10 Life Lessons From Pericles

Pericles' Funeral Oration (Perikles hält die Leichenrede) by Philipp Foltz (1852)[1]
Pericles' Funeral Oration (Perikles hält die Leichenrede) by Philipp Foltz (1852)[1]
Pericles’ Funeral Oration (Perikles hält die Leichenrede) by Philipp Foltz (1852)[1]

Pericles: Greek Statesmen, Orator, and General (~400BC). Also called ‘the first citizen of Athens’ by Thucydides

1. Embed myself in the souls of men

The whole earth is the graveyard of famous men; and their story is graven not only in stone; but lives — woven into the souls of other men’s lives [and their hearts].

2. Defend freedom

Freedom is the most important thing to defend:

Freedom is the sure possession of those who have the courage to defend it.

3. Work for future generations

Don’t need praises that will delight me in the short-term; but for the long-term, in the truth:

Future ages will wonder at us; as the present age wonders at us now. We do not need the praises of a Homer, or of anyone else whose words may delight us for the moment— but the estimation of facts will fall short of what is really true.

4. Patience

Learn to wait before making decisions:

“Time is the wisest counselor of all.”

5. Use wealth (in a useful way)

Use wealth; don’t boast about it:

Our love of what is beautiful does not lead to extravagance; our love of things of the mind does not make us soft. We regard wealth as something to be properly used, rather than something to boast about.

6. Do what is my duty

Reflect that what made her great was men with a spirit of adventure, men who knew their duty, men who were ashamed to fall below a certain standard. They gave her their lives, and for themselves they won praise that never grow old. The glory that remains eternal in men’s minds. It is for you to try to be like them. Make up your mind that happiness depends on being free; and freedom depends on being courageous.

Have a spirit of adventure; and know my duty! Give my life for others. Happiness depends on freedom. The more courageous I am, the more freedom I have.

Or in other words:

The secret to happiness is freedom. And the secret to freedom is courage.

7. Accept the risks for others

Accept the risk; act boldly— and trust in myself.

Accept the risk; committing to hope the uncertainty of final success, know it is fit to act boldly and trust in myself.

Die resisting for freedom; rather living as a slave:

Choosing to die resisting, rather than to live submitting, I flee from dishonor. I meet danger face to face; and after one brief moment, while at the summit of my fortune; achieve glory.

8. Don’t compete with the living

The living have envy to contend with; while those who are no longer in our path are honored with goodwill into which rivalry does not enter.

Great will be your glory in not falling short of your natural character.

9. Finish my life’s task

My task is now finished; I have performed it to the best of my ability.

10. Be the best citizen I can be

Valuable prize; as the garland of victory in this race of valor— for the reward both of those who have fallen and their survivors. And where the rewards for merit are greatest; they are found in the best citizens.