An Overview of the Pericles' Policy from History of the Peloponnesian War
Uploaded by wendimill on Nov 03, 2011
In this paper, there will be a discussion on The Policy of Pericles, found in Book II of Thucydides’ “History of the Peloponnesian War.” A general overview will be provided.
Thucydides provided us with a comprehensive record of the Peloponnesian War, documenting its events, and major characters, for the world to know centuries after. In Book II of his history, the general Pericles dies, and in passage 65, Thucydides provides him with a suitable sendoff, one in which his death marked the beginning of Athens’ true decline. Through this record, it becomes clear that Pericles’ vision was one that could have benefited Athens greatly had it been followed. The fact that the opposite policy was enforced, and Athens spiraled as a result, gives credence to the conclusion.
The passage begins with Thucydides relating the general’s efforts at quelling the unrest that had risen in Athens. The plague had truly taken its toll on the citizens and they were hoping to see change – in any way possible. However, Pericles, who understood policy and strategy well, imparted to the Athenians that virtue was found in patience. The reasons for the war were still present, nothing had changed, and thus, it would be wise to stay true to the original plan.
“So far as public policy was concerned, they accepted his arguments, sending no more embassies to Sparta and showing an increased energy in carrying on the war....” To this end, Pericles had been successful, yet he still had to contend with the displeasure of the citizens concerning their private lives. Athens was a state of enormous wealth and freedom, and now, as their situation grew worse, individual liberties were no longer as significant since they had little to live for. Thucydides notes – “The mass of the people had had little enough to start with and had now been deprived of even that....”
And in order to satisfy them, the general had to pay a fine. But as Thucydides pointed out, crowds are often fickle and though upset with Pericles, it elected him again. But he would die soon afterwards, and the subsequent decline of Athens could be attributed to this turn of events. Though the citizens were cynical of his policy at the time, it would prove to be the best course of action for Athens –...