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Pericles’ Funeral Oration Concerning Athens

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Pericles’ Funeral Oration Concerning Athens

Pericles delivered his speech in 431BC in a commemoration funeral of the fallen troops in the Peloponnesian war. The war between Athens and Sparta has broken out, and it persisted for twenty-seven years until 404BC. As a custom, funerals for the fallen soldiers in the war were held at the public cost. Remains of the departed were laid out in a tent for three days, in which relatives and friends brought them offerings. Besides, bones of the dead were carried in ten cypress coffins, in which nine represented the Athenian tribes and the empty one signifying the missing soldiers. After the ceremony, the dead were laid to rest in a public sepulcher where all other fallen soldiers were buried. Pericles used this opportunity to deliver his funeral oration that is fundamental to understanding the ancient Athenian democracy. Therefore, it is evident from Pericles’ speech that Athenians were in possession of unique qualities and characteristics in terms of democracy and the preservation of traditional Greek values.

Pericles’ speech portrays the true nature of Athens at the time. The funeral oration provides critical insight into the characteristics of the Athenian city and its democracy. As Pericles stated, the Athenian democracy was unique, in which the people not only submitted to the rule but they were also rulers. The people submissively obeyed the law not because they were required to do so but due to the fact that they wanted to be ruled. For instance, Pericles states that “the freedom which we enjoy in our government also extends to our ordinary life.” This notion is true since Athens was known to be one of the democratic cities during the time. Besides, Pericles proceeded to praise the Athenian people for being loyal and dedicated to protecting the city. It is fundamental to note that the people of the city were tolerant, open-minded, and exercised higher levels of freedom as compared to their counterparts. Due to their dedication for the greater good of the city, most of them sacrificed their lives in serving in the army in order to preserve the democracy and freedom in the region.

A critical analysis of Pericles’ speech portrays a city that was in danger. During the time, Athens was facing a lot of challenges including the Peloponnesian War. As a consequence, the speech was meant to strengthen the people’s faith in their leaders and their participation in the war. Although Athens was later defeated, its people were loyal to their leaders, hence, the persistence of the war for more than two decades. Even though Athens surrendered later in the war, democracy was restored after the fall of Lysander. It is fundamental to note that Pericles speech was idealized. Vices such as arrogance, party factionalism, and selfishness later emerged after his death.

In conclusion, Pericles’ Funeral Oration is a significant speech in understanding Athens during the period. It highlighted critical and unique characteristics of the city that were warring with Sparta. The speech, delivered during the first commemoration of the fallen soldiers in the war, played a significant role in motivating and encouraging the people of the city. In addition, Pericles’ oration highlighted the freedom and democracy that were prevalent in Athens. Therefore, most of the ideas and facts in the speech portrayed the true nature of the Athenian city during the time.

Work Cited

Halsall, Paul. Pericles’ Funeral Oration from the Peloponnesian War. Internet History Sourcebooks, http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/pericles-funeralspeech.asp. Accessed 12 Sept. 2

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