The ostracism of Cimon deprived the aristocrats of their
most prominent representative. It was possible for the democratic or liberal
party to assume complete control of public affairs. Pericles, their leader and
champion, was a man of studious habits. He never appeared on the streets except
when walking between his house and the popular assembly or the market place,
kept rigidly away from dinners and drinking bouts, and ruled his household with
strict economy that he might escape the suspicion of enriching himself at the
public expense. He did not speak often before the people, but came forward only
on special occasions; and the rarity of his utterances gave them added weight.
Pericles was a thorough democrat, but he used none of the arts of the
demagogue. He scorned to flatter the populace. His power over the people rested
on his majestic eloquence, on his calm dignity of demeanor, and above all on
his unselfish devotion to the welfare of Athens.
AGE OF PERICLES, 461-429 B.C.
The period, about thirty years in length, between the
ostracism of Cimon and the death of Pericles, forms the most brilliant epoch in
Greek history. Under the guidance of Pericles the Athenian naval empire reached
its widest extent. Through his direction Athens became a complete democracy.
Inspired by him the Athenians came to manifest that love of knowledge, poetry,
art, and all beautiful things which, even more than their empire or their
democracy, has made them famous in the annals of mankind. The Age of Pericles
affords, therefore, a convenient opportunity to set forth the leading features
of Athenian civilization in the days of its greatest glory.