Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What is beauty? Why does it matter?

This entree will largely agree and coincide with the two previous entrees written by Jessie and Joseph. I was struck by Aristotle's discussion concerning the definition of beauty, and that largely the purpose of epideictic oratory as a rhetorical form was to give form or point out what was beautiful around them by praising virtue or to do the same with the opposite; vice. Aristotle describes that which is beautiful as beautiful simply because it is. He provides many examples of noble characteristics that we may or may not possess as things of beauty; he describes them as things of beauty because they benefit the community at large. The virtue that I feel is the most powerful that he mentions he describes as "Greatness of soul..." which he says inspires men and women to do other virtuous things that uplift others.

What use was this thing? You can't really make
anything with it or grow food on it, why did
the Greeks love stuff like this so much? Simply
because it's beautiful!
I feel that the purpose of Peracles' oration was to lift the people he was addressing to a higher "greatness of soul", so that they would be inspired to do more virtuous or beautiful things. As Jessie and Joseph discussed, Peracles used wonderful epideictic oratory in order to praise Athens and the men who fell defending her; he employed masterfully the special topic of invention that Aristotle classified as virtue, or that which he believed to be beauty. Fortunately history provides us with perspective, and as Professor Burton pointed out in class, all of the things that Peracles stated became realities which have come to define the ancient Greek civilization. Aristotle, in this case, was right; a man who was known and trusted by his audience employed epideictic oratory in order to praise and inspire, and the people were inspired. This wasn't the only speech that inspired that ancient civilization, but it is a typifying example of one. If people trust you enough they'll believe what you say, your beliefs are your reality, a man who is trusted like Peracles can alter reality through rhetoric. (I don't know how sound that syllogism is, but I tried...) 

Rhetoric in a Epideictic Funeral Oration

Aristotle's Rhetoric teaches about key concepts of rhetoric and provides explanations and examples for them.  I will highlight an aspect of one of these key concepts that can be found in Pericles' Funeral Oration.

Epideictic Exaggeration: 
Throughout his Oration, Pericles talks about "our city," "our belief," "our empire," "our state," "our power," "our constitution," "our system of government," "our being a model to others," "our deep respect," "our obedience," and "our own real courage and loyalty."  I find this to be an exaggeration of unity in his civilization.  He assumes that everyone in the audience (he is definitely having an epideictic monologue) shares his Greek pride and agrees with him that Greece is the best civilization around.

When I read about epideictic oratory in chapter 9 of Aristotle's Rhetoric, the following passage reminded me of the exaggeration in the Oration.  "...exaggeration is always best suited to speeches for display, since they take up actions that are agreed about, so what remains is to adorn them with magnitude and beauty" (page 166 line 1368a 27).  It is clear that Pericles was in a position to deliver an artful display of words.  He magnified many aspects of the great Greek Empire by highlighting all that the Greeks share.

Not only does Pericles exaggerate how amazing Greece is, he establishes that he knows what he is trying to accomplish in doing so.  Before he really begins honoring the soldiers, he explains to his audience, "Praise of other people is tolerable only up to a certain point, the point where one still believes that one could do oneself some of the things one is hearing about."  Pericles establishes that he and all the Greeks agree that they are great, that they could fight nobly if they need to, because they all believe in the great principles of the Greek Civilization that motivated the dead warriors. 

"This, then, is the kind of city for which these men, who could not bear the thought of losing her, nobly fought and nobly died." - Pericles

Pericles, Epideictic Excellence

Epideictic Oratory:

Rereading this speech has helped me understand so much about what epideictic oratory actually is. The biggest goal of it is to praise (or blame, but in the case of Pericles and Athens to praise). He even says at the beginning that people may become jealous of all the praise heaped upon the dead, recognizing that such exaggeration is an important part of this branch of speaking.

  • He praises their fathers who created Athens, praises them for their “courage and virtues”.
  • He exaggerates the power of their army, stating that others always say they fought the entire Athenian army.
  • He states that all Athenians show exceptional grace and exceptional versatility.
  • He praises all the positive aspects of the men who fought and downplays the negatives that they have done. For example, “[the soldiers have] done more service to the commonwealth than they ever did harm in their private lives”.

By doing such praise he is also setting up a bigger enthymeme. Not one that is said in a sentence or two, but his message as a whole.


The minor premise he says is: These men fought for Athens.
The conclusion he draws is: Therefore Athens is great.
The missing major premise he is inferring us to realize is: Those men who fight for something, make it great.

In addition to this overarching Enthymeme, he uses many smaller ones throughout his speech.
  • Page 73, line 24-26: He assumes that which is appropriate is advantageous.
  • Page 76, line 1-4: He assumes that we must fight the cause of those who sacrifice for us.
  • Page 76, line 29: He indicates that it takes doing great things to be worthy of Athens.
This last one, about being worthy of Athens, is such a brilliant microcosm of this speech as a whole. He is trying to get everyone there to realize their need to sacrifice for Athens, and the enthymemes he uses do a good job of accomplishing that.

Pericles' Topics of Invention

Pericles’ Funeral Oration is chalked full of rhetorical ideals which were systematized by philosophers such as Aristotle. This analysis on Pericles’ ceremonial or epideictic address will focus on only a few of the rhetorical topics of invention put to use in the speech.
A depiction of a Spartan and Athenian soldier.


Pericles uses the art of comparison for much of his funeral oration, and to great effect. He compares Athens to Sparta and spring boards from his comparisons to an all-out rally for Athenian pride. The power of the comparisons that Pericles makes come from pointing out the distinct differences from the Spartans to the Athenians and why these differences make the Athenians so much braver than the Spartans that fought in the war. For example Pericles points out how much braver the Athenians are for going to battle without the immense training that the Spartans get to go through. Within his comparisons Pericles also uses the topic of invention of measuring by degrees when he compares the strength of the Athenian armies to those of the Spartans by saying “As a matter of fact, none of our enemies has ever yet been confronted with our total strength, because we have to divide our attention between our navy and the many missions on which our troops are sent on land.”


