Pheidias and the Frieze of Parthenon: Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Pheidias and the Frieze of Parthenon: Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Nicknamed 'The Olympian' because of his aloof manner, Pericles brought a new authority and stability to Athenian politics. It was a unique moment in Western history and at the center of it all was Pericles.

Tutored by the philosopher Anaxagoras, whose studies in natural science are said to have made the great statesman renounce all superstition, Pericles became a patron and fervent supporter of the arts and new advances in learning. The city hummed with great thinkers like Socrates and his opponents the Sophists; was captivated by the playwrights like Euripides and Sophocles; and marveled at the designs of Phidias and the new Parthenon. Athens had become the school of Greece.

Pericles' was by now far too popular for his rivals to topple him as the city's leader. So instead, they attacked his close associates in the courts. Anaxagoras and Phidias were eventually exiled from Athens. Aspasia survived, but only after Pericles himself publicly pleaded her innocence in a legal case.

Elsewhere in Greece, the new magnificence of Athens was greeted with less enthusiasm. Mighty Sparta, the traditional overlord of Greece, looked on with grave suspicion at the upstart naval power. Rumors began of war...

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The Sophists

Sparta: Origins

Delian League

The Streets of Athens

The Populace of Athens

The Houses of Athens

The Agora

Leisured Life: The Gymnasia

The Pynx

Intellectual Life in Athens during its height