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4.3: The Epitaphios, Civic Ideology and the Cityscape of Classical Athens

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    Space and Cultural Memory

    Mathieu de Bakker


    Within the corpus of Athenian oratory inherited from the 5th and 4th c. BCE a separate subcategory consists of Epitaphioi ‘funeral orations’. Its six extant samples can be divided into three (mostly) complete orations, ascribed to Lysias (ca. 390 BCE), Demosthenes (338 BCE) and Hyperides (322 BCE), two orations that are embedded in literary works (Pericles’ famous oration of 430 BCE in Thucydides’ Histories, 2.35-46 and Plato’s subtle parody of the genre in his Menexenus, 236d4-249c8) and one fragmentary rhetorical exercise that has come down to us under the name of Gorgias. The orations have many characteristics in common. One of them was their performative context. They were recited, or meant to be recited, in the vicinity of the dêmosion sêma (lit. ‘public grave’) at the Ceramicus, Athens’ state cemetery, on the occasion of the ceremonial burial of the cremated remains of those who had fallen in campaigns in the previous season [1].

    An elaborate description of this ceremony is found in Thucydides’ Histories, in the introduction to Pericles’ Epitaphios, which is embedded in the narrative of the first year of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta and their allies (431-430 BCE):

    In the same winter the Athenians, following their ancestral custom, gave a public funeral for those who had been the first to die in the war. These funerals are held in the following way: two days before the ceremony the bones of the fallen are brought and put in a tent which has been erected, and people make whatever offerings they wish to their own dead. Then there is a funeral procession in which coffins of cypress wood are carried on wagons. There is one coffin for each tribe, which contains the bones of members of that tribe. ... Everyone who wishes to, both citizens and foreigners, can join in the procession, and the women who are related to the dead are there to make their laments at the tomb. The bones are laid in the public burial-place (dêmosion sêma), which is in the most beautiful quarter outside the city walls. ... When the bones have been laid in the earth, a man chosen by the city for his intellectual gifts and for his general reputation makes an appropriate speech in praise of the dead...

    (Thucydides, Histories 2.34, transl. Warner with minor adaptations)

    In his description of the ceremony, Thucydides singles out the Ceramicus as ‘the most beautiful quarter outside the city walls’ [2]. The cemetery owed its name to the adjacent potters’ (kerameis) quarter and covered an area north-west of the city, just outside the Dipylon Gate and the walls that had been built at the instigation of Themistocles in 478 BCE. It can be seen as a typical transitional or ‘liminal’ space, mediating between life and death as much as between city and countryside. Across the cemetery ran the ‘sacred’ road that linked the city to the sanctuary of Demeter and Korè in Eleusis, where the Athenians celebrated the popular ritual of the Mysteries. Every year the Athenians marked the close affiliation between city and sanctuary by means of a procession that moved across the Ceramicus [3]. Of equal importance was the Panathenaic procession in honor of the city’s patron goddess Athena. It moved across the ‘Dromos’, the other road that crossed the Ceramicus, which, flanked by prestigious grave monuments, ran from the Academy through the Dipylon Gate, via the Agora to the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis, on whose friezes the procession was displayed and eternally re-enacted (see map 1). Thus the Ceramicus was a crucial part of various state-ceremonies that were staged to forge, uphold and reinvigorate the Athenians’ sense of collective political and religious identity.

    With a view of the Acropolis, the city’s religious heart studded with sculptures, graves, and inscriptions, the Ceramicus proved an ideal setting for a public ceremony to commemorate the virtues of those who had fallen on behalf of the city. Its panoramic backdrop breathed solemnity and civic pride, and this is reflected in the extant Epitaphioi, which celebrates the heroism of the war-dead, whose acts are glorified as, and taken as an example of, selfless sacrifice on behalf of the collective ideals and interests of the state.

    The Epitaphioi have primarily been studied as textual artifacts, often in connection to questions about their function within society [4]. The speeches facilitate comparison as they revolve around the same popular mythological, historical, and ideological topics such as, respectively, the war against the Amazons, the victory over the Persians, and the popular concept of Athenian autochthony [5]. These topics are, however, mirrored in the ceremonial context of the orations too, as was observed by Tonio Hölscher:

    During the burial ceremony … a speech was delivered by a leading statesman; it awarded a place to the fallen citizens in a string of famous ancestors who in mythical times defeated the Amazons and captured Troy, later dispelled the Persians and finally beat their Greek foes, its content thus conforming to the representations upon the city’s monuments [6]. (Hölscher, 2010: 145; my italics)

    In this contribution, I will explore the relationship between the content of the funeral orations and their spatial context in more detail, and look into the various ways in which they are interrelated and in which the ceremonial space can be ‘lived’ by the audience of the oration. I hope to demonstrate that the monuments on and the panoramic backdrop around the Ceramicus helped the orator in conveying his message of the continuity of Athens’ democratic ideals of individual and collective liberty and selflessness on behalf of the polis and of Greece as a whole.

    To begin with I will zoom in on the spatial context itself and discuss in more detail the ways in which the Ceramicus can be described as a place that was ‘lived ... experienced and valued’ by the Athenians ‘in an ideological relation to society and power’, to use the phrasing of the editors in the introduction to this volume. I will include in this paragraph some observations that seek to qualify the adequacy of the popular phrase lieu de mémoire (‘place of memory’) to describe sites like the Ceramicus where rituals of remembrance are arranged and memory is actively encouraged and manipulated. Turning thereupon to the individual Epitaphioi, I will reassess aspects of their interpretation against the background of their spatial context. I will begin with the two samples of Epitaphioi that are embedded in larger literary works (Thucydides’ Histories and Plato’s Menexenus), as they reveal to us the importance of the ceremonial context, which both authors use to suggest interpretations that question and even undermine the ideological content of the speeches themselves. Next, I will zoom in on the ‘scripts’ of Lysias, Demosthenes, and Hyperides, and discuss passages that can be related to monuments in the surroundings and thereby gain significance [7].

    Ceremonial Space in Athens

    A nowadays popular term to describe space as it is ‘lived’ in the context of ceremonies related to a city’s or nation’s past, is Pierre Nora’s ‘lieu de mémoire’. It should be realized, however, that Nora coined this expression as part of a larger theoretical discussion in which he placed – in the footsteps of the influential sociologist Maurice Halbwachs – history and memory in fundamental opposition to one another:

    Memory is life, borne by living societies founded in its name. It remains in permanent evolution, open to the dialectic of remembering and forgetting, unconscious of its successive deformations, vulnerable to manipulation and appropriation, susceptible to being long dormant and periodically revived. History, on the other hand, is the reconstruction, always problematic and incomplete, of what is no longer. Memory is a perpetually actual phenomenon, a bond tying us to the eternal present; history is a representation of the past [8]. (Nora, 1989:8)

    Nora considers the emergence of entities experienced as lieux de mémoire in conjunction with the rise of history as a scientific discipline, and with a more complicated, mediated manner in which collective cultural memory is experienced within modern societies. As the ultimate cause behind this development, he postulates ‘the acceleration’ of history, a process that he identifies with the growth of nation-states and the fusion of the world into one global society [9]. As a result, local identity is put under pressure and therefore the need increased of ‘lieux de mémoire’, instituted places of (collective) remembrance, represented by monuments, rituals, festivals or any other spatial or temporal entity that may symbolize, express, or organize memory in a coherent and recognizable way for those who witness, receive or take part in them.

