Pericles has long been associated with the birth of Athenian democracy. His remarkable role as a leader and an Athenian patriot gave him the power to establish reforms, which brought Athens to the height of democracy. However, the leadership of Pericles did not go unopposed and was challenged for his use of public funds, which came from the treasury of the Delian League. Even though some opposed, Pericles was able to maintain his position as leader of Athens until his death in 429 BC. .
Democratic reforms had begun some fifty years before Pericles took leadership of Athens. The Athenian democracy began to for under the power of Clisthenes and brought Athens into the early stage of government, which was new to the Greek world. .
Pericles had made his first political appearance under Ephialtes, who was the leader of the democrats. Pericles entered the political scene very late at the age of thirty-one. .
As general during the siege of Thasos, Pericles first gained the position that would lead him into public fame. Eventually, Cimon's policy towards Sparta would make him a target for Athenian opposition. When Cimon returned to Athens his reputation was ruined by the insults of the Spartans. Pericles finally came to power after Ephialtes was murdered. .
After the ostracism of Cimon and the death of Ephialtes left Pericles as the center of the Athenian state. Year after year Pericles was elected strategos and this gave him power as one of the generals. Pericles increased his participation in the Athenian government by introducing laws that authorized payment to public officials. Another law that he passed was that citizenship was only granted to Athenians who had been born of an Athenian mother and father. Pericles had used his power and influence to make Athens a democracy though reform and legislation.
Those who had opposed democracy tried to destroy Pericles politically by corrupting his name.