                There are moments where Pericles’ arguably puts this topic of invention to good use, but for the most part I feel that his oration lacks good use of testimony and want to address why using more of it might have strengthened his arguments. The parts that stick out to me where testimony is used is near the end of the speech where he makes reference to the parents of the dead. Although their words aren’t quoted directly Pericles uses them as witnesses to the arguments he makes about courage, war, and Athens. In a roundabout way I feel that he uses Athens as a similar “witness testimony”. At times in his oration Athens becomes more of an entity or individual, strengthening the ideas Pericles presents. This perhaps isn’t the best use of testimony, which is why it might have been better for Pericles to have used proverbs or authoritative testimony to really drive home his exhortation to the living. Through these other means of testimony Pericles could have really strengthened the end of his oration. 

Assignment: Aristotle and the Psychology of Rhetoric

A typical dance number scene from a Bollywood film
What is the psychological profile of a Bollywood fan?
In the second book of Aristotle's Rhetoric, he gets into the psychology of rhetoric by profiling types of emotion and then types of people.  I want my students to do as Aristotle did, to consider the psychology of persuasion by profiling a group of people they know about.

(This is the second in a series of assignments associated with Aristotle's Rhetoric. See the first. This assignment is for Friday, October 3, 2014.)

First, my students are to follow the reading guide below for chapters 1-17 of Book II from Aristotle's Rhetoric. Then, they must write a blog post in which they follow Aristotle's example of briefly profiling a specific group of people with respect to their psychology. Effort should be made not duplicate Aristotle's or other students' psychological profiles, and to avoid overly familiar demographics (like twentysomething college students).

The post should follow this outline:

Popular Persuasion: Opinions are greater than Truth


            This rhetorical analysis of Gorgias’s Encomium of Helen will focus on two chief parts of the judiciary oratory convention that Gorgias implements to various effectiveness: enthymeme and the topic of invention of testimony.

Aristotle codified enthymemes as a way that
judiciary rhetoricians persuaded the jury.
Today, we are much more aware of what
"memes" are than what enthymemes are.
Would grumpy cat approve of our lack
of rhetorical knowledge?

Rather than being truly epideictic, Gorgias’s Encomium of Helen is more of a judiciary rhetoric.  Gorgias speaks of the past only and uses chiefly enthymemes, which are, according to Aristotle’s Rhetoric, most suited for judiciary rhetoric.  Enthymemes are informal logic that leaves out either a major or minor premise.  They rely chiefly on popular opinions rather than truth to persuade others.  Enthymeme is employed, among many other cases, when Gorgias claims, “For the will of a god cannot be hindered by human forethought. For it is not natural for the superior to be hindered by the inferior, but for the inferior to be ruled…by the superior….accordingly, if one must attribute responsibility to…the gods, one must acquit Helen of infamy.”  Here, the obvious and common premise that all humans are inferior to the gods is left out of the argument.  These enthymemes are highly efficient to Gorgias’s argument.  He relies on the popular opinion to prove his case.  His arguments, thus, seem logical and indisputable to his audience even though they are not based on pure truth.  Gorgias also secretly employs the pathos of appealing to popular belief whilst maintaining a somewhat deceiving appearance of logic.
Gorgias relies chiefly on enthymemes rather than testimony to
prove Helen as innocent.  Both are methods that Aristotled 

codified as useful for judiciary rhetoric.  However, not
including more instances of testimonymight not be the 
most effective approach.


  Unlike the use of enthymeme to great effect, Gorgias loses some of his ethos and credibility by not truly examining another important judiciary convention—testimony.  Gorgias does not examine any testimony except appealing briefly to the supernatural and the written law.  He calls on the supernatural to acquit Helen as one can see in the previous paragraph, which is effective as an enthymeme.  However, if the popular opinion did not support the supernatural as a motivator, he would lose its effective testimony.  Furthermore, Gorgias briefly compares the ineffectiveness of written law, saying it is not always effective: “For the strong habitual force of law is banished because of the fear prompted by the sight [of battle].”  Here, he attempts to prove that law might be overcome by fear and thus is not Helen’s fault if she does not obey law.  This argument is effective to an extent, but because Gorgias calls upon no other testimony to prove Helen innocent, he is a bit ineffective in this sort of argument.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Assignment: Aristotle and Codifying Ancient Greek Rhetoric

An important turning point in ancient Greek culture comes about when the powers of language move from practice to theory; that is, when oratory becomes rhetoric.

Oratory (speech making) preceded rhetoric (an awareness of the powers of speech and the effort to use these powers artfully). Thus, powerful examples of speaking are found in Homer's epics, but no real analysis of that speaking occurs, just the general appreciation of oratorical powers. Similarly, the powers of language are evident in Greek drama and poetry, where those powers are respected, but not inspected with any rigor or method.

Pragmatic and professional rhetoric came along in the 5th century BCE via "logographers" or "sophists" who offered to compose speeches for clients or to train them in speaking. Corax and Tisias were seen as representative of the earliest efforts to write handbooks to help with this.

A handbook is one thing, but systematic rhetoric is another. It was not until Plato's student, Aristotle (384-322 BCE), that rhetoric as a systematic study came into being.  Aristotle did more than make lists of possible approaches one might use to win an argument; he theorized rhetoric (much as he did other subjects like biology, physics, and poetry).