    According to Nora, the emergence of the lieu de mémoire coincided with the disappearance of the milieu de mémoire, ‘environment of memory’, where memory is not objectivized and crystallized, but, a place that

    is communal, belongs to public life, functions through a network of associations with diverse places, spaces, and groups, relies upon metonymic constructions, and, like human memory, condenses, abridges, alters, displaces, and projects fragments of the past, making them alive in the present for particular groups (Nelson, 2003: 74).

    Thus, a milieu de mémoire is not a site whose ‘past-ness’ is remembered as past, but a spatial realm where memory offers itself in a continuous unmediated and unfashioned dialogue with the present. Nora associates milieux de mémoire with pastoral and peasant cultures that renew their memory continually through oral rather than written means.

    Nora’s strict distinction between memory and history has been challenged by specialists in the field of memory studies, who take as their point of departure the assumption that our understanding – and therefore any attempts at reconstruction – of the past is always affected by the present and therefore continually shifting. Important in this area is the German Egyptologist Jan Assmann, whose concept ‘cultural memory’ nowadays dominates debates about the relationship between space, remembrance, and society:

    The concept of cultural memory comprises that body of reusable texts, images, and rituals specific to each society in each epoch, whose “cultivation” serves to stabilize and convey that society’s self-image. Upon such collective knowledge, for the most part (but not exclusively) of the past, each group bases its awareness of unity and particularity [10]. (Assmann 1995: 132)

    Unlike Nora and his school, memory studies generally assume a continuation through history of the ways in which humans seek to organise and objectivise their memory within societies. Depending upon place and time, this process may happen spontaneously, driven by the need of a group to express or identify itself in a particular manner, but it may also be, or become, part of an ideological agenda set in motion by those in power, with the intention of exerting control or steering a society into a certain direction.

    Unless one rejects the dichotomy of history versus memory that is implied in the term lieu de mémoire and employs the term ‘theory-free’, it makes more sense to follow Assmann’s emphasis on the continuation and define the Ceramicus as a ‘site of cultural memory’ [11]. As such, it played a major role in the transfer and advertisement of concepts related to Athenian ideology. These were mirrored, first, in concrete images of the Athenian (mythical) past that were (re)presented, (a) in the temporal sense, by the content of the orations, (b) in the spatial sense, by the temples, grave-monuments, inscriptions, sculptures and paintings that constituted the site’s ceremonial backdrop, and (c) in the spatio-temporal sense, by the processions that crossed the site on the way to Eleusis and the Acropolis or the ceremonial burial of the war dead at the dêmosion sêma. Second, the petrified shapes of the monuments on and around the Ceramicus emphasized what was probably the single most important item of Athenian political propaganda, the idea of continuity of habitation and rule of the Athenians citizens over their own soil from which they had sprung forth themselves. This ‘myth’ of Athenian autochthony recurs as a topic in extant funeral orations [12] and also accounts for their typical structure in which mythological topics seamlessly switch to historical ones [13]. Thus in a subtle and seemingly inadvertent manner, the Epitaphioi suggests an uninterrupted tradition of Athenian core values such as liberty, selflessness and martial excellence, each associated with Athens’ democratic constitution [14].

    Although the anachronism in the use of the term lieu de mémoire itself may be problematic, Nora’s idea of ‘acceleration’ of history certainly turns out to be useful – though rid of connotations with a dichotomy of history versus memory – in explaining the inclination of the Athenians of this period to ‘petrify’ and thereby spatially anchor their past through monuments [15]. ‘Acceleration’ need not be time-bound to the 19th century and the growth of the nation-state: it can also apply to antiquity. Owing to a unique set of circumstances – some of them related to the physical, geological and climatological layout of Attica and therefore part of the longue durée, and others, like the fall of the tyrants and the advent of the Persians typical évènements – post-Kleisthenic Athens became an increasingly restless society that seemed continually ‘on the move’, engaged in campaigns abroad whilst often besieged at home. It survived assaults of Persians and Greeks, built itself an empire in the Aegean, fought a war of attrition against Sparta, rebuilt its city after its traumatic defeat to the Peloponnesians (404 BCE) and the subsequent rogue regime of the Thirty (404-403 BCE), and gradually regained its prominent position among the Greeks in the course of the fourth century until it capitulated to Macedonian power after the battle of Chaeronea in 338 BCE. All this came with a price. In the fifth century alone the Attic countryside had to be evacuated twice, and apart from casualties due to plagues, droughts, and other natural disasters, the city lost scores of hoplites and marines in expeditions overseas, the most striking of which were the defeats against the Thracians (at Drabeskos, ca. 465 BCE), the Egyptians (460/59 BCE, cf. ML 33) and the Sicilians (413 BCE). The popularity of Athenian beliefs in autochthony and uninterrupted habitation may result from an unconscious desire to balance the flux, restlessness, and instability. It coincided with a desire to remember and create sites of cultural memory that expressed the permanence, both of the city’s physical layout and, metonymically, of its mentality throughout the ages. Let us now turn to the Epitaphioi and look into the ways in which they function within this larger ceremonial context.

    The ‘Embedded’ Epitaphioi of Thucydides and Plato: The Question of Space and Speech

    To begin with, we need to look into the ‘embedded’ Epitaphioi of Thucydides and Plato. Their speeches were not delivered at the ceremony in the form in which they were written down but were meant to encourage reflection on the genre as they interact both with their own literary context in which they are embedded and with the Athenian tradition of Epitaphioi. As we saw above, Thucydides’ specimen is preceded by a description of the ceremonial context that hints at the sensitivity of the orators and their audience to the interplay between speech and space, and thus can be helpful in evaluating the content of the funeral orations of Lysias, Demosthenes, and Hyperides that stand alone.

    Thucydides and Plato were, each in their own ways, traumatized by events that they believed had resulted from excesses of the civic ideology that was celebrated in such glowing terms in the funerary oratory of their fellow-Athenians. Thucydides was exiled during the Peloponnesian War after losing Amphipolis, an Athenian stronghold in the northern Aegean, to the Spartan commander Brasidas (424/3 BCE). He lived to see the end of the war, but it is not known whether he returned to his native city. Plato witnessed the death-sentence of his charismatic teacher Socrates (399 BCE) on charges of asebeia (‘impiety’) and of corrupting youth, held up by a law-court under the renewed democracy in Athens a few years after the fall of the Thirty. Both authors connected their Epitaphioi to Pericles, the great Athenian statesman of the second half of the fifth century BCE who was responsible for many successful campaigns as stratêgos (‘commander’), and architect of a naval strategy that gave Athens – against the odds – an advantage over the Spartans in the initial years of the Peloponnesian War.

