Université d'Erfurt

Rebecca Van Hove: Ehemalige Gast-Doktorandin

Gastdoktorandin am Max-Weber-Kolleg von April 2017 bis März 2018




  • 2013-2017: PhD in Classics, King's College London
  • Since April 2017: Gastdoktorandin, Max-Weber-Kolleg (Kolleg-Forschergruppe: ‘Religiöse Individualisierung in historischer Perspektive’)
  • Sept. 2016 – March 2017: Richard Bradford McConnell Student, British School at Athens
  • Oct. – Dec. 2015: Gastdoktorandin, Max-Weber-Kolleg (ERC Project ‘Lived Ancient Religion’)
  • 2012-2013: MSc (by Research) in Classics, The University of Edinburgh
  • 2007-2011: MA in History and Classics, The University of Edinburgh


Divining the Gods: Religion and Authority in Attic Oratory

This thesis offers an examination of religion in the legal and political speeches of fourth-century BCE Athens. It studies how litigants in the law courts or speakers in the Assembly construct and use religious discourses and analyses what this reveals about the place of religion in the legal and political decision-making processes of classical Athens. The thesis explores not only what the orators said about the divine but furthermore dissects how they could say what they do. To do so, it concentrates on the notion of authority, which it takes as a dynamic and discursive constructed-and-contested process. Questioning the way in which studies of religious authority in Greece focus largely only either on institutions or the roles of religious specialists, this thesis argues for a more pronounced focus on the process of authority’s construction, thereby also paying attention to the authorizing nature of the context in which speeches were delivered. Reading oratory as a site of construction of religious authority, the thesis examines how different sources of potentially religious authority could be presented and employed in the legal and political speeches delivered in Athens: examining oracles and dreams, as well as poetry, oaths and laws. This illuminates the way in which different authoritative entities relate to one another, and how religious authority is ultimately constructed in the classical Athenian democracy.

Research on religion in Attic oratory falls largely into one of two strands: either focusing on the value of the orators as sources for 'popular' morality and religious thought, or examining the use of religion in the texts solely as rhetorical tools of persuasion. Both these approaches treat the orators' speeches as a cohesive body and do not take sufficient account of the variety and differentiation found within this corpus, which is something this study aims to do. Focusing in particular on variety within the religious discourses found in the corpus of the Attic orators, this thesis questions how one can approach such plurality in order to forge a middle way between homogenising the corpus as an expression of collective popular ‘polis’ religion and individualising to the extreme and problematic level of an orator’s personal religious identity or ‘beliefs’.

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