11 Ancient History
Pericles, or Perikles, (495-429BC), was a prominent and influential leader during his rule over Athens, which was also known as the city's Golden Age (Between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars).
Pericles was a successful speaker, general and statesman, and a descendant of the renowned Alcmaeonidae family.
Pericles was such an influence on Athens that Thucydides (ancient Greek historian and author of "The Peloponnesian War") named him 'the first citizen of Athens,' and the period between 461BC and 429BC is often referred to as the 'Age of Pericles.'
Pericles is also famous for transforming the Delian League into the Athenian Empire, and for extending art, democracy and literature throughout Athens, and for a great building project on the Acropolis, main one being the Parthenon.
Pericles also introduced three main political reforms, which restructured aspects of Athens. These are, the payment of Jurors in the jury courts (461BC), citizens from the zeugitae (third class) to hold the archonship (458BC), and new citizenship laws (451BC).
The very roots of how Pericles came into such a position to exert influence started with his birth. Pericles was born from the rich and famous Alcmaeonidae family, which had influence, and many renowned members, such as Cleisthenes (Pericles' great-uncle), who was famous for his democratic ideals. Then there was Xanthippus, his father, who was a great warrior, who led the Greeks to victory against the Persians. Obviously, Pericles grew up in privileged surroundings, giving him an easy path into politics.
Due to this 'birth advantage,' Pericles was immediately given private education; he took lessons from Xeno, in rhetoric, the study of debating and arguing, which was highly valued back then.
"[Pericles] had first distinguished himself when, as a young man, he prosecuted Cimon in the...