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Political Speech in Ancient Athens
By D. Porter
By D. Porter
RHETORIC IN ATHENS
Political speech in Athens played a key role in developing Athenian government and philosophy. Athenian politics was either influenced or developed by different techniques of public speaking under a political forum. Education in Athens consisted of mandatory schooling for boys too young for the military (Robinson139). However men in politics were usually both wealthy and well educated. The democracy of ancient Athens is responsible for the development of rhetoric in a political forum. The spread of this method of speech can be contributed to the likes of:
USES OF RHETORIC IN ANCIENT ATHENS
Public Speech was a part of everyday life in Ancient Athens|
By D. Porter
PERSUASION OR TRUTHOf all the wars of ancient Athens, the one that stands out as the most beneficial to western society was not a physical battle but rather a match of wits. It has been said, "When truth and justice fail through inefficient advocates, the skilled rhetorician will set this right . . . " (Sinclair xxxv).
The founder of rhetoric as a science is said to be Corax of Syracuse. His development of rhetoric as an art and then a science established rhetoric as an artful and clever skill in persuasion.
Because rhetoric is the theory or practice of eloquence it is not limited to simple oration: it is also a writing technique. Both the oral and written forms were considered tools in the art of persuasion.
Rhetoric was thought of as an art because it allowed men to express themselves through more than just facts and solid knowledge but also through emotions.
By D. Porter
SOCRATES' RHETORICA strong believer in profound thought was Socrates. Socrates taught a technique in the use of rhetoric called dialectic syllogism. Dialectic syllogism is the pursuit of truth through a series of questions. Socrates believed that if one asked the correct question the absolute truth could be found. Socrates teachings propelled the careers of many:
The most technical approach to rhetoric emphasizes persuasion rather than uncovering the truth. Even Socrates was influenced by rhetoric to the point that he was taken for a Sophist, a mix-up that would play a key factor in his execution trial.
|The steps of Athenian temples were used to give many public speeches|
By D. Porter
PLATO AND ARISTOTLE'S RHETORIC
According to reasearch found at www.gatech.edu.com the battle between Sophists and socratic students proved one of the best displays of rhetoric ever.
THE SOPHISTSThe most prominent technicians of political speech were the Sophists. The Sophists were philosophers and teachers of rhetoric. The first of the Sophists was Protagoras. He made a study of language and taught his pupils the art of persuasion and negotiating (Jancar 16). It has been stated, "The Sophists, with their influence of rhetoric and the power of persuasion, transformed the concept of truth" ( Mardner 1).
Although they did not create rhetoric, the Sophists' method of systematized education made it widespread throughout Athens as an effective form of political speech. The difference between the Sophists and Socrates was their views on absolute truth. Although Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle based their rhetoric searching for and convincing the public of the truth, the Sophists based theirs on convincing the public of whatever there was to prove.
The Sophists believed there was no absolute truth--therefore the truth was whatever one chose to make of it. Aristotle once said, " . . . one who acts in accordance with a sound argument, and one who acts in accordance with moral purpose, are both called rhetoricians" (qtd. in Sinclair 15).
An Interesting FactAn example of the effectiveness of rhetoric would be the fact that the Sophists eventually fell subject to their own teachings. Their popularity was seriously wounded through Plato's crushing criticism in his writings Gorgias, Paedrus, and Sophist. Both Plato and Aristotle condemned them for accepting money from those whom they taught their methods.
THE EFFECTSLater the Sophists were accused by the state of lacking morality. Plato's disagreement with the teachings of the Sophists is best described in the statement: "[He] had a profound belief in the superiority, for all speaking and writing, of true knowledge and sincere utterance to mere opinion and misleading statement . . . " (Sinclair ).
Aristotle later followed his mentor's use of rhetoric by criticizing the Sophists in his prose and speeches. Soon the title "Sophist" acquired a derogatory meaning, as in the word sophistry, which means false argumentation or reasoning. Through studying rhetoric and political speech in Athens it becomes apparent that these language skills were so effective in government that all of its great teachers could not avoid involvement in politics.
Though Socrates did not like to get involved in politics he influenced government through his students who used rhetoric in politics and in philosophy. Plato found an outlet for his aversion toward the Athenian government. Aristotle used rhetoric as a tool in teaching his famous pupil Alexander the Great.
A LESSON FROM THE PASTRhetoric has proven a great theory and subject in Athenian culture, and has affected the greatest minds of ancient Greece. The use of rhetoric in government was popular because many people believed that truth was naturally superior to its opposite, therefore this method would bring forth the truth and allow a fair and just trail. Although this did not always occur it was a revolutionary concept of how the judicial system of any country, or city-state, should be run.
There is no question that political speech in Athens improved or at least empowered the government. However it is the impact that government had on the rest of the world that makes it so important. The structure of many modern governments can be traced back to Athens. And in the structure of many judicial systems proof of rhetorical theories and techniques can be found. Without rhetoric a number of societies, including America, would not be what they are today had it not been for the great ideas conceived by the great minds of Athens.
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This page was created by D. Porter. Last revised 3/29/00.