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date: 25 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Chapter 21 examines religion in classical Athens based on Demosthenes’ speeches. Some ancient commentators view the reading of oratory as a near religious experience. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, taken with Demosthenes’ exquisite rhetoric, felt ‘exactly like those who perform the rites of the Mother and Corybantic rituals’. The orator himself could be swept away by the occasion. Drawing on Eratosthenes and on Demetrius of Phaleron, Plutarch reports that in his unprepared speeches Demosthenes’ style was bacchant-esque, including poetic oaths delivered as if under divine influence. The article considers Demosthenes as a source for Athenian religion, oaths in the courtroom as a frequent feature of Attic oratory, and how the gods appear in Demosthenes’ rhetoric. It also discusses appeals to religious authority in the Demosthenic corpus and how Demosthenes in his speeches describes the way in which civic identities and institutions are articulated by sacrifices and other religious rituals.

Keywords: religion, Athens, Demosthenes, speeches, rhetoric, oaths, gods, religious authority, sacrifices, religious rituals

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