Athens is a major Greek city-state in European history. It was a great center of cultural and intellectual development, and thus home to philosophers. Socrates and Pericles, two of these philosophers, had polarizing opinions about the city-state and its citizens. While Pericles chooses to praise the Athenian citizen, Socrates criticizes Athens’ people. Pericles gave his opinion at a funeral during the first battles of the Peloponnesian War, while Socrates gave his during the trial that ultimately led to his death. The Athenian city-state has become a model for today’s systems of government and a hearth for western philosophy, so Pericles’ opinion seems to be the one that is more accurate.
Pericles starts his speech talking about the Athenian tradition of praising members of the city-state at their funeral. He observes that the speaker of the oration has the impossible task of satisfying the associates of the dead. He states “it is hard to speak properly upon a subject where it is even difficult to convince your hearers that you are speaking the truth,” (Pericles’ Funeral Oration, Thucydides) and discusses the different people in attendance who must be satisfied with the speech. According to Pericles, the speaker needs to please friends and strangers, with both parties having opposite needs. On one hand, the friends want to hear the dead glorified in all walks of his life, while the stranger will have trouble believing some of it and think that the speech is using hyperbole. However, he says that it is tradition, so the speaker must go forth anyway.
Pericles then moves on to speak about the ancestors of his city-state. He says that they handed down the country free of charge out of valor, and that their fathers added to their inheritance to build an empire. After this, he moves onto the Athenian structure of government. He praises Athens as the originator of democracy, claiming that they did not borrow anything from neighboring city-states, and that others...
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"Socrates (Greek Philosopher) : Socrates ' Criticism of Democracy." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2012. .
Thucydides. "Ancient History Sourcebook: Thucydides (c.460/455-c.399 BCE): Pericles ' Funeral Oration from the Peloponnesian War (Book 2.34-46)." Internet History Sourcebooks. Fordham University, n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2012. .
“A Take On the Pericles’ and Socrates’ views on Athenian Society”
By: MenSa Smith
September 18, 2012
History 113, Section E
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