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Pericles and the Conquest of History
A Political Biography


  • Date Published: January 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107526020

£ 21.99

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About the Authors
  • As the most famous and important political leader in Athenian history, Pericles has featured prominently in descriptions and analysis of Athenian democracy from antiquity to the present day. Although contemporary historians have tended to treat him as representative of values like liberty and equality, Loren J. Samons, II demonstrates that the quest to make Athens the preeminent power in Greece served as the central theme of Pericles' career. More nationalist than humanist and less rationalist than populist, Pericles' vision for Athens rested on the establishment of an Athenian reputation for military success and the citizens' willingness to sacrifice in the service of this goal. Despite his own aristocratic (if checkered) ancestry, Pericles offered the common and collective Athenian people the kind of fame previously available only to heroes and nobleman, a goal made all the more attractive because of the Athenians' defensiveness about Athens' lackluster early history.

    • A readable and provocative account of the life of Pericles and his relationship to the development of democracy and imperialism in ancient Athens, combining historical, political, and literary analysis
    • Includes ten photographs of artefacts related to the life of Pericles and fifth-century Athens, as well as three detailed maps and a stemma illustrating important families and their interrelationships
    • Designed for students, scholars, or anyone interested in the history of democracy, politics, or imperialism, illustrating the parallels and differences between the world of classical Athens and the modern West
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'To his credit, Professor Samons resolutely refuses to view Pericles with rose-colored glasses. Instead, he shatters the illusions entertained by his predecessors, emphasizing the degree to which the radical democracy in Athens fostered and was fostered by a brutal, ruthless, exploitative imperialism and exhibited a suicidal ambition for further expansion that, thanks in part to the vision of undying glory and grandeur deliberately projected by Pericles, knew no bounds.' Paul A. Rahe, Hillsdale College, Michigan

    'Samons, like Thucydides, asks uncomfortable questions and seeks uncompromising answers. His motive, like Thucydides', is an honest desire to reach a deeper and 'truer' understanding of what made Pericles the politician he was, what drove him to pursue the policies he did, and what consequences this had for Athens, the Greek world, and far beyond. We may not always agree with Samons but we should not refuse his challenge to rethink radically what we took for granted.' Kurt Raaflaub, Professor Emeritus, Brown University, Rhode Island

    'The Pericles Samons offers the readers of this book - the figure usually hailed as Athens' greatest statesman - was rather the best-ever rodeo rider of the vast brutal conglomerate beast formed by the reeking mass of his cruel and hungry Athenian countrymen. I do not imagine that I will ever read another book about classical antiquity at once as elegant in its learning, as pleasing in its prose, as pregnant with ideas, and as shocking in its conclusions.' J. E. Lendon, University of Virginia

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107526020
    • length: 343 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.5kg
    • contains: 8 b/w illus. 3 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. To be an Athenian
    2. Curses, tyrants, and Persians (c.500–479)
    3. The dominance of Kimon (c.479–462/1)
    4. The democratic revolution (c.462/1–444/3)
    5. A Greek empire (c.460–445)
    6. Pericles and Sparta: the outbreak of the Great War (444/3–431)
    7. Pericles and Athenian nationalism: the conquest of history
    8. Athenian culture and the intellectual revolution: Pericles and the people
    Epilogue: the Periclean tradition.

  • Author

    Loren J. Samons, II, Boston University
    Loren J. Samons, II studied classics and history at Baylor University before earning his PhD in ancient history at Brown University. Samons has published widely on Greek politics and history and on the relationship between ancient and modern democracy. His books include What's Wrong with Democracy? From Athenian Practice to American Worship (2004), Empire of the Owl: Athenian Imperial Finance (2000), and (with C. W. Fornara) Athens from Cleisthenes to Pericles (1991). He is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Pericles (Cambridge, 2007) and has published articles in such journals as Historia, Hesperia, Classical Quarterly, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, and the Classical Journal.

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