In your essays, give an account of the nature of Athens during the time of Pericles that reflects a close reading and analysis of The Funeral Oration.
- At many times and places in the history of Western Civilization, Athens has been held up as a model of democratic life. To many people, Athens found an ideal balance between the freedom and good of individual citizens and the good of the whole community. Is this a plausible view of Athens? Why or why not? If you agree with this claim, explain how Athens reached his ideal balance? If you disagree, explain how and why Athens was unbalanced.
- What desires or motives lead Athenian citizens to contribute to the good of their polis, even to the extent of fighting and dying in war? How did the political life of Athens create citizens with these desires or motives?
- To what extent were Athenian citizens truly free? (Note that the question asks about Athenian citizens. Please do not address the issue of slavery in answering this question. If you wish to address the question of the freedom of Athenian women, please answer the next question.)
- In almost all times and places before the twentieth century, the roles and responsibilities of women were separate and limited. Yet, even by that standard, the limitation on women in ancient Athens were extreme. Why? (If you are ambition, you may also want to address the following question: What does the political and social circumstances that lead to these limitations on women tell us about the conditions under which the liberation of women is possible?)
- Compare ancient Athens and the contemporary United States. Are citizens of the US as committed to the common good as citizens of Athens? Use the argument of Pericles’s Funeral Oration to help us understand why or why not.
- At the beginning of his speech, Pericles suggests that deeds are more important than speech. Why does he say this? Does Pericles revise his view of the relative importance of speech and action in the political life of a democratic polis later in his speech?