When consulting a comprehensive reference to rhetoric such as Silva Rhetoricae, the Forest of Rhetoric, one is viewing the results not of the sophists, but of the systematizers like Aristotle and others who created a taxonomy of terms so that rhetoric could truly be an art: something that could be rationally understood and mastered in practice.

I'd like my students to read from the first book of Aristotle's Rhetoric while simultaneously referring to Silva Rhetoricae for the key concepts from this section of the treatise. Then, returning either to the Encomium of Helen by Gorgias or to the Funeral Oration of Pericles, they are  to analyze one of these speeches for evidence of the terms or methods discussed by Aristotle (in a post of 300-400 words).

A guide to reading Aristotle's Rhetoric follows

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Funeral Oration Breakdown

John observes that because Pericles talked about how future generations are going to reflect on the Greek civilization, the Greeks also must have been interested in where they came from.
Spencer observes that while we regard the Greeks as very advanced in most aspects of their civilization, they probably had some traditions that we today would not understand.
Casey observes that the Greek pride expressed in this speech is natural and similar to the pride of various communities today.
Thank you peers, for elaborating on your respective observations.

I really liked the speech, I felt inspired and motivated to unite with Pericles in his civilization.
There was one thing that caught me off guard because it sounded kind of harsh when I read it, "...we do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all." (Line 3 on page 75) This stuck out to me and I was able to classify it as a special topic of intervention, where "the good" is contrasted with "the unworthy."

I believe that the most important thing to consider in transforming this speech into a play would be the timing of the words, the pauses and volume of certain passages.  If Pericles was confident enough to really deliver this speech, then I'm sure he would be the perfect actor for the job.

Honoring the Dead


I find it interesting how Pericles mentions future generations in his speech. I think this gives an interesting perspective in reading this address, because we are the future generations marveling at the Greek accomplishments. I think Pericles’ mention of the future indicates how interested they were in the past. They must have looked back often and analyzed the past. Pericles knew this and wanted them to think of how the future generations would think of them. The question must have arisen in all of those in attendance, “why will future generations marvel? Are our deeds really that impressive?”

These two questions were answered by Pericles with a resounding “yes!” We must remember that there was the people listening to him likely had lost someone in the war. His use of their feelings boost his ethos. They want to be comforted by Pericles’ words, they want to know that their loved one’s sacrifice was for a noble cause. In such a Kairos, the more he praises the institution they died these men died for, the more his ethos increases. So he does just that, Pericles boast of the nobility and courage of the soldiers, he praises the institution which sent them off to war as being just and worth defending. Mark Olsen makes a very astute observation in his post about Pericles’ clever use of inclusive pronouns, “Pericles uses words that include everyone (including himself) such as “we” and “us.” To add to this power of ethos.” All of this comforts the audience because they know the sacrifices of the dead were not in vain. (link to Mark’s post below)


I honestly feel that Pericles would be in good company with the sophists, at the beginning of his speech he does something very interesting, he analyzes why he is even giving the speech, and the inevitable pit falls of said speech. He openly states that he disagrees the valor of fallen men should be weighed on the quality of one man’s speech. So even though he disagrees with the speech he’s giving, he orates with skill. This is a hallmark of the sophists right? To be able to give a persuasive speech no matter what through the use of rhetoric?

Tradition and Athenian Pride

Greek History

How can you talk about tradition and not think of this... "TRADITION!!!"
                In an attempt to say something new about Greek civilization (as most people have talked about the pride of the Greeks country), I would like to point out the innate sense of tradition among the Greek society. It is clear from the introduction and the start of Pericles Oration that the Greeks had traditions. Many of these traditions could arguably be called “irrational” both then and now. Today we praise the Greeks for their advanced society, ideals, and government for their time in history. Because of this we may now overlook the fact that the Greeks were still human, and still like most people today with many different religious, cultural, and even silly traditions.
Pericles’ Ethos

                Many people talked about the pride of ones country as what they learned about the history of the Greek civilization (Austin Pena did a good job of this in his post “The Cradle of Humanism”)*, but for me this theme of country stood out more as the center of how Pericles built his ethos. Pericles said it the best himself by stating, “I have sung the praises of our city.” The pride of Athens and of their country was something that built common ground between Pericles and his audience. It also made himself appear to be a true Athenian, or Greek. I have felt this ethos while listening to many patriotic speakers in my own life. Once I have the feeling or thought of the speaker being a true American or Patriot, I am more inclined to listen to what they have to say. Pericles used this same method to build his ethos in his oration.

Pericles’ Philosophy

                This was definitely harder for me to pick out, but overall I feel that Pericles mostly resembles the ideals of the sophists. He clearly wants to help his audience believe the points he makes, as well as being quite ambiguous in his stances morally. He brings up some moral issues, but doesn’t necessarily try to persuade his audience to a specific way of thinking about these issues; more he is trying to persuade or induce belief. Because of the relativism in his thoughts to the people in his audience, like the mothers who have lost spouses, I feel there is the most evidence pointing to Pericles being a sophist. 


