Pericles (ca. 495-429 B.C.)Pericles (ca. 495-429 B.C.) - Perhaps the most influential Greek of all from the Classical Era, Pericles is probably the one most responsible for making possible the careers of the other great Athenians from this time. So influential was he that this period in Greek history is often called the "Age of Pericles". He rebuilt Athens after the Persian Wars and fostered an environment that led to an explosion in learning. Just as important, he was also responsible for the building of the "Long Walls" from Athens to her port at the Piraeus. The city was actually about 4.5 miles (7.24 km) inland and these strong walls offered access to the sea without being exposed to attack on land. Of course, this does not mean he was universally loved. He had his share of political enemies and they characterized him as being so good at manipulating the political system that he was a populist. Born into aristocracy, he was a member of the powerful Alcmaeonid family on his mother's side.


Thucydides called him the "first citizen of Athens". His reforms also set Athens on the path toward empire, a move that would inevitably bring it into conflict with the other Greek super city-state...Sparta. He led Athens from 461 until his death from the plague in 429 B.C.. During this time, Athens was a member and leading state of the Delian League, a collection of city-states organized in 478 B.C. to counter the Peloponnesian League, led by Sparta. It was so named because the league's treasury was located on the island of Delos. However, Pericles moved the treasury to Athens in 454 and used it to fund the rebuilding of the Acropolis. This, of course, increased his popularity at home, but made Athens unpopular among most of the other members of the Delian League. His premature death at the beginning of the Peloponessian War may have been a contributing factor in Athens' eventual defeat.