Model Oratory

Many of the topics and categories recommended by the later handbooks appear in Isocrates' Panegyricus.36 This was Isocrates' "greatest speech,"37 composed to convince the Greeks, including Sparta, to unite against the "barbarians" under the leadership of Athens.38 According to Isocrates, the Athenians enjoyed a noble lineage, having sprung from the very soil they currently possess. Athens is characterized by justice, having established laws and a polity (Paneg. 39). She has given philosophy to the world. She remains brave in battle and never shrinks from duty (Paneg. 47, 75). When dealing with other states, the Athenians do not glory in their power but rather promoted self-control (sdphrosyne; Paneg. 81). The Persians, by contrast, are the opposite of these just, temperate, and courageous Athenians. They are excessively rich and therefore "pamper their bodies" (Paneg. 150).39 They are faithless toward their friends and cowardly toward their foes (Paneg. 151). Their style of government produces a servile nature (Paneg. 152). Therefore, the Hellenes must not stand by while all of Hellas is being continually outraged (UppiZomevh~)40 by these faithless, cowardly, and corrupt people (Paneg. 181). All of Greece was urged to revolt.

In this speech, the Athenians and the Persians were portrayed in predictable ways: The Athenians possess an exceptionally noble origin. They are wise, having given philosophy to the world. They are temperate (sophrosyne), even when dealing with the people they have conquered. They are courageous and never shrink from battle. The barbarians, however, cannot be said to possess a noble origin. Whatever their origin, they display a servile nature (Soulonpeneia). They are extravagant, spending excessive amounts indulging themselves.41 They are cowardly, faithless, and so on. Many of the standard categories appear.

A further example can be found in a forensic speech of Demosthenes, that "pillar" of classical education.42 In his speech De corona, Demosthenes defended his private life and his public transactions in response to charges made by his accuser, Aeschines (De cor. 8). He did so by means of a series of attacks on the origin, education, occupation, and character of Aeschines: Aeschines was not properly educated; rather, he makes pretensions to the culture (paideia) that he is so obviously lacking (128).43 His father was a slave. His mother engaged in indiscriminate sexual intercourse in a public latrine. He was brought up to excel in minor parts on the stage (129). His servile origin and lack of means led him to accept menial and degrading occupations (258). He possesses a spiteful temper, demonstrated by his mean-spirited attack on Demosthenes (252—53). He involves himself in suspect religious rituals involving exotic apparel and associations with old women (260). Demosthenes, on the other hand, was well educated and avoided turning to disreputable occupations to support himself (257).

A speech of Aeschines, Demosthenes' rival, given during the prosecution of Timarchus serves as a final example.44 Timarchus was accused of prostituting himself in his youth and squandering his inheritance. A person who prostitutes himself (acting as either a nopvh or a exaipo~), Aeschines argued, cannot be trusted to act in the best interest of the city: "One who had been a vendor of his own body for others to treat as they pleased would have no hesitation in selling the interests of the community as a whole" (In Tim. 32).45 Demosthenes offered the speech for the defense. Aeschines prevailed and Timarchus was disenfranchised.

The speeches of Isocrates, Demosthenes, and Aeschines were standard fare in later Greek and Roman rhetorical education. About Isocrates, Cicero commented, "Then behold! There arose Isocrates, the master of all rhetoricians, from whose school, as from the Horse of Troy, none but leaders emerged" (De or. 22.94). Demosthenes and Aeschines were revered as experts at forensic oratory (De or. 23.94-95). Quintilian began his discussion of speeches of praise (laudem) and blame (vituperationem) with a discussion of Isocrates, remarking that Isocrates thought praise and blame had a place in every kind of oratory (Inst. 3.4.11). In two of his parallel Lives, Plutarch compared the Greek orator and politician Demosthenes with the Roman orator and politician Cicero. These two shared much in common, Plutarch stated, since both rose from obscurity to positions of influence by means of their remarkable oratorical skill (Plut. Dem. 2.3—4; Plutarch, Comparatio Ciceronis cum Demosthene): Demosthenes surpassed the eloquence and force of his rivals when delivering forensic speeches, and when offering deliberative speeches, his mastery of the art of rhetoric was clearly greater than that of other professional declaimers (Comparatio Ciceronis cum Demosthene, 1.1). Dio Chrysostom similarly asserted that Demosthenes was the best of the Attic orators. His style was the most vigorous, his thought the most impressive, and his vocabulary the most extensive of all the rhetoricians (Or. 18.11).

