Ideals of Democratic Citizenship in Funeral Oration by Pericles

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Ideals of Democratic Citizenship in Funeral Oration by Pericles

When dealing with the extent to which Socrates is a good example for following the ideals of democratic citizenship, a good source to use as a point of comparison to his life is the principles laid out about that citizenship by Pericles in his Funeral Oration. In the Oration, Pericles brought forth certain ideas about Athenian democracy and how its citizens should live their lives in accordance with it. He held these views to be paramount and used them in association with the principles of Athenian Law to prove a persuasive point that Athenian democracy had to be one with the people to survive. Above all other ideals he held first the thought that politics was the highest calling and second that the citizens should strive to improve themselves socially/politically to better the state. These ideas prove to well founded when their validity is examined in answering questions of what is the best form of government, and does that form better serve the nature of freedom, equality and justice. However, when one looks at the actions and words of Socrates (such as his lack of participation in politics or lack of desire to further himself in society), it is clearly seen that he did not believe in or live by these standards.

In the Funeral Oration, where Pericles professed that the core aspect put forth in Athenian democracy was that politics is the highest calling, Socrates believed philosophy to be the eternal endeavor of life. Pericles believed that representing the people of his city was the best way to serve the ideals for which it stood and he proved this by depended on the majority rule inherent to that democracy to preserve freedom. He saw that through hard work an...

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...ely). This view not only helps to prove that Pericles' model is persuasive in showing the nature of democratic citizenship to be successful; it also serves to show that only to the least extent, in the light that Socrates supported some aspects of Athenian society, does he serve as a good example of citizenship. The model of Pericles that dealt with self-governing citizenship proved to be the guide that helped the Athenian democracy last as long as it did; and although Socrates did not wholeheartedly believe in those principles or meet all the criteria to become a good citizen in the eyes of Pericles, he undoubtedly helped to shape the deliberations of the day and set in motion the future of debate on philosophy, government, and the nature of man.


Bloomfield, Louis A. The Politics of Ancient Rome. Oxford Hill Publishing: New York, 1988.
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