The Age of Pericles and Periclean Athens

Periclean Athens


The Age of Pericles refers to part of the Classical Age of Greece, when the dominant polis—in terms of culture and politics—was Athens, Greece. Most of the cultural wonders that we associate with ancient Greece come from this period.

The Dates of the Classical Age

Sometimes the term "Classical Age" refers to the entire expanse of ancient Greek history, from the archaic period, but when used to distinguish one era from the next, the Classical Age of Greece begins with the Persian Wars (490-479 B.C.) and ends with either the empire-building or the death of the Macedonian leader Alexander the Great (323 B.C.). The Classical Age is followed by the Hellenistic Age that Alexander ushered in. Besides war, the Classical era in Athens, Greece, produced great literature, philosophy, drama, and art. There is a single name that signifies this artistic period: Pericles.

The Age of Pericles (in Athens)

The Age of Pericles runs from the middle of the 5th century to either his death at the start of the Peloponnesian War or the end of the war, in 404.

Pericles as Leader

While he was not a king or dictator in charge of Athens, Greece, Pericles was the foremost statesman of Athens from 461-429. Pericles was repeatedly elected to be one of the 10 strategoi (generals).

Aspasia of Miletus

Pericles was strongly influenced by Aspasia, a female philosopher and courtesan from Miletus, who lived in Athens, Greece. Because of a recent citizenship law, Pericles couldn't marry a woman who wasn't born in Athens, so he could only cohabit with Aspasia.

Pericles' Reforms

Pericles introduced payment for public offices in Athens.

Pericles' Building Projects

Pericles initiated the building of the Acropolis structures. The Acropolis was the high point of the city, the original fortifiable area before the city of Athens expanded. Temples topped the Acropolis, which was behind the Pnyx hill where the assembly of the people gathered. Pericles' preeminent building project was the Parthenon (447-432 B.C.), on the Acropolis. The famed Athenian sculptor Pheidias, who was also responsible for the chryselephantine statue of Athena, supervised this project. Ictinus and Callicrates served as architects for the Parthenon.

Delian League

Pericles is credited with moving the treasury of the Delian League to Athens, Greece, and using its money to rebuild the Acropolis temples that the Persians had destroyed. This was an abuse of the treasury funds. The money was supposed to be for the defense of Athens and its Greek allies.

Other Famous Men in the Classical Age

Besides Pericles, Herodotus the father of history and his successor, Thucydides, and the 3 famous Greek dramatists Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides lived during this period.

There were also renowned philosophers like Democritus during this period, as well as sophists.

Drama and philosophy flourished.

The Peloponnesian War

But then the Peloponnesian War broke out in 431. It lasted for 27 years. Pericles, along with many others, died of an undetermined plague during the war. The plague was especially deadly because people were crowded together within the walls of Athens, Greece, for strategic reasons connected with the war.

Historians of the Archaic and Classical Period

Historians When Greece Was Dominated by the Macedonians

  • Diodorus
  • Justin
  • Thucydides
  • Arrian & fragments of Arrian found in Photius
  • Demosthenes
  • Aeschines
  • Plutarch
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Your Citation
Gill, N.S. "The Age of Pericles and Periclean Athens." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Gill, N.S. (2020, August 26). The Age of Pericles and Periclean Athens. Retrieved from Gill, N.S. "The Age of Pericles and Periclean Athens." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).