Periclean Athens & the Beginnings of the Peloponnesian War


Expansion of the Athenian Empire

Spartan Crisis – earthquake and revolt – 464

Fall of Cimon – rise of the new ³hawks² Ephialtes and Pericles

Athenian Land Empire

Megarian alliance – 460

war vs. Aegina, Corinth, and Boeotia – 459-7 

Egyptian disaster 459-454

Failure of Athenian Land Empire

Peace Treaties – Peace of Callias 451/0 and Thirty Years Peace 446/5

Pericles and Athenian control of the Delian League

Decree of Clearchus

Decree of Kleinias

Colophon and Chalcis Decrees


Spartan Politics and the Delian League

Spartan ³hawks² vs. ³doves²  - against Athens or against Persia

Spartans in Boeotia and Thessaly

Argos and Peloponnesian opposition

Sacred War and Spartans in Central Greece

Battle of Coronea 447 and Invasion of Attica 446 – Thirty Years Peace


Ephialtes¹ reforms

Reform of Areopagus – 462

Dokimasia of Officials

Meetings of the Ecclesia

Pericles vs. Thucydides – further reforms


Periclean Cultural Projects

Colonies and Cleruchies

Building - the Parthenon and the Propylaia

Religious Festivals  - Ionian cults, PanAthenaia, Dramatic Festivals


Drama at Athens

Greek drama performed at city festivals

Lenaia in Gamelion (January-February)

 - lesser festival connected with the pressing of grapes

 - comedies and some tragedies produced

Greater or City Dionysia in Elaphebolion (March-April)

Forms of Greek Drama

dithyramb competition (choral odes for fifty member choruses)

comedies - competition of 5 plays on one day of the festival

tragedies - each poet submitted a tetralogy of three tragedies and a satyr play (farce)

history of tragedy

534 BCE  - Thespis said to have staged the first tragedy - single actor and chorus

Aristotle claims Aeschylus was the first to add a second actor and curtail the importance of the chorus; Sophocles added a third actor and scenery

Aeschylus (525-456 BCE)

Fought at Marathon.  He is thought to have written 80-90 plays, of which 7 survive: 

The Suppliants (prob. 463 BCE); Oresteia trilogy (Agamemnon, Choephori, Eumenides 458 BCE); Seven Against Thebes (467 BCE); Prometheus Bound (disputed authorship, date unknown;) Persians (472 BCE)

Sophocles  (496 - 406) 

Won an unprecedented 24 tragic victories (cp. Aeschylus 13, Euripides 5); First victory was in 468

Only 7 of his vast number of plays (perhaps as many as 123) have survived:

Philoctetes (409); Electra (430-420?); Women of Trachis and Ajax (450-440?),

The Theban Plays: Antigone (before 441 BCE); Oedipus Tyrannus (426 BCE??); Oedipus at Colonus (401 BCE - staged posthumously by his grandson Sophocles the Younger)

Euripides (c. 485 - 406)

19 extant plays out of 92 - 6 victories

Trojan Women performed in 415, after Melos

Aristophanes (c. 447 - c.386)

eleven plays survive from the forty which he is said to have written  (Archarnians - 425, the Knights - 424, Clouds - 423, Wasps - 422, Peace - 421, Birds - 414, Women at the Thesmophoria and Lysistrata - 411, Frogs - 405, Assemblywomen - 392, Wealth - 388) 


"Pre-Socratic" Philosophy

Thales fl. 585 in Miletus; Anaximander fl. 560 in Miletus; Anaximenes fl. 546 in Miletus

Heraclitus (floruit 69th Olympiad - 504-501 BCE) from Ephesus in Ionia,

Parmenides - fl. 475 in Elea - pupils were Zeno and Melissus 

Anaxagoras - fl. 460 in Clazomenae in Ionia

Empedokles - (circa 495-435 BCE)  in Southern Italy - Akragas and Thurii,

4 Elements at the root of things: Zeus, Hera, Hades, Nestis

Zeus = air, Hera = earth, Hades = fire, Nestis = water

2 ruling principles: Philotes (love) and Neikos (strife)

Pythagoras - fl. 530 from Samos to Croton in S. Italy

Xenophanes (c. 570 - c. 475 BCE) from Colophon in Ionia to Elea in Italy


Sophistic Revolution  (sophos = wise, clever)

Protagoras of Abdera (c. 490-420)

lawgiver at Thurii

contrary arguments (dissoi logoi)

man is the measure of all things

civic virtue must be taught (for a fee)


