Age of Pericles
Overview
 
Fifth-century Athens refers to the Greek city-state of Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 in the period of roughly 480 BC-404 BC. This was a period of Athenian political hegemony
Hegemony
Hegemony is an indirect form of imperial dominance in which the hegemon rules sub-ordinate states by the implied means of power rather than direct military force. In Ancient Greece , hegemony denoted the politico–military dominance of a city-state over other city-states...

, economic growth and cultural flourishing formerly known as the Golden Age of Athens or The Age of Pericles. The period began in 480 BC when an Athenian-led coalition of city-states, known as the Delian League
Delian League
The Delian League, founded in circa 477 BC, was an association of Greek city-states, members numbering between 150 to 173, under the leadership of Athens, whose purpose was to continue fighting the Persian Empire after the Greek victory in the Battle of Plataea at the end of the Greco–Persian Wars...

, defeated the Persians at Salamis
Battle of Salamis
The Battle of Salamis was fought between an Alliance of Greek city-states and the Persian Empire in September 480 BCE, in the straits between the mainland and Salamis, an island in the Saronic Gulf near Athens...

. As the fifth century wore on, what started as an alliance of independent city-states gradually became an Athenian empire.
Encyclopedia
Fifth-century Athens refers to the Greek city-state of Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 in the period of roughly 480 BC-404 BC. This was a period of Athenian political hegemony
Hegemony
Hegemony is an indirect form of imperial dominance in which the hegemon rules sub-ordinate states by the implied means of power rather than direct military force. In Ancient Greece , hegemony denoted the politico–military dominance of a city-state over other city-states...

, economic growth and cultural flourishing formerly known as the Golden Age of Athens or The Age of Pericles. The period began in 480 BC when an Athenian-led coalition of city-states, known as the Delian League
Delian League
The Delian League, founded in circa 477 BC, was an association of Greek city-states, members numbering between 150 to 173, under the leadership of Athens, whose purpose was to continue fighting the Persian Empire after the Greek victory in the Battle of Plataea at the end of the Greco–Persian Wars...

, defeated the Persians at Salamis
Battle of Salamis
The Battle of Salamis was fought between an Alliance of Greek city-states and the Persian Empire in September 480 BCE, in the straits between the mainland and Salamis, an island in the Saronic Gulf near Athens...

. As the fifth century wore on, what started as an alliance of independent city-states gradually became an Athenian empire. Eventually, Athens abandoned the pretense of parity among its allies and relocated the Delian League treasury from Delos
Delos
The island of Delos , isolated in the centre of the roughly circular ring of islands called the Cyclades, near Mykonos, is one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece...

 to Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, where it funded the building of the Athenian Acropolis
Acropolis
Acropolis means "high city" in Greek, literally city on the extremity and is usually translated into English as Citadel . For purposes of defense, early people naturally chose elevated ground to build a new settlement, frequently a hill with precipitous sides...

. With its enemies under its feet and its political fortunes guided by statesman and orator Pericles
Pericles
Pericles was a prominent and influential statesman, orator, and general of Athens during the city's Golden Age—specifically, the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars...

, Athens produced some of the most influential and enduring cultural artifacts of the Western tradition. The playwrights Aeschylus
Aeschylus
Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

, Sophocles
Sophocles
Sophocles is one of three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived. His first plays were written later than those of Aeschylus, and earlier than or contemporary with those of Euripides...

 and Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

 all lived and worked in fifth century Athens, as did the historians Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 and Thucydides
Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

, the physician Hippocrates
Hippocrates
Hippocrates of Cos or Hippokrates of Kos was an ancient Greek physician of the Age of Pericles , and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine...

, and the philosopher Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

.

