Primary Sources Paper
In Pericles’ “Funeral Oration”, Pericles describes Athens as a place where all are equal and foreigners are welcome. Pericles says “If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences; if to social standing, advancement in public life falls to reputation for capacity, class consideration not being allowed to interfere with merit; nor again does poverty bar the way, if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition.” (Pericles) In other words all citizens are equal in Pericles’ speech, anyone of any class is judged by how he serves the state. However, the reality of Athens was that only Athenian men were equal under the law. Both women and slaves had little or no rights. Foreigners were often slaves brought in from other conquered cities and countries.
While Pericles would have you believe that all Athenians were equal, women were treated as pets or property in some ways. When asked by Socrates what the first thing he taught his new wife was, Ischomachus said, “Well, Socrates, as soon as I had tamed her, and she was relaxed enough to talk, I asked her the following question: Tell me, my dear, do you understand why I married you, and why your parents gave you to me?” (Xenophon) From this quote you can see that women were not considered to be equal to men. The way Ischomachus said he tamed his new wife was like he was talking about a pet, or how her parents gave her to him as property. This quote from Ischomachus shows a totally different view of the rights of “citizens” compared to the way Pericles describes the ideal of Athens.
Even justice for the Athenian common people is questioned. An unknown author wrote “…The same holds good for the law courts as well; they are more interested in what profit they can make than the true ends of justice…” (Unknown, View of Athenian Democracy) This does not sound very much like Pericles’s view on justice, “..they afford...