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Athenian Homicide Rhetoric in Context

Plastow, CC; (2017) Athenian Homicide Rhetoric in Context. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Homicide is a potent crime in any society, and classical Athens was no exception. The Athenians implemented legal methods for dealing with homicide that were set apart from the rest of their legal system, including separate courts, long-established laws, and rigorous procedures. We have, however, limited extant sources on these issues, including only five speeches from trials for homicide. This has fomented debate regarding aspects of law and procedure, and rhetoric as it relates specifically to homicide has not been examined in detail. Here, I intend to examine how the nature of homicide and its prosecution at Athens may have affected rhetoric when discussing homicide in forensic oratory. First, I will establish what I will call the ideology of homicide at Athens: the set of beliefs and perceptions that are most commonly attached to homicide and its prosecution. Then, I will examine homicide rhetoric from three angles: religious pollution, which was believed to adhere to those who committed homicide; relevance, as speakers in the homicide courts were subject to particular restrictions in this regard; and motive and intent, related issues that appear frequently in rhetoric and, in some cases, define the nature of a homicide charge. I will suggest that there is a gap between the ideology and the reality of homicide prosecution at Athens, and that the way that Athenians spoke about homicide and its prosecution in rhetoric did not always hold up in practice. I will also argue that the physical courtroom context of the trial and the beliefs and perceptions of those present greatly influenced the rhetoric of homicide. This is particularly noticeable when comparing rhetoric from the homicide courts and from the dikastic courts. As a whole, I hope to approach law and rhetoric as symbiotic forces in the case of homicide, and to show how the rhetoric of homicide can reflect more broadly on classical Athenian society.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Athenian Homicide Rhetoric in Context
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Athenian oratory, Athenian law
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Greek and Latin
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1540939
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