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

Previous | Next


of any of his friends or relations, till at last he lost his only
remaining legitimate son. Subdued by this blow, and yet striving still,
as far as he could, to maintain his principle, and to preserve and
keep up the greatness of his soul, when he came, however, to perform
the ceremony of putting a garland of flowers upon the head of the
corpse, he was vanquished by his passion at the sight, so that he
burst into exclamations, and shed copious tears, having never done
any such thing in his life before.
The city having made trial of other generals for the conduct of war,
and orators for business of state, when they found there was no one
who was of weight enough for such a charge, or of authority sufficient
to be trusted with so great a command regretted the loss of him, and
invited him again to address and advise them, and to reassume the
office of general. He, however, lay at home in dejection and mourning;
but was persuaded by Alcibiades and others of his friends to come
abroad and show himself to the people; who having, upon his appearance,
made their acknowledgments, and apologized for their untowardly treatment
of him he undertook the public affairs once more; and, being chosen
general, requested that the statute concerning base-born children,
which he himself had formerly caused to be made, might be suspended;
that so the name and race of his family might not, for absolute want
of a lawful heir to succeed, be wholly lost and extinguished. The
case of the statute was thus: Pericles, when long ago at the height
of his power in the state, having then, as has been said, children
lawfully begotten, proposed a law that those only should be reputed
true citizens of Athens who were born of such parents as were both
Athenians. After this, the King of Egypt having sent to the people,
by way of present, forty thousand bushels of wheat, which were to
be shared out among the citizens, a great many actions and suits about
legitimacy occurred, by virtue of that edict; cases which, till that
time, had not been known nor taken notice of; and several persons
suffered by false accusations. There were little less than five thousand
who were convicted and sold for slaves; those who, enduring the test,
remained in the government and passed muster for true Athenians were
found upon the poll to be fourteen thousand and forty persons in number.
It looked strange, that a law, which had been carried so far against
so many people, should be cancelled again by the same man that made
it; yet the present calamity and distress which Pericles laboured
under in his family broke through all objections, and prevailed with
the Athenians to pity him, as one whose losses and misfortunes had
sufficiently punished his former arrogance and haughtiness. His sufferings
deserved, they thought, their pity, and even indignation, and his
request was such as became a man to ask and men to grant; they gave
him permission to enrol his son in the register of his fraternity,
giving him his own name. This son afterward, after having defeated
the Peloponnesians at Arginusae, was, with his fellow-generals, put
to death by the people.
About the time when his son was enrolled, it should seem the plague
seized Pericles, not with sharp and violent fits, as it did others
that had it, but with a dull and lingering distemper, attended with
various changes and alterations, leisurely, by little and little,
wasting the strength of his body, and undermining the noble faculties
of his soul. So that Theophrastus, in his Morals, when discussing
whether men's characters change with their circumstances, and their
moral habits, disturbed by the ailings of their bodies, start aside
from the rules of virtue, has left it upon record, that Pericles,
when he was sick, showed one of his friends that came to visit him
an amulet or charm that the women had hung about his neck; as much
as to say, that he was very sick indeed when he would admit of such
a foolery as that was.
When he was now near his end, the best of the citizens and those of
his friends who were left alive, sitting about him, were speaking
of the greatness of his merit, and his power, and reckoning up his
famous actions and the number of his victories; for there were no

Previous | Next
Site Search