The Great Events by Famous Historians/Volume 2/Pericles Rules in Athens
PERICLES RULES IN ATHENS
(Under the sway of Pericles many changes occurred in the civil affairs of Athens affecting the constitution of the state and the character and administration of its laws. Events of magnitude marked the struggles of the Athenians with other powers. The development of art and learning was carried to an unprecedented height, and the Age of Pericles is the most illustrious in ancient history.
Pericles began his career by opposing the aristocratic party of Athens, led by Cimon. In this policy he was aided by complications arising with Sparta and Argos. Directing his attack particularly against the Areopagus, he succeeded in greatly modifying the composition of that body and diminishing its powers. The exile of Cimon, the strengthening of Athens by new alliances, and the vigorous prosecution of wars against Persia and Corinth combined to establish his supremacy, which was still further confirmed by the building of the long walls connecting Athens with the sea, and by the acquisition of neighboring territory.
A favorable convention was concluded with Persia, Athens resumed a state of general peace, and Pericles found himself at the head of a powerful empire formed out of a confederacy previously existing. The strength of this empire was indeed soon impaired by ill-judged military movements, against the advice of Pericles himself, but during six years of peace which followed he succeeded in perfecting a state whose preeminence in intellectual, political, and artistic development has had no rival.
In the later wars of Athens the renown of Pericles was still further enhanced; but his chief glory arose from the architectural adornment of the city, and especially from the building of the Parthenon and the splendid decoration of the Acropolis; while his work of judicial reform remains an added monument to his fame, and among the masters of eloquence his orations preserve for him a foremost place.)
Pericles was of the tribe Acamantis, and of the township of Cholargos, and was descended from the noblest families in Athens, on both his father's and mother's side. His father, Xanthippus, defeated the Persian generals at Mycale, while his mother, Agariste, was a descendant of Clisthenes, who drove the sons of Pisistratus out of Athens, put an end to their despotic rule, and established a new constitution admirably calculated to reconcile all parties and save the country. She dreamed that she had brought forth a lion, and a few days afterward was delivered of Pericles. His body was symmetrical, but his head was long, out of all proportion; for which reason, in nearly all his statues he is represented wearing a helmet, as the sculptors did not wish, I suppose, to reproach him with this blemish. The Attic poets called him squill-head, and the comic poet Cratinus, in his play Chirones, says;
"From Chronos old and faction
Is sprung a tyrant dread,
And all Olympus calls him
The man-compelling head."
And again in the play of Nemesis:
"Come, hospitable Zeus, with lofty head."
Teleclides, too, speaks of him as sitting
With a dreadful frown,
Because matters of state have gone wrong,
Until at last,
From his head so vast,
His ideas burst forth in a throng."
And Eupolis, in his play of Demoi, asking questions about each of the great orators as they come up from the other world one after the other, when at last Pericles ascends, says:
"The great headpiece of those below."
Most writers tell us that his tutor in music was Damon, whose name they say should be pronounced with the first syllable short. Aristotle, however, says that he studied under Pythoclides. This Damon, it seems, was a sophist of the highest order, who used the name of music to conceal this accomplishment from the world, but who really trained Pericles for his political contests just as a trainer prepares an athlete for the games. However, Damon's use of music as a pretext did not impose upon the Athenians, who banished him by ostracism, as a busybody and lover of despotism.
Pericles greatly admired Anaxagoras, and became deeply interested in grand speculations, which gave him a haughty spirit and a lofty style of oratory far removed from vulgarity and low buffoonery, and also an imperturbable gravity of countenance and a calmness of demeanor and appearance which no incident could disturb as he was speaking, while the tone of his voice never showed that he heeded any interruption. These advantages greatly impressed the people. The poet Ion, however, says that Pericles was overbearing and insolent in conversation, and that his pride had in it a great deal of contempt for others, while he praises Cimon's civil, sensible, and polished address. But we may disregard Ion as a mere dramatic poet who always sees in great men something upon which to exercise his satiric vein; whereas Zeno used to invite those who called the haughtiness of Pericles a mere courting of popularity and affectation of grandeur, to court popularity themselves in the same fashion, since the acting of such a part might insensibly mould their dispositions until they resembled that of their model.
Pericles when young greatly feared the people. He had a certain personal likeness to the despot Pisistratus; and as his own voice was sweet, and he was ready and fluent in speech, old men who had known Pisistratus were struck by his resemblance to him. He was also rich, of noble birth, and had powerful friends, so that he feared he might be banished by ostracism, and consequently held aloof from politics, but proved himself a brave and daring soldier in the wars. But when Aristides was dead, Themistocles banished, and Cimon generally absent on distant campaigns, Pericles engaged in public affairs, taking the popular side, that of the poor and many, against that of the rich and few; quite contrary to his own feelings, which were entirely aristocratic. He feared, it seems, that he might be suspected of a design to make himself despot, and seeing that Cimon took the side of the nobility, and was much beloved by them, he betook himself to the people, as a means of obtaining safety for himself, and a strong party to combat that of Cimon. He immediately altered his mode of life; was never seen in any street except that which led to the market-place and the national assembly, and declined all invitations to dinner and such like social gatherings. But Pericles feared to make himself too common even with the people, and only addressed them after long intervals; not speaking upon every subject, and not constantly addressing them, but, as Critolaus says, keeping himself like the Salaminian trireme for great crises, and allowing his friends and the other orators to manage matters of less moment.