Gorgias of Leontini (c. 485 - c. 380)

ambassador for Leontini to plead for Athens' aid in 427

teacher of rhetoric not virtue

treatise on non-existence

Defenses of Helen and Palamedes


Hippias of Elis (dates uncertain, but second half of 5th century)

master of memory

extemporaneous speaking

Olympic victor list provides standard chronology

skilled in crafts of all kinds

study of the ancient poets, corrections for moral content

custom vs. nature (nomos vs. phusis)


Prodicus of Ceos - The Choice of Heracles

the gods are useful things made into divinities

precise definitions of words


Thrasymachus of Chalcedon

Antiphon the Athenian


The Causes of the War

resentment of emerging power of Athens

garrisons (phrourai), cleruchies and colonies

Spartan doves and hawks – dual hegemony and cold war anxiety

Corinth and her colonies

Samos vs. Miletus - 440

Corcyra, Epidamnus, and Corinth - 435-433

Potidea - Athens' quarrel with Corinth  - 432-429

Aegina and autonomy 432

Megarian Decree

Spartan and Athenian war aims


Archidamian War 431-421

Theban Invasion of Plataia 431-428

Spartan raids into Attica 431-429, 427-425

Athenian retreat to the city and the great Plague

Death of Pericles and the rise of Cleon

Intervention in Sicily 427

Battles at Pylos 425, Delium 424,

Chalkidike campaigns - Amphipolis 422

The Peace of Nicias 421


Pericles¹ Funeral Oration and the Ideas of Athens

Pericles¹ vision of Athens (2. 34-6)

plague and disorder (2.47-54)

stasis (factional strife) as disease in Corcyra (3.81-4)

Mytilenean Debate and Democracy at War (3.36-50)

Melian Dialogue and Empire (5.84-116)


Divisions in the War

Doves and Hawks at Athens and in Sparta

Cleon and the new politicians in Athens

oligarchs vs. democrats

Dorians vs. Ionians


Places to Know: 
















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Readings For Next Week: 

Buckley ch. 20 – 21

Thucydides Books II-VII

Plutarch – Nicias and Alcibiades


What causes do our sources claim started the Peloponnesian war?  What do the differences between the sources reveal about the sources reliability and usefulness?

What were the goals of the "hawk" and "dove" factions in Athens and in Sparta?  How well did the different groups succeed in achieving their aims?

In Pericles' funeral oration,  Thucydides has Pericles present an ideal picture of democratic Athens.  What are the ideal qualities he expounds?  What are the key words with which he expresses them? (Watch for Thucydides' use of these key words in other situations.)  How does Athens live up to these ideals after the funeral oration? Compare the ideals of the funeral oration with Pericles' last speech (2.59-65). 

Thucydides' description of the plague (2.47-55) following the idealism of funeral oration creates an especially dramatic effect that can hardly have been accidental.  What other devices does Thucydides use to enhance the drama of the situation? What elements seem to reflect contemporary medical theory?  Compare the effects of the plague to the description of civil war in Corcyra (3.69.85).

The dialogue form in which the Melian debate (5.84-116) is presented itself serves to call attention to the significance of the passage.  Consider the values expressed in each side's arguments and compare these values wth those expressed in the Funeral Oration and the Mytilenean debate (3.36-50).  How do these ideas compare with the debate in Euripides' Trojan Women (730ff.)?

How does Plutarch's description of the characters of Nicias and Alcibiades differ from that of Thucydides?  In each of these authors, what factions of Athenian society do these men represent?

Why was the affair of the Herms so frightening to the Athenian people?  Why was it connected with Alcibiades and the profanation of the Eleusinian Mysteries?  How do Plutarch and Thucydides describe the situation?

At the end of Aristophanes' Frogs, there is a contest between the poets Aeschylus and Euripides in the underworld to see which of them should return to the world of the living to save Athens.  One of the crucial questions in the contest is what should Athens do with Alcibiades.  How could the Athenians have dealt differently with Alcibiades?  What difference would it have made?  What do Thucydides and Plutarch think about the Athenians' handling of Alcibiades?



Aristophanes Frogs

Dionysus: Bless you! Come, listen to this. I came down here for a poet. For what purpose? So that the city might be saved to stage its choruses. So whichever of you will give the state some useful advice, that's the one I think I'll take. Now first, concerning Alcibiades, what opinion does each of you have? For the city is in heavy labor.

Euripides:  What opinion does she have concerning him?

Dionysus:  What opinion? She longs for him, but hates him, and yet she wants him back. But tell me what you two think about him.

Euripides:  I hate that citizen, who, to help his fatherland, seems slow, but swift to do great harm, of profit to himself, but useless to the state.

Dionysus:  Well said, by Poseidon! What's your opinion?

Aeschylus:  You should not rear a lion cub in the city, but if one is brought up, accommodate its ways.