A Reconsideration of Pericles' Black Sea Campaign
Keywords: Pericles, Black Sea Campaign, Classical Age, Athens, Plutarch
The Black Sea Campaign (probably in 436-5 B.C.) undertaken by Pericles (495-29 B.C.), the strategos of Athens, constituted a momentous event for Athens in the Classical Age (454-04 B.C.). The only source to transmit observations regarding this campaign is that by Plutarch (A.D. 50-120), the ancient Greek biographer. Two recent studies on this campaign have been executed by H. B. Mattingly and G. R. Tsetskhladze. Mattingly claims, contrary to Plutarch, that no colony was founded at Sinop by the Athenians as an outcome of this campaign. Tsetskhladze, for his part, presents a more clear-cut assessment and suggests that the observations transmitted by Plutarch reflected the orations made by Athenians in defense of the Hellenic League in the 4th century and, thus, may be fabricatations. In contradistinction to these views, the present writer argues that, by weighing the internal political developments of Athens at the moment the campaign was being prepared, Plutarch's views may gain a measure of truth. Moreover, the political and economic power of Athens was at its peak at this time and the psychology of the day that was based on an awareness of this power stimulated mass support for an ideology of expansion and the conquest of such places as Egypt, Sicily, and Carthage. Pericles resisted succumbing to the spirit of adventure-seeking, which would lead to the unnecessary loss of human life and money. He may have embarked on the Black Sea campaign, whose realization was relatively easier task, in order to make a demonstration of strength and with the intention of calming the emotional fervor of the Athenians.