There are two important matters that the “Funeral Oration of Pericles“ proves, these two matters are, the great respect that Athenians have for their warrior class and how the Athenians were exceedingly proud of their city and its customs. The following paper discusses the way of life of Athenians and how the Funeral Oration of Pericles influenced it.
It is a well-known fact that the Athenians had a great deal of respect for the warrior class and believed them to be among the top members of their society. The warriors were seen as the top portion of their classes. They are classified as hero’s and/ or idols. The Athenians were also extremely proud of their city and its traditions. To the people of Athens their country was at the top and there was no other country that could be superior. The purpose of the funeral oration was not only to respect the departed but also to reward the citizen’s national pride and their passion to defend their country.
The oration was a eulogy that focuses on the prominence of Athens and her ancestors. A member of the family gave the eulogy, generally it was a son if possible. It was required by the law for the dissertation to have some necessary components. The speech had to be in regard to the lives of both the deceased and the ancestors of the deceased. At the end of the eulogy that Pericles gave he spoke in reference to the soldiers and the ancestors of Athens. Although it seemed that he was not sure if he had an impact on the people and he was unsure as to if he had been able to get through to the citizens of Athens. He states, “My task is now finished. I have performed it to the best of my ability, and in words, at least, the requirements of the law are now satisfied.“ (Thucydides, 109) The speech recounted the significant life that the departed lived and the great achievements that these people accomplished. Pericles spoke to the public about the soldiers who had just died. He wanted the citizens to remember the soldiers but to forget about the tragedy that had occurred. He wanted the soldier’s lives to be remembered, not their deaths. The speech helped the Athenians remember and appreciate what their ancestors have died for and how mournful citizens should be proud that their friends and family died defending the freedom of their country. The oration also had Athenians realise their greatness; this greatness derives from the fact that Athenian warriors had more to fight for. Athenian warriors fought not only for their country but also for their family, friends and other communities in the city. These warriors have more to lose because they are fighting for everyone in the city. It was during this time that possessions were incredibly significant. Wars were usually fought over the gaining of land and each country wanting as much land as possible. Soldiers were not afraid of dying during combat in fact they believed it to be the most “honourable” way to die. It was due to this that Athens was able to produce an enormous army and have a very prosperous standard of living, without the harsh everyday training found in other city-states.
The Speeches that were given at funerals would primarily talk about the ancestors of the deceased and the lives they led. “And if our more remote ancestors deserve praise, much more do our own fathers, who added to their inheritance, the empire that we now process, and spared no pains to be able to leave their acquisitions to us of the present generation.” (Thucydides, 105) This statement shows that Pericles wanted to show more about what the warriors have accomplished. Pericles wanted the people to know that they did something significant not because of their ancestors but because of the lives they led and the goals they set for themselves. He did however feel that their ancestors should be given the honour that they deserved. During the war numerous soldiers died. Pericles was given the honour to speak for those who lost family members in the war. The speech Pericles gave was in reference to his father but it also touched upon the other families who had died in the battle. Pericles wanted to console and raise the spirits of the community. In his tribute to the warriors, Pericles spoke about the country and the democracy that he and the community all belonged too. He claimed that it is the country that produces the love the people have for it, and it is the country that encourages soldiers to be proud to fight for the country and its people. Athens and it’s people accepted foreigners and outsiders into the country, however these people often had difficulties adjusting to the way of life of Athenians. In most cases they learned quickly of the pride that the Athenians held and eventually it grew inside them as well.
Pericles wanted the people to know that everyone was and should have been proud of Athens and that the people will protect their country when necessary. The warriors, according to Pericles, were seen as an example of how Athenians should live their lives. These warriors were heroes in Athens due to the fact that they defended their country in war and were not afraid to die for their country and it’s people. Athenians set a goal for themselves, they wanted to love and shield their state in all ways possible and they wanted to choose the most honourable way to die, that being during battle. The reason this way of death is seen to be so honourable is because it showed that the soldiers fully loved their country and it meant that they had completed their goal. “And where the rewards for merit are greatest, there are found the best citizens.” (Thucydides, 109)
In conclusion, it can be said that the Funeral Operation proved how important and significant the warrior class was in Athens and how the people of Athens had a great respect for their city and it’s customs.