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Athens in the Age of Pericles, 462–429 BC OCR Teachers Guide

This Teacher's Guide is taken from the OCR Athens in the Age of Pericles, 462-429BC Teachers' Guide which can be accessed at the OCR website and downloaded in full here.

Overview of the topic

Athens in the Age of Pericles is a depth study that covers the period when Athens was at the peak of its power. Students will gain knowledge of the workings of Athenian democracy and of the changes that were introduced in this period which led to a radical democracy. They will also study the cultural context which allowed Pericles to claim in his Funeral Oration that “Athens was an education to Greece”. Students will use the ancient sources to help understand Athens’ changing relationships with other states and there is also a wider focus on the culture and religion in this period, particularly looking at the importance of Athena and Poseidon in the religious and cultural life of the city. They will also analyse how Athenians saw themselves as well as the role and position of women in society at this time.


This depth study follows on from the Persian period study and allows learners to look at Athens from a cultural, political, military and social perspective. Details from the conflict between the Greeks and the Persians, studied in the period study will help learners to understand the contextual background that Athens finds itself in at the beginning of the depth study. Pupils should be able to see change and developments, as well as to make substantiated judgements.


This depth study is designed to take approximately 27–32 hours of teaching time to complete. This guide will provide an overview of how this content might be taught in that timeframe. The planning guide is structured around the narratives / content and contains possible points that might be considered or discussed in class. The planning guide does not contain activities. This is intentional to enable you to choose a series of activities that compliment your own teaching.


Teachers may use this guide as an example of one possible way of approaching the teaching of the ‘Athens in the Age of Pericles’ depth study and NOT a prescriptive plan for how your teaching should be structured.

What this guide is intended to do is to show you what the teaching outline might look like in practice. It should then help you to build your own scheme of work, confident that you’ve covered all the required content in sufficient depth.


Planning guide

It is important to note that ‘Athens in the Age of Pericles’ is a depth study. This means that students need to understand the complexity and development of the city of Athens during the time of Pericles set within the wider context of the changing relations between Athens and Sparta that leads to the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. They need to be able to evaluate the changes to democratic processes in Athens. There is also a wider focus on the culture and religion in this period, particularly looking at the importance of Athena and Poseidon in the religious and cultural life of the city. Focus will be on a wide range of historical concepts including causation, change and continuity, significance, and similarity and difference.

The basic format of this planning guide has been designed to follow as much as possible the chronology of the events that need to be studied for the depth study, however due to the thematic and interlinking nature of the content, it hasn’t been possible to do this all the time. The themes in the specification can be accessed at various points in the scheme. Throughout this planning guide relevant ancient sources are suggested, as well as useful themes for discussion in the classroom.



Narrative / content

Relevant ancient sources

Themes for discussion

Background information about Classical Greece


Suggested timing: 1 – 1 ½ hours

It is likely that students will have studied the Persian period study prior to this depth study. Therefore they should have familiarity with some of the places and events that will be covered in this depth study.

Athens and Attica:

· Its geographical position in Greece and where key places in Athens such as the acropolis, agora and pynx are situated

· the size of the population

· The organisation of Athens: tribes, trittyes, demes

· different members of society: citizens, women, children, metics and slaves

· the different property classes: pentakosiomedimoi, hippeis, zeugitai and thetes.

The geographical location of other prominent places mentioned in this depth study:

· Boeotia

· Megara

· Sparta

· The Peloponnese including Corinth and the Peloponnesian League

· Relevant islands including Samos, Delos and Aegina

Details/information about the main prescribed authors:

· Thucydides

· Aristotle

· Plutarch

Contextual information about the other prescribed authors can be covered when looking at the other prescribed sources.



Pericles’ early life and how he fits into the events of the early 5th century


Suggested timing: 1 hour

It would be advisable to introduce Pericles early on. By going through his early life, it will help consolidate some relevant information from the Persia period study.

· Pericles was born around 498–494. He was born to Xanthippus and Agariste. Agariste, Pericles’ mother, was a member of the Alcmaeonid family. It might be worth bringing in the Alcmaeonid curse at this point as it is referred to later before the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War. Little is known of Pericles’ early life but he would certainly have been evacuated from Athens during the Persian invasion.