Wishing to adopt a style of speaking consonant with his haughty manner and lofty spirit, Pericles made free use of the instrument which Anaxagoras, as it were, put into his hand, and often tinged his oratory with natural philosophy. He far surpassed all others by using this "lofty intelligence and power of universal consummation," as the divine Plato calls it; in addition to his natural advantages, adorning his oratory with apt illustrations drawn from physical science. For this reason some think that he was nicknamed the Olympian; though some refer this to his improvement of the city by new and beautiful buildings, and others from his power both as a politician and a general. It is not by any means unlikely that these causes all combined to produce the name.
Pericles was very cautious about his words, and, whenever he ascended the tribune to speak, used first to pray to the gods that nothing unfitted for the present occasion might fall from his lips. He left no writings, except the measures which he brought forward, and very few of his sayings are recorded.
Thucydides represents the constitution under Pericles as a democracy in name, but really an aristocracy, because the government was all in the hands of one leading citizen. But as many other writers tell us that, during his administration, the people received grants of land abroad, and were indulged with dramatic entertainments, and payments for their services, in consequence of which they fell into bad habits, and became extravagant and licentious, instead of sober hard-working people as they had been before, let us consider the history of this change, viewing it by the light of the facts themselves. First of all, Pericles had to measure himself with Cimon, and to transfer the affections of the people from Cimon to himself. As he was not so rich a man as Cimon, who used from his own ample means to give a dinner daily to any poor Athenian who required it, clothe aged persons, and take away the fences round his property, so that anyone might gather the fruit, Pericles, unable to vie with him in this, turned his attention to a distribution of the public funds among the people, at the suggestion, we are told by Aristotle, of Damonides of Oia. By the money paid for public spectacles, for citizens acting as jurymen, and other paid offices, and largesses, he soon won over the people to his side, so that he was able to use them in his attack upon the senate of the Areopagus, of which he himself was not a member, never having been chosen archon, or thesmothete, or king archon, or polemarch. These offices had from ancient times been obtained by lot, and it was only through them that those who had approved themselves in the discharge of them were advanced to the Areopagus. For this reason it was that Pericles, when he gained strength with the populace, destroyed this senate, making Ephialtes bring forward a bill which restricted its judicial powers, while he himself succeeded in getting Cimon banished by ostracism, as a friend of Sparta and a hater of the people, although he was second to no Athenian in birth or fortune, and won most brilliant victories over the Persians, and had filled Athens with plunder and spoils of war. So great was the power of Pericles with the common people.
One of the provisions of ostracism was that the person banished should remain in exile for ten years. But during this period the Lacedæmonians with a great force invaded the territory of Tanagra, and, as the Athenians at once marched out to attack them, Cimon came back from exile, took his place in full armor among the ranks of his own tribe, and hoped by distinguishing himself in the battle among his fellow-citizens to prove the falsehood of the Laconian sympathies with which he had been charged. However, the friends of Pericles drove him away, as an exile. On the other hand, Pericles fought more bravely in that battle than he had ever fought before, and surpassed everyone in reckless daring. The friends of Cimon also, whom Pericles had accused of Laconian leanings, fell, all together, in their ranks; and the Athenians felt great sorrow for their treatment of Cimon, and a great longing for his restoration, now that they had lost a great battle on the frontier, and expected to be hard pressed during the summer by the Lacedaemonians. Pericles, perceiving this, lost no time in gratifying the popular wish, but himself proposed the decree for his recall; and Cimon on his return reconciled the two states, for he was on familiar terms with the Spartans, who were hated by Pericles and the other leaders of the common people. Some say that, before Cimon's recall by Pericles, a secret compact was made with him by Elpinice, Cimon's sister, that Cimon was to proceed on foreign service against the Persians with a fleet of two hundred ships, while Pericles was to retain his power in the city. It is also said that, when Cimon was being tried for his life, Elpinice softened the resentment of Pericles, who was one of those appointed to impeach him. When Elpinice came to beg her brother's life of him, he answered with a smile, "Elpinice, you are too old to meddle in affairs of this sort." But, for all that, he spoke only once, for form's sake, and pressed Cimon less than any of his other prosecutors. How, then, can one put any faith in Idomeneus, when he accuses Pericles of procuring the assassination of his friend and colleague Ephialtes, because he was jealous of his reputation? This seems an ignoble calumny which Idomeneus has drawn from some obscure source to fling at a man who, no doubt, was not faultless, but of a generous spirit and noble mind, incapable of entertaining so savage and brutal a design. Ephialtes was disliked and feared by the nobles, and was inexorable in punishing those who wronged the people; wherefore his enemies had him assassinated by means of Aristodicus of Tanagra. This we are told by Aristotle. Cimon died in Cyprus while in command of the Athenian forces.
