Greek Oratory: Tradition and Originality

By Stephen A. Usher | Go to book overview

I
THE EARLY RHETORICAL TRADITION

Oratory became a more or less distinct genre of Greek prose literature some time around the middle of the fifth century BC.1 The uncertainties surrounding its beginnings do not allow a more precise dating. On one important aspect of its early development, however, confident assertion is possible: unlike other genres, oratory evolved under the stimulus of two agencies, that of the preceptor and that of the practitioner. From the start there were teachers instructing would-be orators in what to say, how and in what order to say it. By the time of Antiphon, the first Greek orator whose speeches have survived, the work and influence of the teachers had crystallized into a body of topics and types of argument which only the most talented (or foolhardy) might ignore. An attempt, such as is envisaged in the present enquiry, to assess the literary achievement of each of the Attic orators, must logically approach their texts with the initial intention of trying to identify what they received from the first teachers, before examining the merit of what may seem idiosyncratic and original. The tradition begins with these early teachers, and it is necessary to clarify the form in which their instruction was transmitted. The sources use the terms techne and technai to describe the vehicle(s) of that instruction, but the words

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1
The idea that Homer invented rhetoric, or the theory of oratory, originated in the Sophistic view of his central status in education ( Plato, Ion540b; Rep. 606e), became established (see Radermacher AS A iii-iv), and its persistence in modern times is attested by many attempts to conform the speeches in the Iliad and Odyssey to later rhetorical theory. The latest of these attempts, P. Toohey, "'Epic and Rhetoric'" (in I. Worthington (ed.), Persuasion: Greek Rhetoric in Action ( London and New York, 1994), 153-62; for other bibliography see his nn. 170-3), shares the ingenuity of its predecessors but also their failure to find true parallels with Attic oratory, except perhaps in the use of paradeigmata (historical examples). Homeric oratory, while vigorous and fertile in emotional appeal, is in the main loosely and informally constructed, though both epics contain evidence for the importance and variety of types of oratory in Homeric society. See Usher GO i. 5-6.

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Greek Oratory: Tradition and Originality
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Abbreviations x
  • I - The Early Rhetorical Tradition 1
  • 2 - Antiphon 27
  • Antiphon: Summary 40
  • 3 - Andocides 42
  • Andocides: Summary 52
  • 4 - Lysias 54
  • Isocrates Logographos 118
  • 5 - Isaeus 127
  • Isaeus: Summary 169
  • 6 - Demosthenes Logographos (part I) 171
  • 7 - Demosthenes Logographos (part Ii) 244
  • Demosthenes: Summary 277
  • 8 - Aeschines 279
  • Aeschines: Summary 294
  • 9 - Isocrates Sophistes 296
  • 10 - Lycurgus 324
  • Hyperides 328
  • II - Ceremonial Oratory 349
  • 12 - Conclusion 353
  • Appendix A the Tetralogies: Date and Authorship 355
  • Appendix B 360
  • Select Bibliography 369
  • Index of Speeches 377
  • General Index 379
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