Honors College Thesis

Public Discourses and Public Image-Making in Periclean Athens

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  • When one looks back on fifth-century Athens, one political figure stands out: Pericles. He is famous for many things but mostly the idealized version of him that one reads about in Thucydides. However, what most people do not know is that there was a counter-narrative to this well known account—the comic poets. This project has centered on the portrayals and depictions of Pericles in fifth-century Athens by both the comic poets and Thucydides as well as the complicated aspects of those interpretations. The chief claim of this project is that the image of Pericles, as found in the comic poets and Thucydides, is the product of political discourses taking place in fifth century Athens that were navigating the social, political, and religious implications of a new radical democracy and a growing Athenian imperialism. Pericles was neither all that Thucydides idealized him to be or the philandering tyrant that the comic poets cast him. Rather, the historian should liberate Pericles from the constraints of the ideal and lift him from the depths of parody in order to understand him in context of his own time. Key Words: Encomium, rhetoric, quellenkritik, objectivism, pragmatism,
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