We have arrived at the most flourishing period of Athenian history, during which Pericles rose to distinction, and greatly contributed to the beautifying of the capital. The talents of Pericles were of the very first order, and they had been carefully cultivated by the ablest tutorage which Greece could afford. After serving for several years in the Athenian army, he ventured to take a part in the business of the popular assembly, and his powerful eloquence soon gained him an ascendancy in the national councils; and his power, in fact, became as great as that of an absolute monarch (445 B.C.). Some of the most interesting events of Grecian history now occurred. After a number of years of general peace, a dispute between the state of Corinth and its dependency the island of Corcyra (now Corfu), gave rise to a war which again disturbed the repose of all the Grecian states. Corcyra was a colony of Corinth, but having, by its maritime skill and enterprise, raised itself to a higher pitch of opulence than its parent city, it not only refused to acknowledge Corinthian supremacy, but went to war with that state on a question respecting the government of Epidammus, a colony which the Corcyreans had planted on the coast of Elyria,. Corinth applied for and obtained aid from several of the Peloponnesian states to reduce the Corcyreans to subjection; while Corcyra, on the other hand, concluded a defensive alliance with Athens, which sent a fleet to assist the island in vindicating its independence. tv way of punishing the Athenians for intermeddling in the quarrel, the Corinthians stirred up a revolt in Potidaea, a town of Chalcidice, near the confines of Macedonia, which had originally been a colony of Corinth, but was at this time a tributary of Athens. The Athenians immediately despatched a fleet and army for the reduction of Potidaea, and the Peloponnesians were equally prompt in sending succors to the city. The Corinthians, meanwhile, were actively engaged in endeavoring to enlist in their cause those states which had not yet taken a decided part in the dispute. To Lacedmon, in particular, they sent ambassadors to complain of the con duct of the Athenians, which they characterized as a violation of a universally-recognised law of Grecian policy - that no state should interfere between another and its dependencies. The efforts of the Corinthians were successful, and almost all the Peloponnesian states, headed by Sparta, together with many of those beyond the isthmus, formed themselves into a confederacy for the purpose of going to war with Athens. Argos and Achaia at first remained neuter. Corcyra, Acarnania, some of the cities of Thessaly, and those of Plataea and Naupactus, were all that took part with the Athenians.
Pericles beheld without dismay the gathering of the storm, but his countrymen were not equally undaunted. They perceived that they were about to be called upon to exchange the idle and luxurious life they were at present leading for one of hardship and danger, and they began to murmur against their political leader for involving them in so alarming a quarrel. They had not at first the courage to impeach Pericles himself, but vented their displeasure against his friends and favorites. Phidias, a very eminent sculptor, whom the great statesman had appointed superintendent of public buildings, was condemned to imprisonment on a frivolous charge; and the philosopher Anaxagoras, the preceptor and friend of Pericles, was charged with disseminating opinions subversive of the national religion, and banished from Athens. Respecting another celebrated individual who at this time fell under persecution, it becomes necessary to say a few words. Aspasia of Miletus was a woman of remarkable beauty and brilliant talents, but she wanted that chastity which is the greatest of feminine graces, and by her dissolute life was rendered a reproach, as she would otherwise have been an ornament, to her sex. This remarkable woman having come to reside in Athens, attracted the notice of Pericles, who was so much fascinated by her beauty, wit and eloquence, that, after separating from his wife, with whom he had lived unhappily, he married Aspasia. It was generally believed that for the gratification of a private grudge, she had instigated Pericles to quarrel with the Peloponnesian states, and her unpopularity on this score was the true cause of her being now accused, before the assembly of the people, of impiety and grossly-immoral practices. Pericles conducted her defense in person, and plead for her with so much earnestness, that he was moved even to tears. The people, either finding the accusations to be really unfounded, or unable to resist the eloquence of Pericles, acquitted Aspasia. His enemies next directed their attack against himself. They accused him of embezzling the public money; but he completely rebutted the charge, and proved that he had drawn his income from no other source than his private estate. His frugal and unostentatious style of living must have of itself gone far to convince the Athenians of the honesty with which he had administered the public affairs; for while he was filling the city with temples, porticoes, and other magnificent works of art, and providing many costly entertainments for the people, his own domestic establishment was regulated with such strict attention to economy, that the members of his family complained of a parsimony which formed a marked contrast to the splendor in which many of the wealthy Athenians then lived.