History consists, for the greater part, of the miseries brought upon the world by pride, ambition, avarice, revenge, lust, sedition, hypocrisy, ungoverned zeal, and all the train of disorderly appetite. — Edmund Burke

Story of the Greeks - Helene Guerber

Death of Pericles

Although the Athenian fleet had caused much damage, and had come home victorious, the Spartan army was still in Attica. The Spartans had been awed and frightened by the eclipse, but they did not give up their purpose, and continued the war.

The Athenians remained within the city walls, not daring to venture out lest they should meet with a defeat, and they soon began to suffer greatly. As there were not enough water and food for the crowded multitude, a terrible disease called the plague soon attacked the people. This sickness was contagious, and it spread rapidly. On all sides one could see the dead and dying. The sufferers were tormented by a burning thirst; and as there was soon no one left to care for the sick, they painfully dragged themselves to the sides of the fountains, where many of them died.

Not only were the sick uncared for, but it was also nearly impossible to dispose of the dead; and the bodies lay in the streets day after day, waiting for burial.

When the Athenians were in the greatest distress, Pericles heard that there was a Greek doctor, named Hippocrates, who had a cure for the plague; and he wrote to him, imploring his help.

Hippocrates received Pericles' letter at the same time that a message arrived from Artaxerxes, King of Persia. The king asked him to come and save the Persians, who were suffering from the same disease, and offered the doctor great wealth.

The noble doctor did not hesitate a moment, but sent away the Persian messenger, saying that it was his duty first to save his own countrymen. Then he immediately set out for the plague-stricken city of Athens, where he worked bravely night and day.

His care and skill restored many sufferers; and, although thousands died of the plague, the remaining Athenians knew that they owed him their lives. When the danger was over, they all voted that Hippocrates should have a golden crown, and said he should be called an Athenian citizen,—an honor which they seldom granted to any outsider.

The plague had not only carried away many of the poorer citizens, but had also stricken down the nobles and the rich. Pericles' family suffered from it too. All his children took it and died, with the exception of one.

The great man, in spite of his private cares and sorrows, was always in and out among the people, helping and encouraging them, and he finally caught the plague himself.

His friends soon saw, that, in spite of all their efforts, he would die. They crowded around his bed in tears, praising him in low tones, and saying how much he had done for the Athenians and for the improvement of their city.

"Why," said one of them warmly, "he found the city bricks, and leaves it marble!"

Pericles, whose eyes had been closed, and who seemed unconscious, now suddenly roused himself, and said, "Why do you mention those things? They were mostly owing to my large fortune. The thing of which I am proudest is that I never caused any fellow-citizen to put on mourning!"

Pericles then sank back, and soon died; but his friends always remembered that he had ruled Athens for more than thirty years without ever punishing anyone unjustly, and that he had always proved helpful and merciful to all.


Front Matter

Early Inhabitants of Greece
The Deluge of Ogyges
Founding of Important Cities
Story of Deucalion
Daedalus and Icarus
The Adventures of Jason
Theseus Visits the Labyrinth
The Terrible Prophecy
The Sphinx's Riddle
Death of Oedipus
The Brothers' Quarrel
The Taking of Thebes
The Childhood of Paris
Muster of the Troops
Sacrifice of Iphigenia
The Wrath of Achilles
Death of Hector and Achilles
The Burning of Troy
Heroic Death of Codrus
The Blind Poet
The Rise of Sparta
The Spartan Training
The Brave Spartan Boy
Public Tables in Sparta
Laws of Lycurgus
The Messenian War
The Music of Tyrtaeus
Aristomenes' Escape
The Olympic Games
Milo of Croton
The Jealous Athlete
The Girls' Games
The Bloody Laws of Draco
The Laws of Solon
The First Plays
The Tyrant Pisistratus
The Tyrant's Insult
Death of the Conspirators
Hippias Driven out of Athens
The Great King
Hippias Visits Darius
Destruction of the Persian Host
Advance of the Second Host
The Battle of Marathon
Miltiades' Disgrace
Aristides the Just
Two Noble Spartan Youths
The Great Army
Preparations for Defense
Leonidas at Thermopylae
Death of Leonidas
The Burning of Athens
Battles of Salamis and Plataea
The Rebuilding of Athens
Death of Pausanias
Cimon Improves Athens
The Earthquake
The Age of Pericles
Teachings of Anaxagoras
Peloponnesian War Begins
Death of Pericles
The Philosopher Socrates
Socrates' Favorite Pupil
Youth of Alcibiades
Greek Colonies in Italy
Alcibiades in Disgrace
Death of Alcibiades
Overthrow of Thirty Tyrants
Accusation of Socrates
Death of Socrates
The Defeat of Cyrus
Retreat of the Ten Thousand
Agesilaus in Asia
A Strange Interview
The Peace of Antalcidas
The Theban Friends
Thebes Free Once More
The Battle of Leuctra
Death of Pelopidas
The Battle of Mantinea
The Tyrant of Syracuse
Damon and Pythias
The Sword of Damocles
Dion and Dionysius
Civil War in Syracuse
Death of Dion
Philip of Macedon
Philip Begins His Conquests
The Orator Demosthenes
Philip Masters Greece
Birth of Alexander
The Steed Bucephalus
Alexander as King
Alexander and Diogenes
Alexander's Beginning
The Gordian Knot
Alexander's Royal Captives
Alexander at Jerusalem
The African Desert
Death of Darius
Defeat of Porus
Return to Babylon
Death of Alexander
Division of the Realm
Death of Demosthenes
Last of the Athenians
The Colossus of Rhodes
The Battle of Ipsus
Demetrius and the Athenians
The Achaean League
Division in Sparta
Death of Agis
War of the Two Leagues
The Last of the Greeks
Greece a Roman Province