Overview

During the golden age, Athenian military and external affairs were mostly run by the ten strategoi (or generals) who were elected each year by the ten clans of citizens, and whose supreme command was rotated daily. These strategoi had duties which included planning military expeditions, receiving envoys of other states and directing diplomatic affairs. During the time of the ascendancy of Ephialtes
Ephialtes
Ephialtes of Trachis was the son of Eurydemus of Malis. He betrayed his homeland by showing the Persian forces a path around the allied Greek position at the pass of Thermopylae, which helped them win the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC.-Trail:The allied Greek land forces, which Herodotus states...

 as leader of the democratic faction, Pericles
Pericles
Pericles was a prominent and influential statesman, orator, and general of Athens during the city's Golden Age—specifically, the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars...

 was his deputy. When Ephialtes was assassinated
Assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

 by personal enemies, Pericles stepped in and was elected strategos
Strategos
Strategos, plural strategoi, is used in Greek to mean "general". In the Hellenistic and Byzantine Empires the term was also used to describe a military governor...

in 445 BCE, a post he held continuously until his death in 429 BCE, always by election of the Athenian Assembly.

Pericles was a great speaker; this quality brought him great success in the Assembly, presenting his vision of politics. One of his most popular reforms was to allow thetes (Athenians without wealth) to occupy public office. Another success of his administration was the creation of the misthophoria , a special salary for the citizens that attended the courts as jurors. This way, these citizens were able to dedicate themselves to public service without facing financial hardship. With this system, Pericles succeeded in keeping the courts full of jurors (Ath. Pol. 27.3), and in giving the people experience in public life. As Athens' ruler, he made the city the first and most important polis of the Greek world, acquiring a resplendent culture and democratic institutions.

The sovereign people governed themselves, without intermediaries, deciding matters of state in the Assembly. Athenian citizens were free and only owed obedience to their laws and respect to their gods
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

. They achieved equality
Social equality
Social equality is a social state of affairs in which all people within a specific society or isolated group have the same status in a certain respect. At the very least, social equality includes equal rights under the law, such as security, voting rights, freedom of speech and assembly, and the...

 of speech
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used...

 in the Assembly: the word of a poor person had the same worth as that of a rich person. The censorial classes did not disappear, but their power was more limited; they shared the fiscal and military offices but they did not have the power of distributing privileges.

The principle of equality granted to all citizens had dangers, since many citizens were incapable of exercising political rights due to their extreme poverty or ignorance. To avoid this, Athenian democracy applied itself to the task of helping the poorest in this manner:
  • Concession of salaries to public functionaries.
  • To seek and supply work to the poor.
  • To grant lands to dispossessed villagers.
  • Public assistance for invalids, orphans and indigents.
  • Other social help.


Most importantly, and in order to emphasize the concept of equality and discourage corruption and patronage, practically all public offices that did not require a particular expertise were appointed by lot and not by election. Among those selected by lot to a political body, specific office was always rotated so that every single member served in all capacities in turn. This was meant to ensure that political functions were instituted in such a way as to run smoothly, regardless of each official's individual capacity.

These measures appear to have been carried out in great measure since the testimony has come to us from, (among others, the Greek historian Thucydides
Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

 (c. 460 - 400 BCE), who comments: Everyone who is capable of serving the city meets no impediment, neither poverty, nor civic condition...

The magistrates

The magistrates were people who occupied a public post and formed the administration of the Athenian state. They were submitted to rigorous public control. The magistrates were chosen by lot, using fava beans. Black and white beans were put in a box and depending on which color the person drew out they obtained the post or not. This was a way of eliminating the personal influence of rich people and possible intrigues and use of favors. There were only two categories of posts not chosen by lot, but by election in the Popular Assembly. These were strategos, or general, and magistrate of finance. It was generally supposed that significant qualities were needed to exercise each of those two offices. A magistrate's post did not last more than a year, including that of the strategoi and in this sense the continued selection of Pericles year after year was an exception. At the end of every year, a magistrate would have to give an account of his administration and use of public finances.

The most honored posts were the ancient archontes, or archons in English. In previous ages they had been the heads of the Athenian state, but in the Age of Pericles they lost their influence and power, although they still presided over tribunals.

