Pericles was a famous Greek leader and military commander. He was an exceptional Greek statesmen who instituted democracy in the Greek world. Though he would ultimately become a highly regarded member of Athenian society, his early years would not have been an indication of his future greatness.
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Pericles was born to an important Athenian family known as the Alcmeonids, and they were members of the Acamantis tribe. His family was very wealthy, and Pericles was able to spend the early days of life pursuing his love of learning and expanding his knowledge. Once Pericles became a strong and able bodied young man he served in the military. He became a distinguished soldier during the Peloponnesian war, and he also fought in other conflicts against Persia. His service in the war was so outstanding that some of the leading members of Athens society called it the “Age of Pericles.”
Pericles returned from his military service and was soon elected to become the leader of the Athenian people. This event occurred in 460 B.C. (which is where he appears on the Biblical Timeline Poster with World History) after he had gotten rid of some of his political rivalries. Once he was in power, he began to erect many statues and developed the landscape of Athens with many civil buildings and parks. He developed the democratic process. He first worked in the law courts of Athens before he gained power as the ruler of Athens.
Once he was in power, he began to pass laws and perform services that greatly benefitted the Greeks and their society. He helped the poor in their plight by offering them free services and allowing them to attend the theater without charge. He opposed the Spartans during his time in office, and he was the first Greek to propose payment for politicians. Soldiers were also paid salaries for their services. He also established rules for leadership where Athenian parentage played an important role.
Pericles developed art and music during his time in power, and Athens became a cultural center due to his efforts. He enacted many reforms and policies that brought about peace to the land of Athens for many years despite the fact that troubles constantly plagued the city. Outside colonies were established by the Athenians under his rule, and they would be used to help support missions in foreign lands. He also aided Egypt during their conflicts with the Persians in the 4th century B.C. Pericles performed other great civil works and even managed to get all of the warring Greek city-states to agree to a period of peace with the exception being Sparta.
Pericles had two sons who later died when an outbreak of disease occurred in Athens. He also had lost his position as a leader and was deposed by some leading members of Athens society. In time he was reelected to lead once again but he died six months after he was reelected the second time in 429 B.C. Pericles was considered the first true Athenian because of all of the transformations that he made to Athenian society during his time in power. His efforts helped to forge Athens into one of the most powerful city-states in the ancient world, and he helped to change forever the system of democracy.
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