The nobles now perceived that Pericles was the most important man in the state, and far more powerful than any other citizen; wherefore, as they still hoped to check his authority, and not allow him to be omnipotent, they set up Thucydides, of the township of Alopecae, as his rival, a man of good sense and a relative of Cimon, but less of a warrior and more of a politician, who, by watching his opportunities, and opposing Pericles in debate, soon brought about a balance of power. He did not allow the nobles to mix themselves up with the people in the public assembly as they had been wont to do, so that their dignity was lost among the masses; but he collected them into a separate body, and by thus concentrating their strength was able to use it to counterbalance that of the other party. From the beginning these two factions had been but imperfectly welded together, because their tendencies were different; but now the struggle for power between Pericles and Thucydides drew a sharp line of demarcation between them, and one was called the party of the Many, the other that of the Few. Pericles now courted the people in every way, constantly arranging public spectacles, festivals, and processions in the city, by which he educated the Athenians to take pleasure in refined amusements; and also he sent out sixty triremes to cruise every year, in which many of the people served for hire for eight months, learning and practising seamanship. Besides this he sent a thousand settlers to the Chersonese, five hundred to Naxos, half as many to Andros, a thousand to dwell among the Thracian tribe of the Bisaltae, and others to the new colony in Italy founded by the city of Sybaris, which was named Thurii. By this means he relieved the state of numerous idle agitators, assisted the necessitous, and overawed the allies of Athens by placing his colonists near them to watch their behavior.
The building of the temples, by which Athens was adorned, the people delighted, and the rest of the world astonished, and which now alone prove that the tales of the ancient power and glory of Greece are no fables, was what particularly excited the spleen of the opposite faction, who inveighed against him in the public assembly, declaring that the Athenians had disgraced themselves by transferring the common treasury of the Greeks from the island of Delos to their own custody. "Pericles himself," they urged, "has taken away the only possible excuse for such an act—the fear that it might be exposed to the attacks of the Persians when at Delos, whereas it would be safe at Athens. Greece has been outraged, and feels itself openly tyrannized over, when it sees us using the funds—which we extorted from it for the war against the Persians—for gilding and beautifying our city as if it were a vain woman, and adorning it with precious marbles and statues and temples worth a thousand talents." To this Pericles replied that the allies had no right to consider how their money was spent, so long as Athens defended them from the Persians; while they supplied neither horses, ships, nor men, but merely money, which the Athenians had a right to spend as they pleased, provided they afforded them that security which it purchased. It was right, he argued, that after the city had provided all that was necessary for war, it should devote its surplus money to the erection of buildings which would be a glory to it for all ages, while these works would create plenty by leaving no man unemployed, and encouraging all sorts of handicraft, so that nearly the whole city would earn wages, and thus derive both its beauty and its profit from itself. For those who were in the flower of their age, military service offered a means of earning money from the common stock; while, as he did not wish the mechanics and lower classes to be without their share, nor yet to see them receive it without doing work for it, he had laid the foundations of great edifices which would require industries of every kind to complete them; and he had done this in the interests of the lower classes, who thus, although they remained at home, would have just as good a claim to their share of the public funds as those who were serving at sea, in garrison, or in the field. The different materials used, such as stone, brass, ivory, gold, ebony, cypress-wood, and so forth, would require special artisans for each, such as carpenters, modelers, smiths, stone-masons, dyers, melters and moulders of gold, and ivory painters, embroiderers, workers in relief; and also men to bring them to the city, such as sailors and captains of ships and pilots for such as came by sea; and, for those who came by land, carriage builders, horse breeders, drivers, ropemakers, linen manufacturers, shoemakers, road menders, and miners. Each trade, moreover, employed a number of unskilled laborers, so that, in a word, there would be work for persons of every age and every class, and general prosperity would be the result.
These buildings were of immense size, and unequalled in beauty and grace, as the workmen endeavored to make the execution surpass the design in beauty; but what was most remarkable was the speed with which they were built. All these edifices, each of which one would have thought it would have taken many generations to complete, were all finished during the most brilliant period of one man's administration. In beauty each of them at once appeared venerable as soon as it was built; but even at the present day the work looks as fresh as ever, for they bloom with an eternal freshness which defies time, and seems to make the work instinct with an unfading spirit of youth.