The strategoi (generals) were the most important office holders in their capacity as army and navy officers and as diplomats. The Assembly elected ten every year.

There were also more than forty public administration officers and more than sixty to police the streets, the markets, to check weights and measures and to carry out arrests and executions. These executions were carried out by use of bo-staff.

The Assembly of the People

The Assembly
Ecclesia (ancient Athens)
The ecclesia or ekklesia was the principal assembly of the democracy of ancient Athens during its "Golden Age" . It was the popular assembly, opened to all male citizens over the age of 30 with 2 years of military service by Solon in 594 BC meaning that all classes of citizens in Athens were able...

 (in Greek, , that is to say, an assembly by summons), was the first organ of the democracy. In theory it brought together in assembly all the citizens of Athens, however the maximum number which came to congregate is estimated at 6,000 participants. The gathering place was a space on the hill called Pnyx, in front of the Acropolis
Acropolis
Acropolis means "high city" in Greek, literally city on the extremity and is usually translated into English as Citadel . For purposes of defense, early people naturally chose elevated ground to build a new settlement, frequently a hill with precipitous sides...

. The sessions sometimes lasted from dawn to dusk. The ecclesia occurred forty times a year.

The Assembly decided on laws and decrees which were proposed. Decisions relied on ancient laws which had long been in force. Bills were voted on in two stages: first the Assembly itself decided and afterwards the Council or βουλη gave definitive approval.

The Council or Boule

The Council or Boule consisted of 500 members, fifty from each tribe, functioning as an extension of the Assembly. These were chosen by chance, using the system described earlier, from which they were familiarly known as "councillors of the bean"; officially they were known as prytaneis
Prytaneis
The Prytaneis were the executives of the boule of ancient Athens. The term is probably of pre-Greek origin ....

.

The council members examined and studied legal projects, supervised the magistrates and saw that daily administrative details were on the right path. They oversaw the city state's external affairs. They also met at Pnyx
Pnyx
The Pnyx is a hill in central Athens, the capital of Greece. It is located less than west of the Acropolis and 1.6 km south-west of the centre of modern Athens, Syntagma Square.-The site:...

 hill, in a place expressly prepared for the event. The fifty prytaneis in power were located on grandstands carved into the rock. They had stone platforms which they reached by means of a small staircase of three steps. On the first platform were the secretaries and scribes; the orator would climb up to the second.

Finances

The economic resources of the Athenian State were not excessive. All the glory of Athens in the Age of Pericles, its constructions, public works, religious buildings, sculptures, etc. would not have been possible without the treasury of the Delian League
Delian League
The Delian League, founded in circa 477 BC, was an association of Greek city-states, members numbering between 150 to 173, under the leadership of Athens, whose purpose was to continue fighting the Persian Empire after the Greek victory in the Battle of Plataea at the end of the Greco–Persian Wars...

. The treasury was originally held on the island of Delos but Pericles moved it to Athens under the pretext that Delos wasn't safe enough. This resulted in internal friction within the league and the rebellion of some city-states that were members. Athens retaliated quickly and some scholars believe this to be the period where we should talk about an Athenian Empire instead of a league.

Other small incomes came from customs fees and fines. In times of war a special tax was levied on rich citizens. These citizens were also charged permanently with other taxes for the good of the city. This was called the system of liturgy
Liturgy
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

. The taxes were used to maintain the trireme
Trireme
A trireme was a type of galley, a Hellenistic-era warship that was used by the ancient maritime civilizations of the Mediterranean, especially the Phoenicians, ancient Greeks and Romans.The trireme derives its name from its three rows of oars on each side, manned with one man per oar...

s which gave Athens great naval power and to pay and maintain a chorus for big religious festivals. It is believed that rich Athenian men saw it as an honor to sponsor the triremes (probably because they became leaders of it for the period they supported it) or the festivals and they often engaged in competitive donating.

