Biography of Pericles (495-429 a.C.)

Athenian statesman, born in Athens 495 BC and died in the same city to 429 B.c., nephew of the reformer Cleisthenes. Of noble ancestry, maternal via came from the family of the Alcmaeonidae, and by the father was descended from a noble and wealthy family of aristocratic branch of the Buzios. Xanthippus, his father, had been a hero of the medical wars at the battle of Mycale.

From a very young participated in political life against the aristocracy, which was struggling to maintain their privileges. In 472 BC, it covered a choir to commemorate the victory over the Persians in the celebrations of Aeschylus. His opposition to the aristocratic party earned him, from 463 BC, Cimonopposition, as we have Aristotle and Plutarch in his Chronicles. The confrontation with the leader of the aristocratic party ended with the condemnation of this banishment. The death of Ephialtes held the leadership of the Democrats. Little later in 461 BC, was proclaimed strategist autokrator, what did the leader of Athens of Pericles.

Within the internal politics of Athens, Pericles conducted a series of reforms designed to establish the so-called Radical democracy. His first reform consisted of reducing the powers of the Areopagus, as well as attributing the major political decisions to popular organizations such as the Ecclesia (general Assembly of citizens with Executive and judicial powers), the Bulé (Senate consisting of a chosen Group of five hundred citizens of advanced age) and the Heliaia (popular City Court, consisting of six thousand members). Another of its most significant reforms consisted in establish a salary to pay for the members of these bodies, with the idea of that, to have a salary, would avoid corruption since they disappeared the economic needs of its members. He said the invulnerability of the judges and civil servants. Extended political rights to all citizens of the polis, foreigners, slaves and children were only exempt. This series of reforms are which gave rise to the birth of Greek democracy, which was the model for the current Western democracies.

Its ambitious external program meant it to Athenian control and the strengthening of the League of Delos, which became a political element to the service of Athens, to the point that the League Treasury moved to this city in 454 BC ruled the war against the Persians in the battle of Salamis of the 449 BC (see Persian Empire)after which the peace of Callias (448 BC) that was established Athenian hegemony in the Aegean was signed. The Spartans (see Sparta) war was less favourable, since a Spartan army devastated Attica in the 447. Two years later, Pericles signed a peace of thirty years, which established the Spartan power over the Peloponnese in Exchange for recognition of the Athenian hegemony at sea.

The League of Delos became more and more an Athenian instrument: imposed the use of its currency, its metric and political system on the rest of the cities. It was this which led to the maintenance of expensive Athenian democratic system. Helping Korkyra, rebellious colony of Corinth (443 BC) of Athens led to the Peloponnesian War, in which allied Corinth and Sparta against Athens. Disgruntlement over the war, as well as the epidemic of plague, they were exploited by the disaffected with the regime of Pericles to bring down this power in 430 BC, but managed to get back it the following year. Then, he decreed a certain self-sufficiency and ordered to close the doors of Athens. He could thus resist for some time, until it was declared in the city an epidemic of typhus in 430 BC, which soon caused the deaths of the own leader (429 BC).

Pericles, during the time he headed it, led to the Athenian city to be the head of an empire consisting of all the cities that were the League delica, some of them maintained by force. He fortified the city with the construction of an impressive wall that protected, in addition to the city, the communications with the commercial port of Piraeus. The construction of the Parthenon is the maximum example of cultural and economic brilliance achieved by the Athens of Pericles.

It was the most prominent politician of Athens, under whose mandate the city met its moments of splendour military and cultural, to the point of becoming the principal of the Greek cities. He surrounded himself with artists of the stature of Phidias, Anaxagoras, Hippodamus of Miletus and his own wife, Aspasia, one of the women most educated and beautiful in its time. He embellished to Athens with works summits of Greek art to reconstruct the Acropolis. His time also coincides with a period of emergence of thought and literature in Athens. Therefore, the 5th century BC has been called the century of Pericles.

Athens Acropolis.