The overseer and manager of the whole was Phidias, although there were other excellent architects and workmen, such as Callicrates and Ictinus, who built the Parthenon on the site of the old Hecatompedon, which had been destroyed by the Persians, and Coroebus, who began to build the Temple of Initiation at Eleusis, but who only lived to see the columns erected and the architraves placed upon them. On his death, Metagenes, of Xypete, added the frieze and the upper row of columns, and Xenocles, of Cholargos, crowned it with the domed roof over the shrine. As to the long wall, about which Socrates says that he heard Pericles bring forward a motion, Callicrates undertook to build it. The Odeum, which internally consisted of many rows of seats and many columns, and externally of a roof sloping on all sides from a central point, was said to have been built in imitation of the king of Persia's tent, and was built under Pericles' direction.
The Propylaea, before the Acropolis, were finished in five years by Mnesicles the architect; and a miraculous incident during the work seemed to show that the goddess did not disapprove, but rather encouraged and assisted the building. The most energetic and active of the workmen fell from a great height, and lay in a dangerous condition, given over by his doctors. Pericles grieved much for him; but the goddess appeared to him in a dream, and suggested a course of treatment by which Pericles quickly healed the workman. In consequence of this, he set up the brazen statue of Athene the Healer, near the old altar in the Acropolis. The golden statue of the goddess was made by Phidias, and his name appears upon the basement in the inscription. Almost everything was in his hands, and he gave his orders to all the workmen—as has been said before—because of his friendship with Pericles.
When the speakers of Thucydides' party complained that Pericles had wasted the public money, and destroyed the revenue, he asked the people in the assembly whether they thought he had spent much. When they answered, "Very much indeed," he said in reply; "Do not, then, put it down to the public account, but to mine; and I will inscribe my name upon all the public buildings." When Pericles said this, the people, either in admiration of his magnificence of manner, or being eager to bear their share in the glory of the new buildings, shouted to him with one accord to take what money he pleased from the treasury, and spend it as he pleased, without stint. And finally, he underwent the trial of ostracism with Thucydides, and not only succeeded in driving him into exile, but broke up his party.
As now there was no opposition to encounter in the city, and all parties had been blended into one, Pericles undertook the sole administration of the home and foreign affairs of Athens, dealing with the public revenue, the army, the navy, the islands and maritime affairs, and the great sources of strength which Athens derived from her alliances, as well with Greek as with foreign princes and states. Henceforth he became quite a different man: he no longer gave way to the people, and ceased to watch the breath of popular favor; but he changed the loose and licentious democracy which had hitherto existed, into a stricter aristocratic, or rather monarchical, form of government. This he used honorably and unswervingly for the public benefit, finding the people, as a rule, willing to second the measures which he explained to them to be necessary and to which he asked their consent, but occasionally having to use violence, and to force them, much against their will, to do what was expedient; like a physician dealing with some complicated disorder, who at one time allows his patient innocent recreation, and at another inflicts upon him sharp pains and bitter though salutary draughts. Every possible kind of disorder was to be found among a people possessing so great an empire as the Athenians, and he alone was able to bring them into harmony by playing alternately upon their hopes and fears, checking them when overconfident, and raising their spirits when they were cast down and disheartened. Thus, as Plato says, he was able to prove that oratory is the art of influencing men's minds, and to use it in its highest application, when it deals with men's passions and characters, which, like certain strings of a musical instrument, require a skilful and delicate touch. The secret of his power is to be found, however, as Thucydides says, not so much in his mere oratory as in his pure and blameless life, because he was so well known to be incorruptible, and indifferent to money; for though he made the city, which was a great one, into the greatest and richest city of Greece, and though he himself became more powerful than many independent sovereigns, who were able to leave their kingdoms to their sons, yet Pericles did not increase by one single drachma the estate which he received from his father. For forty years he held the first place among such men as Ephialtes, Leocrates, Myronides, Cimon, Tolmides, and Thucydides; and, after the fall and banishment of Thucydides by ostracism, he united in himself for five-and-twenty years all the various offices of state, which were supposed to last only for one year; and yet during the whole of that period proved himself incorruptible by bribes.
As the Lacedaemonians began to be jealous of the prosperity of the Athenians, Pericles, wishing to raise the spirit of the people and to make them feel capable of immense operations, passed a decree, inviting all the Greeks, whether inhabiting Europe or Asia, whether living in large cities or small ones, to send representatives to a meeting at Athens to deliberate about the restoration of the Greek temples which had been burned by the barbarians, about the sacrifices which were due in consequence of the vows which they had made to the gods on behalf of Greece before joining battle, and about the sea, that all men might be able to sail upon it in peace and without fear. To carry out this decree twenty men, selected from the citizens over fifty years of age, were sent out, five of whom invited the Ionian and Dorian Greeks in Asia and the islands as far as Lesbos and Rhodes, five went to the inhabitants of the Hellespont and Thrace as far as Byzantium, and five more proceeded to Boeotia, Phocis, and Peloponnesus, passing from thence through Locris to the neighboring continent as far as Acarnania and Ambracia; while the remainder journeyed through Euboea to the Oetaeans and the Malian Gulf, and to the Achaeans of Phthia and the Thessalians, urging them to join the assembly and take part in the deliberations concerning the peace and well-being of Greece. However, nothing was effected, and the cities never assembled, in consequence it is said of the covert hostility of the Lacedaemonians, and because the attempt was first made in Peloponnesus and failed there: yet I have inserted an account of it in order to show the lofty spirit and the magnificent designs of Pericles.
