Athenian statesman, orator and general (c. 495 – 429 BC)

Pericles (Greek: Περικλῆς; ca. 495 BC429 BC) was an influential and important leader of Athens during the Athenian Golden Age (specifically, between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars), from the Alcmaeonidae family. The period from 461 BC to 379 BC is sometimes known as "The Age of Pericles."

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.


  • Wait for that wisest of all counselors, Time.
    • From Plutarch, Lives, Pericles, sec. 18. See also the following source provided by the "1000 Quotes Project": Plutarch. Plutarch’s Lives, Vol 3. Translated by Bernadotte Perrin. The Macmillan Co: New York. 1916. Pg 59 or 60. Archived from the original on November 10, 2022. The aforementioned source is available online as The Parallel Lives by Plutarch published in Vol. III of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1916.
  • Trees, though they are cut and lopped, grow up again quickly, but if men are destroyed, it is not easy to get them again.
    • From Plutarch, Lives, Pericles, 33
  • The whole Earth is the Sepulchre of famous men; and their story is not graven only on Stone over their native earth, but lives on far away, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men's lives.
    • As quoted in A Brief and True Report concerning Williamsburg in Virginia by Rutherford Goodwin (1941), p. 125
  • Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.
    • As quoted in Homage to Greece (1943)
  • Future ages will wonder at us, as the present age wonders at us now. We do not need the praises of a Homer, or of anyone else whose words may delight us for the moment, but the estimation of facts will fall short of what is really true.
    • As quoted in Eternal Greece (1961) by Rex Warner, p. 34
  • Although only a few may originate a policy, we are all able to judge it.
    • As quoted in The Open Society and Its Enemies by Karl Popper (1966). Book II, chapter 40.
  • What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.
    • As quoted in Flicker to Flame : Living with Purpose, Meaning, and Happiness (2006) by Jeffrey Thompson Parker, p. 118
    • This quotation is likely a modern paraphrasing of a longer passage from Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, II.43.3.
  • We do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all.
    • Pericles commenting the participation of Athenian citizens in politics, as quoted in Models of Democracy (2006) by David Held, Stanford University Press, p. 14. Book II, chapter 40.
Quotes of Pericles, as recorded by Thucydides, in the History of the Peloponnesian War
  • Our constitution does not copy the laws of neighboring states; we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves
    • 2.37
  • Our love of what is beautiful does not lead to extravagance; our love of the things of the mind does not make us soft. We regard wealth as something to be properly used, rather than as something to boast about. As for poverty, no one need be ashamed to admit it, the real shame is in not taking practical measures to escape from it.
    • Book 2.40
  • Hatred and unpopularity at the moment have fallen to the lot of all who have aspired to rule others; but where odium must be incurred, true wisdom incurs it for the highest objects. Hatred also is short-lived; but that which makes the splendour of the present and the glory of the future remains for ever unforgotten. Make your decision, therefore, for glory then and honour now, and attain both objects by instant and zealous effort: do not send heralds to Lacedaemon, and do not betray any sign of being oppressed by your present sufferings, since they whose minds are least sensitive to calamity, and whose hands are most quick to meet it, are the greatest men and the greatest communities.
    • Book 2
  • I could tell you a long story (and you know it as well as I do) about what is to be gained by beating the enemy back. What I would prefer is that you should fix your eyes every day on the greatness of Athens as she realty is, and should fall in love with her. When you realize her greatness, then reflect that what made her great was men with a spirit of adventure, men who knew their duty, men who were ashamed to fall below a certain standard. If they ever failed in an enterprise, they made up their minds that at any rate the city should not find their courage lacking to her, and they gave to her the best contribution that they could. They gave her their lives, to her and to all of us, and for their own selves they won praises that never grow old, the most splendid of sepulchers — not the sepulchre in which their bodies are laid, but where their glory remains eternal in men's minds, always there on the right occasion to stir others to speech or to action. For famous men have the whole earth as their memorial: it is not only the inscriptions on their graves in their own country that mark them out; no, in foreign lands also, not in any visible form but in people's hearts, their memory abides and grows. It is for you to try to be like them. Make up your minds that happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.
    • Book 2, chapter 44: Funeral oration, as translated at "In Defense of Democracy"
      • Verse 4 is sometimes freely translated as The secret to happiness is freedom. And the secret to freedom is courage.
  • Nor is it any longer possible for you to give up this empire … Your empire is now like a tyranny: it may have been wrong to take it; it is certainly dangerous to let it go.
    • Book 2, chapter 63: Pericles' third speech
      • This verse is sometimes freely translated as Empires are dangerous things to possess for, once you have them, it is very difficult to let them go.
  • But the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.
    • Pericles' Funeral Oration
  • Instead of looking on discussion as a stumbling block in the way of action, we think it an indispensable preliminary to any wise action at all.
    • As translated by Richard Crawley (1951)
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