Pride, arrangement, and sophistry

Like others (including Katie), I found, through Pericles’ speech, a strong sense of Athenian pride. Unlike Katie, though, I don’t feel that it was any more excessive than any other nation. I don’t feel that pride and tradition specifically characterize the Athenians. Pericles talks about the strength and tradition of Athenians and compares it with Spartans. Almost every culture, even today, does that same sort of thing. Think about it: the United States builds itself up and prides itself in its strength and military. The U.S. compares itself with other ‘inferior’ countries all the time. Even within the U.S. there’s competition among states. Texans (and Oregonians) pride themselves in their patriotism, sports, and almost every other aspect of the state. To sum it up, although this speech does make a compelling argument about the pride and tradition, and could very well explain the history of those people, I don’t think it is out of the ordinary for these characteristics to be a part of a community.
I was very interested with the arrangement of Pericles’ speech. To go back to the history that I talked about earlier, pride is a central theme in both the language and in the arrangement. I noticed that although there is some deviation in that theme in the beginning, the theme always goes back to that. Here is a brief overview of the main points (to show the arrangement):
-          Intro of how he got information- personal experience that is credible
-          Shows reverence by suggesting that a speech might not be enough to honor the soldiers (persuasive techniques for arguing against what he is saying?)
-          Praise of the city
-          These men fought for this
-          You should too!
-          Men will be honored and remembered forever
-          So be like them.
-          Find comfort where you can, but stand up and be courageous.
The pride that he invokes and plays with really becomes powerful in encouraging the citizens to participate and be patriotic. It always circles back around to pride. This is a very persuasive technique.

I feel like Pericles embodies the sophists in many ways. Not only does he help to create and insight, but he also induces beliefs. Like other sophists, he focuses on the crowds and has an amoral (or relative morality) stance. His speech is long-winded and directed toward the large group. There does seem to be a bit of morality, but I feel that it’s more relative- he praises certain qualities that Athens has, but were other countries to possess those same qualities, they aren’t praised. In fact, it would be a bad thing (in the eyes of the Athenians). 

The Cradle of Humanism

The Inspiration for the European Renaissance

While reading the funeral oration as delivered by Peracles I couldn't also help but think of the leaders of the American revolution, I imagined them reading similar works and being influenced by them. For, as addressed sufficiently by Macey, James, and Ryan, many ideas mentioned exactly reflect the "American Dream" and the guiding thoughts that created modern democracy. But then my thoughts turned to the European renaissance when society began to adopt greater humanistic ideas; these ideas emerged because people began reading works similar to this oration. The ancient Greeks clearly placed value on the individual working to better him/herself so that they could actively contribute to society. Freedom was emphasized, they took great pride in the fact that they were splitting from the norm. 

Audience and Pathos

I'm always fascinated by how an audience influences one giving a speech and how it changes the rhetorical devices and forms used. I completely agree with what James posted about the kairos of Peracles' speech, and what he briefly mentioned about how Peracles personified Athens. I feel that Peracles knew his audience, and accordingly formed his speech to inspire within them ideals to benefit the community. His speech is replete with humanist ideas that he presents with great pathos in order to inspire the community. 

Moral Absolution 

I felt some form of moral force govern the thoughts Pericles used. He presented the ideals of Athens as morally the most correct of ideals. That being said, I don't feel I agree completely with Ryan and Macey's analysis that he was following the Sophist order of things. I feel that it was a bit more Socratic because it seems to me that he genuinely felt the things he was addressing were a question of morality. I don't think that he was pragmatic, he certainly didn't claim that he didn't have absolute knowledge; on the contrary he spoke with absolution guided by beliefs that seemed to be deeply planted within him. Perhaps in the sense that he used public speaking as a way to get his point across he was in line with the Sophists, but the philosophies behind his ideas felt far more Socratic. 

Well Done Pericles

Greek Civilization

In reading the Funeral Oration of Pericles as recorded by Thucydides one large cultural element was made apparent; unity. In some ways I feel as though we look back at ancient Greece (in this case Athens) as “stuck up” or “prideful.” It is important to recall, especially as seen in this oration, that the people of ancient Greece and specifically the people of Athens were united in their patriotism. Although Alexander Noren calls it pride in his post, I believe it to be nobler then that. I imagine that he would agree that the Athenians were patriotic but it’s important to clarify that that does not inherently make them prideful a people. Patriotism is a pride or loyalty to a common purpose (in this case pride and loyalty in a city.)

United We Stand (a good use of rhetoric)

The theme of patriotism flows smoothly into the ethos of Pericles’ oration. It is important to note (as does Alexander Noren) that throughout all of his oration Pericles uses words that include everyone (including himself) such as “we” and “us.” To add to this power of ethos, the patriotism naturally appeals to pathos. Who, if anyone, does not find a uniting power when speaking about their homes? This loyalty to the city of Athens as well as Pericles’ ability to bring back to remembrance many elements of their city persuades the audience to an emotional tie to his words.

A Dramatic Speech

Within the speech many elements of Drama are present. Although there are no other characters or changes in (literal) scenery, Pericles is able to take the audience from one scene to another with his words. He takes the audience from the life of a youth in the city of Athens, to the middle aged, the old age and ultimately to the death. One can almost hear the passion in his voice as he speaks and demonstrates his points. I don’t believe much would need to change in regards to the approach of his speech if he were to transform it into a play. I imagine the physically scenery on stage would be of the city, with landmarks of the city that the audience would know well. The only change that would need to change is that instead of a narrator, each stage of life would be played out by actors. It’d be a play worth watching!

Pride and Plays

I agree with Katie when she highlights two important aspects of 5th century Greek culture : strong traditions and excessive pride. However, I found that Pericles' comments about wealth and poverty were incompatible with the proof of pride that appeared in other parts of the speech.
He explained that the Greeks were not proud of their money when he said,"We regard wealth as something to be properly used, rather than as something to boast about" (74). If he is speaking honestly, then the Athenians were not prideful due to their wealth. It appears they were charitable. What might account for their pride, then, if not their money? Their military?  Pericles speaks of the soldiers who gave up their possessions and participated in the military: "No one of these men weakened because he wanted to go on enjoying his wealth: More to be desired than such things, they chose to check the enemy’s pride" (76). 

