The funeral oration of Pericles is often regarded as the first great speech on record. We owe thanks to Thucydides for his record on the subject. Below, I briefly examine an oft-overlooked aspect of that speech: Pericles hubris.
Pericles’s hubris was on full display in his Funeral Oration. It read to me as something Pericles was trying to will to be true, rather than having truths themselves..
Two examples of Pericles’s hubris:
“Because of the greatness of our city, the fruits of the whole earth flow in upon us so that we enjoy the goods of other countries as freely as our own.”
“…although our opponents are fighting for their homes and we are on a foreign soil, we seldom have any difficulty in overcoming them…”
These examples of the hubris of Pericles go hand in hand. I believe Pericles believed what he said, but that does not necessarily give them truth. In fact, I think Pericles’s willingness to believe in these fallacies of intimidation is a great example of his hubris. The motives were simple intimidation tactics. It was something that Pericles needed to say out loud in order for it to be true. We know Pericles policies of expansion eventually led to Athens’ downfall. We also know Pericles believed Athenians held a higher place in society than non-Athenians, as evidenced by his citizenship policy. These myths that Pericles held came through quite clearly in his funeral oration. With regards to the latter quote specified, it is extremely pompous to be speaking of men who have died for the cause he’s championing and then mention how “we seldom have any difficulty in overcoming [the enemies]…”.