Pericles lived from about 490–429 BCE during the golden age of Athens which has come to be known as the Age of Pericles in his honour. His life spanned from the time of the Greek victory over the Persians to the beginning of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Mainly due to his extraordinary eloquence and his great political foresight, he played a considerable role in shaping the politics of Athens from the end of 460 BCE. He was elected strategos or general by the Assembly fifteen years in a row – one of the few offices that were actually elected in the Athenian democracy at this time. The strategos was not only in charge of military affairs but enjoyed administrative and financial powers too.Our portrait has been identified with the help of inscriptions on other replicas and shows Pericles wearing a Corinthian helmet pushed back on his head as a symbol of his military position. The face is modelled in even, smooth shapes; the beard and the hair, appearing from under the helmet, are carefully arranged in short curls. There are no personal traits that would have made an identification possible; rather this portrayal of Pericles is very similar to the images of Athenian citizens on grave reliefs with an idealised, relaxed expression. The well-proportioned face reveals no signs of emotion, which is consistent with Plutarch’s description of his self-control in his biography of Pericles. Both in life and in art, it would seem that he reflected contemporary ideals of how politicians should conduct themselves. Pausanias mentions a statue of Pericles on the Acropolis of Athens in his Description of Greece from the 2nd century CE. The head of this statue was most likely the model for the numerous Roman copies that were made, including the Berlin portrait. The original statue stood near the propylaea, which meant that on entering the Acropolis, visitors immediately saw the statue of the man who had not only shaped the policy of Athens but had also been involved in the design of the sanctuary itself. Most importantly, he initiated the construction of the Parthenon, the great symbol of Athens’ political prowess. We can thus learn much about the sitter from both the manner in which he is portrayed and the site of the statue.


  • Title: Portrait of Pericles
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: -430
  • Location: Lesbos
  • Physical Dimensions: h54 cm
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Medium: Marble
  • Object acquired: Acquired on the art market in 1901
  • Inv.-No.: Sk 1530
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-814319
  • External link: Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Verlag Philipp von Zabern / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Brigitte Knittlmayer Audio: © Tonwelt / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz || Photo: © b p k - || Photo Agency / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Johannes Laurentius
  • Collection: Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz

Additional Items

Bildnis des Perikles

Portrait of Pericles

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