Date de naissance: 494 av. J.-C.
Date de décès: 429 av. J.-C.
Périclès , né à Athènes vers 495 av. J.-C. et mort dans cette même ville en 429 av. J.-C., est un éminent et influent stratège, orateur et homme d'État athénien durant l'âge d'or de la cité, plus précisément entre les guerres médiques et la guerre du Péloponnèse. Il est le fils de l'homme politique Xanthippe et d’Agaristé, laquelle appartient à la puissante famille des Alcméonides.
Périclès fait de la Ligue de Délos un empire athénien et mène ses compatriotes au cours des deux premières années de la guerre du Péloponnèse. Il a eu une influence si profonde sur la société athénienne que Thucydide, un historien contemporain, le qualifie de « premier citoyen de sa patrie » et que son époque est parfois appelée le « siècle de Périclès ». Les sources sur sa vie sont nombreuses mais discordantes ; Périclès a marqué ses contemporains et les générations suivantes à Athènes, dans le monde hellénistique, puis romain : il existe de nombreuses sources littéraires antiques à son sujet dont les auteurs sont parfois devenus des classiques. Ces sources riches en renseignements ne sont jamais neutres et leurs orientations ont fait l'objet de nombreux débats historiographiques.
Il s'illustre également dans la promotion des arts, une des principales raisons pour lesquelles Athènes détient la réputation d'être le centre éducatif et culturel du monde grec antique. Il est à l'origine du projet de construction de la plupart des structures encore présentes aujourd'hui sur l'Acropole d'Athènes dont le Parthénon. En outre, il favorise la démocratie athénienne à tel point que des critiques le qualifient de démagogue.
Context: Future ages will wonder at us, as the present age wonders at us now. We do not need the praises of a Homer, or of anyone else whose words may delight us for the moment, but the estimation of facts will fall short of what is really true. As quoted in Eternal Greece (1961) by Rex Warner, p. 34
„They gave her their lives, to her and to all of us, and for their own selves they won praises that never grow old, the most splendid of sepulchers — not the sepulchre in which their bodies are laid, but where their glory remains eternal in men's minds, always there on the right occasion to stir others to speech or to action. For famous men have the whole earth as their memorial: it is not only the inscriptions on their graves in their own country that mark them out; no, in foreign lands also, not in any visible form but in people's hearts, their memory abides and grows. It is for you to try to be like them. Make up your minds that happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.“
Context: I could tell you a long story (and you know it as well as I do) about what is to be gained by beating the enemy back. What I would prefer is that you should fix your eyes every day on the greatness of Athens as she realty is, and should fall in love with her. When you realize her greatness, then reflect that what made her great was men with a spirit of adventure, men who knew their duty, men who were ashamed to fall below a certain standard. If they ever failed in an enterprise, they made up their minds that at any rate the city should not find their courage lacking to her, and they gave to her the best contribution that they could. They gave her their lives, to her and to all of us, and for their own selves they won praises that never grow old, the most splendid of sepulchers — not the sepulchre in which their bodies are laid, but where their glory remains eternal in men's minds, always there on the right occasion to stir others to speech or to action. For famous men have the whole earth as their memorial: it is not only the inscriptions on their graves in their own country that mark them out; no, in foreign lands also, not in any visible form but in people's hearts, their memory abides and grows. It is for you to try to be like them. Make up your minds that happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous. Book 2, chapter 44: Funeral oration, as translated at "In Defense of Democracy" http://www.cooperativeindividualism.org/pericles_in-defense-of-democracy.html Verse 4 is sometimes freely translated as The secret to happiness is freedom. And the secret to freedom is courage.
As quoted in Homage to Greece (1943)
„Our love of what is beautiful does not lead to extravagance; our love of the things of the mind does not make us soft. We regard wealth as something to be properly used, rather than as something to boast about. As for poverty, no one need be ashamed to admit it, the real shame is in not taking practical measures to escape from it.“
„Instead of looking on discussion as a stumbling block in the way of action, we think it an indispensable preliminary to any wise action at all.“
As translated by Richard Crawley (1951)
„The whole Earth is the Sepulchre of famous men; and their story is not graven only on Stone over their native earth, but lives on far away, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men's lives.“
As quoted in A Brief and True Report concerning Williamsburg in Virginia by Rutherford Goodwin (1941), p. 125
„What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.“
As quoted in Flicker to Flame : Living with Purpose, Meaning, and Happiness (2006) by Jeffrey Thompson Parker, p. 118 This quotation is likely a modern paraphrasing of a longer passage from Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, II.43.3.
„Hatred and unpopularity at the moment have fallen to the lot of all who have aspired to rule others; but where odium must be incurred, true wisdom incurs it for the highest objects. Hatred also is short-lived; but that which makes the splendour of the present and the glory of the future remains for ever unforgotten. Make your decision, therefore, for glory then and honour now, and attain both objects by instant and zealous effort: do not send heralds to Lacedaemon, and do not betray any sign of being oppressed by your present sufferings, since they whose minds are least sensitive to calamity, and whose hands are most quick to meet it, are the greatest men and the greatest communities.“
„Nor is it any longer possible for you to give up this empire … Your empire is now like a tyranny: it may have been wrong to take it; it is certainly dangerous to let it go.“
On the eve of war <!-- Translator info would be helpful here. -->
„We do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all.“
Pericles commenting the participation of Athenian citizens in politics, as quoted in Models of Democracy (2006) by David Held, Stanford University Press, p. 14. Book II, chapter 40.
„But the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.“
Pericles' Funeral Oration <!-- Translator info would be helpful here. -->
As quoted in The Open Society and Its Enemies by Karl Popper (1966). Book II, chapter 40.