Pericles Essay

955 words - 4 pages

Thucydides’ interpretation of Pericles’ Funeral Oration is a significant text of the Classical World, delivered by Pericles during 5th Century Greece and the Age of Pericles. It is intended as an account of the soldiers lost during the Peloponnesian War, however it is a statement that expresses the myth and ideals of Athens, all of which are relevant to 5th century Athens. It functions as a model for future societies and portrays the unique image and characteristics of Athens. Within the oration, Pericles emphasizes the subjects that forms the myth of Athens, one of which being that the Athenian government is a model for future democratic societies. Along with its government, Pericles highlights the unique and unmatched force of the Athenian military. In addition, Pericles continues to state that the development of the Athenian civilisation was a phenomenal achievement, far from needing Homer to immortalise the actions and nature of the society.

During the oration, Pericles relates to the qualities and values of the civilisation. One of these being its advanced democracy that glorified Athens, which coined the phrase equal justice under law. The government differs from other societies, offering justice and equality to its citizens as well as freedom, as opposed to Sparta where under a military dictatorship, the government tyrannizes its citizens. The Athenians do not imitate the actions of other governments, rather they create an example for fellow and future societies to follow.
"Our constitution does not copy the laws of neighbouring states; we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves. Its administration favours the many instead of the few; this is why it is called a democracy.”
The centre of Athenian democracy and society was the concept of isonomia, or equality before the law. Pericles’ statement that the government favours the many rather than the few comes under this value. Isonomia was the foundation of democracy, liberty and justice along with its other components isegoria (freedom of speech) and koinonia (identity in the community).
“The essence of the democracy, of course, was the sovereignty of the people. While other values were undoubtedly important in Athenian society, the three concepts of isonomia, equality before the law, isegoria, freedom of speech (within the ecclesia), and koinonia, community identity, seem to have been the central values of the democratic system.”
While it functions as a sophisticated and united government under isonomia, the freedom of their government extends to their lives outside the government. The Athenians do not live under duress, but in a society that allows its citizens to act freely, however it does not allow its citizens to act recklessly. Pericles states that despite their freedom, “all this ease in our private relations does not make us lawless as citizens.” Isonomia and its fellow concepts were a force that...

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