Greek Oratory: Tradition and Originality

By Stephen A. Usher | Go to book overview
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Athenians had ancestral ties and recent alliances. Consideration of these factors, which no doubt opposing speakers raised and likewise expounded in terms of justice and expediency, prompted the Assembly to vote against the peace, and in 391 BC the ambassadors were exiled. It may be deduced that Andocides had underestimated the abiding hostility felt against Sparta. In view of consequent events--the King's Peace ( 386 BC), which gave Sparta a free hand in Greece with Persian support--Andocides' suggestion that objectors to the peace should make constructive counter-proposals, and his insistence on openness (33-4) and the people's responsibility (40-1), may be additions incorporated in the published speech by way of vindication. This might also explain his complaint (35) about the fickleness and contrariness of assemblies--hardly to be seen as conciliatory in a speech which was actually delivered. Indeed, the circumstances of the speech's publication invite speculation, since he is not known to have returned to Athens. Perhaps his friends published it in the hope of securing his recall, or as a political pamphlet to canvass the advantages of a rapprochement with Sparta.


The surviving speeches of Andocides belong to three phases of his public life--his exile ( On his Return), his rehabilitation ( On the Mysteries), and his subsequent career ( On the Peace with Sparta). The mere fact that he passed through and survived these phases in a period of such political turbulence proves that he was a resilient and adaptable communicator, who learned from his mistakes. But he also retained and developed characteristics which gave his oratory individuality. The effectiveness of the rhetorical sophistication that he could show in On his Return was undermined by its overall egotistical, sometimes hectoring tone. In On the Mysteries he fell back on standard topoi in the conventional parts of the speech, but gave full licence to his natural talent for telling stories, conducting lively dialogues, and denigrating opponents. Indeed, the animation generated by live or direct speech, the informal, almost knockabout style of some of the narrative (and indeed the variety of circumstances in which narrative is used)--are traits of a natural orator; and this informal style may have been more influential than we can know, since the works of its exponents are less likely to have been


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Greek Oratory: Tradition and Originality


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