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Age of Pericles

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Monetary History of



Pericles was an Athenian statesman and general, who ruled for 32 years as Athens’ most prominent leader. His father, Xanthippus, was a distinguished soldier and political leader. His mother was the niece of Cleisthenes, a great political reformer. Surrounded by people who were both respected and influential, Pericles began his life with countless advantages.

Athens Dekadrachm

Pericles also had many educational advantages. He was highly influenced by his teachers, Damon and Anaxagoras. From Damon he acquired a firm belief in the democratic principles of the Athenian state. From Anaxagoras sprung a great interest in science, which liberated him from the religious superstitions of the time. He became a dexterous diplomat and politician, who was unequaled as an orator in Athens. He influenced Athenians with eminent persuasive powers.

Pericles aspired to establish Athens as the cultural and artistic center of the Greek world. In addition to the large Athenian naval empire, he hoped to add a land empire which would extend into central Greece. These visions were abrogated when war erupted with Persia and the Peloponnesians between 459 and 450 B.C. Pericles did many things to enhance Athens’ appearance during his rule. The Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Odeum of Pericles, and the Temple of Hephaestus were constructed under his instruction.

ECM Athen 455-404BC

As a result of his influential leadership and dominance of Athenian government, Pericles acquired many political enemies who often attacked Pericles and his friends. Anaxagoras was exiled form Athens, charged with impiety. Others experienced similar fates. One of the more outstanding subjects of such treatment was the illustrious Aspacia. Aspacia was presumably a woman of exceptional intellect and physical beauty. Pericles became enamored with her, divorced his wife and pursued a life with Aspacia. Together they had one son, who was denied citizenship due to the fact that Aspacia was a foreigner to Athens. In time, he would serve as a general during the Peloponnesian War, but was to be one of the commanders whom the Athenians blamed for the defeat in the naval battle at Arginusae in 406 B.C. Along with others who were viewed in the same light, he was executed.

An uneasy peace between Athens and the Peloponnesians was made in 445 B.C. Pericles believed warfare with the Peloponnesians was inevitable. He chose to initiate the Peloponnesian War in 432 BC, when the Athenians were more prepared for battle than were the Peloponnesians. Pericles had made ready the Athenian navy, accumulated money to finance the war, and prepared concise plans for his campaigns. Wishing to avoid combat with the powerful Peloponnesian armies, the Athenian navy was dispatched to attack Peloponnesian commerce and coastal cities. In 430 and 429 B.C., a plague devastated Athens, throwing the city into a hysterical chaos. The armies of Peloponnesus soon overran Attica, causing mass confusion and panic in Athens. The desperate Athenians deposed Pericles and elected other leaders. Following additional defeats and increasing misery, the Athenians reelected Pericles to generalship in 429 B.C. By this time, however, the Athenian general had been stricken by the plague, and died in the same year.

The Greek and Athenian affairs succeeding Pericles’ death elicited a great sense of loss among the Greeks. Even those who had resented his eclipsing authority acknowledged how extraordinary his character and rule had been.

 Monetary System


misc (116-106 BC)
AU Stater (8.5 grams)

AR Tetradrachm (14.2 grams)
AR Didrachm (7 grams)
AR Drachm (3.5 grams)
AR Hemidrachm (1.85 grams)

The Monetary History of the World
©Martin A. Armstrong