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Seminar 4


The Athenian Funeral Oration and the Kerameikos – Living in the Polis

This seminar invites you to examine a very particular event in the life of a very particular polis: the funeral orations delivered in Athens in the cemetery of the city (the ‘Kerameikos’) during the 5th and 4th centuries BC.

General Questions:

• What is a funeral oration in ancient Athens?
• Why and when do they occur?
• Who is chosen, and why, to deliver the orations?
• Which funeral oration speeches are still preserved for us today?
• What are the historical circumstances surrounding each of these?

General Bibliography to read:

Loraux, N. The Invention of Athens: the funeral oration in the classical city (New York 1986/2006) ch. 1

You should work your way through Sections 1 and 2.

Section 1:

Read the following excerpts from funeral oration texts:

  • Pericles’ funeral oration (in Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War 2.34–46)
  • Lysias (Funeral Oration 2:1–3; 54–81)
  • Demosthenes Funeral Speech (60.1–13; 35–7)
  • Plato Menexenus 234–6e
  • Read as much as you can of the rest of these funeral speeches

• Read the following useful bibliography:

• If you have time, read:

Ziolkowski, J. E. Thucydides and the tradition of the funeral speeches at Athens (New York 1981)

• As part of your research, think about the following questions:

  • What are the key points each speaker is seeking to make?
  • How and why do you think the speeches differ?
  • What kind of impact do you think these speeches were supposed to have?

Section 2:

Look at the images provided in the Image Pack:

Also PowerPoint

  • Map of the Kerameikos cemetery and its position in the ancient city of Athens
  • Picture of the Kerameikos with graves lining the road
  • Geometric Krater grave marker
  • Archaic kouros relief grave marker (6th century BC)
  • The Hygeso grave stele (5th century BC)
  • The Dexielos Grave Stele (4th century BC)

Read as much as you can of the following:

  • Camp, J. The Archaeology of Athens (New Haven 2001) use index for Kerameikos + pp. 261–4
  • Low, P. 'Commemoration of the war dead in Classical Athens' in Pritchard, D. ed. War Democracy and Culture in Classical Athens (Cambridge 2010) 341–58
  • Knigge, U. The Athenian Kerameikos: history, monuments, excavations (Athens 1991)
  • Morris, I. 'Attitudes towards death in archaic Greece' Classical Antiquity 8 (1989) 296–320
  • Bruit-Zaidman, L. and Schmitt-Pantel, P. Religion in the Ancient Greek City (Cambridge 1992) pp. 72–9
  • Spivey, N. Understanding Greek Sculpture (London 1997) pp. 116–22
  • Boardman, J. Greek Sculpture The Archaic Period (London 1978) pp. 162–6
  • Boardman, J. Greek Sculpture The Classical Period (London 1985) pp. 66–78
  • Boardman, J. Greek Sculpture The Late Classical Period (London 1995) Ch. 6
  • Osborne, R. Archaic and Classical Greek Art (Oxford 1998) Ch. 10

• Further suggested reading:

  • Kurtz, D. and Boardman, J. Greek Burial Customs (London 1971) Chs. 5–7
  • Garland, R. The Greek Way of Death (Bristol 2001)
  • Sourvinou-Inwood, C. Reading Greek Death to the end of the Classical Period (Oxford 1995)
  • Clairmont, C. Gravestone and Epigram: Greek memorials from the Archaic and Classical period (Switzerland 1970)
  • Low, P. 'Commemorating the spartan war dead', in Powell, A. and Hodkinson, S. eds. Sparta and War (Swansea 2006) pp. 85–109

• As part of your research, think about the following questions:

  • Where is the Kerameikos in relation to the rest of the city? Where did it lead from and to? What is the impact of its location and how does it differ to our own practices today?
  • Where were the people whom the funeral orations spoke about buried within the cemetery? What was the impact of this particular location and style of burial?
  • How did burials in the Kerameikos change in style of commemoration over time?
  • What do you believe the message of the Archaic kouros, the Dexielos and Hegeso grave steles to be?
  • How do you think the setting for the funeral oration affects the way we should interpret the speeches?
  • In what ways was burial only part of the process of commemorating the dead in ancient Athens?
  • To what extent do you think, as a result of your research, that burial and commemoration of the dead in ancient Athens could be understood as a problematic issue for the polis?
  • How different was Athens from other poleis in its commemoration of the dead?