We know much about Athenian society from the writings of historians and others about that era and about political leaders of that city like Pericles. Pericles was featured in writings by Thucydides, notably his history of the Peloponnesian War, and later by the Roman Plutarch.
Pericles was born into two of the best families of Athens, both on his father's and mother's side. He received a good education from his teachers, including the philosopher Zeno, and from Zeno he learned the sophistry that many believed made it possible for Zeno to prove any proposition to be false. Pericles learned even more from Anaxagoras. Anaxagoras was the first philosopher to attribute the order of the world to intelligence, rather than to chance or necessity. After this education, Pericles was dignified in his language and serene and calm in his movements. Some believed that Pericles was only trying to fool the public with a false front of virtue, but Zeno argued that if Pericles were faking virtue, his detractors should do the same, because even pretending to be good, if continued for long enough, will give a man the desire and practice that is needed for good habits.
Pericles was very wealthy, and his skill with words made him famous in Athens while he was still young. However, Pericles stayed out of politics for a long time from fear of retaliation. He was also not at ease among the common people, but when he did decide to participate in public affairs, he joined the democratic party. His rival was Cimon, leader of the aristocratic party. Once he was in politics, he only rarely appeared in public, and then only on the most important occasions. When he spoke to the people on these occasions, his words were like thunder and lightning, for he was the best orator of his day, both for style and content (based on Plutarch http://www.eclassics.com/
One of the primary conditions for the development of political thought in Greece was a sen...