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Pericles: the Wonderful Tyrant

Updated on April 16, 2017
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Justin W. Price, AKA PDXKaraokeGuy, is a freelance writer, blogger, and award-nominated author based out of Juneau, Alaska.

Bust of Pericles by Kresilas
Bust of Pericles by Kresilas | Source
The Athenian Acropolis
The Athenian Acropolis | Source

When the Athenian Acropolis was destroyed during the Persian sack of 480 BC, Pericles was only a teenager. Following the Persian sack, in 478 BC the Greeks formed an alliance with all the Greek city states, known as the Delian League. While all members of this alliance were said to have an equal vote, Athens, by 454 BC was recognized as the leader of this alliance and had the treasury transferred to Athens, purportedly for security reasons. By this time, Pericles was widely recognized as the Athenian leader.

It was under the leadership of Pericles, who was the leader of Athens during the Persian Wars, that the Athenian Acropolis was reconstructed. The reconstruction of the Acropolis was and is one of the most ambitious construction projects ever undertaken and would not have been possible without Pericles’ leadership. This was because when tributes were paid to the Delian League, instead of being used for the common good, including the security of all the allied city states, Pericles had the money diverted to pay for the massive reconstruction project. While Pericles was lambasted by his peers for, what was deemed by many as a misappropriation of funds, the result was some of the world’s finest architectural and artistic treasures. Instead of being the built by way of democracy and for the greater good of the people, the resulting artistic masterpieces, were the result of the abuse of power and tyranny.

Still, by the time of his death in 429 BC, Pericles was viewed as a hero. The statues and busts of Pericles, particularly the one by Kresilas, which show Pericles in “heroic nudity” are evidence of this (Kleiner pg. 125). Pericles was also said to have had an enormous head, and Kresilas’ piece also shows this, but in a respectful manner.

While the Athenian Acropolis has many fantastic pieces of art and architecture, perhaps the most famous and enduring is the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. The architects of this piece, Iktinos and Kallikrates, believed that “perfect beauty could be achieved by using harmonic proportions.” (Kleiner pg. 127). Taking only nine years to build, the Parthenon was a majestic structure that stood at the center of the Athenian Acropolis. It was the first building constructed at the Acropolis, followed by the Propylia, The Erechtheion and, finally, the Temple of Athena Nike.

Despite years of wars and the ravages of time, the basic site of the acropolis is still standing and massive reconstruction projects are underway to restore this site—and particularly the Parthenon—to their former glory. It is interesting to note that, while the original construction, with less reliable technology then is available today, took only nine years to construct, the current rebuilding project has taken decades.

Athenian Art

The Parthenon
The Parthenon
The Parthenon as it stands today
The Parthenon as it stands today | Source

The Parthenon, and other column based structures constructed during Pericles’ time, are now the basis for the design of many modern buildings, including banks, museums and courthouses. The Doric, Ionian and Corinthian columns have shown to be, not only beautiful, but also exceedingly strong and durable and we owe these designs, at least in part, to Pericles. Had Pericles used the money for the intended purposes instead of to rebuild and redesign the Acropolis, the world, and the buildings in it, might look vastly different. Perhaps we should thank Pericles for his selfish tyranny. Because of him, we have many enduring and beautiful pieces of artwork.

Works Cited:

Kliener, Fred S. History of Western Art, Vol. 1. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning, 2008. (print)

Thanks for Reading.


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    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Alastar, it's certainly possible he was, but space didn't permit a whole biography :-)

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Hey Justin a good subject and hub. Didn't know much about Pericles till now. For a minute there I was thinking this was the guy that cut off the Gorgon's head and all that lol.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Tammy, it is pretty amazing, and says a lot for ancient technology. Also, are you saying I have a big head?

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Thomas, I suppose we all wish that for ourselves. I'm glad you enjoyed this. Thanks so much for writing and commenting!

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 6 years ago from North Carolina

      He must have been great.. it amazes me that this paratheon is still standing. There is a slight resemblance to you and Pericles. Hmmm.. Perhaps you are a descendant. Interesting, and a great hub.

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image

      ThoughtSandwiches 6 years ago from Reno, Nevada


      I have to wonder if one day...will I be sculpted in "heroic nudity"? I like to think I will...

      Awesome hub my friend! I am a huge fan of history, in general, and well-written history in certainly nailed the particulars on this one!

      Voting Up and sharing!


    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Thanks, my friend. I'm glad you enjoyed this!

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Great overview of the steward of the Golden Age. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Cyndi, that's what I was fascinated by when I was researching the man. I know reconstruction is very delicate but I would still expect, with today's technology, that it wouldn't be quite so cumbersome!

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 6 years ago from Georgia

      Enjoyed reading about Pericles. Your statement about the time it took to build the Acropolis versus the time it's taking to restore it is pretty ironic., but then I'm no architect. Thanks for sharing your research.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      @Rambansal. That's what I've heard. Could his giant head be a contributing factor?

      @ Cresent moon. Glad you enjoyed it.Thanks for stopping by!

      @ Stephanie: My friend has a cat named Adolf. Sometimes the owners are trying to be funny!

      Thank u all for the reads and the comments!

    • stephaniedas profile image

      Stephanie Das 6 years ago from Miami, US

      Wow, I didn't know about this guy. My friend has a cute beagle named Pericles, so I've been spared thinking of him like this.

    • Cresentmoon2007 profile image

      Cresentmoon2007 6 years ago from Caledonia, MI

      Love reading on Ancient Greek times so I truly enjoyed this hub. Voted up.

    • rambansal profile image

      Ram Bansal 6 years ago from India

      He was known to be the brightest of emperors of his times, who fought and won many wars purely on intellectual basis.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Thanks for the book tip!

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      newday98033 6 years ago

      A fun book, although Pericles plays only a small part within it, is Gore Vidal's Creation.

      Thanks for the info!