In his campaigns he was chiefly remarkable for caution, for he would not, if he could help it, begin a battle of which the issue was doubtful; nor did he wish to emulate those generals who have won themselves a great reputation by running risks and trusting to good luck. But he ever used to say to his countrymen, that none of them should come by their deaths through any act of his. Observing that Tolmides, the son of Tolmaeus, elated by previous successes and by the credit which he had gained as a general, was about to invade Boeotia in a reckless manner, and had persuaded a thousand young men to follow him without any support whatever, he endeavored to stop him, and made that memorable saying in the public assembly, that if Tolmides would not take the advice of Pericles, he would at any rate do well to consult that best of advisers, Time. This speech had but little success at the time; but when, a few days afterward, the news came that Tolmides had fallen in action at Coronea, and many noble citizens with him, Pericles was greatly respected and admired as a wise and patriotic man.
His most successful campaign was that in the Chersonesus, which proved the salvation of the Greeks residing there: for he not only settled a thousand colonists there, and thus increased the available force of the cities, but built a continuous line of fortifications reaching across the isthmus from one sea to the other, by which he shut off the Thracians, who had previously ravaged the peninsula, and put an end to a constant and harassing border warfare to which the settlers were exposed, as they had for neighbors tribes of wild plundering barbarians.
But that by which he obtained most glory and renown was when he started from Pegae, in the Megarian territory, and sailed round the Peloponnesus with a fleet of a hundred triremes; for he not only laid waste much of the country near the coast, as Tolmides had previously done, but he proceeded far inland, away from his ships, leading the troops who were on board, and terrified the inhabitants so much that they shut themselves up in their strongholds. The men of Sicyon alone ventured to meet him at Nemea, and them he overthrew in a pitched battle, and erected a trophy. Next he took on board troops from the friendly district of Achaia, and, crossing over to the opposite side of the Corinthian Gulf, coasted along past the mouth of the river Achelous, overran Acarnania, drove the people of Oeneadae to the shelter of their city walls, and after ravaging the country returned home, having made himself a terror to his enemies, and done good service to Athens; for not the least casualty, even by accident, befell the troops under his command.
When he sailed into the Black Sea with a great and splendidly equipped fleet, he assisted the Greek cities there, and treated them with consideration, and showed the neighboring savage tribes and their chiefs the greatness of his force, and his confidence in his power, by sailing where he pleased, and taking complete control over that sea. He left at Sinope thirteen ships, and a land force under the command of Lamachus, to act against Timesileon, who had made himself despot of that city. When he and his party were driven out, Pericles passed a decree that six hundred Athenian volunteers should sail to Sinope, and become citizens there, receiving the houses and lands which had formerly been in the possession of the despot and his party. But in other cases he would not agree to the impulsive proposals of the Athenians, and he opposed them when, elated by their power and good fortune, they talked of recovering Egypt and attacking the seaboard of the Persian empire. Many, too, were inflamed with that ill-starred notion of an attempt on Sicily, which was afterward blown into a flame by Alcibiades and other orators. Some even dreamed of the conquest of Etruria and Carthage, in consequence of the greatness which the Athenian empire had already reached, and the full tide of success which seemed to attend it.
Pericles, however, restrained these outbursts, and would not allow the people to meddle with foreign states, but used the power of Athens chiefly to preserve and guard her already existing empire, thinking it to be of paramount importance to oppose the Lacedaemonians, a task to which he bent all his energies, as is proved by many of his acts, especially in connection with the Sacred War. In this war the Lacedaemonians sent a force to Delphi, and made the Phocians, who held it, give it up to the people of Delphi: but as soon as they were gone Pericles made an expedition into the country, and restored the temple to the Phocians; and as the Lacedaemonians had scratched the oracle which the Delphians had given them, on the forehead of the brazen wolf there, Pericles got a response from the oracle for the Athenians, and carved it on the right side of the same wolf.
Events proved that Pericles was right in confining the Athenian empire to Greece. First of all Euboea revolted, and he was obliged to lead an army to subdue that island. Shortly after this, news came that the Megarians had become hostile, and that an army, under the command of Plistoanax, king of the Lacedaemonians, was menacing the frontier of Attica. Pericles now in all haste withdrew his troops from Euboea, to meet the invader. He did not venture on an engagement with the numerous and warlike forces of the enemy, although repeatedly invited by them to fight: but, observing that Plistoanax was a very young man, and entirely under the influence of Cleandrides, whom the ephors had sent to act as his tutor and counsellor because of his tender years, he opened secret negotiations with the latter, who at once, for a bribe, agreed to withdraw the Peloponnesians from Attica. When their army returned and dispersed, the Lacedaemonians were so incensed that they imposed a fine on their king, and condemned Cleandrides, who fled the country, to be put to death. This Cleandrides was the father of Gylippus, who caused the ruin of the Athenian expedition in Sicily. Avarice seems to have been hereditary in the family, for Gylippus himself, after brilliant exploits in war, was convicted of taking bribes, and banished from Sparta in disgrace.