Clearly, literate people received a rhetorical training that included detailed instructions on how to offer praise or blame in a variety of contexts. As part of their education, young men during the imperial period would have become at least somewhat familiar with the speeches of select Attic orators—speeches that contained numerous examples of the commonplaces appropriate to praise or blame—and they were encouraged to refer to these commonplaces in their own speeches. This training provided its students with a stereotyped portrait of an ideal man: a man who could list illustrious ancestors, boast of his excellent city, and name his honorable friends. Such a man mastered both himself and his subordinates. He was brave in the face of danger but never rash. By contrast, his less honorable, less manly opposite failed to control his passions. His origins were humble and his circumstances unfortunate. He deserted his duty and hated his friends. These rhetorical commonplaces could be generalized to include entire groups, as Isocrates' speech to the Athenians demonstrates. Cities and their citizens could be described as brave, noble, just, and temperate or, alternatively, as servile, extravagant, disloyal, and cowardly. Good men, and the cities they ruled, displayed virtue. Bad men failed at ruling both themselves and their subjects. In other words, assertions regarding the control of self and others served to define and justify elite privilege. In this context, sexual propriety signified the "refinement and self-control that distinguished the well-born from their unruly inferiors."46 An accusation of sexual impropriety, therefore, was a sharp rebuke designed to indicate that a man had become "like" the subordinates he was supposed to be ruling. Such accusations reiterated and reinforced cultural values regarding "natural" status and gender.


The second-century humorist Lucian offered the following description of the dangers of Rome:

Whoever loves wealth and is enchanted by gold, who by purple and power measures happiness, who has not tasted liberty or experienced free speech or contemplated truth, whose constant companions are flattery and servility; whoever has committed his entire soul to pleasure and resolved to serve pleasure alone, loving elaborate dining and wine and sexual pleasure, being full of trickery, treachery and falsehood; whoever enjoys hearing stringed instruments, whistling, and corrupt songs—'Such a one,' said he, 'ought to be suited to life here [in Rome], for every place and every agora is full of the things they love most, and they admit pleasure at every gate—this one by the eyes, that one by the ears or the nostrils, yet another by the throat and by sexual intercourse. By its ever-flowing, foul stream every street is widened; for it [Rome] brings in adultery, greed, false testimony and the whole family of the pleasures, and the soul, flooded from every side, is laid bare of modesty, virtue, and justice; and then the ground, having become a desert, forever burning with thirst, blooms with many a wild passion.

In this packed sketch of the vices of Rome, Lucian suggested that the city and its citizens were utterly enslaved to desire (£TCi0U|mia). According to Lucian, the person most suited to the depraved environment of the capital city had committed his soul to pleasure (hSovh); he devoted himself to elaborate dinner parties, wine, and sexual pleasure (afpoSioia: what belongs to Aphrodite, i.e., sexual enjoyment).48 Given his propensity for excess, this person can also be expected to deceive others, to act like a sycophant, and to offer false testimony.49 Apparently, pleasure leads the city and its denizens to commit adultery (|moi%eia), together with everything else associated with illicit sex and community corruption.50

An anonymous contemporary of Lucian, offering his advice on how to educate young men properly, warned fathers that if they do not pay close attention to the education and rearing of their sons, they may end up behaving much like the dissolute Romans described by Lucian above:

[They will] disdain the sane and orderly life, and throw themselves headlong into disorderly and slavish pleasures... . Some of them take up with flatterers and parasites,51 men of obscure origin, corrupters and spoilers of youth, and others buy the freedom of courtesans [hetaipao] and prostitutes [%hamaitypao], proud and sumptuous in expense; still others give themselves up to the pleasures of the table, while others come to wreck in dice and revels, and some finally engage in the wildest forms of vices, committing adultery and being decked with ivy,52 ready to pay with life itself for a single pleasure.