Athenians in the Age of Pericles

The Athenian elite lived modestly and without great luxuries, compared to the elites of other ancient states. There were very few great fortunes and land ownership was not concentrated: 71-73% of the population owned 60-65% of the land. The economy was based on maritime commerce and manufacturing, according to Amemiya's estimates, 56% of Athens' GDP was derived from manufacturing. Agriculture was also important, but it did not produce enough to feed the populace, so most food had to be imported (it is estimated that the carrying capacity of Attica's soil was between 84,000 and 150,000, while the population was 300,000 to 350,000 in 431 BC).

The state oversaw all the major religious festivals. The most important one was the Panathenaia in honor of the goddess Athena, a ritual procession carried out once a year in May and once every four years in July, in which the town presented a new veil (peplos
Peplos
A peplos is a body-lengthGreek garment worn by women before 500 BC. The peplos is a tubular cloth folded inside-out from the top about halfway down, altering what was the top of the tube to the waist and the bottom of the tube to ankle-length. The garment is then gathered about the waist and the...

) to the old wooden statue of Athena Poliada. Phidias
Phidias
Phidias or the great Pheidias , was a Greek sculptor, painter and architect, who lived in the 5th century BC, and is commonly regarded as one of the greatest of all sculptors of Classical Greece: Phidias' Statue of Zeus at Olympia was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World...

 immortalized this procession in the frieze of the Parthenon
Parthenon Frieze
The Parthenon frieze is the low relief, pentelic marble sculpture created to adorn the upper part of the Parthenon’s naos. It was sculpted between ca. 443 and 438 BC, most likely under the direction of Pheidias. Of the of the original frieze, survives—some 80 percent...

, which is currently at the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

. In the July Panathenaia (Great Panathenaia), large competitions were organized which included gymnastics and horseback riding, the winners of which received amphora
Amphora
An amphora is a type of vase-shaped, usually ceramic container with two handles and a long neck narrower than the body...

s full of sacred olive oil as a prize. The other important festival was that of the god Dionysus
Dionysus
Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete...

.

Education

The education of boys began in their own home up until the age of seven when they had to attend school
School
A school is an institution designed for the teaching of students under the direction of teachers. Most countries have systems of formal education, which is commonly compulsory. In these systems, students progress through a series of schools...

. There, they had several teacher
Teacher
A teacher or schoolteacher is a person who provides education for pupils and students . The role of teacher is often formal and ongoing, carried out at a school or other place of formal education. In many countries, a person who wishes to become a teacher must first obtain specified professional...

s who taught them to read and write, as well as subjects such as mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 and music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

. Boys also had to take part in physical education
Physical education
Physical education or gymnastics is a course taken during primary and secondary education that encourages psychomotor learning in a play or movement exploration setting....

 classes where they were prepared for future military service with activities such as wrestling, racing, jumping and gymnastics. At eighteen they served in the army and were instructed on how to bear arms. Physical education was very intense and many of the boys ended up becoming true athletes. In addition to these compulsory lessons, the students had the chance to discuss and learn from the great philosophers, grammarians and orators of the time. Some poor people had to stay at home and help their parents. However Aristophanes and Socrates, though they were poor, became famous and successful.

Women

The Athenian woman dedicated herself solely to the care of the home. Family homes contained a space, called the gynaceum, especially for women, where they would spend the day with their servants and young children. Athenian society was a patriarchy
Patriarchy
Patriarchy is a social system in which the role of the male as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination...

 in which men held all the rights and advantages, and had access to education and power.

However, some women, known as hetaera
Hetaera
In ancient Greece, hetaerae were courtesans, that is to say, highly educated, sophisticated companions...

s, received a careful education so that they could have more complex conversations with men. The closest historical comparison for these women who were regarded higher than normal women, but lower than men, are the Geisha
Geisha
, Geiko or Geigi are traditional, female Japanese entertainers whose skills include performing various Japanese arts such as classical music and dance.-Terms:...

 of Japan. Among these was Aspasia of Miletus
Aspasia
Aspasia was a Milesian woman who was famous for her involvement with the Athenian statesman Pericles. Very little is known about the details of her life. She spent most of her adult life in Athens, and she may have influenced Pericles and Athenian politics...

