Bust of Pericles after Cresilas, Altes Museum, Berlin
Pericles was born in 495 B.C. into the wealthy family of the Alcmaeonids. His father Xanthippus had himself been a military commander for Athens at the battle of Mycale in 479 B.C. Pericles name in Greek means 'Surrounded by Glory' and as is evident that was certainly to come true for Pericles was he became an influential statesman for Athens during The Peloponnesian War until his death in 429B.C.
Pericles started his political career in the law courts and was one of the leading prosecutors in getting Cimon ostracised from Athens in 461B.C. Having got rid of his political opponent and the murder of his other political rival Ephialtes in 461B.C. Pericles was able to consolidate his position as leading statesmen for Athens.
As well was being in charge of the military during the Peloponnesian Wars, Pericles also did a lot to improve Athens and the people that resided there. Admittedly some of his acts would have been to gain support from the masses. Some of his laws which he passed allowed the poor to attend theatrical performances for free. He also passed a law which stated that jury service should be paid for. He also used the money that the allies had saved for The Peloponnesian War to fund for the rebuilding of Athens in 448 B.C, which saw the rebuilding of the Acropolis and the Parthenon. This not only showed to Athens allies what a beautiful and powerful city Athens was but also gave work to Athenians.
Pericles remained in charge of Athens until his death in 429 B.C. from the plague that swept Athens. It is noticeable from his career that he was one of the leading figures in securing Athens as a force in the Aegean and was influential in turning the Delian League of allies into an Empire with each state paying tribune to Athens. Due to his character of not over reaching he was able to maintain that Empire something later leaders did not follow as they tried to increase their domain rather than stay with what they had.
A testimony to Pericles comes from Thucydides who described him "As the first citizen of Athens".