Pericles on Power : Thucydides 2.56-65

Here are what seem to me to be the salient points from the class . . .

Pericles' policy

  • 2.55-58
  • let the Peloponnesians ravage the countryside, and avoid confrontation with Spartan infantry; attack Spartan territory from the sea;
  • avoid trying to add to the empire during the war

Logic of the policy

  • The Peloponnesian infantry far outnumbered the Athenian
  • Athens couldn't put her whole force ito a series of land battles because she had to keep her far-flung empire (see map!) in hand
  • in a war of attrition, because neither side could strike a decisive blow at the other, the policy took advantage of Athens resources and posed the least risk
  • Do you think Thucydides' believes that, over time, Pericles' strategy would have worked? Why?

How popular was Pericles' policy?

  • 2.55-56

Pericles' speech in 2.60-64: What is he trying to accomplish?

  • see 2.56 and 65

What is his strategy for doing so?

  • 60 relation between individual and state
  • 60-61 his own leadership
    • intellect
    • persuasive speech
    • patriotism
    • incorruptibility
  • 61-64 the glories (and tyranny) of the tempire
  • 64 hostility to the empire

2.65: Thucydides on Pericles

  • You will want to think about this carefully and reflect on it in your paper.


Thucydides assessment of Pericles' leadership with that of his successors'.

Real Causes

What was the real reason, as Thucydides has it, that Athens lost the Peloponnesian War?

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