Perikles' funeral speech

In this page we align evidence for the funeral speech pronounced by Perikles after the Samian war. In Aristotle's Rhetorica we don't have direct reference to the speech, but a famous image of Perikles about the Samians. Plutarch (aligned in the right column) adds also the anecdote of the reaction of Elpinike, the sister of Kimon, and a fragment of Ion of Chios about the pride of Perikles for the suppression of the revolt.


Greek text (→ English translation)

Highlight corresponding passages


Aristoteles, Rhetorica
(ed. Ross pdf_icon)

καὶ ἡ Περικλέους (sc. εἰκών) εἰς Σαμίους, ἐοικέναι αὐτοὺς τοῖς παιδίοις ἃ τὸν ψωμὸν δέχεται μέν, κλαίοντα δέ, καὶ εἰς Βοιωτούς, ὅτι ὅμοιοι τοῖς πρίνοις: τούς τε γὰρ πρίνους ὑφ᾽ αὑτῶν κατακόπτεσθαι, καὶ τοὺς Βοιωτοὺς πρὸς ἀλλήλους μαχομένους.



Plutarch, Pericles 8.6 and 28.3-6
(ed. Perrin pdf_icon)

(8.6) ὁ δὲ Στησίμβροτός (FHG II 55 fr. 8 pdf_icon = FGrH 107 F 9) φησιν ὅτι τοὺς ἐν Σάμῳ τεθνηκότας ἐγκωμιάζων (sc. Περικλῆς) ἐπὶ τοῦ βήματος ἀθανάτους ἔλεγε γεγονέναι καθάπερ τοὺς θεούς: οὐ γὰρ ἐκείνους αὐτοὺς ὁρῶμεν, ἀλλὰ ταῖς τιμαῖς ἃς ἔχουσι, καὶ τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς ἃ παρέχουσιν, ἀθανάτους εἶναι τεκμαιρόμεθα: ταῦτ᾽ οὖν ὑπάρχειν καὶ τοῖς ὑπὲρ τῆς πατρίδος ἀποθανοῦσιν.

(28.3) ... ὁ δὲ Περικλῆς καταστρεψάμενος τὴν Σάμον ὡς ἐπανῆλθεν εἰς τὰς Ἀθήνας, ταφάς τε τῶν ἀποθανόντων κατὰ τὸν πόλεμον ἐνδόξους ἐποίησε καὶ τὸν λόγον εἰπών, ὥσπερ ἔθος ἐστίν, ἐπὶ τῶν σημάτων ἐθαυμαστώθη. (4) καταβαίνοντα δ᾽ αὐτὸν ἀπὸ τοῦ βήματος αἱ μὲν ἄλλαι γυναῖκες ἐδεξιοῦντο καὶ στεφάνοις ἀνέδουν καὶ ταινίαις ὥσπερ ἀθλητὴν νικηφόρον, ἡ δ᾽ Ἐλπινίκη προσελθοῦσα πλησίον: ‘ταῦτ᾽,’ ἔφη, ‘θαυμαστά, Περίκλεις, καὶ ἄξια στεφάνων, ὃς ἡμῖν πολλοὺς καὶ ἀγαθοὺς ἀπώλεσας πολίτας οὐ Φοίνιξι πολεμῶν οὐδὲ Μήδοις, ὥσπερ οὑμὸς ἀδελφὸς Κίμων, ἀλλὰ σύμμαχον καὶ συγγενῆ πόλιν καταστρεφόμενος.’ (5) ταῦτα τῆς Ἐλπινίκης λεγούσης ὁ Περικλῆς μειδιάσας ἀτρέμα λέγεται τὸ τοῦ Ἀρχιλόχου (F 205 West) πρὸς αὐτὴν εἰπεῖν: ‛οὐκ ἂν μύροισι γραῦς ἐοῦσ᾽ ἠλείφεο.’ θαυμαστὸν δέ τι καὶ μέγα φρονῆσαι καταπολεμήσαντα τοὺς Σαμίους φησὶν αὐτὸν ὁ Ἴων (FHG II 48 fr. 8 pdf_icon = FGrH 392 F 16), ὡς τοῦ μὲν Ἀγαμέμνονος ἔτεσι δέκα βάρβαρον πόλιν, αὐτοῦ δὲ μησὶν ἐννέα τοὺς πρώτους καὶ δυνατωτάτους Ἰώνων ἑλόντος (cf. Plut., Mor. 350e). (6) καὶ οὐκ ἦν ἄδικος ἡ ἀξίωσις, ἀλλ᾽ ὄντως πολλὴν ἀδηλότητα καὶ μέγαν ἔσχε κίνδυνον ὁ πόλεμος, εἴπερ, ὡς Θουκυδίδης (8.76.4) φησί, παρ᾽ ἐλάχιστον ἦλθε Σαμίων ἡ πόλις ἀφελέσθαι τῆς θαλάττης τὸ κράτος Ἀθηναίους.


English translation (→ Greek text)


Aristoteles, Rhetorica
(trans. Freese)

Perikles said that the Samians were like children who cry while they accept the scraps. He also compared the Boeotians to holm-oaks; for just as these are beaten down by knocking against each other, so are the Boeotians by their civil strife.



Plutarch, Pericles 8.6 and 28.3-6
(trans. Perrin pdf_icon)

(8.6) Again, Stesimbrotus (FHG II 55 fr. 8 = FGrH 107 F 9) says that, in his funeral oration over those who had fallen in the Samian War, he (sc. Perikles) declared that they had become immortal, like the gods; ‘the gods themselves,’ he said, ‘we cannot see, but from the honors which they receive, and the blessings which they bestow, we conclude that they are immortal.’ So it was, he said, with those who had given their lives for their country.

(28.3) ... When Perikles, after his subjection of Samos, had returned to Athens, he gave honorable burial to those who had fallen in the war, and for the oration which he made, according to the custom, over their tombs, he won the greatest admiration. (4) But as he came down from the bema, while the rest of the women clasped his hand and fastened wreaths and fillets on his head, as though he were some victorious athlete, Elpinike drew nigh and said: ‘This is admirable in thee, Perikles, and deserving of wreaths, in that thou hast lost us many brave citizens, not in a war with Phoenicians or Medes, like my brother Kimon, but in the subversion of an allied and kindred city.’ (5) On Elpinike's saying this, Perikles, with a quiet smile, it is said, quoted to her the verse of Archilochus (F 205 West): ‘Thou hadst not else, in spite of years, perfumed thyself.’ Ion (FHG II 48 fr. 8 = FGrH 392 F 16) says that he had the most astonishingly great thoughts of himself for having subjected the Samians; whereas Agamemnon was all of ten years in taking a barbarian city, he had in nine months time reduced the foremost and most powerful people of Ionia (cf. Plut., Mor. 350e). (6) And indeed his estimate of himself was not unjust, nay, the war actually brought with it much uncertainty and great peril, if indeed, as Thucydides (8.76.4) says, the city of Samos came within a very little of stripping from Athens her power on the sea.