Courtney says that Pericles "comforts [the brothers and sons] that one day they may also be able to die for their country",  but I understood that it would actually be difficult for them to attain the level of praise that their brothers and fathers won. Said Pericles, "It will be a hard thing for you to get the reputation of having come near, let alone equaled, their standard" (78, emphasis added). Why did he say it so negatively? Because he knows his audience. He speaks to prideful men who are "liable to...jealousy" (78).
Pathos stirs up in the men a covetous desire to work harder, to defend, and to die for their country in the future. Thus they might obtain praise just as their brothers and fathers did. Pericles persuades them through pathos and reverse psychology to tackle that "hard struggle in front of [them]" (77) in order to earn equally admirable praise. 

Could Pericles' speech have been presented as a drama? Imagine the heart-rending burial ceremony; Pericles mounting his soap box and disputing the need for a speech; his exaggerated gestures and words that would reach every gazing eye and listening ear. I imagine him imitating the soldiers as they took their final breaths...I think Pericles could have pulled off a drama, even despite the lack of plot or supporting characters.

Was Pericles a good actor?

Democratic Organization

Democratic History

“Orgullo” was the first initial word that came to my mind when I read the famous funeral oration given by Pericles. “Orgullo” means “pride” in the spanish language. Although, most of the previous blog posts have mentioned the pridefulness of Pericles in his address towards the bravery of the Athenian civilization, I think it was most interesting when he talked about the type of democratic government that their civilization had established. When it all comes down to it, the Athenian civilization is the heart and mind of early day democracy. “Our constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people.” Little did they know, this ingenious form of government that they had established would have an enormous impact on many future civilizations to come. He can be prideful about all the things he wants but in reality, it’s the form of government that really deserves the attention.

Ethos is credibility 

Unbelievably intriguing is the only phrase I can use to describe the manner in which Pericles presents himself. It flabbergasts me the way he comes across as so arrogant and completely undermines the fact that he even has to address this audience. He makes kind of a mockery in the fact that people come up and make these epideictic oratory speeches when really it’s not necessary at all and it’s an overall joke. However, strikingly enough, I think this almost seems to make him more of a credible source. It makes it seem like he is being more real with the people because he has nothing to lose. In a very strange sense, I feel like he became more credible just because he showed that him speaking isn’t even necessary. Though this is a different way to build his ethos, I would argue that it worked in a unique way.


It didn’t take me long to realize that I absolutely agree with Macey Richardson’s post. I think that Pericles absolutely took a more sophist stance as he tried to persuasively boast about Athens and it’s greatness. Macey Blazeard as well piggy backed off of Macey R and I would definitely suggest that Pericles standing on a platform is great symbolism of his previously mentioned “orgullo”. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Gettysburg Address, Greek Style!


What most impressed me about Greek civilization is the revere they gave their dead. Courtney did a great job of pointing out about how they celebrated those who died in battle. She mentioned when Thucydides points out about those who died at marathon. I was curious so I did a bit of research and it looks like that is referring to the battle of marathon which seems to be the turning point in the Persian war. They revered them because that is where their country was born, or at least flexed its muscles to show that the ideals that they stood for could withstand one of the greatest armies on earth. Certainly the Greeks had very high respect for that battle the way we revere those who fought in the revolutionary war.
Did Lincoln get his inspiration
from Pericles?


Now, as my title says, this reminded me so much of the Gettysburg address. The arrangement of both speeches is essentially the same.
  • Talk about the founding of your country and ideals.
  • Talk about how what you say cannot honor these men anywhere near the sacrifice they have already made. 
  • Talk about the cause they were fighting for .
  • Encourage all those present to continue on in that cause.
As Macey R pointed out, this speech definitely has some deliberative points in it, and based on the situation I must say that I think it is right to do so. So did Lincoln.


First, I agree with Thomas that this speech shows aspects from each category, and rightly so. (He does a great job of showing why). Specifically though I wanted to comment on how he would fit in with Socrates. Remember, Socrates said “the unexamined life is not worth living.” As an Athenian he is always examining, and he points out that all Athenians should examine the politics, for to do anything else would be an injustice to their system. Alexander shows that the people are not arguing for the sake of arguing, but for progression. What better example can there be of a people examining their lives?

Patriotism Elevated by Death

I love what James said in his post regarding being American. I too couldn’t help but notice the American ideologies expressed in the Funeral Oration of Pericles. “Our system of government does not copy the institutions of our neighbors” (line 27, page 73). “When our work is over, we are in a position to enjoy all kinds of recreation for our spirits” (4, 74). “We, when we launch an attack abroad, do the job by ourselves and, though fighting on foreign soil, do not often fail to defeat opponents who are fighting for their own hearths and homes” (21, 74). “The worst thing is to rush into action before the consequences have been properly debated” (7, 74). Thucydides stated in the beginning that “similar events would occur in the future if the same causes are present” (71). It seems obvious to me that the same can be said of patriotism if I can read a speech intended for ancient greeks and think of my present day country.  

Through recognizing the historical similarities between ancient Greece and present day America (specifically in regards to ideology) I feel it necessary to comment on the magnificent persuasive power of patriotism. The fact that Pericles purposefully begun his speech by appealing to patriotism, that pride of country carried me to the end of the speech. In the middle of his speech, he made questionable statements such as: having more children makes up for the death of one or that the “greatest glory of a woman is to be least talked about by men” (8, 78). (Macey R. has a different interpretation of this quote that is quite interesting.)Though I personally did not agree with those statements, because he successfully utilized rhetoric to convince me to be a team player and embrace the community ideals, I was able to disregard such comments that went against my personal beliefs.


In consideration of the philosophy presented in this speech, I completely agree with Macey R. Not only did Pericles use his speech praising dead men to elevate Athens, he used such a speech to also elevate himself. We learn from the text that Pericles stands on a high platform. Not only is this a means of projection, but I also believe this is a sophist action alluding to their belief of being more knowledgeable than everyone else and thus superior. Furthermore, some of the language was so loaded that it distracted from the men being honored and guided the audience’s attention to the man speaking. This type of performance truly is character of a sophist. 