· Xanthippus was ostracised in 485/4. However, Themistocles recalled Xanthippus and others who had been ostracised to prepare for the upcoming Persian invasion.

· In 479, Pericles father, Xanthippus was in command of the Athenian navy, under the leadership of the Spartans, in the Greek victory at Cape Mycale. Xanthippus died around 475.

· Pericles would have been accepted into his father’s phratry (brotherhood) aged 16 (c. 482–478) and then aged 18 (c. 480–476) into the Cholargus deme.

· 473/2 BC – Pericles was choregus of Aeschylus’ The Persians.

Plutarch Life of Pericles 7

Pericles background and its importance to his leadership

How Athenian democracy worked and changed during this period


Suggested timing: 4 – 4 ½ hours

· Participation in the democratic system was only accessible to male citizens over the age of 18. In 451/0, changes were introduced to the rules regarding Athenian citizenship which required both an Athenian mother and an Athenian father for citizenship.

It might be worth covering the fact that Pericles became a victim of his own law or alternatively leaving it to the discussion of the plague and its impact on Athens. Pericles’ son with Aspasia was illegitimate. The people took pity on Pericles and allowed him to enrol his son as a citizen after the death of his two legitimate sons from the plague.

Aristotle, Athenian Constitution 26.3


Aristotle, Athenian Constitution 42

The reasons for the change to the criteria for Athenian citizenship


The importance of misthoporia (payment for service)


The way Athens was run as a democracy


Change in importance of the archons and strategoi over time


The level of participation in Athenian democracy


The differences between our democracy and Athenian democracy

· The ecclesia (assembly) – the main body and public assembly which met at the Pynx. All male citizens over the age of 18 could attend and assemblies were held four times in each prytany. They would debate and vote on motions prepared by the boule, make decisions on war, peace and alliances, and elect officials, e.g. generals.


· The boule (council) – a Council of 500 members. Each year, 50 members were chosen by lot from each tribe. Each deme providing a specific number according to the size of the deme’s population. All members had to be over 30 and could serve no more than two times in their lifetime.

The boule acted as a steering committee for the assembly and provided the agenda for the assembly. It also acted in many respects as the administrative body of the assembly, seeing that the decisions of the assembly were carried out.

Each tribal contingent of 50 members were given an executive role for one of the 10 administrative months (prytany). The prytaneis presided over Assembly meetings.

Aristotle, Athenian Constitution 43–45

· Officials had to go through a vetting process (dokimasia) before entering office, and a financial account (logos) and general examination of his conduct (euthyna) on leaving office. There were also checks on their conduct during the term of office.

Aristotle, Athenian Constitution 55

· Archontes – the magistrates or most important officers. From 487 BC they were appointed by lot rather than elected, which greatly reduced the prestige of the archonship and made it less likely that the eponymous archon would be the leader of the state. In 457/6, Pericles made a change which made it possible for the third property class, the zeugitai to be eligible to serve as archons.



· After an Athenian had served as an archon, and he had passed the investigation after his conduct in office was investigated (euthyna), he became a member of the Council of the Areopagus. Members of the Areopagus served for life. Its power was reduced after Ephialtes reforms in 462/1 so that it was primarily the court with jurisdiction over case of homicide and certain other serious crimes.

Aristotle, Athenian Constitution 25



· Ephialtes’ reforms to the Areopagus meant that the law courts had a lot more cases to deal with. It is not securely dated, but probably in the 450s Pericles introduced jury pay.

· There were two different types of lawsuits: dike (private lawsuits) and graphe (public lawsuits).

· Each year 6,000 jurors were enrolled. They had to be over 30. Aristotle details how jurors for each law court were selected using allotment machines in Athenian Constitution 63–64.

· Cases were held with a large number of jurors: regularly 201, 501 and sometimes 1,001; it is even claimed that all 6,000 together were used. Cases only lasted a day, and Athenian Constitution 67–69 details the process of how jurors voted.

Aristotle, Athenian Constitution 63–64, 67–69


· Students should be aware of the purpose, the process of holding an ostracism and the implications of being ostracised.



