Pericles’ Funeral Oration
Meanwhile these were the first that had fallen, and Pericles, son of
Xanthippus, was chosen to pronounce their eulogium.
When the proper
time arrived, he advanced from the sepulchre to an elevated platform
in order to be heard by as many of the crowd as possible, and spoke as
"Most of my predecessors in this place have commended him who made
this speech part of the law, telling us that it is well that it should
be delivered at the burial of those who fall in battle.
I should have thought that the worth which had displayed itself in
deeds would be sufficiently rewarded by honours also shown by deeds;
such as you now see in this funeral prepared at the people's cost.
I could have wished that the reputations of many brave men were not to
be imperilled in the mouth of a single individual, to stand or fall
according as he spoke well or ill.
For it is hard to speak properly
upon a subject where it is even difficult to convince your hearers
that you are speaking the truth.
On the one hand, the friend who is
familiar with every fact of the story may think that some point has
not been set forth with that fullness which he wishes and knows it
to deserve; on the other, he who is a stranger to the matter may be
led by envy to suspect exaggeration if he hears anything above his own
For men can endure to hear others praised only so long as they
can severally persuade themselves of their own ability to equal the
actions recounted: when this point is passed, envy comes in and with
However, since our ancestors have stamped this
custom with their approval, it becomes my duty to obey the law and
to try to satisfy your several wishes and opinions as best I may.
"I shall begin with our ancestors: it is both just and proper that
they should have the honour of the first mention on an occasion like
They dwelt in the country without break in the succession
from generation to generation, and handed it down free to the
present time by their valour.
And if our more remote ancestors deserve
praise, much more do our own fathers, who added to their inheritance
the empire which we now possess, and spared no pains to be able to
leave their acquisitions to us of the present generation.
there are few parts of our dominions that have not been augmented by
those of us here, who are still more or less in the vigour of life;
while the mother country has been furnished by us with everything that
can enable her to depend on her own resources whether for war or for
That part of our history which tells of the military
achievements which gave us our several possessions, or of the ready
valour with which either we or our fathers stemmed the tide of
Hellenic or foreign aggression, is a theme too familiar to my
hearers for me to dilate on, and I shall therefore pass it by.
what was the road by which we reached our position, what the form of