Attic Oratory

Prof. Michael Arnush Ladd 209 x5462 Hours: MF 12-1pm
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In 427 BC the Sicilian sophist Gorgias, from the city of Leontinoi, 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 in English multiple examples of Attic 4th century BCE oratory over the course of the semester, including works by Lysias, Isocrates, and Aeschines. The speeches we will read address such diverse topics as murder trials, prostitution, corruption, political persuasion and popular appeal. Our primary focus, though, will be to read in Greek the masterpiece of the greatest stylist of Attic oratory - On the Crown by Demosthenes - a vigorous defense in 330 BCE against the accusation by his rival Aeschines that Demosthenes did not deserve the crown awarded by Ctesiphon on behalf of the Athenian demos six years earlier.

As we read portions of the text, our attention will turn to the political climate of mid-4th century Athens, and so we will familiarize ourselves with the failed efforts to withstand the Macedonian conquest of Greece that stretched from 357-338 BCE, culminating in the disastrous defeat at Chaironeia. Reading Demosthenes' most brilliant piece of rhetoric - the last, great and defining speech in Athenian history - will present opportunities to examine the structure and role of rhetoric, and to develop better skills as readers of Greek.

GOALS: students in CG311 Greek Oratory will demonstrate the ability

  • to read and comprehend continuous prose, employing skills developed in previous semesters of Greek
  • to contextualize speeches by Attic orators, especially Demoesthenes, in their larger cultural settings, by familiarizing themselves with
    • biographical details about each author
    • a basic grasp of the corpus of works of each author
    • the literary world of each author
    • the origins and development of rhetoric in 5th and 4th c. Athens, and
    • the 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 Okus, and cultural databases on Athens and Greece) and printed materials in support of comprehension (Liddell & Scott's Greek Lexicon, Smyth's Greek Grammar, and H. Yunis' commentary on the Greek text of On the Crown stand out in particular)