· Strategoi (generals) – Given the importance of this role this position was an elected role. Originally one general from each tribe was elected however there are later examples of two or even three generals coming from the same tribe. It is therefore assumed that the 10 candidates who received the most votes were elected. The generals were elected for one-year terms, however they could hold the office repeatedly. Pericles held the office from 443–429 BC. The office of strategos became more important as the prestige of the archonship diminished. Like all officials, they underwent an audit (euthyna) at the end of their term. In addition, each prytany the assembly voted on whether or not individual strategos should retain the office. In 430, Pericles was dismissed and fined but was re-elected in 429.



It may be worth explaining what the Sophists were and those which had a close relationship with Pericles.

· tuition by Sophists in the art of oratory

· the role of public speaking especially in the assembly and law courts. This can then be examined further when looking at Pericles’ Funeral Oration and the speech to ensure that Athens did not abandon Pericles’ military strategy during the early part of the Peloponnesian War.

Plato, Gorgias 452d–e, 459b–c

Aristotle, Rhetoric 1202a

Rhetoric and the role of the Sophists


The importance of public speaking


Athens, the continuing struggle with Persia and the Delian League

Suggesting timing: 1 ½ – 2 hours

· After the defeat of the Persians in 479, the Greeks now went on the offensive. In 478 BC, the Spartan Pausanias took the war to Persian held Greek territories. However, Pausanias’ conduct led to the Athenians taking the lead and the withdrawal of Sparta.


Athens’ relationship with Sparta


The nature of Athens relationship with allied states in the Delian League


The reasons for the rise of Athens after the Persian Wars


The reasons for rivalry between Athens and Sparta

· During the winter of 478/7 BC ambassadors held a meeting on Delos. This alliance’s (known today as the Delian League) alleged objective “was to avenge their sufferings by pillaging the Persian king’s land”. Members had to either pay an annual tribute of money (phoros) to the treasury at Delos or provide ships. The vast majority of members contributed money.

Thucydides 1.96

· The Delian League began to launch attacks on Persian held territories. These were led by Cimon. With Aristides, he managed to liberate the coast of the Aegean from Persian control.


· In 470 BC Athens used the fleet to force Carystos to join the league. The city was no threat but had to pay phoros to Athens. Around 470 BC Naxos decided they wanted to withdraw from the Delian League. Athens responded by sending the fleet to attack and destroy its walls. They forced Naxos to continue paying tribute and Naxos had to pay directly to support the upkeep of the fleet.


· In 469 or 466 BC Cimon defeated the Persian fleet and army near the mouth of the Eurymedon river in Anatolia. Students should recall from the Persia period study that Plutarch suggests that a peace treaty may have been signed after the battle as Xerxes had been so stung by the defeat. Some earlier authors denied any formal agreement was signed. Alternatively, a peace treaty – the Peace of Callias – was signed but much later in c.449 BC.


The revolt of Thasos, the helot revolt, changes to the Areopagus and the ostracism of Cimon


Suggesting timing: 1 ½ – 2 hours

· During the late 470s and 460s, the conservative, pro-Sparta faction under Cimon was in the ascendancy in Athens, however events in the late 460s changed the balance of power and resulted in the ostracism of Cimon.

· In 465 Thasos revolted from the Delian League. The Athenians under Cimon besieged Thasos. In 463, after a three-year siege, Thasos fell to the Athenians who compelled the Thasians to destroy their walls, surrender their ships, pay an indemnity and an annual contribution to Athens.

· During the siege of Thasos, the inhabitants requested Spartan assistance to alleviate Athenian pressure by invading Attica. However, an earthquake and the subsequent helot revolt prevented them from doing so.

· In 463, after Cimon had returned from the siege of Thasos, Pericles prosecuted Cimon on a charge of corruption. Cimon was acquitted.

· The Spartans struggled to overcome the helot revolt, and in 462 BC Sparta appealed to other Greeks for help. Cimon was sent with Athenian hoplites. However, fearing the Athenians might side with the helots, the Spartans sent them back home under false pretences. Athens immediately revoked its alliance with Sparta, and formed a new alliance with Sparta’s enemy Argos.