    Pericles’ Funeral Oration as It is Presented in Thucydides’ Histories

    Thucydides presents Pericles’ funeral oration (2.35-46), held at the end of the first campaigning season of the Peloponnesian War (431-430 BCE), as a historical event, and is thus bound by his promise to keep himself ‘as closely as possible to the general content of speeches which were actually delivered’ (Thuc. 1.22.1) [16]. We, therefore, do not know exactly to what extent he manipulated Pericles’ oration, which deviates from the other Epitaphioi as it passes over concrete mythological and historical precedents of Athenian greatness – autochthony, the Persian Wars and the Athenian empire are summarily mentioned (2.36.1-4) – and also leaves aside ostentatious praise of the war-dead. Instead, we find a utopian panegyric of the qualities and moral principles of the Athenian state and its inhabitants (2.37-42). In the consolatory part of the speech, Pericles lists the difficulties faced by those bereaved of their relatives but also points at ways in which they can continue to contribute to the city and its empire (2.43-45).

    Thucydides makes Pericles’ funeral oration part of a larger episode that foregrounds Pericles as an effective leader of the unruly Athenians in a time of crisis [17]. It begins with his representation of Pericles’ speech in the Assembly in response to the Spartan demand that Athens gives up its empire (1.140-144), and covers the first half of the second book, in which apart from the funeral oration (2.35-46) two further speeches are ascribed to him, one in the Athenian Assembly, where he seeks to encourage the Athenians when they face the daunting prospect of a Peloponnesian attack (2.13), and the other to calm their anger as a result of the plague and the invasion of the Peloponnesians and the destruction of the countryside of Attica (2.60-64). Thucydides rounds off this episode when Pericles dies, with a reflection on his character and his extraordinary talents for knowing how to hold the city in check. He praises his foresight, charisma, selflessness, and incorruptibility (2.65). A key phrase in this character judgment summarises the tension between the Athenian utopia as expressed in his funeral oration, with its emphasis on harmony between private and public interests and on the selfless involvement of all citizens and the actual political situation:

    It became a democracy in name (logôi), but in reality (ergôi) a rule by its first man (2.65.8)

    Thucydides illustrates this contrast between words (logoi) and reality (erga) in the spatial context of the funeral oration. The introduction to the oration, which I quoted at the start of this essay, is unique in its length compared to other introductions to speeches in the Histories. Thucydides’ attention to detail in this passage reveals his sensitivity to the spatial backdrop of the state funeral and shows his awareness of its effects on the audience. It is within this setting that he makes Pericles mount the platform to give his oration:

    And when the moment arrived, he came forward from the grave to a platform that was made high, so that he could be heard over the greatest possible extent by the crowd, and spoke along the following lines... (2.34.8, transl. based on Rusten 1989)

    This is the only instance in Thucydides of an orator mounting a platform before his speech. The description befits the position of Pericles rising ‘high’ (hupsêlon), as a oneman ruler, above the Athenian ‘crowd’ (homilou). In harmony with Thucydides’ statement in his character judgment, Pericles covers up the reality (erga) of the situation by his words (logoi), as he seeks to play down his role in the ceremony and gain the sympathy of the audience along the traditional oratorical precept of conciliare (‘win over the audience’), considering it impossible to speak adequately at such an occasion:

    ‘Most of those who have already spoken here used to praise the person who added this speech (logon) to the ceremony, considering it good practice that it is spoken in the case of those who are buried after dying in war. I would have thought it to be sufficient, however, for tributes to men who have become heroes by their deeds (ergôi) to be displayed by way of deeds (ergôi), too, such as you can see have now also been prepared around this grave at public expense, and for the virtues of many not to be endangered by one man (heni andri), as belief depends on his speaking well or poorly.’ (2.35.1, transl. based on Rusten 1989)

    In the setting and opening words of the funeral oration, Thucydides illustrates, in spatial terms, Pericles’ ambiguous position as de facto one-man ruler in democratic Athens. Pericles tactfully plays down his role and masks the reality of his elevated position behind his wish that the oration was not held and the deceased had only been honoured by deeds such as described by Thucydides himself in the preceding paragraph. Thus, using the backdrop of the state funeral at the Ceramicus, Thucydides explains the initial successes of Periclean policy in the war against Sparta, but also hints at the vulnerability of Athens, which depends on the singular qualities of one statesman to keep its volatile ‘crowd’ (homilos) at bay. This picture undermines the utopian image that Pericles presented in his oration of Athens as a city of equality, ambition and selfless involvement of every single individual. In the subsequent detailed description of the plague and implosion of Athenian society (2.49-54.1) Thucydides further explores the incompatibility between words and reality in Periclean Athens and breaks down various slogans that are found in funerary oratory, repeating them – in some cases almost literally – in the context of illness and social distress [18].

    Plato’s Epitaphios in the Menexenus

    In his dialogue Menexenus, Plato targets the genre in a different way by making Socrates’ voice a specimen that was allegedly taught to him by Aspasia, Pericles’ wife, and that contained ‘leftovers’ (perileimmata, 236b) of the speech that Pericles held and that was embedded in Thucydides’ Histories (see above). The dialogue has raised many questions, not in the least for its blatant anachronisms as it stages Socrates thirteen years after his death (399 BCE), honouring the Athenians that fell in the Corinthian War (386 BCE) [19]. Most scholars acknowledge ironic undertones, but agree that it is certainly not a straightforward parody [20]. The oration honours those who died in the Corinthian war and refers to topical mythological and historical events, most of which Socrates connects to Athenian greatness and the selfless sacrifice of its citizens, even when they concern stains on Athenian history like the civil war in Athens (243d-244b). Plato’s targets may have been Lysias and Pericles [21], and there is certainly irony when Socrates claims to have learned the oration from Aspasia, Pericles’ wife and Socrates’ ‘teacher’ (didaskalos, 236c). Her prominence contrasts with the role that Thucydides’ Pericles awards to women in his Athenian utopia, where he admonishes them to avoid having a reputation among the males, ‘whether for virtue or for reproach’ (Thuc. 2.45.2).

    Although Plato makes Socrates quote the speech outside its ceremonial context, he certainly envisages it to be held at the dêmosion sêma, as he refers to the war-dead of the battles of Tanagra and Oenophyta that were fought by Myronides (on whom see below, 242ac), to those who fell at Sphacteria (242d) and in Sicily (242e-243). Of each group he points out that they are ‘buried here’ (enthade keintai), thus evoking the ceremonial context of the dêmosion sêma. Socrates also, however, mentions the failure to recover the corpses in the sea-battle of Arginusae (406 BCE, 243c), which brought the Athenians to the regretful decision to sentence the victorious generals to death. He wryly comments that the marines of this campaign were ‘not ... buried here’ (ouk ... keintai enthade), and met a fate they did not deserve. Such explicit references to painful episodes in Athenian history are usually left implicit in funerary oratory by ‘shrouded’ referencing [22]. In this case, however, the reference is made more poignant by an evocation of the ceremonial context of the public burial, which could not be awarded to the marines who died in this particular sea-battle. In referring to this incident, Plato reminds his readers of the excess of popular anger against the victorious generals which led to their death sentence and thereby suggests his discontent with the volatile Athenian democracy at the end of the 5th century that failed to act in the interest of the state. Via subtle ways, Plato seeks to question Athenian ideology as it is expressed in funerary oratory and hints at excesses that resulted from it. The inclusion of the spatial setting in his playful irony reveals to what extent the speeches were experienced as an integral part of a ceremonial whole that included the Ceramicus and the panoramic backdrop of the Athenian cityscape.

