Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication
Steven Johnstone, edition of March 22, 2003
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This article was originally written for the online discussion series “Athenian Law in its Democratic Context,” organized by Adriaan Lanni and sponsored by Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies.
When you read even a few speeches of Athenian litigants, when you closely follow the arguments of any one, when you consider that witnesses but not litigants were under oath, when you reflect that we don’t have the opponent’s presentation, you begin to develop a persistent suspicion that what you’re hearing is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You’ve got to wonder: Is this guy telling the truth?
The question of the relationship between a litigant’s speech and the truth is important for how you understand and evaluate the Athenian legal system, for what you can learn about Athenian society from these speeches, and, in the end, for how you read them. I would like to talk about the question of the truth of litigants’ speeches though the example of Demosthenes 55, “Against Kallikles.”
Here’s how such a lecture might go… .
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