, who was the mistress of Pericles and is said to have debated with Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

 himself.

Arts and literature

Historians consider the Athenian 5th and 6th centuries BCE as the Golden Age of sculpture and architecture. In this period the ornamental elements and the technique employed did not vary from the previous period. What characterizes this period is the quantity of works and the refinement and perfection of the works. Most were religious in nature, mainly sanctuaries and temples. Some examples from this period are:
  • The reconstruction of the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
  • The reconstruction of the Temple of Apollo in Delphi
    Delphi
    Delphi is both an archaeological site and a modern town in Greece on the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus in the valley of Phocis.In Greek mythology, Delphi was the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world, and a major site for the worship of the god...

    , which was destroyed by an earthquake
    Earthquake
    An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. The seismicity, seismism or seismic activity of an area refers to the frequency, type and size of earthquakes experienced over a period of time...

    .
  • The reconstruction of the Acropolis of Athens
    Acropolis of Athens
    The Acropolis of Athens or Citadel of Athens is the best known acropolis in the world. Although there are many other acropoleis in Greece, the significance of the Acropolis of Athens is such that it is commonly known as The Acropolis without qualification...

    , the marble city for the glory of the gods. The site had suffered from a fire started by the Persians
    Persian people
    The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

     and lay in ruins for more than 30 years. Pericles
    Pericles
    Pericles was a prominent and influential statesman, orator, and general of Athens during the city's Golden Age—specifically, the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars...

     initiated its reconstruction with white marble brought from the nearby quarry of Pentelicon. The best architects, sculptors and workers were gathered to complete the Acropolis. The construction lasted 20 years. Financing came from the Delian League
    Delian League
    The Delian League, founded in circa 477 BC, was an association of Greek city-states, members numbering between 150 to 173, under the leadership of Athens, whose purpose was to continue fighting the Persian Empire after the Greek victory in the Battle of Plataea at the end of the Greco–Persian Wars...

    . When finished, it was the grandest and most perfect monument in the history of Greek art.

Sculptors

Phidias
Phidias
Phidias or the great Pheidias , was a Greek sculptor, painter and architect, who lived in the 5th century BC, and is commonly regarded as one of the greatest of all sculptors of Classical Greece: Phidias' Statue of Zeus at Olympia was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World...

 is considered the greatest sculptor of this era. He created colossal gold-plated marble statue
Statue
A statue is a sculpture in the round representing a person or persons, an animal, an idea or an event, normally full-length, as opposed to a bust, and at least close to life-size, or larger...

s ("chryselephantine statues"), generally face and hands, which were highly celebrated and admired in his own time: Athena, situated in the interior of the Parthenon, whose splendor reached the faithful through the open doors, and Zeus
Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was made by the Greek sculptor Phidias, circa 432 BC on the site where it was erected in the Temple of Zeus, Olympia, Greece. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.-Description:...

 in the Sanctuary of Olympia
Olympia, Greece
Olympia , a sanctuary of ancient Greece in Elis, is known for having been the site of the Olympic Games in classical times, comparable in importance to the Pythian Games held in Delphi. Both games were held every Olympiad , the Olympic Games dating back possibly further than 776 BC...

, considered in its age and in later ages to be one of the marvels of the world. The Athenians were assured that after they had contemplated this statue it was impossible to feel unlucky ever again.

According to Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

's Natural History, in order to conserve the marble of these sculptures, oil receptacles were placed in the temples so that the ivory would not crack.

The other great sculptors of this century were Myron
Myron
Myron of Eleutherae working circa 480-440 BC, was an Athenian sculptor from the mid-5th century BC. He was born in Eleutherae on the borders of Boeotia and Attica. According to Pliny's Natural History, Ageladas of Argos was his teacher....

 and Polycletus.

