First of all, Thinking Ape Blues is back! Nobody was kinder to us when we first began than Mark Poutenis, and so nothing is better than seeing this comic back on the web – nifty!
Now, Pericles. Of course, I’ve gone right by the sage advice, the beautiful oration, the deft handling of state, and decided to nitpick on two minor points – one of which is probably true, and the other of which is largely based on rumor and the pens of humorous playwrights. The first is that the glory of the Athenian state, and the relative stability during the Periclean period, were largely brought about as a result of Pericles’s inter-Greek protection racket. Okay, racket is a strong word – the smaller city states sent regular quantities of money to Athens on the understanding that Athens would use it to maintain an army for the general defense of Greece. Pericles, seeing that the money came to more than he needed to sustain the army, and not wanting to send it back, decided to spend it on Making Athens Rad, the building boom all but eliminating unemployment and quieting civil unrest, allowing Pericles uncontested control of government and giving the rest of Western Civilization something to marvel at down to the present day.
Now, for the dodgier bit. Plutarch includes it in his work on Pericles, though reluctantly. There was this remarkable woman, Aspasia, who was renowned for beauty, intelligence, and elocution. Many Athenian statesmen are on record as having gone to her for instruction – though whether that’s a euphemism or not I don’t think we’ll ever know. She was from Miletus, which was constantly at war with Samos. Athens had been called in to negotiate a peace and, when Samos persisted in pressing Miletus against Athenian orders, Pericles rolled out an entire fleet and land army to crush Samos, the conflict ultimately ending with the razing of that city’s walls and the paying of a massive indemnity. The vigor of the assault was taken by comedic writers to be only explainable because of Pericles’s desire to please his lover, Aspasia. The victory parade Pericles celebrated after his return was bitterly remarked upon, as were the casualties incurred during the “attacking of an ally,” as it was seen. That is the sum of the evidence – that the action was out of character for Pericles, and against the wishes of Athens, and that Aspasia happened to have been born in Miletus. Pretty flimsy, but there it is.
The consequences, however, were immense. Between the protection scheme and this newest bit of Throwing Their Weight Around, everybody had pretty much had enough of Athens by this point, and were now biding their time, leading soon to the Peloponnesian War, and thence the precipitous decline of Athens.
– Count Dolby von Luckner