Fully Human

Courtney touched on the significant role that death had in Greek culture.  I want to look at the flip side of that.  The way one lives is also apparently important and is only crowned in the way that one dies.  Pericles initially elaborates on the values of their civilization.  Work, recreation, beauty, good taste, education, political involvement, bravery, goodwill, and gratitude are only a few of them. 
Civilization should encompass these values, and Pericles shows how awesome his fellow Grecians are because of it.  They can thrash the enemy with only half their army. In the introduction of his book Gorgias and Rhetoric, Sachs attributes their militaristic successes to the civic institutions in place at that time, through which man could realize his potential “to become fully human.” 

I don’t want to sound critical about Pericles’ address to the parents of the dead, but his logic would not have comforted me.  “Ah, you lost a son.  That’s okay because you are still young and you can have another one,” or “Ah, you lost a son.  At least you are going to die soon so you don’t have to weep very long.”  That’s how it came across to me.  This perspective may come from a gospel viewpoint, which is definitely more hopeful and comforting.  I guess Pericles’ words were the most hopeful and comforting at that time.

If I were to assign this Pericles to a philosophical school, I would send him to the Socratics.  The Pre-Socratics and the Sophists seem to have tried to define everything as one or two ideas, such as fire, or love and strife.  Pericles seems to be more open and reflects on moral philosophy.  For instance, he claims that goodwill makes friends more than receiving good.  He is an idealist. 

Perfect Weather to talk about Death


              From his speech it was very obvious how important death is to Greek civilization. By analyzing the way people react to death and sorrow we can often discover what they believe about life. For example, the Greeks respect their dead based on how they died; an honorable life was one that was given in military service. Notice that, in mentioning the soldiers who died at Marathon, Pericles reveals that even some military deaths are more honorable than others. What I glean from these facts is that the Greeks were a collectivist society because they saw the community as a whole, not as a collection of individuals. They honored the dead who honored the community by giving of their lives.


              The order in which Pericles addressed the different groups in his speech stood out to me. First, he talked to the parents, the ones who had sacrificed their lives raising the men who had just died. He reminds them that their sacrifice was not in vain because their sons died honorable deaths and contributed to society. Then he addressed the brothers and sons and the point I made above is emphasized. He doesn’t comfort the living men about the deaths, but rather comforts them that one day they may also be able to die for their country. Lastly, he talks to the widows of the group, the people that in modern times would be addressed and comforted first, and, as touched on by Macey, he mentions them only long enough to say that he isn’t going to talk about them.


              I don’t know if I can make a definitive statement on which of the three philosophical categories Pericles should be put in, but I definitely can see how he exemplifies the philosophy of a Sophist. At first I was going to sort him as a Socratic because he tries to find the truth of what is happening. However, I realized, with a little help from Hailee, that he was very biased to Athens. Socrates would never have made such blanket statements about Athens being superior.

A look into the life of an Athenian

Athens is known today for having a strong emphasis on war and showing their dominance through fighting.and conquer their foe repeatedly. Adam explained how bringing up the Spartans as their enemies they had just fought in war raised their morale, which is clearly evident when Pericles explained that Spartans come with allies to try and invade Athens, while Athenians go onto foreign lands with a portion of their entire army, and conquer their foe repeatedly, but I think there is more to this than boosting their morale. Their culture brought out a deep hatred and opposition between the Athenians and the Spartans. Their hatred for the Spartans united their community at a time of mourning because they honored and respected the men who fought and lost their lives defending their city-states.

While I was reading this epideictic oratory, I kept thinking about how it would either include "blame or praise." Pericles repeatedly praised the men who they were honoring at the ceremony. One example of this is when he states "happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous." He attributes the happiness of the city and their citizens to the courage that the warriors exemplified in the Peloponnesian War. Because he brings attention the those who they are honoring, and gives praise to them, it adds to his ethos. The citizens are more apt to listening to him, and agree with what he is saying because they connect with his perception of the warriors.

I think that Thucydides' history is categorized under the pre-Socrates era of philosophy because he transfers the oral rhetoric of Pericles into a written rhetoric. This exemplifies the philosophers during this era's desire to take abstractions and make logos and sense out of them. He also writes this epideictic oratory to show what Pericles would have said based on his speaking style and the occasion. In this instance he is trying to quantify and pin point how he spoke, thus characterizing Pericles, which is another thing that the philosophers emphasized.

HPR: How Pericles Rhetoricized

At the end of his oration, Pericles speaks directly to the women in the audience for just a couple of sentences: their greatest glory, he claims, is to not be mentioned by men. That's it! He's done with the women and ends his speech. Women were influential in ancient Greece inasmuch as they were beautiful (e.g., Helen), but weren't they also looked down upon (in the Iliad, wasn't it an insult to call someone a woman)? So perhaps Pericles was misrepresenting Greek culture. Or maybe not, and the Greeks had the same tradition as ancient Hebrews: that to be respectful, one avoids mentioning women.

In response to Alexander's post: It would appear that Pericles falls in line with the Socratics because he doesn't think that belief should depend on "the goodness or badness of one man's speech." In my opinion, Pericles just makes everyone think that's what he believes, and then goes off about the city of Athens. The speech was supposed to honor the dead, but instead, Pericles totally pulls a Sophist and uses his speech-making powers to persuade everyone that Athens is the best. He talks about how the Athenians search for truth like Socratics do, but the speech itself seems more like Sophist-ry to me.