· In 462/1, probably whilst Cimon was in the Peloponnese, Ephialtes organised a vote in the assembly that deprived the Areopagus of most of its power. Ephialtes had systematically prepared the ground for his reforms by attempting to discredit the Areopagus by bringing many of its members to trial for administrative misconduct. Shortly afterwards, Ephialtes was assassinated.

· As a result of the embarrassing episode with Sparta and his attempts to overturn Ephialtes’ changes to the Areopagus, Cimon was ostracised in 461/0.

Thucydides 1.101–1.102

Plutarch, Life of Pericles 9

Aristotle, Athenian Constitution 27

The importance of the changes to the Areopagus


Athens’ relationship with Sparta


Athens’ relationship with allied states

Athenians relationship with Sparta, Persia and Delian League member states


Suggesting timing: 1 ½ – 2 hours

The leadership of Athens: Athenians relationship with Sparta and growing Athenian imperialism

· In 461, Megara and Corinth entered into a border war. Megara, faced with defeat, left the Peloponnesian League and allied themselves with Athens. This led to the Peloponnesian League and Delian League being in conflict. Over the next 15 years or so, members of the Peloponnesian and Delian League fought against each other. Candidates do not need to study the First Peloponnesian War but need to recognise that Athens was fighting on two fronts: in Greece and against the Persians.


The reasons for moving the Delian League treasury to Athens


The changing nature of the Delian League


The purpose of the Delian League after the Peace of Callias


Pericles’ leadership


Pericles as a military leader


The influence of Aspasia

· In about 460, Egypt revolted from the Persians. The Athenian sent ships. After initial successes, the Persians defeated the Athenian expeditionary forces after a six-year campaign, although there is a debate to the scale of the defeat. Perhaps as a result of the failure in Egypt and fearing Persian resurgence, in 454 BC, the Delian League treasury was moved to the Parthenon on the Athenian acropolis.


· It is thought by modern historians that the Peace of Callias caused a crisis in the empire in the 440s as the agreed purpose of the Delian League was at an end.


· During the period, Athens captured Boeotia in 458/7 and had built up a land empire as well as an island-based empire. However, this was fairly short lived. In 447/6 some Boeotian cities revolted and after defeating the Athenians, Boeotia was lost.

· Shortly afterwards, Euboea revolted and Megara returned to its alliance with Sparta. The Spartans also invaded Attica; Plutarch (Pericles 22) alleges that Pericles bribed the Spartan king Pleistoanax to return to the Peloponnese. In 446/5, Athens made a Thirty Years’ Peace with Sparta and its allies.



· As covered above, in 447/6, some Boeotian cities revolted. Plutarch Life of Pericles 18 has been included to highlight Pericles’ foresight and leadership qualities as a general.

Plutarch, Life of Pericles 18


· The Athenians continued to suffer revolts from Delian League members. In 440, Samos and Miletus went to war. When Samos refused to stop its attacks on Miletus, the Athenians overthrew the government, however later Samian exiles, with help from Persia, seized the island. After a 9-month blockade and siege, Samos came to terms.

Plutarch, Life of Pericles 24 and 28


Pericles building programme and the ostracism of Thucydides, and attacks on Pericles and his friends


Suggesting timing: 2 hours

· In 451/0 Cimon returned from his 10-year banishment but died soon after. After the death of Cimon, Thucydides of Alopece was the leader of the conservative faction in Athens. He arranged for his supporters to sit in one block in the assembly to strengthen his cause.

Plutarch, The Life of Pericles 11

The criticisms of Pericles and the building programme


The political and economic benefits of the building programme


The importance of oratory in persuading the assembly


How Athens financed the building programme

· In 447 BC, building the Parthenon begun. It is worth exploring the economic and political importance of the building programme.

Plutarch, The Life of Pericles 12

· Thucydides of Alopece criticised the way Pericles spent the money for his ambitious building programme, winning support. However, when Pericles proposed to pay for all the construction from his own purse, under the term that all these monuments would belong to him and not to Athens, the public applauded his stance and Thucydides suffered an unexpected defeat. Thucydides of Alopece was later ostracized in 443 BC.

