’ strong desire to perpetuate his people’s history deserves recognition.
Pericles’ contribution to the development of Athens and his recognition as one of the greatest rulers was due to significant accomplishments in the military industry (the unification of the Delian League), the political sphere (promoting democracy as the main principle of government), and the cultural environment (rebuilding the Acropolis). Athens created a powerful army, but constant wars and internal fragmentation posed threats to normal development. Pericles rallied his subjects and stimulated the active participation of citizens in solving pressing issues and problems. The ruler’s interest in restoring Athens’ cultural heritage confirms his wisdom and the skills of a monarch who cared about his people.
Bucy, B. C. (2017). Robust citizenship and democracy: A study of Pericles’ Athens. Boston College.
Perry, T. J. (2018). Pericles as a ‘Man of Athens’: Democratic theory and advantage in Thucydides. History of Political Thought, 39(2), 235-268.
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Planeaux, C. (2019). The Delian League: Revenge and Hellenic liberation. Brewminate. Web.
Santillian, B., & Aird, H. (2018). Pericles: Athenian statesman and patron of the arts. The Rosen Publishing Group.