Pericles" Funeral Oration for those family members of fallen Athenian soldiers described a city of great power and prestige. The oration emphasized the strength of the democratic system and the bold spirit of each citizen. It was possible, naturally, that in this effort to soothe the painful loss of Athenian soldiers after battle, Pericles fabricated or at least over enhanced the true greatness of the polis Athens. However, The Funeral Oration did in fact describe Athens in a fairly accurate frame. The democratic ways in this city-state led to a new and unique attitude, and ultimately a more fruitful culture. .
During a time when monarchies and other forms of class-ranking governments dominated the western cultures, Athens was among the first, and certainly the most famous, to introduce a new form of government in which the citizens held the power: democracy. Pericles described the government as one that did "not copy the institutions of [their] neighbors," (Thucydides, p. 100), and in which "power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people," (Thucydides, p. 100), where "everyone [was] equal before the law," (Thucydides, p. 100). This direct democracy was not only a fair system in theory, but it also worked exceedingly well for the Athenians and ultimately their success in nearly everything they did. .
Athens was not only a city of social equality, however. Athenians were also fierce warriors, as is apparent simply through the context of the oration: one in which honor was bestowed on the valiant fighting of the Athenian soldiers. While their Greek rival city, Sparta, focused exclusively on military development, Athens enjoyed a comfortable and fruitful existence and simultaneously managed to produce an army nearly as great as the Spartans. In fact, during the Persian War, the Greeks, led by the two major cities, Athens and Sparta, managed to defeat the Persians against all odds.