As Thomas said, this speech appears to be epideictic. There is definitely the element of "praise"; however, Pericles praises Athens mostly, not the dead. He says that "Praise of other people is tolerable only up to a certain point...where one still believes that one could do oneself some of the things one is hearing about." So he actually uses this occasion to throw in some deliberative rhetoric--to persuade the Athenians to build up their great city. He was definitely considering the future and making sure that the people would follow the examples of the dead with greater motivation to do what was best for Athens.

United we stand

“I am an American”, what does this phrase mean to us when we say it? Does it evoke feelings of courage and nobility? Does it bring us closer to our friends and neighbors? For Greeks, their nation was everything to them, each citizen part of a Democracy in which they could have a voice. They saw it as a duty and honor to be a part of their city. To the Athenians, their love for their country was something that sustained them, kept them warm, and emboldened them to make sacrifices and acheivements for a greater whole.

As I read Pericles’ speech I couldn’t help but reflect upon the Kairos of the situation. As Adam points out, Athens was at war with Sparta and this was the first burial ceremony of the war. As a general, Pericles knows ceremony like this can weaken or strengthen the people’s support for the war. Pericles decides to do something a little out of the ordinary and change the decorum of his speech.
Like Thomas points out, he shifts the focus from the fallen soldiers and focuses the audience on the cause which these soldiers died for, Athens. Through his speech he personifies Athens with humanlike qualities founded upon virtues, hard work and sacrifice of the Athenians, he urges the Athenians to “fix your eyes every day on the greatness of Athens as she really is, and should fall in love with her “. Pericles helps the citizens to understand that Athens is embodied in each and every one of them, thus creating a sense of loyalty and responsibility.

As Thomas concluded, the speech as ideals flowing into all three groups of philosophy. As I read and reread parts of Pericles speech I think Socrates would have agreed with many of his views. Pericles obviously believes that there is a right and a wrong, that there exists both good and bad. In one part of his speech he declares that the fallen “have blotted out evil with good”. He also embodies that there are attributes that are superior than others, namely natural courage vs state inspired courage. Lastly Pericles brings up sacrificing lesser desires for greater desires when he complements the warriors for “more than [desiring] such things [as wealth] they chose to check the enemy’s pride. This, to them, was a risk most glorious, and they accepted it, willing to strike down the enemy and relinquish everything else (all lesser desires).”

Friday, September 26, 2014

Hybrids Survive

History as a Genre of Writing

After reading Pericles' Funeral Oration, I picked up on several key differences in custom that were chosen over what the "norm" was back in those times.  Pericles glazed over and outright skipped the glorifying of the fallen Athenian soldiers, so as not to dishearten those who had not participated in the war.  This was quite revolutionary to shift the focus of the fallen to the glory of the country and to keep everyone feeling more or less equal to one another at the end of the day.  As noted by Pericles, this was the opposite of what had been done before, but he still utilized history and a sense of patria to captivate the audience. 

Epideictic Oratory

Having read this section of Alexander's post, I felt the need to perpetuate the thought.  Some of the definitions for this type of speech found on the rhetoric.byu.edu site include "fit for display" and "ceremonial."  Thirdly and most obviously, the oration is loaded with high praise to Athens, the culture, the people, and individuals of all social standings, including those loved ones of the fallen.  Pericles does not simply restrict himself to honoring fallen soldiers as gods among men, but rather praises the whole for which those men bravely fought.  It is in this way that the speech is highly effective in influencing others, as it is all-encompassing to its listeners.  Everybody is made happier in some way. 


Through examining the thoughts of Katie, Alexander, and Adam, I found connections in Thucydides' work to all three groups of philosophy.  As a Sophist, Pericles did encourage more children to be born in order to lessen the post-war deficit.  In Socratic terms, the people of Athens did in fact debate for the sake of finding truth.  Pertaining to Pre-Socratics, Pericles explored the possibility that the principle of honor was the driving force or essence behind the Athenians' superiority.  I am sure that there could be a "best" answer, but more often than not, people's ideals and actions meld together across the varying realms.  This happens a lot in politics, as a rigid politician is highly unlikely to be reelected, while one who caters to the popular vote remains in office.  Stark black and white characteristics oftentimes cause critical flaws or weaknesses.  Understanding and potential are restricted, to say the least.  

Don't Cry for Me Athens

Historical Happenings

Thucydides intent for writing this history of Pericles’ Funeral Oration was to prevent future mistakes from occurring again.  He was concerned with accuracy and only recorded events that he had seen personally or had heard the perspectives of many in relation to that event.  He was concerned with recording that which was closest to be reality.  Although what a speaker may have said could be biased, Thucydides wanted the history to be what the speaker had actually spoken.  It seems that Thucydides was starting the process of making histories and trying to make sense of the differing opinions of many to help those in the future.

Establishing Ethos

Pericles speech caught me off guard a little.  He speaks much of the city in the beginning and not of the fallen soldiers.  He spends the majority of the speech reflecting on the grandeur of the city.  But as he speaks of the city he builds up the pride of those in the audience who pertain to this remarkable city.  This is one way that he begins to gain ethos.  Who doesn’t like to hear something good about himself?  Then he uses the city to connect to the soldiers.  It was their knowledge of the importance of this city that gave them courage. 

Pericles' Philosophy

But was Pericles doing what was morally correct while he praised Athens and its inhabitants?  He uses their emotions to encourage them to have more children.  Doesn’t that seem a little out of place for a eulogy?  I would say that Pericles was a Sophist because he wasn’t focused on the morals of the war but in encouraging them to be superior.  I disagree with Alexander that Pericles was seeking for truth because his “truth” seemed very biased to the side of Athens.  We have to consider both sides to arrive at truth.  When it comes down to it, killing may not be what is morally correct.   

Honor in all things

The great Greek general Pericles was renowned for his strength in battle as well as an orator. His famous funeral speech is his best known work of rhetoric, and one with an inspiring theme.

