6th BC Boxing & Wrestling Matches (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)
6th BC Boxing & Wrestling Matches (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)

In the early years of Pericles' power he was constantly challenged for the leadership of Athens. One opponent, Thucydides (not the historian of the same name), a relative of the ostracised Cimon, tried a novel way to subvert Pericles' influence. Rather like a modern political party, he arranged for all his supporters to sit in one block in the assembly in order to strengthen his cause. Sadly for Thucydides, the plan backfired by exposing just how little support he really had. A champion wrestler who had won the Olympics, he later said of Pericles:

'If I wrestle him to the ground he will deny this and deny it so vigorously that he will convince even those who witnessed the fight.'

Thucydides was Pericles' main rival for a number of years but eventually followed Cimon into exile in 443, having also lost an ostracism vote.

With the politician Thucydides gone, Pericles remained secure as Athens' leading statesman for the rest of his life. As the historian Thucydides observed of Athens during Pericles' long rule over it:

'In name democracy, but in fact the rule of one man.'


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Ostracism