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Ancient Greece
Pericles



Pericles
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 8 to 10
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   9.18

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    acropolis, following, lineage, theatrical, urgings, archenemy, embargo, imposing, fleets, legitimate, viewpoint, world-renowned, statesman, influential, powerhouse, radical
     content words:    With Cimon, Persian War, Greco-Persian War, Megarian Decree, Peloponnesian War, Golden Age


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Pericles
By Vickie Chao
  

1     In studying ancient Greece, there is one name that anybody who pursues the topic must know by heart. That name is Pericles.
 
2     Pericles was born around 495 B.C. He came from a very prominent family. In more ways than one, his impeccable lineage gave him many advantages over other Athenians. For one, he could afford an excellent education. For another, he had enough connections to give him an early boost in his political career. But in the end, heredity could only go so far. What made Pericles so important was his work, his achievements. It was not his ancestry.
 
3     Pericles rose to power and became the leader of a democratic movement around 461 B.C. At the time, his faction often locked horns with the conservative party, championed by Cimon (also spelled as Simon). Eager to get rid of the man, Pericles accused Cimon of being a sympathizer to Sparta (Athens' main rival) and managed to get him ostracized for ten years. With Cimon gone, Pericles could finally pursue the policies he had in mind. One of his earliest edicts was to let the government pick up the tab so the poor could come and watch theatrical plays free of charge. In addition, he also pushed through legislation which allowed the government to pay its citizens for their time spent on public services (such as being a juror). Needless to say, these two measures, plus many more, made Pericles hugely popular among the Athenians. Throughout his time in office, he put his democratic ideals to the test. Thanks to him, the Assembly (represented by all male citizens) grew increasingly powerful. For the first time since the concept of democracy was introduced by Solon more than a century before, the term finally had true substance behind it. Of course, in today's viewpoint, Pericles' society was a far cry from a real democratic one because only male citizens could take part in politics. Women, foreigners, and slaves were not allowed to join the Assembly and cast their votes. Furthermore, in one of his various directives, he made the requirement of citizenship more stringent. Before the change, anyone born of a single Athenian parent would automatically become an Athenian citizen. The new law passed in 451 B.C., however, demanded that only children with two Athenian parents could become Athenian citizens. The move was quite controversial at the time. Ironically, it was eventually overturned shortly before Pericles passed away in 429 B.C. so his half-Athenian son could become his legitimate heir.

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