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image of Mnemosyne

Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries witnessed an increase in the use of written materials such as evidence in the law courts, the revision and writing down of laws, the establishment of state archives, and the emergence of books. While many authors praised writing for its positive impact, other writers viewed it as an object of concern. In this paper, I explore the contexts in which Athenian orators used this ambivalence about writing in support of their cases. I demonstrate that the sorts of writing that are praised or attacked in Athenian forensic orations fall into three broad categories, written laws, written contracts, and written evidence. In most cases, the discussion does not revolve around writing in general, but rather focuses on promoting or discrediting an individual piece of writing to suit the needs of the case.


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