|The Story of Greece|
|by Mary Macgregor|
| Stories from the history of ancient Greece beginning with mythical and legendary stories of gods and heroes and ending with the conquests of Alexander the Great. Gives short accounts of battles and sieges, and of the men who made Greece a great nation. Ages 10-14 |
THE ELOQUENCE OF PERICLES
 AFTER the death of Aristides, Cimon became commander-in-chief of
the allied fleet.
Cimon was beloved by the Athenians, for he showed them great
kindness. Every day he invited some of the poorer citizens
to supper. When he walked through the city he ordered
several well-dressed slaves to follow him. Then, if he met
a citizen clad in shabby or threadbare garments, he would
order one of his slaves to exchange clothes with him.
The allied fleet gained many victories while Cimon was at
In 470 B.C., he sailed to an
island named Scyrus, in which
dwelt a race of pirates, who had for many years fallen upon
and captured the merchant vessels of Greece. The island of
Scyrus lay between Athens and Thrace.
The Greek traders were pleased when Cimon banished the
pirates, as he was soon able to do. A number of Athenians
were sent to settle in Scyrus, which from that time belonged
Now there was a legend which said that in this island there
was a grave where lay the bones of Theseus, one of the old
heroes of Hellas.
It may be that Cimon ordered his men to search for the spot
where the hero was said to be buried; in any case a grave
was found in which lay the body of a giant warrior.
No one doubted that this was the body of Theseus, and, as
the oracle had commanded, the bones were brought to Athens
and placed in a temple which was henceforth called
The Athenians were loud in the praise of Cimon because he
had obeyed the commands of the oracle, and had brought the
bones of the hero to Attica.
Four years later Cimon gained two great victories over the
Persians, by which those Greek cities which had been left
under the yoke of the great king were set free. They then
hastened to join the Delian League.
Cimon was now at the height of his power, but his friendship
with Sparta, on which the Athenians had always looked with
dislike, soon led to his downfall.
In 464 B.C. there was an earthquake in Peloponnesus. Chasms
yawned in the valleys, landslips changed the face of the
mountains. The loss of life in Sparta itself was terrible,
while both houses and temples were destroyed. The Helots,
who were always ready to revolt, did so now that their
masters were overwhelmed by this great calamity.
Cimon begged the Athenians to forget their old grudge
against the Spartans and to send to her help, remembering
only how they had shared in the glory of the Persian war.
"Do not let Greece be lamed of one foot," he urged, "and
Athens herself be left to draw without her yoke-fellow."
An Athenian, named Pericles, who was now one of the chief
citizens, did all he could to make the people refuse to send
help to Sparta, but Cimon's entreaties were successful. He
was himself sent at the head of the Athenian troops to help
the Spartans to subdue the Helots.
The rebels had taken refuge in a fortress, and Cimon tried
in vain to expel them from their stronghold.
Always ready to suspect an Athenian, the Spartans began to
think that Cimon did not really wish to dislodge the Helots.
They accused him of treachery, and roughly bade him return
with his troops to Athens, as they no longer wished for his
During Cimon's absence, Pericles and a statesman named
Ephialtes had made several changes in the ancient courts of
 Athens. These changes did not meet with the approval of
Cimon, and he tried to restore the old customs.
The citizens soon grew angry with the two leaders because
each tried to govern Athens in a different way, and, instead
of peace, discord ruled in the city. They determined that
one of them should be ostracised.
In 461 B.C. it was resolved to put the matter to the vote.
The citizens assembled in the market place, and shells were
given to them on which to write the name of the leader they
wished to be banished. When the names were counted it was
found that Cimon was ostracised.
Soon after Cimon left Athens, Ephialtes was slain in his own
house, and it was believed that this cruel deed had been
done by the order of some of Cimon's friends, in revenge for
the ostracism of their chief.
Pericles was now left alone to govern Athens.
He was not rich, so he could not himself do all that Cimon
had done for the people, but he used the public money for
the good of the citizens. And he pleased them by taking
from the court of the Areopagus most of its ancient power,
and giving it to the popular assembly.
Tickets, too, were given by his orders to the poorer folk in
Athens, so that they might be able to go to the theatres and
other places of public amusement. By these and other acts,
Pericles soon won the goodwill of the people.
When he was a boy Pericles had been trained by a philosopher
named Anaxagoras, who had taught him much wisdom. When
storms arose they seemed unable to disturb the calm of the
One day, as he was busy in the market place with affairs of
State, a rude fellow never ceased to mock and to speak ill
Pericles heard all that the man said, but he took no notice,
and when he had finished his task he set out for home. The
rough fellow followed, throwing at him, not stones, but
cruel, wicked words.
 It was dark when Pericles reached his house. Turning to one
of his servants he bade him take a light and see that the
man reached home in safety. And this he did although he had
been treated so badly.
Because he was a great orator, Pericles was named the
Olympian, but by some it was said that he was so called
because of the beautiful buildings with which he adorned
At this time comedies were acted on the stage, and in these
comedies great statesmen were often ridiculed; that is, fun
was made both of themselves and of their actions.
Those who wrote these plays were allowed to use their wit on
any one or anything that they chose. It was soon seen that
the Athenians could laugh heartily at themselves, and that
is a good thing that some people can never learn to do.
Pericles was too well known to be left alone by the writers
of comedy. Sometimes hard words were spoken of him, as when
a writer said that he had a "dreadful thunderbolt in his
tongue." But he who said this knew that the eloquence of
Pericles was a great power, and that the orator could make
people believe almost anything that he wished them to
It is said that one of the kings of Sparta once asked a
noble citizen, named Thucydides, if he or Pericles were the
"When I," answered Thucydides, "have thrown him and given
him a fair fall, by persisting that he had no fall he gets
the better of me, and makes the bystanders, in spite of
their own eyes, believe him." Thucydides said this in jest,
to show what wonders Pericles could work by his eloquence.
But although others might make fun of Pericles' great gift
of speech, he himself thought of it with reverence. "He was
very careful what and how he was to speak, insomuch that,
whenever he went up to the hustings, he prayed the gods that
no one word might unawares slip from him, unsuitable to the
matter and the occasion."
 Pericles encouraged the Athenians to war against many of the
Greek States, and when they had subdued them, he bade these
States pay tribute to Athens. Year by year, under his
guidance, the city grew more powerful.
In 449 B.C., Cimon, who had been recalled from exile, sailed
with a fleet of two hundred ships to Cyprus, where several
cities still owned Artaxerxes, the Persian king, as
their master. He laid siege to the town of Citium, but
before it was taken he fell ill. Although he was forced to
stay in bed, he still sent orders to his men, which helped
them to gain two brilliant victories.
Cimon did not recover from his illness, and after the death
of its commander the fleet returned to Athens.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics