Periclean Athens - World History

Periclean Athens - World History
Posted on 29-12-2022

Periclean Athens ( 470 ) Pericles comes to power in Athens.

During the eventful fifth century, Greek culture continued to bear fruit. At Elea, Parmenides had a distinguished disciple: Zeno, who transformed his teacher's sophisticated paradoxes about the illusion of all change into elementary arguments capable of disconcerting the unwary and the not so unwary. The most famous of his paradoxes is the one that shows that the runner Achilles will never be able to catch up with a tortoise that has even a slight advantage: to do so, he would have to reach the starting point of the tortoise, but by then, the animal will have traveled a short distance. additional distance that Achilles should cover as well, but by the time he does, the tortoise will already be a little further on and Achilles will have to cover this new section as well, but then, etc. Zeno de Elea is considered the "father of dialectic",

In Agrigento lived the great Empedocles, politician, legislator, poet, doctor, prophet, purifier and, if we are to believe his fame, even a thaumaturge (that is, a miracle worker). Furthermore, it seems that he also claimed that one day he would be taken up to heaven and become a god. He had studied at the school of Pythagoras, where he loved the theory of the transmigration of souls, and it didn't take long for him to discover that in another life he had been a fish, but he talked about all this outside of school, which was strictly forbidden. so they kicked him out. Leaving these details of his personality aside, the truth is that he developed an interesting theory in which he opposed the contempt that Parmenides showed towards common sense and opinion. Empedocles affirmed that the base of knowledge is in the careful analysis of the data provided by the senses. He developed a theory of nature according to which all substances are a combination in varying proportions of four basic elements: earth, water, air, and fire. Between them there are love and hate relationships that cause changes.

Greece also gave great painters, but preferred sculpture. One of the teachers of the time was Geladas, but he was notably surpassed by his disciples, among whom was Mirón. Mirón's works were famous for their extraordinary realism. His favorite motifs were athletes and animals, in which with an innovative technique he managed to perfectly capture the movement. Among his works, the Discus thrower and his famous Veal stand out, to which they say that an admirer yelled "moo!"

However, the greatest Greek sculptor was undoubtedly Phidias, who started working around this time. His father was a painter, but Phidias soon gave up painting and began to practice sculpture. He toured the leading schools of the day and tried to learn from all the teachers he encountered. He came to master both the casting of bronze and the carving of marble. He became a master of a complex technique known as chryselephantine sculpture, which consisted of enhancing marble statues with gold and ivory inlays, using wood as a setting.

The difficulties of the Etruscans with the Gauls were increasing. The cities of Latium, which had remained relatively at peace while the Etruscans ruled them, began to enjoy the freedom to fight among themselves. The Volsci in south-eastern Latium were gaining power and were soon in open confrontation with the other cities, including Rome. Returning to Greece, when the Persians withdrew from Thrace, a native people, the Odrysians, managed to organize an empire that reached as far as the Danube. Their king was called Siltaces.

In 469 Sparta managed to definitively defeat Tegea and with it returned to be the undisputed owner of the Peloponnese. In Athens Cimon was the undisputed leader. His popularity was on the decline, but he had the support of the nobility. For example, the island of Naxos He considered that the Persians no longer posed any danger and chose to leave the Delian Confederation to use his ships for his own interests, but found that he had no right to do so. Cimon attacked Naxos, took it, destroyed its fortifications, and confiscated his fleet. Since he no longer had a fleet with which to contribute to the Confederacy, from then on his contribution was monetary.

These authoritarian and imperialist attitudes increasingly annoyed the democrats, at whose head was Ephialtes.   He accused Cimon of having been bribed by Alexander I of Macedonia, but Cimon was triumphantly acquitted with the support of the Areopagus oligarchy. It was clear that there was nothing to be done against Cimon as long as he did not suffer a setback.