Athenians > Spartans

When looking at the background for his speech, this funeral took place during the first year of the Pelopponesian war. This war wasn't against the Persians, Egyptians or other foreign powers but instead against the Spartans, who were the enemy. Pericles uses this factor to raise morale for the Athenians. He references the severe training that the Spartans instill in their male children to make them powerful warriors and denotes that despite this brutal and intense learning, the soldiers of Athens are just as prepared to battle with the same drive as their enemies. The Athenians instead use courage and loyalty rather than sheer force and as such are greater than their enemies.

The Athenian Soldier: Integrity and Honor
Pericles is the war general of the Greeks and yet in his speech, he frequently avoids topics that would bring attention to him, choosing instead to appeal to his audience consisting of soldiers and relatives of soldiers. He tells them of the honor that it is to be a soldier, choosing to fight the enemy and be magnanimous in their role. Pericles continues in like manner to show the ideal of a true Athenian warrior, making his speech not only a tribute to those that had fallen, but as a rally to the living in the onslaught of this war.

Honor = Essence

Unlike Katie or Alexander, I found that Pericles' speech had many similarities with the Presocratics rather than Socrates himself. These philosophers were searching for the archon of the universe, each one emphasizing a specific concept. Should Pericles have been one, he would have based his theory of archon on ethos. He mentions that the Athenians aren't merely noble soldiers in battle, but also in their homes. He mentions how they frequently do good things to others without desiring something in return (a rather christian belief interestingly) which gives each men an air of integrity and nobility. The Athenians seem to be unique to this in Greek culture and he cites this as a reason to their own superiority. In all, his speech acts as if the principle of honor could be the basis of human essence.

Praise to the Men

Unique New York Greece
One of the greatest points of pride in Pericles’s speech is the idea that Greece, and more specifically Athens, differs greatly from surrounding sovereignties. They are braver than the Spartans. The people care more for the government. They are more tolerant of foreigners who happen through Athens. Later in his oration, he lauds Athens for her greatness. He even goes as far to say that her greatness is such that famous men have the whole earth as their memorial, in foreign lands also, where it fixed on the hearts of the men who came across the citizens of so great a city. From his description, though bias, we understand that Greece/Athens had surpassed the neighboring regions in politics and foreign policy.

Textbook Epideictic Oration
Pericles’ funeral oration falls nicely into the category of epideictic oration. His speech is replete with praise to the fallen, praise to the city for which they fell, praise to the survivors, and praise to the morals for which the fallen stood. Especially towards the end of his address, he praises the relatives for being able to cope with grief – real grief, born from the loss of love. He praises every group of people that could be associated with the men who died for the cause.

Socratic Pericles

Funerary Plaque
Though I agree with Katie’s thought on Socrates’ personal reaction to Pericles’ oration, I still believe that Pericles’ commentary on the characteristics of the Athenian thought process would generally place him more in line with the Socratic thinkers. Pericles asserts that the residents of Athena possess a propensity to act in accordance with truth. He declares that they will debate an issue first, to gain a better understanding of that issue, before acting on it. This tendency indicates that they are seekers of truth. Rather than just debating for the sake of debating, Athenians debate to arrive at a particular conclusion that will allow them to act properly. They seek a debate to mitigate and weigh risk before acting; they seek the truth to avoid acting in ignorance. This seems to be very reflective general Socratic ideology.

An Education to Greece

   History and Greek Civilization

Because history is the past of the winners, and Athens
definitely won to history, Pericles was right that future
ages will wonder at Athens.  We do so today.

            Pericles’s speech reveals Athenian civilization in two ways: the traditions and pride.  Pericles mentions that he does not want to give the speech because the bravery of the soldiers speaks for themselves. However, it is his duty to honor his ancestors and traditions. Pericles, though, focused much more on the pride and glory of Athens.  According to Pericles, Athenians have natural bravery instead of Spartan state-induced bravery.  The Athenians also pride themselves on working alone and not needing allies.  Athenians enjoy living in a world where beauty, things of the mind, bravery, politics, and service live harmoniously.  Athens is an “education to Greece” and "future ages will wonder at us.”  However, Pericles is only at least partly employing propaganda because Athens had its problems.  However, history is not the truth of the past but a reconstruction of the winner’s memories.  So Athens, the winner, is a golden city to Pericles.

Employing Ethos

            Pericles establishes his ethos mostly through emotional appeal.  Though he already had great ethos because he was a leading statesman in Athens, he mentioned none of his accomplishments during his speech, which actually increased his ethos.  He instead establishes ethos mostly through pathos.  When he says a speech is not necessary because of the bravery of the soliders, he is being sympathetic to the mourners.  He uses the word “we” instead of “you” to connect him with his audience.  Once he has the audience firmly on his side through his pathos, he is able to give the mourners advice to have more children, and they will take his advice.

Socrates vs. Pericles

Socrates would question even the most mundane
so he would definitely question the bravery of
the Athenian soldier. 
                        Socrates would have approached this funeral oration very differently than Pericles.  I imagine that he would attempt to discover if the dead soldiers were actually brave or only acting on orders.  He would question the mourners about their sons and brothers and their character.  He would not dote on Athens for more than half the speech but attempt to expose its corruption. Under his motto that “an unexamined life is not worth living” Socrates would bring the hard questions to light as opposed to Pericles’s epideictic, praising oration.

was most interested in knowing absolute truth.  I even conjecture that unlike Adam's thoughts, Pericles represented the Sophist thought.  Sophists were pragmatic, and Pericle’s advice to have more children and to women quiet were pragmatic thinkings taken from a difficult situation.  Pericles based himself in real life events, not in theory.