    The Epitaphioi of Lysias, Demosthenes, and Hyperides

    Having used the embedded funeral orations of Thucydides and Plato to show the importance of the ceremonial space in which the speeches were delivered, I now turn to the three Epitaphioi of which (almost) complete scripts have been left to look for possible ways in which they interact with their spatial context. The longest sample has come down to us under Lysias’ name. Doubts about the authorship and function of the speech do not preclude an investigation into its performative setting, as the speech is intended for an audience present at the public burial at the Ceramicus [23]. In this specific case it concerns the hoplites who had assisted Corinth in its war against Sparta (395-386) [24]. After the proem (1-2), the orator focuses on Athens’ mythological past, selecting the topics of the repelling of the Amazons (4-6), the burial of the Seven who fought against Thebes (7-10) and the protection that the Athenians selflessly offered to the Heraclidae against their father’s enemy Eurystheus (11-16). Next, Athens’ autochthony is dealt with (17-19) as a bridge between spatium mythicum and historicum. The latter begins with the Persian Wars, covering the defeat of the Persians at Marathon in 490 BCE (20-26), the invasion of Xerxes, the sea-battle of Salamis (27-43), and the battle of Plataea (44-47), and subsequently highlights key events of the later fifth century: the Geraneia campaign of Myronides against Korinth (48-53), the growth of the Athenian Empire (54-57), the defeat at Aegospotamoi that sealed Athens’ fate in the Peloponnesian War (58-60) and the democratic counterrevolution of 403/2 BCE that brought an end to the regime of the Thirty (61-66). Praise of the war-dead and the story of their campaign follow (67-76), and the orator rounds off with words of consolation (77-81). Within this topical selection, the events at Salamis are told most elaborately; they include a description of the battle focalized by those who look upon it from the shore and by the marines who take part in it themselves (35-39).

    The shorter Epitaphios that has come down to us under Demosthenes’ name was probably addressed to the Athenians at the burial of those who fell at Chaeronea against Philip II in 338 BCE [25]. Following the proem (1-3), the orator turns to the familiar topic of autochthony (4-5) and next to reflections on the virtues and martial excellence of the war-dead (6-37). These are introduced by brief references to mythical and historical precedents, the repelling of the Amazons, and of the Thracians under Eumolpus, the protection of the Heraclidae against Eurystheus, the burial of the Seven who fought against Thebes (8) and the Persian Wars (10-11). Exceptional in this Epitaphios is the list of the ten Athenian tribes (27-31), whose members are described as having fought in the spirit of their mythical eponymous ancestors (27-31). In his consolatory peroration Demosthenes mentions the honours the fallen now receive in the islands of the blest (34).

    Hyperides’ Epitaphios celebrates the dead in the Lamian War (322 BCE), which was waged by a coalition of Greek states against the Macedons after the death of Alexander the Great. In contrast to Lysias and Demosthenes, Hyperides singles out the commander of the Athenians, Leosthenes, and elaborates on his excellence as a general [26]. After the proem (1-3) he briefly praises Athens, comparing it to the sun in the sky (4-6) and thereupon focuses on Leosthenes’ campaign and the singular qualities of those who were involved (7-40). He refers occasionally to topical themes like autochthony (7), the Persian Wars (12; 18) and the city’s democracy (25). As in Demosthenes’ counterpart, the oration pauses on the arrival and status of the war-dead in the underworld (35-39), where their achievements are measured against those of the Greeks who fought in Troy (36), and those of the individual Athenian statesmen Miltiades, Themistocles and Harmodius, and Aristogeiton, who were held responsible for the overthrow of the Pisistratid tyranny in Athens at the end of the sixth century BCE (39). Hyperides’ speech was found on a papyrus in the 19th century, which it breaks off before the standard consolatory conclusion, of which a small fragment is extant (41-43) [27].

    The topics in the Epitaphioi can be connected to their spatial backdrop, the Ceramicus and the Athenian cityscape, in three different ways. First, there are the sculptures, paintings, and grave-monuments that display specific events to which reference is made, or that can be associated with them (table 1). The Amazonomachia (Lys. 4-6 and Dem. 8, cf. Pl. Menex. 239b), for instance, is displayed on the west metopes of the Parthenon and on a painting in the nearby Stoa Poikilê. Similarly, Hyperides’ reference to the tyrannicides (39) can be linked to their statues on the Agora.

    Other topics in the speeches are not visually displayed themselves within (the vicinity of) the Ceramicus, but can be related to local landmarks in other ways (table 2). The Altar of the Twelve Gods on the Classical Agora is such an example. This was a place where foreigners sought refuge and offered themselves as suppliants (cf. Hdt. 6.108). The altar is hinted at by Lysias (11) when he mentions the Heraclidae, who, rejected by all other Greeks, sought and received protection and help from the Athenians in their revenge upon Eurystheus (Lys. 11-16, cf. Dem. 8, Pl. Menex. 239b). Another example is the sacred road to Eleusis that ran across the cemetery. Eleusis was related to the myth of Eumolpus and the Thracians (Dem. 8), and to the burial of the Argives after the expedition of the Seven against Thebes (Lys. 10). This mythical event in its turn makes one think of a historical expedition that Athens undertook to help the Argives in a war against Sparta. This led to a defeat of a Spartan hoplite contingent at Oenoe (ca. 460 BCE), a feat so famous in Athens that it was celebrated with a painting in the Stoa Poikilê.

    Third, there are the abstract topics, such as Athenian autochthony and the greatness of its democratic constitution, that are expressed by the spatial backdrop as a whole, the monumental assemblage of the Athenian cityscape that reminded the audience of the city’s continuity and achievements (Table 3). Above, I suggested that the continuation of Athenian habitation and mentality is metonymically expressed in the petrified form of its monuments. In a more concrete manner, the collective of statues, temples, and monuments on the Acropolis can be interpreted as a spatial expression and permanent reminder of Athenian freedom and victory over foreign invaders under the benevolent eye of the city’s patron goddess [28].

    Table 1. Monuments Displaying Events/Persons that are Mentioned in Epitaphioi
    Event/Person Place of Monument Thuc. Plato Lysias Dem. Hyp.
    Contest of Athena and Poseidon Parthenon   237c-d      
    Repelling of Amazons Parthenon: Stoa Poikilê   239b 4-6 8  
    Theseus Parthenon: Hephaesteion       28  
    Heracles Parthenon: Hephaesteion     11-16 31  
    Trojan War Parthenon: Stoa Poikilê       10 35-36
    Tyrannicides Agora; Monument on Ceramicus [29]         39
    Persian Wars Parthenon; Stoa Poikilê; Nike temple; Stoa Zeus Eleutherios 2.36.2            2.36.4 239d-241c; 245a 20-47 10 12; 18; 37- 38
    Aeginetan Wars Monument on Ceramicus [30]     48-49    
    Cimon’s War (Eurymedon, Cyprus) Monument on Ceramicus [31]   241d-e      
    Tanagra and Oenophyta Monument on Ceramicus [32]   242a-c      
    Sicilian Expedition Monument on Ceramicus [33]   242e-243      
    Stasis in Athens Grave of Thrasyboulos on Ceramicus [34]   243e-244b 61-66    
    Corinthian War Monument on Ceramicus; Grave monument of Conon [35]; Grave monument of Dexileos   244c-246a 67-68    
    War Against Philippus Monument for wardead Olynthos on Ceramicus [36]       17-18; 20-22  
    Lamian War Monument for Leosthenes on Ceramicus [37]         passim
    Athenian Walls Themistoclean Walls Bordering Ceramicus     64    


