Periclean Approaches to Funerals and PlagueHow did Athenians approach funerals and the plague during the Periclean Age?

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valtaylor | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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The Periclean Age, also referred to as the Greek Golden Age or the Greek classical period, is roughly dated to the years between the Persian War and the Peloponnesian War 480-400 B.C. The term Periclean originates from the influential Athenian statesmen Pericles. Pericles was born into a noble family, was a respected orator, and served Athens and its league of city-states as a general in the Peloponnesian War against the Spartan league.

Pericles' strategy for the war was to avoid land battles with the superior Spartan hoplite army and instead, attack the Peloponnese with his navy. This plan included bringing Greeks who lived in the countryside behind the protection of city walls. This led to the unsanitary conditions that resulted in a deadly plague. The epidemic took thousands of lives, including the life of Pericles himself. As seen in Homer, the Greeks believed that plagues were the work of an angry god, and many blamed Pericles, who eventually lost his position as general and was fined. Though he retained many enemies, the statesman was reinstated by the desperate Athenians until his death in 429 B.C.

Pericles is also famous for a funeral oration he gave for the men who died in an early battle of the Peloponnesian war. According to ancient Greek tradition, the men who died in battle were buried together in a public monument. An elaborate funeral took place which included a public oration (epitaphios logos), given to memorialize the deeds of the fallen and to celebrate the greatness of Athens.

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