Musonius Rufus offered a similar warning, contrasting two young men, one "reared in luxury, his body effeminate, his spirit weakened by soft living, and having beside a dull and torpid disposition" and the other, unaccustomed to luxury, "practiced in self-restraint, and ready to listen to sound reasoning." The latter model was clearly to be preferred (Muson. 5-10).54 According to Cicero, extravagant young men should not to be trusted, since revelry and a tendency toward treason often accompany one another (Cat. 2.10). A city—or a father—that fails to control its youth will come to ruin, or so these authors suggested.

Anxieties about the ill effects of luxury and overindulgence in pleasure—lampooned by Lucian, warned against by Cicero, pseudo-Plutarch, and Musonius—abound in the moralizing discourse of this period. Sexual "crimes"—failure at self-mastery, enslavement to lust, whoring, effeminacy, adulteries, orgies, and so on—were imagined as signs of corruption and decay, a threat to a proper order that placed free, citizen men at the helm. In this way, sexualized invective participated in the naturalization of status norms. Ancient status positions—free, free noncitizen, citizen, freed, slave—were not based on inherent characteristics but discursively produced and maintained.55 Greek and Roman "elites," and I use the term provisionally, may have discussed and legislated status as if it were a given, as if it was entirely obvious who may legitimately claim noble origin, free birth, and citizenship; a closer look reveals just how contested these categories were. We have already noted that, according to ancient rhetorical theory, there were sets of attributes said to characterize "the good man," including noble origin, self-mastery, and courage. Bad men, then, were of servile or foreign origin, incapable of controlling themselves, and cowardly in battle. Legal and literary sources further promoted this view, suggesting that to be a slave or a foreigner necessarily implies that one is ignoble, incapable of true wisdom, and immoral, or simply exempt from morality altogether. The social-discursive production of "citizen" versus everyone else, especially "slave," served to constrain and constitute the definition of each.

Keith Bradley has argued that Roman slavery was "primarily a social, not an economic category." As a result, the Romans maintained "a stereotyped portrait of the slave as an unscrupulous, lazy, and criminous being, and while they thought of certain races, Asiatic Greeks, Syrians, and Jews, as being born for slavery, and while they thought certain punishments like crucifixion and burning alive were suitably servile, they never thought of any one form of work as being specifically appropriate just for slaves."56 Bradley demonstrates that slaves fulfilled a dizzying array of economic roles during the early empire; some were very wealthy and owned slaves themselves. One is tempted to ask, then, what precisely was the distinction between slave and free? Perhaps "thinking" of slaves in a stereotyped way was a necessary prop to the rather slippery, uncertain boundary between slave and free. We know who is a citizen because he is not a slave. We know who is a slave because he is not a citizen. These knowledges reinforced and implied one another.

The theory that slaves are different from their masters "by nature" was infamously stated by Aristotle in the Politics. Aristotle argued that slaves have no faculty of deliberation but require their masters, those who have the capacity for moral goodness, to rule over them (Pol. i26oa4-i26ob8). Freeborn women were said to be similarly incapacitated by the peculiarity of their gender—they do possess the faculty of deliberation but in them it lacks authority (Pol. i26oa4). Craftsmen and the like, those who labor for their living, free by birth or formerly slaves, can possess some virtue, though in a measure proportionate to the extent of servitude their profession requires of them (Pol. i26oa33). Therefore, slaves, laborers, and women cannot be citizens in the ideal polis since they lack the requisite capacity for virtue (i277b33-i278a40. Compare Plato Leg. 264e). Though Aristotle should not be viewed as representative of the entire ancient world, he was far from alone in his insistence that slaves, women, and, to a lesser extent, laborers (often thought to be former slaves, i.e., "freed-men") are deficient in virtue.57 Nevertheless, slaves and freedmen could be "upwardly mobile,"58 and an exceptional former slave could become a well-known philosopher.59 The fact that such supposed anomalies could occur demonstrates that these categories were not impermeable but were, in fact, always dangerously subject to renegotiation.