Ceramics

During this age, the production of ceramic pieces was abundant. Amphora
Amphora
An amphora is a type of vase-shaped, usually ceramic container with two handles and a long neck narrower than the body...

e were produced in mass quantity due to the heavy trading with other cities all around the Mediterranean. Large evidence of amphorae from this era can be found around every major ancient port as well as in the Aegean sea. During this period is also seen an abundance of white background ceramics which are much more delicate than the previously popular yellow and black background ceramics. These ceramics were often used to keep perfume or for mortuary rites, including decorations on graves.

It is also known that there were many great painters, but their works are lost, both fresco
Fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

s and free-standing paintings.

Theatre

The theatre
Theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

 reached its greatest height in the 5th century BCE. Pericles promoted and favored the theatre with a series of practical and economic measures. The wealthiest families were obligated to care for and to sustain the choruses
Greek chorus
A Greek chorus is a homogenous, non-individualised group of performers in the plays of classical Greece, who comment with a collective voice on the dramatic action....

 and actors. By this means, Pericles maintained the tradition according to which theatrical performances served the moral and intellectual education of the people.

Athens became the great city of Greek theatre
Theatre of Ancient Greece
The theatre of Ancient Greece, or ancient Greek drama, is a theatrical culture that flourished in ancient Greece between c. 550 and c. 220 BC. The city-state of Athens, which became a significant cultural, political and military power during this period, was its centre, where it was...

. Theatrical performances lasted eight consecutive hours and were performed as part of a competition in which a jury proclaimed a winner. While the decor of the provisional theatres was very simple, the permanent theatrical venues of ancient Athens eventually became more sumptuous and elaborate. No matter the performance venue, plays were performed by, at most, three actors, who wore masks to identify them with the characters they portrayed; they were accompanied by a chorus who sang and danced.

The dramatic poets from this era whose plays have survived are:
  • Aeschylus
    Aeschylus
    Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

     (525–456 BC)
  • Sophocles
    Sophocles
    Sophocles is one of three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived. His first plays were written later than those of Aeschylus, and earlier than or contemporary with those of Euripides...

  • Euripides
    Euripides
    Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

  • Aristophanes
    Aristophanes
    Aristophanes , son of Philippus, of the deme Cydathenaus, was a comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his forty plays survive virtually complete...


Philosophers and writers

The Golden Age featured some of the most renowned Western philosophers of all time. Chief among these were Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

, whose ideas exist primarily in a series of dialogues by his student Plato, who mixed them with his own; Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

; and Plato's student, Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

.

Other notable philosophers of the Golden Age included Anaxagoras
Anaxagoras
Anaxagoras was a Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. Born in Clazomenae in Asia Minor, Anaxagoras was the first philosopher to bring philosophy from Ionia to Athens. He attempted to give a scientific account of eclipses, meteors, rainbows, and the sun, which he described as a fiery mass larger than...

; Democritus
Democritus
Democritus was an Ancient Greek philosopher born in Abdera, Thrace, Greece. He was an influential pre-Socratic philosopher and pupil of Leucippus, who formulated an atomic theory for the cosmos....

 (who first inquired as to what substance lies within all matter, the earliest known proposal of what is now called the atom
Atom
The atom is a basic unit of matter that consists of a dense central nucleus surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons. The atomic nucleus contains a mix of positively charged protons and electrically neutral neutrons...

 or its sub-units); Empedocles
Empedocles
Empedocles was a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and a citizen of Agrigentum, a Greek city in Sicily. Empedocles' philosophy is best known for being the originator of the cosmogenic theory of the four Classical elements...

; Hippias
Hippias
Hippias of Elis was a Greek Sophist, and a contemporary of Socrates. With an assurance characteristic of the later sophists, he claimed to be regarded as an authority on all subjects, and lectured on poetry, grammar, history, politics, mathematics, and much else...

; Isocrates
Isocrates
Isocrates , an ancient Greek rhetorician, was one of the ten Attic orators. In his time, he was probably the most influential rhetorician in Greece and made many contributions to rhetoric and education through his teaching and written works....