    Table 2. Monuments Associated with Events/Persons Mentioned in Epitaphioi
    Event/Person Place of Monument Thuc. Plato Lysias Dem. Hyp.
    Eumolpos (Road to) Eleusis   239b   8  
    Seven ag. Thebes (Road to) Eleusis   239b 7-10 8  
    Eponymous heroes Altar of Eponymous heroes       27-31  
    Erechtheus Erechtheion   239b   27  
    Theseus Prytaneion       28  
    Pandion Erechtheion       28  
    Leos Leokoreion       29  
    Oeneus Shrine of Dionysus near Academy       30  
    Cecrops Erechtheion       30  
    Hippothoon and Alope (Road to) Eleusis       31  
    Aias Athena Promachos       31  
    Heracles’ sons; Eurystheus Altar of Twelve Gods     11-16 (8)  
    Athenian Democracy Graves of Kleisthenes, Ephialtes on Ceramicus [38] 2.37 238b-239a 18; 61-66 25-28 25
    Athenian Temples and Ritual Temples as visible on Acropolis, Kolonos Agoraios   237c-d 37   21


    Table 3. Abstract Topics Expressed by the Athenian Cityscape
    Topic Thuc. Plato Lysias Dem. Hyp.
    Autochthony (continuity metonymically expressed in ‘petrified’ form of monuments) 2.36.1 237b-e; 245c-e 17; 43 4; 30 7
    Fertility (olive and grain – cf. Parthenon; opulence of monuments) 2.36.1 237c; 238a-b 5; 37 5  
    Ancestors (buried on Ceramicus) 2.36.1 237a; 239a; 247a-b 3; 17; 20; 23; 26; 32; 60; 61; 69 4; 6-7; 12 3
    Athens as a polis and patris  2.36.3; 43.1; 44.3 236d; 244c; 248d-249c 5; 12; 16; 21; 32; 34; 40; 58; 63; 64; 65; 70; 74 1; 2; 4; 25; 32; 33; 36 3; 4-5; 10

    After this general overview of topics that can be associated with local monuments or with the Athenian monumental cityscape as a whole, I now turn to a discussion of some individual problems that are found within the speeches and that may be better understood if the ceremonial context is taken into consideration.


    With the exception of Plato’s Menexenus, Lysias’ Epitaphios contains most references to mythical and historical events that can be associated with individual monuments and landmarks in the spatial context. Problematic is the reference to Myronides and his Geraneiacampaign of 458-457 (2.48-53), in which the Korinthians were massacred by an Athenian army raised from the city’s youth and elderly, as most Athenian adult hoplites were abroad at that time [39]. Scholars have found it difficult to explain why, in a speech to commemorate those who had fallen in an alliance with the Korinthians, reference is made to a past battle in which the Korinthians were defeated [40].

    A solution is offered in the concluding words of the funeral orations. Here, the orators usually speak words of consolation to the elderly (Thuc. 2.44.1-4; Lys. 72-74; Dem. 35- 36; Hyp. 27; Pl. Menex. 247-248d) and the youth (Thuc. 2.45.1; Lys. 72, 75; Dem. 37; Hyp. 27; 42; Pl. Menex. 246d-247c), bereaved as they are from their children and fathers. They are encouraged and reminded of the service and support they can offer to the state, despite the respective impediments of old age and inexperience. Myronides’ Geraneiacampaign provides a dramatic example of such support, as it illustrates Athens’ dogged and unwavering mentality when the city is placed under stress with hardly any fighting power left and highlights the ideal of selfless sacrifice on behalf of the state.

    Furthermore, Myronides himself is evoked at the Ceramicus. Fourteen marble fragments have been preserved from a pedimental stêlê to commemorate the Argives who fell in the battle of Tanagra [41]. This battle was fought under Myronides in the same year as the Geraneia-campaign. Although Lysias does not refer to the Tanagra campaign itself, Plato’s Menexenus reveals that the war casualties of the Tanagra campaign were publicly buried at the Ceramicus:

    These were the first of our men who, after the Persian war and now helping Greeks against Greeks in the cause of freedom, proved themselves men of valor and delivered those whom they were aiding; and they were the first to be honored by the State and laid to rest in this tomb (en tôide tôi mnêmati) [42]. (242bc, transl. W.R.M. Lamb)

    The performative context of the ceremony and the local monuments seem to account for the presence of Myronides’ Geraneia campaign in Lysias’ speech, in spite of its commemoration of those who had fallen in support of the Korinthians who once were Myronides’ adversaries [43].


    The most striking part of Demosthenes’ funeral oration is the reference to the ten Athenian tribes that are named after the eponymous heroes of the city (27-31). The myths about these heroes are related to the nobility and selflessness of those who sacrificed their lives in the battle of Chaeronea (338 BCE). The specification of the tribes follows a passage in which Athenian democracy is praised for its openness and civilian involvement, and contrasted with the fear of citizens under an autocrat (25-26). It seems as if Demosthenes, at this crucial juncture in Athens’ wars against Macedon, is harking back to the tribal reforms of Kleisthenes, an act which was believed by many to lie at the origins of Athens’ rise from obscurity to greatness under a democracy in which all citizens were involved. This idea is summarised by Herodotus:

    Now the advantages of everyone having a voice in the political procedure (isêgoriê) are not restricted just to single instances but are plain to see wherever one looks. For instance, while the Athenians were ruled by tyrants, they were no better at warfare than any of their neighbours but once they had got rid of the tyrants they became vastly superior. (Hdt. 5.78, transl. Waterfield)

    For Demosthenes and his audience, however, the tribes and their eponymous heroes were also spatially present in the context of the funerary ceremony. We learn from Thucydides that the cremated remains of the war-dead were carried to the dêmosion sêma in coffins of cypress wood and mourned per tribe (Thuc. 2.34.2-3). This tradition probably found its origins in military practice, as the Athenian hoplite armies lined up for battle following tribal divisions. The tribal organization of the Athenian state was visible in the altar of the eponymous heroes on the Classical Agora, which functioned as a political day-to-day hub as the Athenian government used it to update its citizens on laws and decrees, and announced pending lawsuits and political meetings [44]. Loraux speculates about the possibility that the prothesis (‘laying in state’) of the war-dead in the coffins took place in front of the altar, and that the procession that carried them to the dêmosion sêma went through the Dipylon Gate, in a direction opposite to that of the Panathenaic procession [45].

