Universität Erfurt


Rebecca Van Hove: Gast-Doktorandin

Universität Erfurt
Max-Weber-Kolleg für kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Studien
Postfach 900221
99105 Erfurt





Religion in the Attic Orators

My research project examines religion in the legal and political speeches of fourth-century B.C. Athens. Research on religion in Attic oratory has largely fallen 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 my study aims to do. I use the notion of religious authority to analyse the way in which religious discourse is shaped in the speeches, examining how authority in religious decision-making and knowledge of divine will is presented and interpreted in the corpus of the orators. Taking religious authority as the ability to speak (potentially) persuasively and legitimately both in the name of, and in matters of, religion, I examine the way in which different such sources of authority are presented: this includes divine signs such as oracles and dreams, but also the quotation of poetry, the relationship between religion and law, and the importance of the figure of the lawgiver. A plurality of religious discourses emerges from this: for example, the way in which oracles, the most important and direct source for the will of the gods, are presented by Lykourgos, Demosthenes and Aeschines, differs significantly in form and function, suggesting a plurality in the way, in which these could be understood.

By examining the speeches then as a not necessarily cohesive body of texts, but as articulations of conceptions of the divine which are created by individuals through their own experience and through appropriation of religious tradition, expressed within the social setting of the law courts and the Assembly, my thesis aims to shed new light on the role of religion in the speeches of the orators, and in their wider political, legal and social context.




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