O is for Oration

| March 2, 2014

In his funeral oration, Pericles honors those who have died in battle and praises the ideals of democratic Athens. He begins by respecting the memory of the ancestors, who have laid the foundation of the great empire. Throughout the rest of his speech, Pericles describes the greatness of the city of Athens and how it triumphs over its neighbors. He commends the citizens, and states that they are preferred to the public service if they are distinguished as the reward of merit. They respect the authorities and the laws as “a spirit of reverence pervades [their] public acts” (15). It seems as if the people of Athens work toward the greater good of their city as the men know their duty and have had the courage to do it while freely giving “their lives to her as the fairest offering which they could present at her feast” (18). Pericles’ speech provides several parallels to Aristotle’s definition of a city in his Politics. Aristotle believes that the city aims at the highest good, which Pericles’ Athens does. Aristotle later states while citizens differ from one another, “the salvation of the community is the common business of them all” (35). This is comparable to the spirit of reverence apparent in Athens. The chief end for the individuals and the city-states, as Aristotle states, is to live well together. In Pericles’ acclaim for Athens and its people, he believes the city is “an education to all Greeks” as its people rely upon their own hearts and hands (16).

Meagher, Sharon M., ed. Philosophy and the City: Classic to Contemporary Writings. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008. Print.