The Classical Period or Golden Age of Greece, from around 500 to 300 BC, has given us the great monuments, art, philosophy, architecture and literature which are the building blocks of our own civilization. But it was one person by the name Pericles who changed it all. Nobody dominated Athenian political life during the Golden Age more than the statesman Pericles (495-429BCE), who served nearly 30 years on the board of Ten Generals which was elected annually rather than the chosen by lot, and was the representative of the people. A privileged person by birth, he was still democracy’s strongest advocate. Later in Pericles career, he conveyed an intriguing speech honoring soldiers who had fallen in early battles of the Peloponnesian War, a skirmish for power between Sparta and Athens that would eventually result in Athens defeat in 404 BCE, long after Pericles own death. Despite the fact, Sparta and Athens united together to form the Delian league, to fight off the Persian threat in 478 BCE, by 450 BCE, Persia was no longer a threat, and Sparta sought to foment a large scale revolt against Athenian control of Delian league. Sparta formed it owns Peloponnesian League, motivated at least partly by Athens’s use of Delian League funds to rebuild its acropolis. Pericles resisted the rebellion vigorously, as Athenian preeminence among the Greeks was at stake.
Soon after the Persian invasion in 480 BCE, the Athenians initially agreed to keep the acropolis in a state of ruin as a warning sign of the horrible price of war; however, Pericles persuaded them to rebuild it. Largely renovated with elaborate architecture and sculpture, it would become, Pericles argued, a fitting memorial not only to the war but especially to Athens role in protecting the Athenian people. Pericles placed the sculptor Phidias in charge of the sculptural program for the new buildings on the Acropolis, and Phidias may have been responsible for the architectural project as well. The centerpiece of...
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