The proposition that virtue has little or nothing to do with slaves was reiterated and enforced in legal sources. In both Athens and Rome, slaves were held to an entirely different sexual standard than were their masters.60 According to Roman law, slaves could not legally marry (though at least some did "marry" anyway). 61 They were the sexual property of their masters and could not initiate sexual relations, even with other slaves, without their masters' permission.62 Were they to do so, they could be punished or even, in the case of adultery with a free woman, executed.63 In both the Greek and Roman case, prostitutes were often slaves, and a low sort of slave at that.64 Freedmen and wage-laborers were often assimilated to the category "slave" as well, with Cicero asserting that anyone who works for wages lives in a state of slavery (Of 1.150-1).65

Whether or not the author or the target of sexualized invective should be considered "an elite" in an economic or sociological sense is not my primary concern. Rather, I am interested in the various arguments marshaled to define what an "elite"—usually thought to be a freeborn, citizen male—is and what he does or does not do. In the introduction, I argued that power is social and discursive, not a thing that a person or group possesses. So too with "status."66 Status is negotiated and produced and therefore vulnerable to change. Thus, those claiming to be elite, those who argue that they deserve special benefits or authority, must describe what it is that justifies their privileged status. In the words of Althusser, they must create an "ideological apparatus" capable of supporting their claims. Alternatively, knowledges must be produced and reproduced that enable "the elite" to constitute themselves as such.

In the ancient context, sexual behavior was an important component of the production and maintenance of status. The freeborn, citizen male was thought to be—told he should be, claimed he was—in control of his passions. He avoids excess. He is the active partner in sexual acts. To fail in these areas is to fail as both a man and as a citizen.67 Charges of sexual vice, therefore, could serve to discount an individual's claim to status, just as praise of an individual's sexual virtue could justify his privilege. Those who (in theory) could not possibly be virtuous also could not possibly be "elite." Those who were supposed to be elite (they were, for example, freeborn) and yet failed to display virtue, especially sexual self-mastery, could not really deserve to be so. They were corrupt, depraved, unworthy. Sex was an essential ingredient to this discourse. Actual status (free, resident foreigner, freed, slave) was fundamental to whether or not a sexual act would be considered criminal in a legal sense. Furthermore, sexual acts dramatized status distinctions, reenacting a "natural" (i.e., entirely conventional) hierarchy along the lines of active partner or passive partner, dominant or submissive. The elite male was imagined as the actor and the dominator, at least in theory. Often, accusations of sexual misbehavior implied the violation of a prescribed role in this sexual drama, a drama imagined as the interplay between an active, citizen male partner and his various subordinates.

In the late 1970s, Kenneth Dover set out to describe the phenomena of homosexuality in ancient Greece. His "relentlessly empirical approach"68 succeeded in countering the skepticism of several generations of classical scholars regarding the nature of "Greek love," and, in the process, he put forward a series of persuasive hypotheses regarding the attitudes of ancient Greeks toward homosexual behavior. Some of his main arguments include: (1) There was no moral censure against an adult male taking an adolescent boy as a lover. Indeed, men are expected to find both young males and females beautiful (Ka1o~) and to desire them both. (2) Athenian law and custom did not disapprove of the sexual expression of this desire, as long as certain conventions were observed, including the preference for intercrural copulation and the view that the youth did not (or should not) seek sensual pleasure for himself from his lover.69 (3) In light of the first two propositions, domination and submission were important organizing principles for what was considered proper sexuality for citizen Greek males. The adult citizen male must always be in the dominant position. He penetrates; he pursues. Women, slaves, young boys, and foreigners—the citizen male's "natural" subordinates—are pursued and penetrated; they are expected to be submissive. Near-adult citizen males, those who will soon assume the prerogatives of Greek manhood, can be loved and pursued by their adult counterparts, but they are expected to resist, at least partially, the advances of their adult lovers, refusing penetration in most cases.