    The myths that Demosthenes relates about the eponymous heroes are directly or indirectly evoked in the panoramic backdrop of the funeral ceremony. The protreptic function of these myths may be evident from the fact that they each in their own ways emphasize the qualities that are needed to guarantee the city’s greatness and martial success. The first of these is the preparedness to (self-)sacrifice, as expressed in the myth of Erechtheus, whose name was given to the Erechtheidae tribe (27). He defeated the Thracians under Eumolpus in the war with Eleusis (see above) at the expense of his daughters, whom he had to sacrifice in order to guarantee victory. A cult was instituted in his honor in the Erechtheion at the Acropolis. The theme recurs in the case of the Leontidae (29), a tribe named after the mythical king Leos, who had to sacrifice his daughters to rid the city of famine. The daughters were honored at the Leokoreion, a hero-shrine built around a sacred rock at the northwest corner of the Classical Agora [46]. Furthermore, the self-sacrifice of the Aeantidae at Chaeronea (31) is linked by Demosthenes to their eponymous hero Aias, who played a major role in the Trojan War and is connected to Salamis and the site of the iconic sea-battle against the Persians. The Athenians had placed a large cult statue of Athena Promachos on the Acropolis that pointed in the direction of the island, towering above the other votive gifts.

    A second common denominator in these myths is the willingness to fight heroically against those who had violated Greek customs. Thus in relation to the Pandionidae (28) – named after the mythical king Pandion honoured in the Erechtheion – Demosthenes mentions the vengeance that Pandion’s daughters Procne and Philomela took on Procne’s Thracian husband Tereus, who had raped her sister Philomela and cut out her tongue. Meanwhile, Theseus is related to the Aegeidae (28) who were named after his father Aegeus. A scene from Theseus’ battle against the Pallantidae was displayed on the frieze of the pronaos of the Hephaesteion temple in which he was believed to lie buried. He also figured in the battle of Centaurs and Lapiths that could be viewed on the south metopes of the Parthenon. As the alleged founder of isêgoriê in Athens, he was believed to be responsible for its contemporary greatness, and therefore ultimately for the monumental cityscape through which this greatness was expressed. Furthermore, the eponymous hero Acamas of the Acamantis tribe (29) is like Aias (31) connected to the Trojan War, displayed on the north metopes of the Parthenon and on a painting in the Stoa Poikilê. Similarly, the Antiochidae (31) are named after Antiochus, son of Heracles, whose labours could be admired on the east side of the Hephaesteion and who probably also featured on the Parthenon metopes (east side) helping the gods in their fight against the Giants.

    A final set of eponymous kings seems to be evoked for their cultic associations and the concomitant religious observance that is needed to warrant support from the gods. The Oeneidae (30) are linked to Oeneus (‘wineman’), a hero son of Dionysus [47] Spatially, Dionysus is evoked in his sanctuary on the south side of the Acropolis, but the god was also worshipped at a shrine along the road from the city to the Academy. Each year a procession carried the wooden statue of the god from the sanctuary on the south slope to the shrine (Paus. 1.29.2). This procession crossed the Ceramicus in a similar way to the procession that went from Athens to Eleusis. In the same vein, the Cecropidae (30) are named after Cecrops, another mythical founder-king of Athens, who is held responsible for the foundation and organisation of the city, the contest between Athena and Poseidon (as displayed on the west pediment of the Parthenon), and the institution of their cults on the Acropolis, which itself carried the ancient name ‘Cecropia’ [48] Demosthenes describes Cecrops’ appearance as half-man and half-snake, thus emphasising his autochthonous nature and relating him to the familiar topic of autochthony. Finally, the Hippothoontidae (31) are tied to Poseidon through Hippothoon’s mother Alopê, an Eleusinian princess. Demosthenes avoids mentioning Poseidon as an Olympian god in this context of burial but hints at the god’s presence through aposiopesis. Hippothoon and Alopê were both honoured with cults in Eleusis, whose connection to Athens is again implied.

    By listing the eponymous heroes and anchoring their myths within the monumental cityscape, Demosthenes highlights the qualities that are needed to continue the city’s greatness: a preparedness to (self-)sacrifice, to fight relentlessly against (foreign) violators of ancestral customs, and to worship the gods meticulously. These themes are also found elsewhere in Demosthenes’ speeches. In the Philippics, for instance, he repeatedly insists on self-sacrifice, urging the Athenians not to rely on mercenaries in the wars against Philip, but to put their own lives at stake [49]. In the solemn context of the state funeral after the defeat at Chaeronea, Demosthenes continues to stress this theme, though this time more implicitly through a protreptic use of myth. In referring twice to mythical precedents of Thracian aggression (27, 28), the orator may have wanted to suggest a link with the current political situation, in which Athens was under threat from another foreign invader from the North of the Aegean. Another indirect link can be seen in the reference to Cadmus and Semele in the context of Oeneus (30), which hints at Athenian ties with Thebes, the ally of Athens against the Macedons. Altogether the landmarks, cityscape and works of art in the ceremonial context may have helped the orator in bringing across his message. By reminding his audience of the behaviour of their mythical ancestors, he implicitly encourages them to more active resistance and willingness to sacrifice, in harmony with Athenian ideals.


    Two observations on Hyperides’ Epitaphios in this context suffice. As indicated above, the oration focuses on the individual rather than the collective and extensively celebrates the general of the Athenians in the Lamian War, Leosthenes. This emphasis on the individual is reflected by contemporary developments in the ways in which the dead were honoured in the Ceramicus. In the course of the fourth-century graves had grown more luxurious and monuments had been erected in larger perimeters [50]. This was to change a few years after the Lamian War, when Athens came under the rule of Demetrius of Phalerum (317-307), who curtailed funerary excess by imposing a law upon Athens that brought an end to sumptuous graves on the Ceramicus.

    Furthermore, this speech contains the only reference to the tyrannicides (39) in the extant Epitaphioi. It is also the only time that the Athenian tyrants themselves are mentioned in passing. In the other speeches this episode of Athenian history is never remembered, nor is reference made to the reforms of Kleisthenes that led to the institution of democracy. This omission may result from the emphasis that orators sought to place on the continuity of Athens’ mentality, constitution, and ideals, from the mythical times of Theseus down to the present. In Hyperides’ speech, however, the focus has shifted from the past to the present, and Leosthenes and his troops are judged better than the heroes of the Persian Wars (37-38) and the tyrannicides (39) and thereby hailed as similar liberators [51]. This seems to reflect an attitude towards the past that had changed after the battle of Chaeronea and the subjection of Athens to Macedon rule. The Athenians could no longer look back on an uninterrupted history of political and military autonomy, but had become part of an empire that stretched from Greece to the Indus. Consequently, the greatness of the individuals who sought to reconfigure the past greatness of the city and aimed at restoring autonomy had to be highlighted. In this context the reference to the tyrannicides became more relevant, and may have overruled the emphasis on continuity as found in the other speeches.


    By tradition, classics is a field of texts, with the study of a text, its constitution, its interpretations and its connections to other texts as its accepted raison d’être. For a long time, the spatial context in which these texts have functioned belonged to the exclusive domain of archaeologists and historians. The separation of disciplines caused each field to move in its own direction, and cross-fertilization was hardly encouraged. The last decades have shown a change in direction. In particular the case of oratory, the spatial context cannot be left out of consideration as it may help us in explaining certain features of the text or in envisaging their performance and the effects on their contemporary audience.