In 468 Aristides the Just died. Although he had managed the enormous treasury of the Confederacy, his personal capital was not enough to pay for his burial. Every year a theatrical competition was held in Athens during the festivals in honor of Dionysus. The most common winner was Aeschylus, but this year the prize was snatched by a young competitor named Sophocles. He had been a student of Anaxagoras. His main contribution was to include a third actor in his tragedies. While Aeschylus was more interested in the fatalistic and moralizing plot of his tragedies, Sophocles was more interested in the characterization of the characters, which he presented as highly idealized. The following year he won Aeschylus again, but in the successive Sophocles he was unbeatable.

In 467 Pericles, who had become one of the most illustrious members of the Democratic party, was appointed archon. His mother was a niece of Cleisthenes, so he belonged to the Alcmaeonid family. In addition to Anaxagoras, it seems that he also studied with Zeno.

In 466 the tyrant Hiero I of Syracuse died, and with him the tyranny in the city ended.

In 464 Xerxes I died, victim of a palace conspiracy. The king had spent the last years of his reign in seclusion in his palace, bent on futile projects like expanding the palaces at Persepolis. He was succeeded by his son Artaxerxes I, who needed some time to consolidate his throne. This triggered a rebellion in Egypt. More specifically, it arose from Libya. A Libyan tribal chief named Inaros led his men into the delta, where he was willingly joined by a host of Egyptians. The Persian viceroy, brother of Xerxes I, was deposed.

That same year an earthquake destroyed Sparta. The helots decided to take advantage of the occasion and carry out the rebellion that Pausanias had proposed years before. But the Spartans reacted and the helots had to withdraw and fortify themselves on Mount Itome, where the Messenians once took refuge. Thus began what came to be called the Third Messenian War. Efialtes proposed to help the helots, to which Cimon was radically opposed. He reminded the Athenians of the Spartan deaths at Thermopylae and their exploits at Plataea. Cimon claimed that Sparta and Athens were like two oxen leading Greece: if one was destroyed, all of Greece would be depleted.

In 462 Athens sent an army to help the Spartans, but they felt their self-respect wounded. They could not bear that the Athenians came to help them against their own slaves, so they ordered them to turn back. Ephialtes took it upon himself to present this to Athens as a terrible humiliation, for which Cimon was solely responsible. in 461a vote of ostracism was made and Cimon was banished. Ephialtes leveled carefully substantiated serious charges of corruption against members of the Areopagus. As a consequence, several of its members were executed or exiled. Attempts to buy Ephialtes failed, so in 460 he was assassinated. However, the democrats did not lose power, but Ephialtes was replaced by Pericles, who brought Athens to its apogee.

Pericles extended democracy internally: he decreed that civil servants receive a salary, so that even the poorest could serve the city. Although Athens and Piraeus were fortified, the distance that separated them was about five miles, so that in the event of a siege Athens was equally cut off from the sea. Therefore he decided to build a walled corridor from the city to the port, "the long walls".

Around this time, Polykleitos, another disciple of Geladas, began to stand out. In addition to being a great sculptor, he was a great sculpture theorist. He set out to apply to his art rules deduced from natural observations and elaborated and idealized through geometry. These rules governed much of the Greek statuary. Phidias studied with Polykleitos and incorporated them into his technique.

In Greece a different "class" of sages was emerging. They were known as sophists. Men who taught the most important qualities for public life. Among these qualities was undoubtedly oratory. Many sophists openly claimed that (for a suitable sum) they could teach a defense of any cause or argument and lead any court, or jury, or simply public opinion, in the desired direction. Just the opposite of what Zeno intended with his dialectic.

The most famous of the sophists was Protagoras, he was born in Abdera, although he spent several seasons in Athens, Sicily and southern Italy. It seems that it was he who coined the term "sophist". He rejected the existence of an objective truth. On the contrary, for Protagoras, man is the measure of all things. He taught to prepare well-structured speeches, without seeking the support of the truth. However, it seems that he himself did not indulge in these techniques (or he did them extremely well), since those who had known him recognized that his arguments were honest. He was the first to analyze the Greek language and its grammar.

