Demosthenes, 1st c. BC: Vatican Museum

CG311 Greek Oratory:
Murder, Bravado, Persuasion
TuTh 12.40-2.00

Prof. Michael Arnush Ladd 209 x5462 Hours: W 9.00 Th 8.30 F 10.30



Web Resources
Classics Department
Skidmore College

In 427 BC the Sicilian sophist Gorgias, from the city of Leontinoi (see Pausanias 6.17.1 for his statue at Olympia), visited Athens and revolutionzed the art of rhetoric. Gorgias employed so-called "Sicilian style" oratorical devices - rhythmic passages and balanced clauses - which had an enduring impact on prose styling for centuries. Of course, not all Attic (i.e., Athenian) orators or historians fell under the sway of this movement; some indeed possessed natural, brilliant talents that developed separately from, but still contributed to the growing taste for rhetoric.
We will read three examples of Attic oratory over the course of the semester: On the Murder of Eratosthenes (c. 400 BC) by the Syracusan Lysias son of Cephalus, a model of pure and masterful prose; the Third Philippic (341 BC) by the Athenian Demosthenes, considered the greatest master of Attic oratory since the 1st c. BC; and Events at Pylos and Sphacteria (425 BC), which is a modern designation for five passages from book 4 of the History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Greece's most talented historian and an early expert at prose styling.
Our subject matter addresses respectively a murder trial, political persuasion and popular appeal. Lysias' On the Murder of Eratosthenes asks whether one could admit to the murder of a spouse's lover and still be acquitted in democratic Athens. Demosthenes attacks Philip II of Macedonia (father of Alexander the Great) in his Third Philippic (or, harangue against Philip) and attempts to persuade his fellow Athenian citizens, grossly outnumbered, to continue to fight the foul Macedonians. Thucydides pits the restrained general Nikias against the hot-headed Kleon, the untested son of a sausage-seller, in book 4 of his History of the Peloponnesian War as Kleon attempts to convince the Athenian assembly to give him an army to wage war with Sparta.
For some of you, this course represents your first experience devoting a semester to reading texts continuously, and so you will focus on sharpening your reading skills. Grammar review will continue to play a signficant role as you enhance your skills, but increasingly you will review Greek grammar on your own. We will, of course, discuss grammatical points as they arise, but we will concentrate on reading continuously. In addition, you will select a passage from one of our three works and develop a commentary that addresses the text linguistically, rhetorically and historically. Those of you who have taken "author" courses (e.g., Homer, Herodotus) before will also focus on developing your reading skills, and as well you will work on a research paper which will emerge from discussions of scholarship.

Students in CG311 Greek Oratory will demonstrate the ability

  • to read continuous prose, employing skills developed in previous semesters of Greek
  • to effect the transition from grammar-based learning to reading comprehension
  • to contextualize speeches by Lysias and Demosthenes, and speeches recorded by Thucydides, in their larger cultural settings, by familiarizing themselves with
    • biographical details about each author
    • a basic grasp of the corpus of works of the author
    • the literary world of the author
    • the origins and development of rhetoric in 5th and 4th c. Athens
    • political/social aspects of the setting of each text
  • to use digital technology (web-based resources such as the textual, lexical and morphological tools in Perseus, and cultural databases on Athens and Greece)