    In the case of funerary oratory, it can be demonstrated that the orators selected topics, both concrete mytho-historical and abstract ones, that are displayed or evoked in the spatial ambiance of the funeral, either visible somewhere in the backdrop of the cityscape or related to significant landmarks. In doing so, the orators sought to express and steer Athenian popular thought at a solemn, ceremonial occasion [52]. They looked for help in the physical surroundings, and as they spoke at a site where the cultural memory of the Athenians was collectively cherished, they continually referred to items that were part of this memory and which they endeavored to harmonize with their over-all political message. Thus they caused ceremonial space to be ‘lived’ in an ideological way, and it was, among other issues, this spatial aspect that made the funeral oration a vulnerable target for Thucydides and Plato, two of the ideology’s greatest critics.


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    Winton, R.I. (2010) “Thucydides 2.35 and 45.2: Against Praise”, JHS 130, 153-163

    Ziolkowski, J.E. (1981) Thucydides and the Tradition of Funeral Speeches at Athens, New York



    1. Various aspects of Athenian public burial remain disputed in scholarship, most prominently the questions of (a) the origins of the ceremony: when was it instituted? (b) the frequency of the ceremony: was it held every year or only in times of war? and (c) the role of those Athenians who had fallen in Marathon against the Persians (490 BCE) whose cremated remains according to Thucydides (2.34) had not been buried near the dêmosion sêma but in the vicinity of the Marathon battlefield. For the debate about these questions, which fall beyond the scope of this article, I refer to Jacoby (1944), and, from a more archaeological and epigraphical perspective, Bradeen (1969), Stupperich (1977), Clairmont (1983) and Arrington (2011). See also Hornblower, Comm. ad Thuc. 2.34.1 and Rhodes, Comm. ad Thuc. 2.34.1. An overview of the ancient evidence (Diod. Sic.11.33.3; Dion. Hal. Antiq. Rom. 5.17.4; Plutarch, Publicola 9.7) regarding the origins of the custom is offered by Ziolkowski (1981: 13- 21).

    2. An unusual comment in Thucydides’ Histories, in which, as Hornblower observes (Comm. ad Thuc. 2.34.5), reflections upon aesthetics of a site are hardly ever found. See also Winton (2010: 157).

    3. The importance of this procession for the Athenians is underlined by Xenophon’s reference (Hellenica 1.4.20) to its restoration by Alcibiades in 407 BCE, when, for the first time since the Spartans had captured Decelea, the Athenians ventured to organise the procession over land again, rather than sail to Eleusis by ship.

    4. The classic study on the Epitaphios is Loraux (1981; 1986). She concludes that the function of the funeral oration was to provide the occasion on which Athens was ‘(re)invented’ in narrative form. Carter (1991), Morris (1992), and Ochs (1993) explore in various ways the ritual function of the speeches. For a brief overview of different approaches by which Epitaphioi are related to their context, see Wickkiser (1999: 65).

    5. For an overview of the various topoi, see Loraux (1981; 1986) and Ziolkowski (1981).

    6. ‘Bei den Begräbnisfeiern ... hielt ein führender Staatsmann eine Rede; darin wurden die gefallenen Mitbürger in die Reihe der ruhmreichen Vorfahren gestellt, die seit mythischer Zeit die Amazonen besiegt, Troia erobert, später die Perser abgewehrt und zuletzt griechische Feinde geschlagen hatten, ähnlich wie es die Bilderzyklen der Staatsdenkmäler darstellten.’ See also Hölscher (1973: 73) and compare Jung’s more specific reference in this respect to the Stoa Poikilê ‘Painted Stoa’ on the Classical Agora in Athens, in which paintings were displayed of famous mythological and historical battles fought by the Athenians, like the Amazonomachy and the Battle of Marathon. According to Jung (2006) the Stoa Poikilê and the Epitaphioi contributed to the creation of a canon of history in Athens: ‘It is remarkable that the subjects exactly in this order of representation are also found to be standard elsewhere: in the funeral orations they regularly appear in the same order … There may be a connection between the paintings displayed in the Stoa and … the ritual of the state funeral. The speeches delivered on this occasion awarded to the fallen citizens a place in the longstanding tradition of past heroic Athenian achievements … in a similar way as the Stoa did.’ (‘Auffällig is dabei, daß die Themen gerade in dieser Reihung auch sonst typisch, geradezu kanonisch sind: In den Epitaphioi Logoi tauchen sie regelmäßig in derselben Zusammenstellung auf ... Möglicherweise steht die Darstellung in der Stoa in einem Zusammenhang mit dem … Ritual der Epitaphien. So wie die Tapferkeite der Gefallenen bei dieser Gelegenheit in den Reden in die lange Liste athenischer Heldentaten der Vergangenheit … gestellt wurde, so geschah dies in der Stoa Poikile analog’) (p. 114, compare n. 161).

    7. I leave aside the oration of Gorgias as it proves hardly relevant for the argument in this contribution. Its few fragments praise the qualities of the deceased in generic terms, and contain no indications of a relationship with a particular spatial context. For an extensive study, see Volgraff (1952).

    8. The quote is taken from an article that summarises important conclusions from Nora’s seven-volume Les lieux de mémoire (1984-1992), which focuses on French history.

    9. Nora (1989: 7-8).

    10. The quote is taken from an article that summarises the most important of Assmann’s ideas. For his view upon the unique constellation of Greece in the field of the history of memory (as opposed to Egypt and other hierarchically led states), see Assmann (20003 ).

    11. Contrast Jung, who prefers Nora’s theoretical model over Assmann’s (2006: 17-19), but still notes that ‘it is fundamentally restricted as many aspects of the lieux de mémoire as defined by Nora cannot be applied analogously to ancient … societies’ (‘Grundsätzliche Einschränkungen ergeben sich jedoch daraus, daß für antike … Gesellschaften manche Elemente der von Nora konzipierten lieux de mémoire nicht analog anzusetzen sind’) (p. 20).

    12. See Thucydides 2.36.1; Lysias 2.17; 43; Demosthenes 60.4; Hyperides 6.7; Plato Menex. 237b; e; 245c-e.

    13. Compare in this respect the Stoa Poikilê (see also n. 6 above), in which paintings were displayed of historical subjects like the battle of Marathon side by side with mythical subjects such as the Amazonomachy.

    14. In her book on the Epitaphioi Loraux argues that the speeches can be seen as attempts to endow Athens’ democracy – despite its stress on unity and egalitarianism – with an ideology based on traditionally aristocrat values (1981; 1986). Accordingly, they play an important role in smoothing over tensions in Athenian society between aristocratic ideals of individual excellence and its democratic constitution. In his review of Loraux’ work, Tompkins mildly warns against the over-simplification that results from an analysis based on a strict dichotomy between aristocratic and democratic values (1988: 309-310).

    15. Thucydides also noted this typically Athenian tendency, contrasting the opulence of Athenian monuments with Sparta and noting that ‘one would conjecture from what met the eye that the city had been twice as powerful as in fact it is’ (Thuc. 1.10.2).

    16. For a discussion of the vexed question of Thucydides’ method in representing speeches and the authenticity of Pericles’ oration in particular see Rusten (1989: 11-17). The translation of 1.22.1 is his. See furthermore Pelling’s article on the subject (2000: 112-122), now reprinted in Rusten (2009: 176-187) and including an overview of relevant scholarship (pp. 492-493; 501-502), to which important contributions of Egermann (1972) and Wilson (1982) can be added.

    17. For various views on Thucydides’ portrait of Pericles and the evaluation of his politics see Vogt (1956), Strasburger (1958), de Romilly (1965), Connor (1984: 52-75), Nicolai (1996), Ober (1996), and Foster (2010).

