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Lysias’ Speech 14 and the Use of the Recent Past for Political Purposes

From the book The Orators and Their Treatment of the Recent Past

Markus Zimmermann


This chapter deals with Lysias’ speech against Alcibiades, the son of the famous Athenian politician Alcibiades, and analyses how the historical events during the Peloponnesian War in which Alcibiades took part are presented in the speech, and also how the Lysianic version of Alcibiades’ participation in this events is used by the orator to discredit his son. The completely negative and one-sided version of Lysias is interesting because: a) most Athenians must still have known what happened during the Peloponnesian War and how Alcibiades was related to those events and b) Alcibiades was not hated by all of the Athenians, since he returned to Athens in 408, was elected stragetos autokrator, while even after his second flight he was not convicted in absentia and there was no trial. This leads to the question to what extent (if at all) historical accuracy was necessary to convince the audience.

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