; Parmenides
Parmenides
Parmenides of Elea was an ancient Greek philosopher born in Elea, a Greek city on the southern coast of Italy. He was the founder of the Eleatic school of philosophy. The single known work of Parmenides is a poem, On Nature, which has survived only in fragmentary form. In this poem, Parmenides...

; Heraclitus
Heraclitus
Heraclitus of Ephesus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor. He was of distinguished parentage. Little is known about his early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom...

; and Protagoras
Protagoras
Protagoras was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher and is numbered as one of the sophists by Plato. In his dialogue Protagoras, Plato credits him with having invented the role of the professional sophist or teacher of virtue...

.

In the second half of the 5th century BCE the name of sophist (from the Greek sophistês, expert, teacher, man of wisdom) was given to the teachers that gave instruction on diverse branches of science and knowledge in exchange for a fee.

In this age, Athens was the "school of Greece". Pericles and his mistress Aspasia associated with and had not only great Athenians but also foreigners from within Greece and even outside Greece. Among them were the philosopher Anaxagoras, the historian Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 and the architect Hippodamus of Miletus
Hippodamus of Miletus
Hippodamus of Miletos was an ancient Greek architect, urban planner, physician, mathematician, meteorologist and philosopher and is considered to be the “father” of urban planning, the namesake of Hippodamian plan of city layouts...

, who reconstructed Peiraeus.

Among the most notable were the historians Herodotus (484–425), who described the Greco-Persian Wars
Greco-Persian Wars
The Greco-Persian Wars were a series of conflicts between the Achaemenid Empire of Persia and city-states of the Hellenic world that started in 499 BC and lasted until 449 BC. The collision between the fractious political world of the Greeks and the enormous empire of the Persians began when Cyrus...

; Thucydides
Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

 (460–395), who wrote the great History of the Peloponnesian War
History of the Peloponnesian War
The History of the Peloponnesian War is an account of the Peloponnesian War in Ancient Greece, fought between the Peloponnesian League and the Delian League . It was written by Thucydides, an Athenian general who served in the war. It is widely considered a classic and regarded as one of the...

; and Xenophon
Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

 (427–335), who, although sometimes considered a partial and poorly documented writer, in the opinion of historians left a useful source of information about the first years of the 4th century BC.

Athens was also the capital of eloquence
Eloquence
Eloquence is fluent, forcible, elegant or persuasive speaking. It is primarily the power of expressing strong emotions in striking and appropriate language, thereby producing conviction or persuasion...

. Since the late 5th century BC, eloquence had been elevated to an art form. There were the logographers
Logographer (legal)
The title of logographer was applied to professional authors of judicial discourse in Ancient Greece...

  who wrote courses and created a new literary form characterized by the clarity and purity of the language. It became a lucrative profession. It is known that the logographer Lysias
Lysias
Lysias was a logographer in Ancient Greece. He was one of the ten Attic orators included in the "Alexandrian Canon" compiled by Aristophanes of Byzantium and Aristarchus of Samothrace in the third century BC.-Life:According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus and the author of the life ascribed to...

 (460–380 BC) made a great fortune thanks to his profession. Later, in the 4th century, the orators Isocrates and Demosthenes
Demosthenes
Demosthenes was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BC. Demosthenes learned rhetoric by...

 also became famous.

End of the Age of Pericles

Pericles governed Athens throughout the 5th century BC bringing to the city a splendour and a standard of living never previously experienced. All was well within the internal regiment of government, however discontent within the Delian League was ever increasing. The foreign affairs policies adopted by Athens did not reap the best results; members of the Delian League were increasingly dissatisfied. Athens was the city-state that dominated and subjugated the rest of Greece and these oppressed citizens wanted their independence.

