Past and Present
The phenomenon of atticism leads naturally to a discussion of the wider relationship between the Greek past and the present in the second sophistic. This is a more complicated matter. Atticism is of course a part of the general reinvention and recreation of the classical age that is so striking in our period. But, as has been noted, the atticists never sought to control the language of the non-elite as the promoters of katharevousa did in modern times, cynically or otherwise. With atticism we are dealing with something of concern to the elite only (even though elite-mass relations are an essential element in it). History and tradition are different creatures. Actual reinvention and recreation of foundation legends and myths was no doubt in the hands of the elite (I shall be looking at some examples of this control below). But the statements of literary texts, the historical themes of the sophists and rhetors, historical references and assumptions in political oratory, the presence of semi-historical and historical tales in the ever popular entertainment of the pantomime, evidence from the competitions, festivals, and visual arts of this era, together with the 'sub'-literary pseudo-histories of Alexander the Great and other historical figures all suggest that 'ordinary' people had some knowledge of history and a sense of the tradition of the Greek world and its culture which was independent of the elite. This permeation of the past through the various social layers naturally made it into an object of political interest over the whole arena of civil society, among the tribes, ephebes, cults, schools, assemblies, processions, and all the other institutions of the ancient Greek world that allowed government to rest on a wide base of consent. The major beneficiary of the general respect for tradition was again the male establishment class. For, as has been remarked, in our period more than ever they took care to associate themselves with
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Publication information: Book title: Hellenism and Empire:Language, Classicism, and Power in the Greek World, AD 50-250. Contributors: Simon Swain - Author. Publisher: Clarendon Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 65.