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Getting The Last Word: Publication Of Political Oratory As An Instrument Of Historical Revisionism

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Chapter Summary

For symbouleutic speeches, the extent of post-delivery revision is largely unknowable, but the author argues that he is in a somewhat stronger position in respect of forensic oratory. The temptation to control public memory by "getting the last word" or "setting the record straight" was in many instances irresistible and frequently took the form of responding to arguments an opponent made in his speech that could not possibly have been anticipated in the speaker's original speech delivered in court. However, the author argues that fidelity to a historical record was simply not a primary concern of ancient aesthetics, any more than the ancients' view of aletheia was identical to the constructions of historical or scientific "truth". The most significant cases of post-delivery revision can be identified in the series of high-profile legal confrontations between Aeschines and Demosthenes. The limited level of Athenian literacy suggests rather small elite as readers.

Keywords: Aeschines; Athenian literacy; Demosthenes; forensic oratory; historical revisionism; post-delivery revision



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