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Pericles' Funeral Oration

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Pericles' Funeral Oration

Pericles' Funeral Oration is a famous speech from Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War.[1] The speech was delivered by Pericles at the end of the first year of the Peloponnesian War (431 - 404 BCE). He was a famous Athenian politician. The speech was a part of the yearly public funeral for the people who died in the war.

At that time, people in Athens had a custom of holding a public funeral for the people who died in war.[2] The bodies of the dead were left out for three days in a tent, where offerings could be made for the dead.

Funeral Oration was recorded by Thucydides in book two of his History of the Peloponnesian War. Thucydides records the speech as if every word in the record was what Pericles said. However, people agree he did, at least, correct or change the speeches a little. Thucydides says in his History that the speeches are not completely the same as what was really said, but written to show the main ideas of what was said.[3] It is quite certain that Pericles delivered a speech at the end of the first year of the war. However, people are not sure how much Thucydides' record is the same as Pericles' actual speech.[4][5]

The Funeral Oration is important because the speech was different from usual Athenian funeral speeches.[4] David Cartwright describes it as "a eulogy (description) of Athens itself...".[6] The speech is about what great things Athens did, delivered to encourage the people.

Gettysburg Address and Pericles' funeral oration[change | change source]

American Civil War scholar Garry Wills calls Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address the modern parallel to Pericles' Funeral Oration.[7]

References[change | change source]

  1. Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, 2.34-2.46.
  2. Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, 2.34.1-6. See also Plato, Menexenus.
  3. Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, 1.22.1.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ziolkowski, John (1981). Thucydides and the Tradition of Funeral Speeches at Athens. Arno Press. ISBN 0-405-14057-6.
  5. Loraux, Nicole (1986). The Invention of Athens. Harvard University Press.
  6. Cartwright, David (1997). A Historical Commentary On Thucydides. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08419-4.
  7. McPherson, James (July 16, 1992). "The Art of Abraham Lincoln". The New York Review of Books. 39 (13).