    18. Most obvious is Pericles’ claim of Athenian ‘self-sufficiency’ (autarkeia), by which he praises both city (Thuc. 2.36.3 polin ... autarkestatên) and individual citizens (Thuc. 2.41.1, sôma autarkes parekhestai). During the plague their sômata turn out to be far from ‘self-sufficient’ (Thuc. 2.51.3: sôma ... autarkes on ouden diephanê, on the ideal of autarkeia in general see Wheeler 1955). In a similar, but more subtle way, Thucydides makes Pericles criticize Spartan fear of foreigners and praises Athens as an open city that welcomes its xenoi (‘foreign guests’, Thuc. 2.39.1; compare 2.36.4) and that benefits from the import of goods from the whole world (Thuc. 2.38.2). This openness, however, also entails vulnerability to contagious diseases, as exemplified by the plague, which allegedly has its origins in Africa (Thuc. 2.48.1). Compare, too, the implosion of Athenian nomoi – ‘laws’, a topic of praise in the Epitaphios – during the plague, especially those that relate to funerary customs, which are increasingly disregarded (Thuc. 2.52.3-4), in contrast to the careful arrangements for the public burial as set out in the introduction to Pericles’ funeral oration (Thuc. 2.34, quoted above). On the complementariness of funeral oration and plague in Thucydides’ narrative, see Connor (1984: 63-75), and compare, too, Salkever’s observation (1993: 137) that Thucydides explains Athenian autochthony (mentioned by Pericles as standard topos in his Epitaphios, 2.36.1) in anti-encomiastic terms in his Archaeology as the result of the barrenness of the Attic soil, which deterred foreigners from settling in the area (Thuc. 1.2.5-6).

    19. For an overview of the different ways in which the anachronism is explained see Dean-Jones (1992: 52, and nn.6-8), who identifies Menexenus as Socrates’ son and suggests that the anachronism is a deliberate trick to wrong-foot the Athenians, who, in the course of hearing a speech that praises Athens in glowing terms, start to realise that Socrates himself addresses his son from the grave, thus delivering a funeral oration in the truest sense.

    20. See, for instance, Kahn (1963: 229), who interprets the dialogue ‘as a kind of political pamphlet, written out of deep loyalty to the noblest traditions of Athens, but out of heartbreak, shame and fury at the present policy of the city’. Compare Salkever (1993: 135): ‘Menexenus should not be reduced ... to parody or satire ... but should be understood ... as a playful reflection designed to provide a starting point for thinking about the kind of public speeches that ought to be made in democratic Athens...’, and Trivigno (2009), who warns against onesided, superficial interpretations of the dialogue as a parody, and suggests that it has serious philosophical implications. In his Orator (151) Cicero mentions the Athenian custom of an annual public reading of Socrates’ oration, which, if true, reveals that the content of the speech was certainly not experienced as a parody or satire in Roman Athens.

    21. Kahn (1963: 223) in this respect refers to an ‘antagonistic relationship’ between Thucydides’ and Plato’s Epitaphioi, but also (p. 230) believes in connections with Lysias’ specimen. Coventry (1989: 2) refers more generally to Plato’s concern ‘to expose the deficiencies of contemporary rhetoric and politics’. Salkever (1993) draws a comparison with Pericles’ Epitaphios in Thucydides.

    22. Compare my observations on ‘shrouded’ referencing in Lysias’ Epitaphios (de Bakker 2012: 385), where I follow Frangeskou (1999: 325): ‘Lysias is careful not to remind Athenians of specific defeats and prefers instead to ignore them, or talk of them collectively as misfortunes’.

    23. For a summary of the debate on the disputed authorship of this speech, see Frangeskou (1999: 317 n. 10) and Todd (2007: 157-164).

    24. The exact year in which the speech may have been delivered is unknown. For some suggestions see Todd (2007: 164).

    25. Demosthenes refers to his appointment as ceremonial speaker on this occasion in his speech On the Crown (18.285-7).

    26. On the exceptional position of Hyperides’ oration compared to the other Epitaphioi, see Usher (1999: 335-337). Note also the polemic nature of the speech (for instance the occupatio in 6.15).

    27. For recent philological work on the oration see the editions of Herrman (2009) and Petruzziello (2009).

    28. There is a remarkable similarity between Athens’ monumental cityscape and post 9-11 New York in the refusal to construct new buildings upon the sacred ground of the temples, resp. buildings that had been destroyed by the enemy. For more on this parallel, see Ratté (2003).

    29. Pausanias 1.29.15.

    30. Id. 1.29.7

    31. Id. 1.29.13.

    32. Id. 1.29.6.

    33. Id. 1.29.11-12.

    34. Id. 1.29.3.

    35. Id. 1.29.10; 15.

    36. Id. 1.29.7.

    37. Id. 1.29.13.

    38. Id. 1.29.6; 15.

    39. Thuc. 1.105-106. See Hornblower Comm. ad loc.

    40. Blass (18872 : 440), Walz (1936: 18-19), Thomas (1989: 227-229) and Todd Comm. ad 2.52.

    41. Pausanias refers to their burial in the Ceramicus (1.29.8). See for a detailed discussion of the inscription Meiggs-Lewis 35 and for the reconstruction of the stêlê Bradeen (1974: 7-9).

    42. Plato’s claim that those who fell at Tanagra were the first to be buried at the dêmosion sêma conflicts with Pausanias’ testimony (1.29.4) that this honour was awarded to those who fell in Thrace (Drabescus, 465 BCE). Scholars tend to take Plataea as terminus post quem and Drabescus as terminus ante quem, rejecting Plato’s statement. For an overview of this debate see Ziolkowski (1981: 16-21).

    43. In de Bakker (2012: 383-384) I attempted a first, speculative solution of this problem. I now hope to have strengthened the argument on the basis of the content of the speech itself.

    44. Cf. Hölscher (2010: 141): ‘With it issues of central importance for the state were placed under the protection and memory of its mythical tribal fathers’ (‘Damit wurden zentrale Angelegenheiten des Staates unter den Schutz und das Gedächtnis seiner mythischen Archegeten gestellt’).

    45. Loraux (1981: 20). Note, too, that the epigraphical monuments that were erected in honour of the war-dead were arranged per tribe (e.g. ML 33).

    46. Cf. Hölscher (2010: 133-134) for a discussion of this monument within the Athenian ‘mythical’ topography.

    47. Though another Oeneus is linked to Pandion by birth (Paus. 1.5.2).

    48. Eusth. Comm. in Dionysii Periegetae orbis descriptionem 423.

    49. e.g. Demosthenes, First Philippic 4.19.

    50. Cf. Loraux (1981: 31).

    51. Loraux (1981: 40).

    52. Cf. Hölscher (2010: 130): ‘Athens did not simply have a unique history, but created an unusually strong collective memory for itself’ (‘Athen hat nicht einfach eine einzigartige Geschichte gehabt, sondern hat sich ein ungemein starkes kollektives Gedächtnis geschaffen’).


    This page titled 4.3: The Epitaphios, Civic Ideology and the Cityscape of Classical Athens is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Jo Heirman and Jacqueline Klooster (Academia Press) .

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