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Source Analysis: Thucydides 2.49ff

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Apr. 14th, 2007 | 07:30 pm
posted by: carlymac in democracy105w

In this excerpt, Pericles is speaking at a funeral for those who have been killed in battle. After praising Athens’s government and people, he addresses the families of the fallen. The dichotomy between his words to the male and female members offers an insightful contrast to the difference between men and women’s place in society.
Pericles first reminds his audience that the man who died did so “gloriously.” The purpose of this is to assuage grief, but more so to honor the dead and call the other men to fight in their celebrated place.
He highlights this obligation for the boys to stand up and fight when he addresses the sons and brothers of the fallen.
His words to the mothers and widows are quite different. He reminded them to be stoic in their grief, telling them that the greatest glory that can come to a woman is to avoid being talked about by the men, no matter what the nature of the talk. He does not allow for any real grieving, at least not open grieving. He tells the women that are young enough that they should simply have more sons so that they will miss the lost sons less. Also, this will provide the polis with more soldiers. Pericles tells the women that they should be proud that they contributed to Athens by providing sons to die defending it.
Pericles speaks with a tone that conveys warmth and sympathy, but really, he is being very cold and harsh. He has no understanding for the plight of the families, especially for the mothers and other women. The purpose of the funeral speech was less to consol and support than it was to rally the troops and remind all of Athens to play their role in the polis.

Word Count: 298

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