This depiction of Pericles appears in a fresco painted by Perugina c. 1450-1523, located in Palazzo dei Priori (Priors Palace) in Italy. 

Photograph by DEA / S. VANNINI
  • Pericles was an Athenian statesman who played a large role in developing democracy in Athens and helped make it the political and cultural center of ancient Greece.

    Pericles was born in 495 B.C.E. in Athens to an aristocratic family. He was a patron of the arts from an early age and continued to promote literature and philosophy as an adult. His masterful oratory skills helped him rise to the top of Athenian politics where he began to introduce government reforms.

    Pericles set about toppling the Areopagus (ar-ee-OP-uh-guhs), or the noble council of Athens, in favor of a more democratic system that represented the interests of the people. He introduced the practice of paying citizens to serve on juries, which allowed poor men to leave work and participate in the justice system. This expanded citizen participation in politics.

    Pericles also served as commander-in-chief of the Athenian army during the First Peloponnesian War. However, his most memorable feat was erecting the Acropolis in Athens. The Acropolis was a collection of public buildings and temples set atop a hill. Pericles himself oversaw the building of the Parthenon, at the Acropolis in Athens, which took 15 years to complete.

    In 431 B.C.E. the Athenian popular assembly declared war on Sparta, which launched the Athenians into the Second Peloponnesian War. Pericles began to plan his city’s defense, but he was stricken with plague and died two years later in 429 B.C.E.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    Acropolis Noun

    large, flat-topped hill that is the highest point of the city of Athens, Greece.

    ancient Greece Noun

    loosely united civilization founded on and around the Peloponnese peninsula, lasting from about the 8th century BCE to about 200 BCE.

    aristocracy Noun

    elite group of people based on wealth or social status.

    Parthenon Noun

    (438 BCE) ancient temple to the goddess Athena on the Acropolis of Athens, Greece.