|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 LAST WORDS OF PERICLES
 WHEN The Spartans marched out of Attica, the country folk
left the sheltering walls of Athens to go back to their
fields, to dig, to plough, to sow.
They hoped in due time to reap a plenteous harvest, for
their last year's crops had been destroyed by the
enemy. But before the corn was ripe they knew their
hopes were vain. The Spartans had come back, and once
again the people were forced to leave their fields and
take refuge within the walls of the capital.
But in the city itself an enemy appeared, an enemy that
worked more dreadful havoc than even the Spartan army.
The plague had come to Athens. It spread rapidly, for
the people were crowded together, some in sheds, some
in tents, and these rough shelters were not kept clean.
Squalor and lack of room added to the misery of the
Thousands of those who had fled for safety to the city
were stricken by the plague, and at first few
recovered. For fear seized upon those whom the plague
spared and they left the sick untended, to die,
tortured by thirst, and alone.
At length even the Spartans grew afraid, lest upon them
too the plague should fall, and they again withdrew
Then Pericles sailed to Peloponnesus and attacked the
enemy in its own country, but with little or no
success. But in Thrace, the town of Potidaea, which
had been besieged by the Athenians for a year, was
forced to surrender.
No breach had been made in the walls, but the
famine-  stricken people could no longer bear the pangs of
hunger, nor had they strength left to defend their
The Athenians allowed the miserable inhabitants to
leave Potidaea, but the men were forbidden to take
anything with them save one garment, while the women
were permitted to take two. Before long Athenian
families were sent to settle in Potidaea, which then
became a colony belonging to Athens.
During the war the popularity of Pericles began to
wane. It was he who had advised the Athenians to carry
on war with the Spartans, and they now accused him of
causing all the misery which they had to endure.
While he was absent with the fleet in 430 B.C., Cleon,
the head of those who were opposed to Pericles, tried
to make peace with the enemy, but his efforts were in
Cleon was determined, if it were possible, to cause the
downfall of Pericles. So when he returned to Athens,
he accused him of using public money for his own ends.
When the public accounts were examined a small sum was
missing and Pericles was fined by the law courts, but
no stain was left on his character.
The Athenians were a fickle people, and before long
they forgot their anger and Pericles found himself as
popular as ever. They were even eager to carry on the
war with Sparta.
Once before Pericles had been attacked by his enemies.
He was accused, along with Pheidias the sculptor, of
having kept some of the gold which was intended to
adorn the statue of Athene in the Parthenon. But it
was easy to prove that the charge was false, for the
gold had been fixed to the statue in such a way that it
could be easily detached.
Pericles demanded that this should be done, so that the
gold might be weighed. His enemies could not refuse
the test. So the gold was taken off the statue,
weighed, and found to be correct.
Against Pheidias there were other charges, one being
that in the frieze of the Parthenon there were
 of himself and Pericles. In 432 B.C. the great
sculptor was thrown into prison, where he died before
the day fixed for his trial.
The plague, which had disappeared for a year, broke out
again in 429 B.C. with new violence.
Pericles had already lost two sons through the terrible
scourge. When Paralus, his favourite child, died, he
placed a garland upon his body, and shut himself in his
house to mourn. Nor could he be persuaded afterward to
take much interest in the affairs of the State.
A year later, he was himself stricken by the plague.
He recovered, but was soon after attacked by fever
which he was too weak to resist.
As he lay dying, his friends gathered around his bed.
Thinking that he did not hear what they said, they
began to speak to one another of the great things he
had done during his life.
But Pericles heard, and interrupting them said, "What
you praise in me is partly the result of good fortune,
and, at all events, common to me with many other
commanders. What I am most proud of, you have not
noticed. No Athenian ever put on mourning for an act
of mine!" These were his last words.
Plutarch tells us that "Pericles was indeed a character
deserving our high admiration, not only for his
equitable and mild temper, but also for the high spirit
and feeling which made him regard it the noblest of all
his honours, that, in the exercise of such immense
power, he never had treated any enemy as irreconcilably
opposed to him. And it appears to me," says Plutarch,
"that this one thing gives that otherwise childish and
arrogant title a fitting and becoming significance; so
dispassionate a temper, a life so pure and unblemished,
might well be called Olympian, in accordance with our
conceptions of the divine beings to whom, as the
natural authors of all good and of nothing evil, we
ascribe the rule and government of the world."
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