Artaxerxes I sent an army to Egypt to put down the revolt that began after the death of Xerxes I. Egypt asked Athens for help and Pericles sent a fleet that took Memphis, but the Persians resisted and a long war began.

In 459 the war that Sparta had with the rebellious helots ended. There can be no talk of a landslide victory. The slaves surrendered in exchange for their freedom being guaranteed. The Spartans let them go and Athenian ships transported them to Naupacta, a recently founded Athenian naval station north of the Corinthian Gulf.

In 458   the long walls between Athens and the port of El Piero were finished. Athens crushed Aegina, took part in a quarrel between Corinth and Megara. Corinth was defeated and Megara was left under Athenian protection. In addition, an alliance with Argos was signed, a clear sign of defiance towards Sparta. That year Aeschylus managed to win over Sophocles with the Oresteia, but in the following years Sophocles prevailed again. Perhaps for this reason Aeschylus decided to emigrate to Syracuse, where he had already been a guest of Hiero I, who had paid him great honors.

A new group of Jews decided to move from Babylon to Judea. Among them was a scribe (that is, a scholar of the Law) named Ezra.Probably, the reality he encountered was quite different from what he expected to find. Jews were mixing with the native population and religious rituals were being lost. Ezra gathered the people and read the books of the Law (the first five books of the current Bible). He read them in Hebrew, which was by then practically a dead language, for the Jews spoke Aramaic, but he must have explained them with such emphasis and personality that he aroused great enthusiasm and a large enough part of the population accepted his doctrine. They recognized the grave sin they had committed by marrying foreign women and agreed to put them away.

Thus began the separation of the Jews from the Gentiles (non-Jews). Faced with the impossibility of any kind of political autonomy, the Jews clung to the traditional customs consigned in the sacred texts as the only way to preserve their identity. Circumcision, the prohibition to work on the Sabbath or to eat certain impure foods, etc. they were applied with the utmost rigor, and the Jews shied away from dealing with anyone who did not observe these and many other differentiating customs. The (relatively new) idea that their god was the only true god gave them a new ideological weapon: sarcasm. Now the Jews mocked the beliefs of their neighbors. A new legend about Abraham appeared, without biblical foundation, according to which his father, Terah, was in command of the armies of King Nimrod, in Babylon and worshiped twelve idols of wood and stone (all this before he left Ur with his son , which is where the biblical narrative begins):

Abraham arrived in Babylon and, seeing the idols, ordered his mother to kill and cook a lamb. He then placed the food before the idols and waited to see if anyone would eat. When they didn't, he mocked them and said to his mother, "Is it possible that the plate is too small, or that the lamb is tasteless? Please kill three more lambs and dress them more delicately." Once again offered the delicacy to the idols, they did not move either. The spirit of God descended on Abraham, who took an ax and smashed all but the largest idol. He put the ax in one of his hands and walked away.
When Teraj arrived, he sent for his son and asked him for an explanation. Abraham said: "I offered food to your idols, no doubt they must have fought over it. It seems the eldest has torn the others to pieces." Téraj exclaimed: "Don't fool me! They are images of wood and stone, made by the hand of man." Abraham asked, "If so, how can they answer your prayers?" He then proclaimed the "living God", took up the ax and smashed the last idol.

Despite everything, Judaism was not free from outside influences. A part of the Jews that ended up being the majority accepted some of the new ideas of Mazdaism, which was now the dominant religion throughout the Persian Empire. Naturally the great Ahura-Mazda identified himself with Yahveh, but Mazdaism had a figure that Judaism lacked: the representation of evil, Ahriman. The Jews gave him the name of Satan, although they were not willing to grant him the same power as Yahveh. The deities at the service of Ahura-Mazda became a whole hierarchy of angels, or messengers of God, while the divinities subservient to Ahriman, became demons led by Satan. Stories formed that presented Satan as a "fallen angel" who had rebelled against Yahveh. The idea of ​​the Savior who would reach the end of the world to judge the living and the dead was assimilated to that of the Messiah. The traditional Jewish hell, very similar to that of the Greeks, where all the dead ended up (with few exceptions) was transformed into limbo, where the dead awaited their final judgment. Most of these ideas never found their way into the Bible and it seems that the more conservative priestly class never accepted them.

Rome was in serious trouble with the Aequi, a tribe that inhabited the mountainous regions to the east of Lazio and that had allied with the Volscians and had managed to corner one of the consuls with their army. Roman law allowed for the consulate to be temporarily suspended in cases of extreme necessity, so that absolute power was conferred on a single man for a period of six months. This ruler was called a dictator (the one who says what to do). The Senate decided to appoint Lucio Quincio Cincinnato dictator(Cincinnatus means "curly-haired"). Legend presents him as a paragon of virtue: a Coriolanian-style conservative patrician who had decided to retire from politics because a son of his had been exiled for offending the tribunes. Always according to legend, when Cincinnatus received the news he was plowing his field. He put down the plow, marched to the Forum, raised an army, marched on the Aequi, defeated them, rescued the consul and his army, returned to Rome, and renounced the dictatorship, all in one day. This is not very credible, but the conflict between Rome and the Aequi and the Volsci is real. It is probable that the legend of Coriolanus also dates from these times, although later it was placed anachronistically at the time when the position of tribune was created. The Romans always had Cincinnatus as an example of the use of power without abuse.

In 457 Sparta was recovered from the serious wear and tear caused by the rebellion of the helots. He immediately turned against Athens and its "long walls", which he had never approved of. Athens was concentrating her forces on fighting the Persians in Egypt and did not want to get involved in a fight in Greece. For this reason, he sent for Cimon from exile to sign a truce with Sparta.

In 456 Aeschylus died in Syracuse. The Athenians wanted to know the last tragedy that he had composed in Sicily and, after his death, they gave him first prize in the annual contest.

in 455Artaxerxes I managed to dominate the rebellion in Egypt. The ringleader, Inaros, was executed. The Persian victory went through the almost complete destruction of the troops sent by Athens. It was a hard blow, which sowed some mistrust among the Greeks, including the Athenians themselves. As a sign of self-affirmation, the Delos treasury was transferred to Athens itself, implying that it was she who dominated all the other cities of the Confederation. Persian troops moved from Egypt to Cyprus, which had also revolted. Athens again sent a fleet, this time under the command of Cimon. The Persians were defeated, but Cimon was killed in battle and the Athenians made peace.

That year died King Plistarco, the son of Leonidas, who assumed the throne after the death of the regent Pausanias. He was succeeded by Plistoanacte, son of Pausanias.

In Athens a new tragic poet was making his debut, who won an honorable third prize with Las Pelíadas. It was EuripidesAlthough the son of a humble family, he received a careful education. Among his teachers were Anaxagoras and Protagoras. His works were not well received by critics, so he was only going to win first prize four times. This was because they were less solemn than those of Aeschylus or Sophocles. His characters were not idealized, but had human flaws and spoke an everyday language. Euripides is less interested in the action and more in the situations and the reactions of the characters. Dead-end situations are often resolved at the end of the play in an unexpected way by divine intervention.

In 454 King Alexander I of Macedon died. He was succeeded by Perdiccas II, who had to face the Odrysians. Around this time Thessaly began to decline. Until then it had been one of the first Greek powers, thanks to its powerful cavalry, but the rivalries between the great families, the intervention of the Medes, the social struggles and the appearance of new cities weakened the Confederation.

In 453 , the Chinese state of Jin broke up into the kingdoms of Chao, Han, and Wei. This event marks the beginning of the period in China's history known as the "Warring States" period, which saw continuous warfare, alliances, invasions, and annexations.

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