Plutarch, The Life of Pericles 13–14, 16

Teachers could cover the buildings on the Acropolis and their cultural and religious significance at this point. This planning guide covers this in a later section once the political and military narrative of the course has been covered.


· Pericles still faced opposition and his opponents attacked him and his close associates in the courts. Pheidias, Aspasia, Anaxagoras and Pericles himself were attacked through the lawcourts.

Plutarch, The Life of Pericles 31–32

Pericles’ foreign policy in the 430s and the causes for the outbreak of the Archidamian War


Suggesting timing: 2 ½ – 3 hours

· Students are expected to understand the events that led up to the outbreak of the Archidamian War.

o In 433, a defensive alliance between Corycra (modern day Corfu) and Athens was agreed. Athenian forces had to be sent to prevent defeat at the hands of Corinth.

o In 432, Corinth was angry with the treatment of her colony Potidea, which was a member of the Delian League / Athenian Empire

o Grievances from Aegina

o Grievances from Megara and the Megarian Decree

· In 432 the Peloponnesian League voted for war, with war breaking out in 431.

Pericles, Life of Pericles 29 – 32

Thucydides 1.126

Thucydides 1.139

Thucydides 1.67

Pericles 30–32

Thucydides 1.23.6

Aristophanes, Acharnians 515–539 & Peace 605–609

The short-term and long-term causes for the war


The role of Pericles in the outbreak of the war

The opening three years of the Archidamian War and its impact of Athens, Athenians and Pericles

Suggesting timing: 2 ½ – 3 hours

· During the 450s work started on the long walls from Athens to their ports of Piraeus and Phaleron, which would allow them to keep receiving imports even when besieged. A second middle wall dates to the 440s.

· Pericles strategy proposed avoiding directly engaging with Sparta and using the fleet to launch attacks on the Peloponnese. Sheep and cattle were moved to the island of Euboea for safekeeping and families retreated behind the long walls. Provisions would be shipped in from Egypt and the Black Sea.

· The Spartan strategy was to invade Attica and provoke the Athenians into a hoplite battle or destroy the crops of the Athenians and try to starve them into submission. The Spartan invasions were short though – the Spartan invasion in 430 lasted 40 days – due to the concerns regarding the helots.

Thucydides 1.107.1

Aristotle, Athenian Constitution 27.2

Thucydides 2.13

Plutarch, Life of Pericles 33–34.2

The likely successes of Athens’ and Sparta’s strategies


The impact of the plague


The importance of oratory skills to persuade the people about Pericles’ strategy


· At the end of the first year of the war Pericles gave his famous Funeral Oration. This guide suggests that Pericles’ Funeral Oration should be left to the end to use it as a way to bring together the different elements of this depth study.

Thucydides 2.34–2.46

· In 430 BC plague struck and spread quickly. According to Thucydides, law and order broke down and corpses piled up.

Thucydides 2.52–2.53

Plutarch, 34.2–34.4

· Athenians blamed Pericles. Pericles tried to encourage the Athenian people, however he was deposed as strategoi and fined. A peace delegation was sent to Sparta but nothing came of it. However, Pericles was soon re-elected as strategoi.

Plutarch, Life of Pericles 35, 37

Thucydides 2.59–2.61, 2.63, 2.65.1-2.65.4

· Pericles’ legitimate sons died in the plague. Pericles appealed for his illegitimate son (with Aspasia) to become a citizen so his name would live on. He succeeded even though it went against his Citizenship law of 451/0.


· In 429 BC, Pericles caught the plague and died. Plutarch and Thucydides offer reflections on Pericles’ leadership and abilities.

Plutarch 39

Thucydides 2.65.5–2.65.9

The buildings on the Acropolis and their cultural and religious significance

The cultural and religious significance of the building programme


Suggesting timing: 2 – 2 ½ hours

The political and military narrative of the depth studies has been covered. These sections of the teacher guide focus in on the cultural and religious parts of the depth study.