When Pericles submitted the accounts of the campaign to the people, there was an item of ten talents, "for a necessary purpose," which the people passed without any questioning, or any curiosity to learn the secret. Some historians, among whom is Theophrastus the philosopher, say that Pericles sent ten talents annually to Sparta, by means of which he bribed the chief magistrates to defer the war, thus not buying peace, but time to make preparations for a better defence. He immediately turned his attention to the insurgents in Euboea, and proceeding thither with a fleet of fifty sail, and five thousand heavy armed troops, he reduced their cities to submission. He banished from Chalcis the "equestrian order," as it was called, consisting of men of wealth and station; and he drove all the inhabitants of Hestiaea out of their country, replacing them by Athenian settlers. He treated these people with this pitiless severity, because they had captured an Athenian ship, and put its crew to the sword. After this, as the Athenians and Lacedaemonians made a truce for thirty years, Pericles decreed the expedition against Samos, on the pretext that they had disregarded the commands of the Athenians to cease from their war with the Milesians.
Pericles is accused of going to war with Samos to save the Milesians. These states were at war about the possession of the city of Priene, and the Samians, who were victorious, would not lay down their arms and allow the Athenians to settle the matter by arbitration, as they ordered them to do. For this reason Pericles proceeded to Samos, put an end to the oligarchical form of government there, and sent fifty hostages and as many children to Lemnos, to insure the good behavior of the leading men. It is said that each of these hostages offered him a talent for his own freedom, and that much more was offered by that party which was loath to see a democracy established in the city. Besides all this, Pissuthnes the Persian, who had a liking for the Samians, sent and offered him ten thousand pieces of gold if he would spare the city. Pericles, however, took none of these bribes, but dealt with Samos as he had previously determined, and returned to Athens. The Samians now at once revolted, as Pissuthnes managed to get them back their hostages, and furnished them with the means of carrying on the war. Pericles now made a second expedition against them, and found them in no mind to submit quietly, but determined to dispute the empire of the seas with the Athenians. Pericles gained a signal victory over them in a sea-fight off the Goats' Island, beating a fleet of seventy ships with only forty-four, twenty of which were transports.
Simultaneously with his victory and the flight of the enemy he obtained command of the harbor of Samos, and besieged the Samians in their city. They, in spite of their defeat, still possessed courage enough to sally out and fight a battle under the walls; but soon a larger force arrived from Athens, and the Samians were completely blockaded.
Pericles now with sixty ships sailed out of the Archipelago into the Mediterranean, according to the most current report intending to meet the Phoenician fleet which was coming to help the Samians, but, according to Stesimbrotus, with the intention of attacking Cyprus, which seems improbable. Whatever his intention may have been, his expedition was a failure, for Melissus, the son of Ithagenes, a man of culture, who was then in command of the Samian forces, conceiving a contempt for the small force of the Athenians and the want of experience of their leaders after Pericles' departure, persuaded his countrymen to attack them. In the battle the Samians proved victorious, taking many Athenians prisoners, and destroying many of their ships. By this victory they obtained command of the sea, and were able to supply themselves with more warlike stores than they had possessed before. Aristotle even says that Pericles himself was before this beaten by Melissus in a sea-fight. The Samians branded the figure of an owl on the foreheads of their Athenian prisoners, to revenge themselves for the branding of their own prisoners by the Athenians with the figure of a samaina. This is a ship having a beak turned up like a swine's snout, but with a roomy hull, so as both to carry a large cargo and sail fast. This class of vessel is called samaina because it was first built at Samos by Polycrates, the despot of that island.
When Pericles heard of the disaster which had befallen his army, he returned in all haste to assist them. He beat Melissus, who came out to meet him, and, after putting the enemy to rout, at once built a wall round their city, preferring to reduce it by blockade to risking the lives of his countrymen in an assault. In the ninth month of the siege the Samians surrendered. Pericles demolished their walls, confiscated their fleet, and imposed a heavy fine upon them, some part of which was paid at once by the Samians, who gave hostages for the payment of the remainder at fixed periods.
Pericles, after the reduction of Samos, returned to Athens, where he buried those who had fallen in the war in a magnificent manner, and was much admired for the funeral oration which, as is customary, was spoken by him over the graves of his countrymen. Ion says that his victory over the Samians wonderfully flattered his vanity. Agamemnon, he was wont to say, took ten years to take a barbarian city, but he in nine months had made himself master of the first and most powerful city in Ionia. And the comparison was not an unjust one, for truly the war was a very great undertaking, and its issue quite uncertain, since, as Thucydides tells us, the Samians came very near to wresting the empire of the sea from the Athenians.
