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Pericles was an Athenian leader during the Peloponnesian war; he was the leader responsible for the reconstruction of Athens after the war. Pericles was killed by plague, which descended upon the city. Pericles was the General during the Peloponnesian war, and he was of the opinion that Athens should firmly remain in the war. He organized approximately 100 ships for that purpose.
When several soldiers died from the war and from plague, the people of Athens began blaming Pericles for having forced them to go to war, and they wanted him to be held responsible for all the calamities and the misfortunes that had befallen them. Pericles also felt bad about the situation, but he was prepared to tackle the outcome.
The outstanding qualities of Pericles were espoused during the funeral oratory speech which he was asked to deliver as a routine and custom during funerals; in Athens, speeches were made as a way of honoring and praising the departed.
During the burial of the people who had died during the Peloponnesian war, Pericles, the son of Xanthippus was chosen to deliver a speech in their praise, and it is in his speech that some of the outstanding qualities of Pericles were brought to fore (Thucydides 35).
Astute Leader and a Commander
Pericles was an astute leader and a commander. Despite the misfortunes that had befallen his people, he still managed to convince them that the course was justified and argued that it was for the benefit of the whole state and city. He defended himself by arguing that he knew he was doing what was to be done, and he described himself one who loved the city and could not be influenced by money or any form of bribery.
From his words, he came out as a man of knowledge despite his limited power. His words and speeches depicted him as an authoritative leader. As a courageous and respected General, Pericles summoned the assembly of the city to instill into them some sense of courage and to rejuvenate their fighting spirit and to push fresh for a war with Sparta.
According to him, the freedom of Athens could only be bought through war and work (Thucydides 44). He could not allow himself to be swayed by euphoria or people’s demands but instead he came out as a person who guided the people.
Pericles also came out as a man who was willing to stand up for danger contrary to someone who could run away from the danger. He demonstrated this when he urged the people to be prepared for all the disasters. Pericles was willing to fight in order to preserve the dignity of Athens. He was a good fighter. Despite him having been defeated, he successfully convinced the people that they had won.
He preferred to endure hatred and to be unpopular as long as his eyes were focused on the goal. He considered hatred and unpopularity as temporary and what mattered was the glory and the brilliance of the future that followed the success (Thucydides 60). He was considered as an individual who was willing to undergo suffering and hardships for the benefit of the city.
He demonstrated courage in the face of the enemy due to his determination to defend his native land. Pericles was one of those people who fought evil with good and had the zeal to fight and more so do service to the people of Athens despite the dangers and harm it could do to their private lives.
Strong Oratory Skills
The oratorical skills of Pericles made him an outstanding leader; he had the courage to articulate, the charisma to lead and the ability to convince and manipulate the population. He demonstrated this character when the people vehemently complained about their misfortunes, and he gave them a speech that rejuvenated their courage, will and confidence to continue with the war.
The oratorical skills enhanced his persuasive capability, which was largely due to his application of rationality, logic and knowledge. It is through his speeches and particularly the one he gave at the course of the war that fostered his capacity to effectively capture the minds of the people and allowed him to give reasons as to why the war with Spartans was justified.
He was a demagogue and an aristocrat who had an effective voice. Pericles took advantage of his strong articulate nature, his eloquence and perfect speaking skills to achieve support for his plans and objectives. His poetic imagery silenced every friend and fore (Thucydides 34).
The patriotic character of Pericles made him an effective leader in Athens. According to him, the formation or the establishment of the Athenian empire was a noble duty that the citizens ought to be willing to sacrifice for, even if it meant going to war. For him, the glory of Athens was paramount.
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His actions indicated how dedicated he was to his city. In his funeral oration, Pericles espoused several qualities of the city of Athens, and he brought them strictly into the light. His speech centered on the principle that the Athenians should be willing to put their personal demands aside and strive hard for the benefit of the city. This line of argument was a clear demonstration of the patriotic nature of Pericles.
He came out as a proud political ambassador; on several occasions, he stressed on the spirit of the people of Athens, in his argument that the defeat from the war was not anticipated and that the people of Athens should not desert their houses, he came out as a popular and respected leader of the Athenian city.
In his funeral oration speech, he hurled praises on the nature of Athenian morale and the way of life of the Athenian people while at the same time raising the spirits of the citizens. His patriotism was demonstrated clearly during the funeral oration speech when he praised the people of Athens, the city of Athens, the dead, the superiority of Athenian military training and the democratic ideals of the state of Athens.
Consequently, his repetition of the phrase “the power of the city” in his speech and the arguments that the intelligence of the leaders of Athens and the zeal of its population was what fueled the power of the city was an indication of his strong passion for Athens and an appeal to the citizens of Athens to be patriotic to their city and to fight for the sake of the city (Thucydides 62).
Pericles also had trust in himself; he left success and failure in the hands of hope and when the reality of war dawned on him, he still trusted in his courage and efforts. He considered it more honorable to fight and to risk death and to maintain their position than to surrender and save their lives.
Pericles was so daring that he did not fear to face the enemy that he rallied various people of the city of Athens because he wished for the greatness of the city that he had fallen in love with. He had a distaste for apathetic people.
He pleaded with the people not to be angry with him, but instead he be given the opportunity to guide them away from their immediate suffering. He believed that there was strength in the city as a whole and not in an individual and at the end people began believing in him because Athens emerged victorious during the war (Thucydides 65).
Pericles was ashamed of falling below his or a certain standard. He displayed enthusiasm in fighting for the city, and he gave the best contribution that he could give to war. He sacrificed his life for the benefit of the city and other people of Athens. His blatant self-praise nature cemented his outstanding position in the society as an undisputed leader.
His strong belief that he was bestowed with better qualities to lead the people of Athens relieved him of several complains from the people, his argument that he could not be charged with misconduct just by persuading the people to go to war brought out a sense of his modesty arrogance.
He just wanted the people of Athens to believe and to accept the true condition they were in and directed them to follow his advice and go for war by declaring that he was above par in patriotism, knowledge and exposition skills. According to him, it was these three qualities that made the Athenians to allow themselves to get persuaded, and his decisions and advice were unquestionable.
His behavior of self-praise and that people should not blame him for the decisions that he was entrusted to make was aimed at eliciting some sense of collective responsibility.
Consequently, Pericles maintained some sense of principled personal constancy when he asserted that he still held his previous opinion, which could not be changed until his plans were made or accomplished. In his arguments, he urged the citizens to imitate people like him (Thucydides 64).
Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian war (book 2: 59-65). New York, NY: Penguin books, 1972. Print.
Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian war (book 2: 34-46). New York, NY: Penguin books, 1972. Print.