Presiding over the Golden Age of Athens, a period where Athenian intellectual thought and democracy reached its peak, Perikles shouldered the burden of defending the city against Sparta when war between the two Hellenic powers erupted. Rather than facing them in direct battle, however, he had the military turtle within the city, much to the chagrin of its anxious populace.
His strategy owed to his stoic and calculating nature, but his pragmatism was perceived by the besieged Athenians as apathetic. At the very root of his defensive policy, however, was his love for his partner Aspasia, a hetaera, and his desire to protect her and the city at all costs.
Leader of Athens
When the Peloponnesian War broke out in 431 BCE, Perikles adopted a strategy of holding out rather than facing Sparta head-to-head in battle. However, this was opposed by the Athenian general Kleon, secretly a Sage of the Cult of Kosmos. As such, the two regularly exchanged debates at the Pnyx, fighting for the citizen's support. Perikles also requested his friend and historian Herodotos to consult the Pythia in Delphi about ending the war.
Sometime later, Perikles and Kleon once again held a debate the Pnyx as the Spartans began surrounding the city in preparing for a siege. Perikles' speech proved to be unfavourable, leading the crowd to voice their support of Kleon. After the speech, Perikles was approached by a returning Herodotos accompanied by the misthios Kassandra. In exchanging for letting Kassandra into his symposium held later at night, Perikles tasked her to help his close friends and colleagues with the errands.
The plague and death
In 429 BCE, Athens had devolved into a state of panic. With the war with Sparta increasing tension and a lethal plague spreading throughout the streets, Perikles felt his grasp of the city weakening, and this worried him greatly. With his own health declining, he realized his death was on the horizon and began to worry as his warmongering rival Kleon had the best opportunity for power with his death. After a brief meeting with the misthios Kassandra, Perikles left for the Parthenon where he was attacked and murdered by the enforcer of the Cult of Kosmos, Deimos.
Behind the scenes
- The Art of Assassin's Creed: Odyssey calls Aspasia Perikles' wife, instead of just 'partner'.
- Perikles' pendant features the Owl of Athena, which was often minted on the coins of Athens, and also served as the polis' emblem.
- In real life, Perikles succumbed to the Plague of Athens alongside several of his relatives.