Pericles - Personal Life

Personal Life

Pericles, following Athenian custom, was first married to one of his closest relatives, with whom he had two sons, Paralus and Xanthippus, but around 445 BC, Pericles divorced his wife. He offered her to another husband, with the agreement of her male relatives. The name of his first wife is not known; the only information about her is that she was the wife of Hipponicus, before being married to Pericles, and the mother of Callias from this first marriage.

"For men can endure to hear others praised only so long as they can severally persuade themselves of their own ability to equal the actions recounted: when this point is passed, envy comes in and with it incredulity."
Pericles' Funeral Oration as recorded by Thucydides (2.35) γ

The woman he really adored was Aspasia of Miletus. She became Pericles' mistress and they began to live together as if they were married. This relationship aroused many reactions and even Pericles' own son, Xanthippus, who had political ambitions, did not hesitate to slander his father. Nonetheless, these persecutions did not undermine Pericles' morale, although he had to burst into tears in order to protect his beloved Aspasia when she was accused of corrupting Athenian society. His greatest personal tragedy was the death of his sister and of both his legitimate sons, Xanthippus and Paralus, all affected by the epidemic, a calamity he never managed to overcome. Just before his death, the Athenians allowed a change in the law of 451 BC that made his half-Athenian son with Aspasia, Pericles the Younger, a citizen and legitimate heir, a decision all the more striking in consideration that Pericles himself had proposed the law confining citizenship to those of Athenian parentage on both sides.

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