· During Xerxes’ expedition against Greece, Athens had been destroyed and the Acropolis burned by the Persians. In the Oath of Plataea (Lycurgus 1.81), the Athenians had had vowed never to rebuild the shrines destroyed by the Persians to act as a memorial of the Persians’ impiety. After the Peace of Callias, Pericles revoked the Oath of Plataea and work began on a building programme to restore the temples and to build new ones.

Map of the buildings on the Acropolis

Plutarch, Life of Pericles 13.1–13.9

Quintilian 12.10.9

Pliny 34.74

Pausanias 1.26.6

The buildings of the Acropolis and what they tell us about Athens society, religion and culture.


The links to the victory over the Persians


The importance of Athena and Poseidon to Athens

The Parthenon

· The Parthenon was the most famous building on the acropolis. It was a high decorated marble temple dedicated to Athena Parthenos (the Virgin). It was begun in 447 BC. Pheidias was the director of the works. The Parthenon also served as the treasury of the Delian League, and 1/60 of the tribute was dedicated to Athena. It is worth emphasising the sophistication of the design, the architectural refinement and the sculptural adornments.


o The pediments of the Parthenon demonstrate the importance of Athena to Athenians. The east pediment shows the birth of Athena from the head of Zeus. The west pediment shows the dispute between Athena and Poseidon to become the patron deity of Athens.

This would be a suitable time to cover the importance of Athena and Poseidon to the Athenians.

Reconstruction of the west pediment of the Parthenon

Pausanias 1.24.5

o There are also 92 metopes or sculptural decorations. Each is a self-contained scene. The metopes on each side tell a different story but linked thematically – the triumph of civilisation over barbarians.



o The Parthenon Frieze is usually interpreted as a version of the Panathenaic procession. The frieze encircled the whole of the inner building. The peplos scene (East V 31–35) would have been over the centre of the doorway. To the left and right of the peplos scene are the 12 gods of Mount Olympus.

Parthenon frieze: East V 31–35 and South XLV 137–140


o Pheidias was responsible for the gold and ivory cult statue of Athena Parthenos which was housed within the naos / cella.

Pausanias 1.24.5, 1.24.7

Roman Marble copy of Athena Parthenos


Many buildings were not finished at the time of Pericles death in 429 BC. Other buildings on the Acropolis that were started or planned during the lifetime of Pericles that should be studied include:

· The Propylaea is a monumental gateway to the sanctuary. On the right of the gateway was the temple of Athena Nike.

Plutarch, Life of Pericles 13.7–13.8


The significance of Athena


Links into the Persian influence on the Odeon and also the theme of victory over the Persians

· The construction of the temple of Athena Nike is thought to have started in the late 430s. The north and south friezes show Greeks fighting Persians. These are among the first examples of historical events being depicted on friezes.


· We have no precise evidence for when construction began on the Erechtheion, the temple of Athena Polias; presumably it was conceived of with the other monuments, but actual work may not have begun until the late 430s and possibly later. The area around the Erechtheion was considered the most sacred of the Acropolis. This included altars to Boutes, Hephaistos and other gods and heroes. It was here that Poseidon and Athena’s contest for patron deity took place and contained Poseidon’s trident marks and Athena’s olive tree. The Erechtheion housed the wooden cult statue of Athena Polias.

Pausanias 1.26.6


· There was a massive bronze statue of Athena Promachos (“Athena who fights in the front line”) sculpted by Pheidias which originally stood between the Erechtheion and the Propylaea.

Pausanias 1.28.2


· The Arrephorion provided the lodgings for the Arrephoroi, who will be studied later on.


· It is also worth covering the Odeon of Pericles, which was built to the south of the Acropolis. It is thought that the design was based on Xerxes’ captured tent from the Battle of Plataea. The Odeon of Pericles held musical contests during the Panathenaia.

Plutarch, Life of Pericles 13.5–13.6

The Panathenaia and City Dionysia, and their cultural and religious significance


Suggesting timing: 2 hours

· The Panathenaia – It was believed to take place on Athena’s birthday and honoured her as the city’s patron deity. During Peisistratus’ tyranny, he extended the festival and every four years it was celebrated as the Great Panathenaia.

