What is a brief summary of Pericles' funeral oration?


Quick Answer

According to Thucydides, Pericles' funeral oration said that democracy makes it so people can better themselves through merit rather than class or money. He further says that democracy guarantees privacy and equal justice for all.

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Full Answer

Pericles was a leading figure from the Greek Peloponnesian War. He often gave speeches at the funerals of citizens in the city of Athens about the merits of democracy. The historian Thucydides wrote about the speech of Pericles in his “History of the Peloponnesian War.” Thucydides wrote that the speech was reproduced from his memory and was a loose account only. This speech became known as Pericles' Funeral Oration, and it occurred in 431 B.C., just after the start of war. Pericles emphasized the power of the Athenian people and in particular their ability to work together for the greater good of the city by putting aside what they might want in the moment as individuals. He further talked about how the citizens of Athens worked for the greater good not because they were forced to as slaves or poor people like in other cities, but because they wanted to out of their own desire and will. According to the Public Broadcasting Service, the idea that Athenian citizens could be rulers but also rule themselves at the same time was a new idea, and it quickly became the ideal of the Greek world.

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