History & Language; Pericles’ Funeral Oration

Ancient Athens became one of the major powers in the Hellenistic world, but its impact was far beyond the military or economic influence of Athens. Instead, they had a considerable cultural impact, which influenced not only neighboring city-states and ancient civilization, but which also affected the development of European and Western civilization for centuries ahead. However, they had to overcome numerous challenges to reach the high level of socioeconomic, political and cultural development. They suffered from wars and epidemics, like the plague in Athens in 430 BC and it is probably such challenges and tests that contributed to the development of Athenian way of life, philosophy, culture and civilization that became the major power in the antiquity and influential power in epochs to follow. At this point, it is possible to refer to Pericles’ Funeral Oration and Thucydides depiction of the plague to find out the essence of Athenian society, their values and worldview.

Analysis of the speech

Pericles’ speech is one of the most remarkable rhetoric masterpieces. The unconventional speech and the departure from the traditional funeral oration form is apparently intentional because it helps Pericles to catch the attention of the audience immediately from the beginning of his speech. In contrast to the traditional funeral oration, Pericles does not simply manifests his respect to the dead or glorifies them. Instead, he focuses his attention and that of the audience on the achievements of Athens and greatness of the Athenian way of life. In such a context, the dedication of the speech to the dead becomes secondary as actual achievements and socio-political system of Athens, their openness to the world become primary. In the course of his speech, Pericles shifts the attention of the audience from military successes, which he recognizes as well-known, to the socio-political system of Athens to make Athenians proud of being Athenians and to show that their way of life is the only one that leads to success and happiness of people. He insists that peopled died for their city, its system of values and the Athenian way of life.

Moreover, Pericles words in the idea of the “equal justice under law”, which implies the supremacy of the law and equal justice for all, which is granted to all Athenians on the ground of the law. This is one of the key ideas Pericles presents in his speech because this idea reveals the essence of Athenian values and worldview. Equal justice under law is as important as freedom for Athenians and their openness to the world because Pericles believes that Athenian way of life is the only right way to happiness of people.

In fact, Pericles uses ethos and pathos in his speech to make his appeal to the audience emotionally strong and grounded on the authority of ancestors of contemporary Athenians. He also refers to the authority of those, who have died for Athens and Athenian way of life.        The use of logos subsides to ethos and pathos but is still present in Pericles’ speech. For example, he equals happiness and freedom and concludes that Athenians have died right because they preferred to die free rather than to live submitted.

The plague and its impact on the morale and the behavior of Athenians

Thucydides description of the plague is very important because it preceded Pericles speech and reveals the background in which the speech was actually delivered. Thucydides reveals the devastating impact of the plague and numerous casualties, which Athens suffered. Athens stricken by the plague stagnate because casualties become even more significant than casualties of Athens in military conflicts they have been involved in.

While describing the plague in Athens, Thucydides does not merely describes the medical case but he also uncovers the moral corruption of Athenians. Traditional Athenian values are shattered and seem to be in decline. In this regard, the description of the plague is rather the narrative of the moral disease that has stricken Athenian society, while the plague is just the physical manifestation of the moral decay and degradation of Athenians. In fact, the idea of the moral corruption is the fundamental idea conveyed by the author, but this idea contrasts to the highly moral speech of Pericles. At this point, Pericles’ speech was a sort of wake-up call for Athenians, a reminder of their greatness and the importance of sticking to traditional Athenian moral norms and standards. In such a way, Pericles probably attempted to prevent the further degradation of Athenians and revive traditional values of Athens.  In such a way, implicitly the plague becomes a sort of purge, after which Athenians have to regain their morale and recall their traditional way of life.

Conclusion

Thus, Pericles’ speech and Thucydides narrative of the plague juxtapose to each other because, on the one hand (men), Pericles reminds Athenians of their traditional system of values and way of life, which pave the way to happiness through freedom of Athenians, whereas, on the other hand (de), Thucydides uncovers the degradation of morale and mores of Athenians. Hence, Thucydides shows that the plague that had struck Athenians was just the physical manifestation and a sort of just punishment of Athenians for their moral decay, while the speech delivered by Pericles is the ultimate manifestation of Athenian way of life and admiration with Athenian traditional system of values. This is why the author uses these two items in juxtaposition to each other.

Works Cited:

Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War. New York: Penguin Classics, 2014.

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

freeessays.club (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
Available at:

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]
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