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Pericles’ Funerary Oration

It was an Athenian practice that after a war, the remains of the dead would be left in a tent for three days where mourners could make offerings. There was a public procession with the remains carried in cypress coffins. After burial in a state gravesite, a prominent citizen was called upon to make a public oration. This one is from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War – it is probably not what Pericles said verbatim but would have had the same themes and main points as the actual speech. Pericles gave this speech at the end of the first year of the war against Sparta, which endured for nearly 30 years and left Athens crippled. At this early stage in the war, Athens was still a glorious polis; however, some historians have called this oration a eulogy to Athens itself.

  1. What are Pericles’ initial hesitations about giving this speech?  (3)
  2. Which Athenian values are evident in Pericles’ speech? (3)
  3. “We differ from other states in regarding the man who keeps aloof from public life not as private but as useless” – do you agree with this statement? How does our society value participation in public life? (2)
  4. According to Pericles, what characterizes the way Athenians do favours to one another? (2)
  5. “Their memory has escaped the reproaches of men’s’ lips, but they bore instead on their bodies the marks of men’s’ hands” – with this line and the ones that follow, what can we tell about the way Athenians saw military casualties? Do you agree with this perspective? (3)
  6. How were both Pericles’ Athens and Kennedy’s America somewhat less ideal than these two orators claimed? Why might leaders, particularly in wartime, craft idealized images of their countries? (3)
  7. What does Cahill say about the presence of religion in this speech? Reflect on the way God is invoked in today’s politics. (3)
  8. Comparing the Athenians with the more militarized Spartans, Pericles says, “If we choose to face danger with an easy mind rather than after rigorous training and to trust rather in our native manliness than in state-sponsored courage, the advantage lies with us; for we are spared all the tedium of practicing for future hardships, and when we find ourselves among them we are as brave as our plodding rivals.” (In Cahill 242) This is quite an insult to the Spartans! Write a brief (approx. 1 page) funeral oration from the perspective of a Spartan oligarch after their victory.  (10)

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Hellenistic Homework

Ptolemy VI as an Egyptian Pharaoh

Read chapters 22-24 in RLF and answer the following questions in your notes:

1. Which of the early potential successors of Alexander do you think should have been the rightful heir to his empire and why?

2. How did Alexander’s policy of inclusion complicate things after his death?

3. What were the three Hellenistic kingdoms and which territories did each include?

4. How did the role and status of some women change in the Hellenistic world?

5. How did the cities of the Hellenistic kingdoms differ from classical Greek poleis?

6. What new innovations in technology, trade, and culture arose during this period?

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Great first week!

An ancient Greek symposium scene, depicted on a 390 BC vessel

Hi everyone,

Thanks for a “classic” first week! We have covered quite a bit of Greek civilization – mythology, cosmology, history, politics – and I’m looking forward to next week where we’ll talk about art, philosophy, daily life and more. Some reminders for the weekend:

Due Monday:

  • Myth gossip blog – email me your writeup and photo over the weekend so that I can post it for Monday
  • Pericles questions and Spartan eulogy
  • Research your Athens vs. Sparta debate and fill in the fact sheet. We will work on the opening and closing arguments once you meet with your partner on Monday morning, and the debate will be on Monday.


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