The career of Pericles, the leading Athenian politician and general from c. 450 to 429 B.C., is a prism through which to view the "Golden Age" of Greece, a brief but remarkable era when Athens experienced a cultural flowering of extraordinary power and importance for Western culture.
In the generation that followed Pericles' appearance on the public stage shortly after the Persian wars, Athens rapidly transformed the alliance of Greek states - an alliance first created as a defense against the Persians - into a true Aegean empire, dominated by the Athenians and their mighty navy. But this dramatic increase in military power, cultural influence, and prestige was also accompanied by something unique: the growth of full participatory democracy. But in examining the lives of Athenian men and women, one has to ask what freedom and autonomy really meant to a society that relied on slaves and was ruthless in its treatment of its subjects.
These 24 stimulating lectures present a well-rounded portrait of almost every aspect of Athenian life during the Golden Age, including. the different ways Athens and Sparta raised their children; the fate of Athenian girls as mothers and managers of the household; young Pericles' role in bringing Aeschylus's masterpiece, The Persians; why the Spartans rejected the aid of Athens in putting down a slave revolt; and Thucydides' terrifying description of the plague's physical and social impact on Athens - including the death of Pericles - and its possible role in the ultimate defeat of Athens by Sparta.