Pericles’ Funeral Oration and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address are two of the greatest and most memorable speeches ever given. Despite the fact that the two speeches were given some two thousand years apart, there are remarkable similarities between the two, including content, length, and the situations in which the speeches were given.
The majority of speeches that were given in President Lincoln’s time tended to be extremely long. It was not uncommon for a person to speak about the dead for three straight hours. Knowing this, it is not surprising that those who heard the speech were both shocked and somewhat outraged. Was it disrespectful that Lincoln chose to speak about those who fought for their country and for freedom and died for approximately five minutes instead of the usual three hours? Many thought so at the time. However, today it is perhaps the best-known speech in United States history. The Bostonian (newspaper) recognized the impact that it would have on the American people immediately, “The world noted at once what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech." Lincoln’s speech is still remembered, one hundred and fifty years later, although it has not stood the test of time as Pericles’ Funeral Oration has. Pericles’ Funeral Oration, although much longer than five minutes, is extremely short compared to speeches given in 400 BC. We do not know if the Athenian people received this speech well or not, but regardless it has gone down as one of the greatest and most powerful speeches of all time. The purpose of Pericles’ speech was to honor the people who died for Athens and their surviving families. It also was to speak of Athens and all that they have accomplished as a nation and how excellent and rewarding democracy is. The purpose of Lincoln’s speech was to speak about the dead; to dedicate a monument for those who have died and that there is unfinished work (in the United States). There is some evidence to support that Lincoln looked at Pericles’ Funeral Oration prior to writing his speech. The indication that he read Pericles’ speech is not the fact that the speeches are written about similar topics. Another indication is that there are records of congress charging an account of Pericles’ a reference to the Funeral Oration to Abraham Lincoln. The most compelling evidence is that there are parallels in the ideas that the two speeches exhibit. This could be because Lincoln was familiar with Pericles’ funeral oration, or it could be that they were in similar conditions of war when the two speeches were delivered and the similarities are coincidence. Both Lincoln and Pericles express that their ancestors are the ones who are responsible for their nation’s success Lincoln and Pericles’ had similar ideals, like all men are created equal. “We throw our city open to all, and never exclude anyone” (Pericles’ Funeral Oration). When Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg address during the American Civil War, Lincoln’s goal was to give everyone equal rights