Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Plutarch
Pages of Pericles

Previous | Next


good is a practical stimulus; it is no sooner seen, than it inspires
an impulse to practice, and influences the mind and character not
by a mere imitation which we look at, but by the statement of the
fact creates a moral purpose which we form.
And so we have thought fit to spend our time and pains in writing
of the lives of famous persons; and have composed this tenth book
upon that subject, containing the life of Pericles, and that of Fabius
Maximus, who carried on the war against Hannibal, men alike, as in
their other virtues and good parts, so especially in their mind and
upright temper and demeanour, and in that capacity to bear the cross-grained
humours of their fellow-citizens and colleagues in office, which made
them both most useful and serviceable to the interests of their countries.
Whether we take a right aim at our intended purpose, it is left to
the reader to judge by what he shall here find.
Pericles was of the tribe Acamantis, and the township Cholargus, of
the noblest birth both on his father's and mother's side. Xanthippus,
his father, who defeated the King of Persia's generals in the battle
of Mycale, took to wife Agariste, the grandchild of Clisthenes, who
drove out the sons of Pisistratus, and nobly put an end to their tyrannical
usurpation, and, moreover, made a body of laws, and settled a model
of government admirably tempered and suited for the harmony and safety
of the people.
His mother, being near her time, fancied in a dream that she was brought
to bed of a lion, and a few days after was delivered of Pericles,
in other respects perfectly formed, only his head was somewhat longish
and out of proportion. For which reason almost all the images and
statues that were made of him have the head covered with a helmet,
the workmen apparently being willing not to expose him. The poets
of Athens called him Schinocephalos, or squill-head, from schinos,
a squill, or sea-onion. One of the comic poets, Cratinus, in the Chirons,
tells us that-
"Old Chronos once took queen Sedition to wife:
Which two brought to life
That tyrant far-famed,
Whom the gods the supreme skull-compeller have named; and, in the
Nemesis, addresses him-
"Come, Jove, thou head of Gods." And a second, Teleclides, says, that
now, in embarrassment with political difficulties, he sits in the
"Fainting underneath the load
Of his own head: and now abroad
From his huge gallery of a pate
Sends forth trouble to the state." And a third, Eupolis, in the comedy
called the Demi, in a series of questions about each of the demagogues,
whom he makes in the play to come up from hell, upon Pericles being
named last, exclaims-
"And here by way of summary, now we've done,
Behold, in brief, the heads of all in one."
The master that taught him music, most authors are agreed, was Damon
(whose name, they say, ought to be pronounced with the first syllable
short). Though Aristotle tells us that he was thoroughly practised
in all accomplishments of this kind by Pythoclides. Damon, it is not
unlikely, being a sophist, out of policy sheltered himself under the
profession of music to conceal from people in general his skill in
other things, and under this pretence attended Pericles, the young
athlete of politics, so to say, as his training-master in these exercises.
Damon's lyre, however, did not prove altogether a successful blind;
he was banished the country by ostracism for ten years, as a dangerous
intermeddler and a favourer of arbitrary power, and, by this means,
gave the stage occasion to play upon him. As, for instance, Plato,
the comic poet, introduces a character who questions him-
"Tell me, if you please,
Since you're the Chiron who taught Pericles."
Pericles, also, was a hearer of Zeno, the Eleatic, who treated of

Previous | Next
Site Search