Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Boris's Periclean Optimism

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Boris's Periclean Optimism

Article excerpt

Credit: Peter Jones

What is Boris's great secret? Does it lie in the bust of the Athenian statesman Pericles (c. 495-429 bc) that he keeps in the Mayor's office in London?

The key can be found, perhaps, in Pericles' passionate commitment to the idea of Athens as a 'living lesson for Greece'. This was the central message of his famous Funeral Speech (430 bc) -- not so much the heroism of the dead as the uniqueness of the city for which they had died and the contrast with its bitter rival, the conservative, inward-looking, military-obsessed Sparta.

Athens was a model to others, Pericles affirmed, a democracy governed in the interests of the many, not the few. Advancement in public life depended on merit; poverty did not stand in a man's way. Tolerance in private dealings did not result in lawlessness. Further, Athens was an open city, attracting to it the produce of the world, with a relaxed life style that did not compromise resolve in battle. …

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