Previously, in 550 BC, a similar league between the cities of the Peloponnessus—directed and dominated by Sparta
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

—had been founded. Taking advantage of the general dissent of the Greek city-states, this Peloponnesian League
Peloponnesian League
The Peloponnesian League was an alliance in the Peloponnesus from the 6th to the 4th centuries BC.- Early history:By the end of the 6th century, Sparta had become the most powerful state in the Peloponnese, and was the political and military hegemon over Argos, the next most powerful state...

 began to confront Athens. The year 431 BC let loose a series of bloody wars the like of which Greece had never seen before. There were several reasons for the conflict including the island of Corfu
Corfu
Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the edge of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality. The...

 which was in dispute with Sparta's ally Corinth
Corinth
Corinth is a city and former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Corinth, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit...

 over who should rule it (oligarchs or democrats), and Athens who intervened on behalf of the island by offering its support. This is how the Peloponnesian War
Peloponnesian War
The Peloponnesian War, 431 to 404 BC, was an ancient Greek war fought by Athens and its empire against the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally divided the war into three phases...

 began—a war that would last another 27 years.

The Greek city-states entered the conflict even though the weight of the conflict fell on the two rival cities—Athens and Sparta. Athens displayed her military superiority at sea whereas Sparta proved to be invincible on land. The Spartans eventually invaded Attica
Attica
Attica is a historical region of Greece, containing Athens, the current capital of Greece. The historical region is centered on the Attic peninsula, which projects into the Aegean Sea...

, the territory surrounding Athens. Pericles had to bring the people inside the city walls for their protection. The long siege led to terribly unsanitary conditions that created an epidemic
Plague of Athens
The Plague of Athens was a devastating epidemic which hit the city-state of Athens in ancient Greece during the second year of the Peloponnesian War , when an Athenian victory still seemed within reach. It is believed to have entered Athens through Piraeus, the city's port and sole source of food...

, believed by many to have been Typhoid fever
Typhoid fever
Typhoid fever, also known as Typhoid, is a common worldwide bacterial disease, transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the feces of an infected person, which contain the bacterium Salmonella enterica, serovar Typhi...

, that caused the death of thousands of people including Pericles himself (429 BC).

Pericles, being the great statesman that he was, proved to be irreplaceable. Nicias
Nicias
Nicias or Nikias was an Athenian politician and general during the period of the Peloponnesian War. Nicias was a member of the Athenian aristocracy because he had inherited a large fortune from his father, which was invested into the silver mines around Attica's Mt. Laurium...

 and Cleon
Cleon
Cleon was an Athenian statesman and a Strategos during the Peloponnesian War. He was the first prominent representative of the commercial class in Athenian politics, although he was an aristocrat himself...

 provided forgettable administrations and in their vacuum of leadership, the influence of the politician and general Alcibiades
Alcibiades
Alcibiades, son of Clinias, from the deme of Scambonidae , was a prominent Athenian statesman, orator, and general. He was the last famous member of his mother's aristocratic family, the Alcmaeonidae, which fell from prominence after the Peloponnesian War...

 (nephew of Pericles) grew. After a series of lamentable decisions capped by the disastrous Sicilian expedition
Sicilian Expedition
The Sicilian Expedition was an Athenian expedition to Sicily from 415 BC to 413 BC, during the Peloponnesian War. The expedition was hampered from the outset by uncertainty in its purpose and command structure—political maneuvering in Athens swelled a lightweight force of twenty ships into a...

, Alcibiades eventually turned sides to Sparta and betrayed his own city. After losing confidence with the Spartans, he returned to Athens and was unexpectedly reappointed as general. However he was subsequently dismissed after more failures and finally sought exile in Phrygia
Phrygia
In antiquity, Phrygia was a kingdom in the west central part of Anatolia, in what is now modern-day Turkey. The Phrygians initially lived in the southern Balkans; according to Herodotus, under the name of Bryges , changing it to Phruges after their final migration to Anatolia, via the...

 where eventually he was assassinated.

The classical period of Athens came to its end. The devastating war with Sparta caused such irreparable damage that the city of Athens finally lost its independence in 338 BC, when Philip II of Macedonia conquered the rest of Greece.
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