Pericles Speech Position Paper(Position :Pericles' Speech Was Not An Accurate Representation Of Athenian Society)

1058 words - 4 pages

Pericles lived in Athens of Classical Greece around 431 B.C. He made a famous speech around this time to the Athenian people about the ideals of the Greek culture. Although this articulate speech is quite famous, it does not accurately describe the realm of Athenian lifestyle. Pericles makes Athens sound like an absolutely perfect city, in which no wrong can be done. In the Greek culture there are very strong class barriers, and Pericles speaks as though they do not exist. He implies that there is equality between men and women, which there is not, and he speaks about every man following every rule, which is an unrealistic reality. He bluntly ignores the presence of slavery, a dark mark for any civilization. Pericles describes the Athenian army as one of the best in the world. Athens did have a somewhat successful military, but the Spartan-like image Pericles creates is not accurate. Also, around this time period, the polis is declining because it can not support the amount of people under its rule due to the increased hiring of soldiers. Pericles also states that Greece is a democracy when, in actuality, most of the Greek city-states never accepted this as their primary form of government. The democracy of Athens was unsuccessful, as it was not made up of all the Athenian population, only the upper classes. Pericles did not describe the realistic culture of Athens in his speech.The most obvious flaws in Pericles' speech stem from issues of social equality. Pericles says that all men are created equal and are treated as such. But, the Greek social system was far from equal. Pericles states, "When a citizen is in any way distinguished, he is preferred to the public service (Sherman 60)." This is a mild way of saying that in the eyes of the Athenian government, not all people are equal. He calls Athens a democracy when only around sixty thousand out of around three hundred thousand people were legal citizens and were permitted to fully be a part of political elections, which denounces Pericles' statement of "It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not the few (Sherman 60)." Although this government can be called a democracy because all of the citizens of the country have an equally weighted vote, the fact that only about one sixth of the Athenian population are citizens means that Athens is actually in the hands of the few. The majority of the Athenian population were poor farmers who were excluded from most of the daily activities of the few citizens. Further stating this point, Mark Kishlansky says, "... Not all Athenians were socially or economically equal (Kishlansky 76)." The social inequality is directly contradictory to Pericles' speech.Another inconsistency of Athens is the inequality of women. Mark Kishlansky states, "[Women] were considered citizens only for purposes of marriage, transfer of property, and procreation (Kishlansky 75)." Women were completely shunned from...

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