Pericles' Funeral Oration
At the end of the summer of 431 BC, following the first campaign of the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens, Pericles was deputed to deliver the Funeral Oration over the fallen Athenians. We shall never know precisely what Pericles said, but it is thanks to the historian Thucydides (460-398 BC) that we can read an imaginative re-creation of the Oration in his History (Book II, xxxv-xlvi). This Oration, besides being a eulogy to the dead, is also an impassioned and eloquent paean to Athenian democracy and all that it stood for.
It was just a year earlier, in 432 BC, that the Partenon, the magnificent temple of the goddess Athena on the Acropolis, was completed under the supervision of the architect and sculptor Pheidias. Its decoration included a frieze -a long series of relief sculptures- that represented the procession of the festival known as the Panathenaea. [...]
The Hellenic Parliament has decided to present Thucydides' literary monument and Pheidias' supreme creation of the plastic arts -two testimonies to the extraordinary achievement that was ancient Democracy- in parallel form in the present volume. It is hoped that they serve to remind people of the roots and the fine qualities of a political system that we should not only acknowledge and pay homage to, but also, day by day, on a personal and on a collective level, endeavour to maintain and transform into a constantly strengthening reality.
(Apostolos Chr. Kaklamanis, from the preface of the book)
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