· Students should have an understanding the Great Panathenaia, including:

o the programme of events over the 8 days

o the differing athletic contests

o the different music contests

o the procession

o the peplos

o sacrifice

Panathenaic amphorae

Aristophanes, Frogs 1089–1098

Inscriptiones Graecae Vol 1, 46

Plutarch, Life of Pericles 13.6

Parthenon frieze: East V 31–35 and South XLV 137–140


The role of the Panathenaia in Athenian society



· The City Dionysia was a festival in Athens in honour of the God of Wine. The central event was the performance of theatrical plays (dramatic tragedies and from 487 BC comedies). The plays were performed at the theatre of Dionysus. The City Dionysia is thought to have been introduced by Peisistratus in the 6th century BC.

· Students should have an understanding of the City Dionysia, including:

o the programme of events over the 5 days

o the pompe (procession) and proagon

o Delivery of the tribute from the Athenian allies was paraded and displayed in the orchestra

o Sacrifices & libations

o Orphaned children of those killed in battle were paraded

o the Theoric Fund

Plutarch, Life of Pericles 13.6

Inscriptiones Graecae Vol 1, 46

The role of the City Dionysia in Athenian society



Suggesting timing: 3 ½ – 4 hours

· The roles and responsibilities women were expected to fulfil:

o Position in society as outlined by Thucydides in Pericles’ Funeral Oration

o Child bearing especially producing a male heir

o Status after Pericles’ citizenship law

o Marriage and divorce, and punishment for adultery

Thucydides 2.45.2

Sophocles Tereus Fragment 583


The role of women in society


Similarities and differences between female metics and female citizen, poor and rich women, and young and old

o Running the household:

§ Managing goods and work of those in the house

§ Spinning wool / weaving clothes

§ Not allowed to leave the house without a male escort, although for poorer Athenians this is likely to have been ignored

Red-figure Chous: women perfuming garments

Xenophon, The Estate Manager 7.4-6, 7.23-26, 7.35-37, 7.42

o Lack of ability to take part in the democratic system

o After Pericles divorced his wife he lived with Aspasia, a hetaira from Miletus. This led to vicious jokes about his private life. Aspasia is portrayed in philosophical works as having taught Pericles and Socrates rhetoric and shown as the centre of an intellectual circle. In 429, Pericles appealed for his son with Aspasia to become a citizen so his name would live on. He succeeded even though it went against his Citizenship law of 451/0.

Plutarch, Life of Pericles 24, 32

Aristophanes, Acharnians 515–539



o Women did participate in religious cults, celebrations and festivals. Women served as priestesses to female divinities, the most important of which was Athena Polias. Religious roles performed by women included:

§ Looking after religious sanctuary and its buildings

§ Supervising work of temple

§ Presiding at sacrifices and certain public festivals



o The Arrephoroi were girl assistants in the cult of Athena Polias. Aged between 7–11 years old, they were chosen from the noblest families in the city. According to Pausanias, two of them lived on the Acropolis for a year. Our other account from Suidas’ encyclopaedic lexicon, attributed to Harpocration, states that there were four arrephoroi. The Arrephoroi were involved in the creation of the new Panathenaic peplos for Athena. They concluded the year with a mystery rite called the Arrephoria where they carried unknown objects into an underground cavern.

Pausanias 1.27.3

Peplos scene from the Parthenon frieze: East V 31–35

The significance of Athena to Athenians


Depictions of women in drama

· Euripides' Medea shows a state of conflict. The play is set in the Greek city of Corinth. Jason has abandoned his wife, Medea, along with their two children. He hopes to advance his station by remarrying with Glauce, the daughter of Creon, king of Corinth. Medea poisons Glauce and Creon before killing her children to inflict as much pain as possible on Jason. Medea then takes refuge in Athens with King Aegeus.

· Using Medea as a mouthpiece, Euripides highlights many of the injustices suffered by women in ancient Athens, especially the sufferings of marriage, and their lack of choice and freewill. Men were free to divorce women on a whim, and thus wives suffered the insecurity of having no control over their own futures.