After these events, as the clouds were gathering for the Peloponnesian war, Pericles persuaded the Athenians to send assistance to the people of Corcyra, who were at war with the Corinthians, and thus to attach to their own side an island with a powerful naval force, at a moment when the Peloponnesians had all but declared war against them.
When the people passed this decree, Pericles sent only ten ships under the command of Lacedaemonius, the son of Cimon, as if he designed a deliberate insult; for the house of Cimon was on peculiarly friendly terms with the Lacedaemonians. His design in sending Lacedaemonius out, against his will, and with so few ships, was that if he performed nothing brilliant he might be accused, even more than he was already, of leaning to the side of the Spartans. Indeed, by all means in his power, he always threw obstacles in the way of the advancement of Cimon's family, representing that by their very names they were aliens, one son being named Lacedaemonius, another Thessalus, another Elius. Moreover, the mother of all three was an Arcadian.
Now Pericles was much reproached for sending these ten ships, which were of little value to the Corcyreans, and gave a great handle to his enemies to use against him, and in consequence sent a larger force after them to Corcyra, which arrived there after the battle. The Corinthians, enraged at this, complained in the congress of Sparta of the conduct of the Athenians, as did also the Megarians, who said that they were excluded from every market and every harbor which was in Athenian hands, contrary to the ancient rights and common privileges of the Hellenic race. The people of Aegina also considered themselves to be oppressed and ill-treated, and secretly bemoaned their grievances in the ears of the Spartans, for they dared not openly bring any charges against the Athenians. At this time, too, Potidaea, a city subject to Athens, but a colony of Corinth, revolted, and its siege materially hastened the outbreak of the war. Archidamus, indeed, the king of the Lacedaemonians, sent ambassadors to Athens, was willing to submit all disputed points to arbitration, and endeavored to moderate the excitement of his allies, so that war probably would not have broken out if the Athenians could have been persuaded to rescind their decree of exclusion against the Megarians, and to come to terms with them. And, for this reason, Pericles, who was particularly opposed to this, and urged the people not to give way to the Megarians, alone bore the blame of having begun the war.
Pericles passed a decree for a herald to be sent to the Megarians, and then to go on to the Lacedaemonians to complain of their conduct. This decree of Pericles is worded in a candid and reasonable manner; but the herald, Anthemocritus, was thought to have met his death at the hands of the Megarians, and Charinus passed a decree to the effect that Athens should wage war against them to the death, without truce or armistice; that any Megarian found in Attica should be punished with death, and that the generals, when taking the usual oath for each year, should swear in addition that they would invade the Megarian territory twice every year; and that Anthemocritus should be buried near the city gate leading into the Thriasian plain, which is now called the Double Gate. How the dispute originated it is hard to say, but all writers agree in throwing on Pericles the blame of refusing to reverse the decree.
Now, as the Lacedaemonians knew that if he could be removed from power they would find the Athenians much more easy to deal with, they bade them "drive forth the accursed thing," alluding to Pericles' descent from the Alcmaeonidae by his mother's side, as we are told by Thucydides the historian. But this attempt had just the contrary effect to that which they intended; for, instead of suspicion and dislike, Pericles met with much greater honor and respect from his countrymen than before, because they saw that he was an object of especial dislike to the enemy. For this reason, before the Peloponnesians, under Archidamus, invaded Attica, he warned the Athenians that if Archidamus, when he laid waste everything else, spared his own private estate because of the friendly private relations existing between them, or in order to give his personal enemies a ground for impeaching him, he should give both the land and the farm buildings upon it to the state.
The Lacedaemonians invaded Attica with a great host of their own troops and those of their allies, led by Archidamus, their king. They proceeded, ravaging the country as they went, as far as Acharnae (close to Athens), where they encamped, imagining that the Athenians would never endure to see them there, but would be driven by pride and shame to come out and fight them. However, Pericles thought that it would be a very serious matter to fight for the very existence of Athens against sixty thousand Peloponnesian and Boeotian heavy-armed troops, and so he pacified those who were dissatisfied at his inactivity by pointing out that trees when cut down quickly grow again, but that when the men of a state are lost, it is hard to raise up others to take their place. He would not call an assembly of the people, because he feared that they would force him to act against his better judgment, but, just as the captain of a ship, when a storm comes on at sea, places everything in the best trim to meet it, and trusting to his own skill and seamanship, disregarding the tears and entreaties of the seasick and terrified passengers, so did Pericles shut the gates of Athens, place sufficient forces to insure the safety of the city at all points, and calmly carry out his own policy, taking little heed of the noisy grumblings of the discontented. Many of his friends besought him to attack, many of his enemies threatened him and abused him, and many songs and offensive jests were written about him, speaking of him as a coward, and one who was betraying the city to its enemies. Cleon too attacked him, using the anger which the citizens felt against him to advance his own personal popularity.
