Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Man is the Measure of All Things - the Biography of Pericles

Protagoras, the eminent Greek philosopher and the first and most famous of the sophists said Man is the Measure of All Things. Konrad Haemmerling uses this sentence as a headline of the biography of Pericles.

Konrad Haemmerling, a German writer, was born in the end of the 19th century. With a profound knowledge and understanding of the Greek culture, norms, and traditions, he gives us the biography of the famous Athenian politician. Throughout his rule, Pericles adopts a different, peaceful politics. His regime is characterized by a stress on the development of philosophy, knowledge, and ethics. What's more, Pericles supports the construction of many of the eminent buildings in Athens, including the Parthenon. Instead of focusing on battles and conquests, the politician preaches the advantages of peace; his regime is a democratic one, where all Athenians are given an equal opportunity to participate in the political, economic, and social life. Under Pericles's courtesy flourish the works and ideas of Socrates, Pythagoras, Hippocrates, and Euripides. Unfortunately, Athens at that time is characterized by jealousy, factious actions, defamations, and greed. Pericles becomes a victim of these trends and the Athenians are deprived of one of their cleverest and most capable leaders.

To be honest, I had a difficult time reading Pericles. Haemmerling's style is rather complex to comprehend due to the large amount of thorough descriptions. Personally, I admire the author's extensive knowledge about Greek customs and traditions. Still, I was rather repelled by the extensive focus on rituals, holidays, and sacrifices, which although contribute to a comprehensive picture of the Athenian society, seemed at times repetitive and rather irrelevant to the story.

If you fancy historical biographies, you are going to enjoy Pericles by Konrad Haemmerling. However, if you are headed to the sea side, I strongly recommend you take a lighter reading. The complex philosophies about the purpose of life and death are not really compatible with the carefree life under the sun.

1 comment:

  1. I like Aristotle's, The nicomacbean ethics. An awful lot of wisdom for the price of a book. My favorite quote " Anyone can become angry-that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way-this is not easy", I remind myself of this when driving my car to avoid road rage lol. I've been through some terrible experienes in life and some of them actually happened, Mark twain's take on worrying.