Changing the Authoritative Voice: Lycurgus' "Against Leocrates"

Classical Antiquity 19 (1):5-33 (2000)


Lycurgus' "Against Leocrates" has long been seen as an anomaly in the oratorical corpus by scholars of ancient rhetoric. Its extensive use of quotations from the poets and of personification are two features regularly picked out as especially odd and inexplicable by critics. This paper argues that these and other features of the speech are central to Lycurgus' attempt to persuade his jury to accept his radically un-Athenian political views. In fact, Lycurgus has rejected Athenian approaches to punishment, prosecution, and politics in favor of Platonic views, which bear the taint of the elite philosophical schools. The quotation and the personification are two techniques that Lycurgus uses to craft a "new prosecutorial voice" that will overcome his audience's objections to his elitist and even Platonic political positions. I contend that the whole speech may be read as a study in how to craft a "voice" or form of oratorical self-presentation that will persuade an audience to accept heterodox political views

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