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ERICLES was the greatest statesman Athens ever had. When he was a boy he
was timid and shy, afraid to talk before strangers. But when he grew up and
went to battle no man was braver.
He had an excellent education. Music and philosophy were his favorite
studies. Most of all he loved oratory, the art of public speaking. He spoke
with such force and energy that he was said to thunder and lighten.
Although he was good looking his head was of such a strange shape that he
was called "peaked head."
While yet a very young man he began to take an interest in politics, placing
himself on the side of the poor rather than of the rich. For about forty
years he was a leader. In all that time he was never seen in the streets
except on his way to the senate or public meetings. He was too busy to idle
about the market place, hearing and telling news like most of the Athenians.
He never went to feasts and had only a few close friends. Because he was not
rich enough to grant the citizens many gifts he used the public money to
amuse and feed them. By his orders every citizen of Athens received the
price of a theater ticket whenever a play was given. Every soldier and every
citizen who served in the courts was paid.
 He had grand gardens laid out for public use, and in the time of his
greatest power he caused the most beautiful buildings in the world to be
erected on the Acropolis, the highest point of the city.
He thought all the Greek states ought to unite and help one another. A
congress was called at Athens to consider about rebuilding the temples which
the Persians had destroyed, and to arrange that any Greek ship should sail,
free of cost or danger, into and out of any Greek port. This was a wise and
excellent plan, but it could not be carried out because Sparta was jealous
and would not agree to it.
The Phocians attacked the temple at Delphi and seized its treasures. The
Spartans drove away the Phocians and, as a reward, were given the first
right to consult the oracle. When the Spartans were gone home Pericles went
to Delphi, put the Phocians again in power, and took for Athens the right
which Sparta had gained.
In time of great danger he paid one enemy to march away. Then with fifty
vessels and fifty thousand men he fought and defeated other foes.
He paid much attention to the navy. Every year he had sixty galleys sent out
for a cruise of eight months, so that their crews might be well trained in
the management of vessels. No other state of Greece had so many ships or
such good sailors.
Through his wisdom and courage, peace and prosperity were given to Athens.
He built the Long Walls which joined the city to its seaport, Piraus. They
were sixty feet high and more than four miles in length.
 In the war with Sparta he advised the country people to bring their goods
inside these walls so that they might be safe from their enemies.
He made the people feel that they were great and powerful and need not be
afraid of any foe. They were always ready for war, yet well satisfied to be
at peace. He caused the treasures of the united cities to be brought from
Delos to Athens, and used them freely in making that city stronger and more
Under his care the arts flourished. There were many more fine buildings and
statues in Athens than ever before. He built a theater called the Odeon,
where musical festivals were to be held. The Parthenon, erected by his
orders, was the grandest temple ever raised by human hands. When some
persons blamed him for using so much of the public money he answered, "Very
well. The buildings must be put up but my name shall be placed upon them
instead of yours." The crowd answered, "Spend all the money you choose."
Sparta was jealous and angry at this splendor and made war on Athens. At the
same time the plague, a dreadful sickness of which people died in a few
hours, broke out in the crowded city. For this Pericles was blamed and
fined, yet he was elected one of the generals for the next year. His son, a
sister, and his most intimate friends died of the disease. When his second
son died the heart of Pericles seemed broken. As he placed the funeral
garland on the young man's head the father burst into tears.
Shortly afterwards he also died. While he was sick
 and his friends around him were telling what good he had done he said, "Do
not forget that I never caused any Athenian to put on mourning."
When his property was settled it was found that he had never kept or used
for himself a penny of the public money. Athens built his tomb and set up a
statue in his memory. She saw her brightest glory in the days of Pericles.