Euripides, Medea 230–259 & 1081–1087


The way women are shown in Greek theatre



Athenian view of themselves in the Funeral Oration


Suggesting timing: 2 – 2 ½ hours

· The Funeral Oration was made in 431 BC at the end of the first year of the Archidamian War. Pericles made a speech to commemorate those who had already died. It was recorded and possibly rewritten by Thucydides. Pericles uses the Funeral Oration to relate the special qualities that he believes Athens has.

· This can be used to pull all together the various different themes from within this depth study.

Thucydides 2.34–2.46

The way Athenians saw themselves in this period


Endorsed textbooks from Bloomsbury





Resources for OCR specification for first teaching September 2017



OCR Ancient History GCSE Component 1: Greece and Persia

Sam Baddeley, Paul Fowler, Lucy Nicholas, James Renshaw

ISBN-13: 978-1350015173

Released July 2017


OCR Ancient History GCSE Component 2: Rome

Paul Fowler, Christopher Grocock, James Melville

ISBN-13: 978-1350015203

Released July 2017


This textbook supports OCR's GCSE Ancient History Component 1. It covers the period study on the Persian Empire and the three optional depth studies.


This textbook supports OCR's GCSE Ancient History Component 2. It covers the longer period study on the Foundation of Rome and the three optional depth studies.

These textbooks have been written by experts and experienced teachers in a clear and accessible narrative. Ancient sources are described and analysed, with supporting images. Helpful features include study questions, further reading, and boxes focusing in on key people, events and terms.


Suggested resources


Ancient Sources


The prescribed sources have all been translated for you in the OCR Source booklet. However, useful notes on aspects of some of the sources can be found in the following translations:

  • The Landmark translation of Thucydides (ISBN: 978-0684827902) is especially easy to use due to both the helpful notes found on each page and its prodigious use of maps.
  • LACTOR 1: The Athenian Empire and LACTOR 5: Athenian Democracy contain a number of the prescribed sources, as well as a large number of other ancient sources. The LACTORs include possible lines of interpretation in the form of brief commentaries on specific passages and more extensive essays on important topics.




Vincent Azoulay, Pericles of Athens, translated by Janet Lloyd (Princeton University Press, 2017) ISBN: 978-069117832


Terry Buckley, Aspects of Greek History 750–323 BC: A Source-Based Approach, (Routledge, 2010) ISBN: 978-0415549776


John M. Camp, The Archaeology of Athens (Yale University Press, 2004) ISBN: 978-0300101515


Christopher Carey, Democracy in Classical Athens (2nd edition, Bloomsbury, 2017) ISBN: 978-1474286367)


Matthew Dillon & Lynda Garland, The Ancient Greeks (Routledge, 2012) ISBN: 978-0415471435


Ian Jenkins, The Parthenon Frieze (British Museum Press, 2002) ISBN: 978-0714122373


Thomas R. Martin, Pericles: A Biography in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2016) ISBN: 978-0521133357


Robin Osborne, The World of Athens, (2nd edition, Cambridge University Press, 2008) ISBN: 978-0521698535


James Renshaw, In Search of the Greeks (2nd edition, Bloomsbury, 2015) ISBN: 978-1472530264


P J Rhodes, Periclean Athens (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018) ISBN: 978-1350014954


Loren J. Samons II (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Pericles (Cambridge University Press, 2007) ISBN 978-0521003896


Andrew Solway (author) and Peter Connolly (Illustrator), Ancient Greece (Oxford University Press, 2001) ISBN: 978-0199107643


Susan Sorek, Ancient Historians: A Student Handbook (Continuum, 2002) ISBN: 978-1441179913





TV & Radio Programmes, and Podcasts


Channel 4 – Athens: The Truth about Democracy (2007)


TED Ed – A day in the life of an ancient Athenian – Robert Garland

Although focusing in 427 and using the Mytilenian Debate as a setting, this video contains some useful information in an accessible way.


PBS – Empires: The Greeks – Crucible of Civilization

Episode 1:

Episode 2:

Episode 3:


BBC Four – Ancient Invisible Cities: Athens


BBC Four – Ancient Greece: The Greatest Show on Earth Episode 1: Democrats


BBC Radio 4 – 'In our Time' Thucydides


Open University – The Acropolis and Parthenon podcast
























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