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History Lessons by Jonathan Gifford

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PERICLES OF ATHENS

(c.495–429 BCE)

Pericles, the great Athenian statesman, was born around 490 BCE. Greece at the time was a collection of city states engaged in a more-or-less permanent state of rivalry and warfare, occasionally managing to form a united front against the common enemy, Persia. Though Pericles was only one of several elected generals, he came to be the effective leader of Athens. In Athens, every free (that is, not enslaved) male Athenian was a member of the Assembly. This was a relatively small number—perhaps 43,000 people, of which a quorum of 6,000 was sometimes required to pass business. These manageable numbers allowed a remarkable experiment in total democracy. This was not representational democracy; everybody got to vote, ...

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