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Chapter One The Practice of Oratory in Classical Greece

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Chapter Summary

The theory of genres has an empirical grounding and arises out of the observation of the forms of discourse which developed in a particular historical context. This explains why it is appropriate to examine the historical context in which oratory emerged as a phenomenon which was both social and political, that is Classical Greece, and in particular the core of the institutions of democracy. Athenian democracy was a "direct" democracy in which the people had the right and duty to participate in decision making. The people exercised its supreme authority through three main institutions each fulfilling a different function: the popular courts, Council of Five Hundred and Assembly. In addition to the everyday practice of rhetoric in the law courts, the Council and the Assembly, sources record a series of other contexts in which Athenians made speeches.

Keywords: Athenian democracy; Classical Greece; Judicial speeches; law courts; oratory; rhetoric



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