Pericles was unmoved by any of these attacks, but quietly endured all this storm of obloquy. He sent a fleet of a hundred ships to attack Peloponnesus, but did not sail with it himself, remaining at home to keep a tight hand over Athens until the Peloponnesians drew off their forces. He regained his popularity with the common people, who suffered much from the war, by giving them allowances of money from the public revenue, and grants of land; for he drove out the entire population of the island of Aegina, and divided the land by lot among the Athenians. A certain amount of relief also was experienced by reflecting upon the injuries which they were inflicting on the enemy; for the fleet as it sailed round Peloponnesus destroyed many small villages and cities, and ravaged a great extent of country, while Pericles himself led an expedition into the territory of Megara and laid it all waste. By this it is clear that the allies, although they did much damage to the Athenians, yet suffered equally themselves, and never could have protracted the war for such a length of time as it really lasted, but, as Pericles foretold, must soon have desisted had not Providence interfered and confounded human counsels. For now the pestilence fell among the Athenians, and cut off the flower of their youth. Suffering both in body and mind they raved against Pericles, just as people when delirious with disease attack their fathers or their physicians. They endeavored to ruin him, urged on by his personal enemies, who assured them that he was the author of the plague, because he had brought all the country people into the city, where they were compelled to live during the heat of summer, crowded together in small rooms and stifling tents, living an idle life too, and breathing foul air instead of the pure country breeze to which they were accustomed. The cause of this, they said, was the man who, when the war began, admitted the masses of the country people into the city, and then made no use of them, but allowed them to be penned up together like cattle, and transmit the contagion from one to another, without devising any remedy or alleviation of their sufferings.
Hoping to relieve them somewhat, and also to annoy the enemy, Pericles manned a hundred and fifty ships, placed on board, besides the sailors, many brave infantry and cavalry soldiers, and was about to put to sea. The Athenians conceived great hopes, and the enemy no less terror from so large an armament. When all was ready, and Pericles himself had just embarked in his own trireme, an eclipse of the sun took place, producing total darkness, and all men were terrified at so great a portent. Pericles sailed with the fleet, but did nothing worthy of so great a force. He besieged the sacred city of Epidaurus, but, although he had great hopes of taking it, he failed on account of the plague, which destroyed not only his own men, but every one who came in contact with them. After this he again endeavored to encourage the Athenians, to whom he had become an object of dislike. However, he did not succeed in pacifying them, but they condemned him by a public vote to be general no more, and to pay a fine which is stated at the lowest estimate to have been fifteen talents, and at the highest fifty. This was carried, according to Idomeneus, by Cleon, but, according to Theophrastus, by Simmias; while Heraclides of Pontus says that it was effected by Lacratides.
He soon regained his public position, for the people's outburst of anger was quenched by the blow they had dealt him, just as a bee leaves its sting in the wound; but his private affairs were in great distress and disorder, as he had lost many of his relatives during the plague, while others were estranged from him on political grounds. Yet he would not yield, nor abate his firmness and constancy of spirit because of these afflictions, but was not observed to weep or mourn, or attend the funeral of any of his relations, until he lost Paralus, the last of his legitimate offspring. Crushed by this blow, he tried in vain to keep up his grand air of indifference, and when carrying a garland to lay upon the corpse he was overpowered by his feelings, so as to burst into a passion of tears and sobs, which he had never done before in his whole life.
Athens made trial of her other generals and public men to conduct her affairs, but none appeared to be of sufficient weight or reputation to have such a charge intrusted to him. The city longed for Pericles, and invited him again to lead its counsels and direct its armies; and he, although dejected in spirits and living in seclusion in his own house, was yet persuaded by Alcibiades and his other friends to resume the direction of affairs.
After this it appears that Pericles was attacked by the plague, not acutely or continuously, as in most cases, but in a slow wasting fashion, exhibiting many varieties of symptoms, and gradually undermining his strength. As he was now on his death-bed, the most distinguished of the citizens and his surviving friends collected round him and spoke admiringly of his nobleness and immense power, enumerating also the number of his exploits, and the trophies which he had set up for victories gained; for while in chief command he had won no less than nine victories for Athens.
Events soon made the loss of Pericles felt and regretted by the Athenians. Those who during his lifetime had complained that his power completely threw them into the shade, when after his death they had made trial of other orators and statesmen, were obliged to confess that with all his arrogance no man ever was really more moderate, and that his real mildness in dealing with men was as remarkable as his apparent pride and assumption. His power, which had been so grudged and envied, and called monarchy and despotism, now was proved to have been the saving of the State; such an amount of corrupt dealing and wickedness suddenly broke out in public affairs, which he before had crushed and forced to hide itself, and so prevented its becoming incurable through impunity and license.