Memory, the orators and the public in fourth-century BC Athens

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

This chapter investigates the idea that appeals to memory can be exploited as powerful instruments of persuasion. Through close analysis of the fourth-century BC Greek orators’ frequent allusions to shared memories, especially of poetical texts, but also of laws, recent events and debates, it draws a nuanced picture of what was considered appropriate for an Athenian citizen to remember. Against extensive scholarly consensus, the chapter argues that our evidence does not support the idea that there might be an inappropriate, excessive, elitist and ‘undemocratic’ memory, but only that inappropriate uses of memory can be made. The orators’ claims that their audience surely remember a certain fact, or law, are at times used to manipulate and misdirect the audience’s expectations, lending authority to the orators’ own questionable, and sometimes false, statements. Such rhetorical manipulations of the memory of individuals could also achieve the goal of constructing new shared collective memories. This complex dynamic in the use (and abuse) of memory claims and ascriptions attests to the enduring authority of memory, collective and individual, in the public discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGreek Memories
Subtitle of host publicationTheories and Practices
EditorsLuca Castagnoli, Paola Ceccarelli
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages136-157
ISBN (Print)9781108471725
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019

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