Numerous scholars have made similar observations regarding the importance of dominance/submission and active/passive as organizing principles in ancient constructions of sexuality. To David Halperin, sex in Greek society "is conceived to center on, and to define itself around, an asymmetrical gesture, that of the penetration of one person by the body—and, specifically, by the phallus—of another."70 Eva Cantarella agrees, noting that this view of Greek sexuality was "confirmed by Dover, maintained by Foucault in the volume on Greece in his History of Sexuality and extended by Veyne to the Roman sexual ethic." She asserts: "The fundamental dichotomy between different types of sexual behavior, in antiquity, was not between het-erosexuality and homosexuality, but between active and passive behavior. Active behavior properly belonged to adult males, while women and paides were supposed to practice passive behavior."71 Regarding Roman sexual theory, Amy Richlin notes, "clearly, what bothered the Romans most in male homosexual behavior was assimilation to the female (i.e., receptive) role, as witnessed by the definition of the pathic."72 In his extended study of Roman homoerotic (male) sex, Craig Williams recently concluded that "according to the prime directive of masculine sexual behavior, a Roman man who wished to retain his claim to full masculinity must always be thought to play the insertive role in penetrative acts, whether with males or females; if he was thought to have sought the receptive role in such acts, he forfeited his claim to masculinity and was liable to being mocked as effeminate."73

This active/passive paradigm was further supported by the complex of charges present in ancient invective. Men who indulged in excessive luxury were labeled "slavish." Like slaves, they had no control of their passions. Their "slavishness" called into question their sexual habits, for slaves were expected to be the passive partner in sexual acts with their masters, not the other way around. If they were "slavish" in their personal habits, did they also seek to be the passive partner in sexual acts? If so, then they must be entirely depraved, like prostitutes who offer their bodies to anyone. These accusations offer just a sampling of the manifold ways in which accusations regarding sexual acts—configured around active or passive roles— were employed to attack an elite man for violating his status.

According to this paradigm, gender—and the sex appropriate to various genders—were presented as types rather than fixed identities. As Maude Gleason has shown, in ancient medical texts, "masculinity" or "femininity" were defined not in terms of anatomical sex but as a "type" or a "style." A man could be like a woman, a woman like a man. "Masculinity" (apoeviK6~) and "femininity" (0h1UK6~) "function as physiognomical categories for both male and female subjects."74 Thus, Polemo, a first-century native of Laodicea and author of Physiognomy, concluded, "the male is in every way opposite to this description, and it is possible to find masculine qualities also in women."75 In this scheme, it becomes possible to malign an opponent for being womanish and effeminate not only because he sought the passive role in sexual acts but because he proved himself to be "feminine" in other ways. Furthermore, a woman's desire to assert "masculine" prerogatives, especially by seeking to penetrate an other, was viewed as unnatural and monstrous, a "horror" described for comedic effect by Lucian.76

In his Dialogi meretricii, Lucian described the love of one woman, Me-gilla, for another, Leaina. Megilla was depicted "like a man" (avSplKh); she wore her hair closely shorn, invited Leaina to call her Megillos, and seduced Leaina into sexual acts which were hinted at but never fully described (Dial. meret. 5). Though Lucian did not reveal the specifics of how Megilla satisfied herself, he assumed that whatever she did was "unnatural," "shameful," and masculine in some way.77 Similarly, Seneca decried women who rival men in their lusts, who "having devised so deviant a type of shamelessness, enter men" (Ep. 95.20);78 these women may become subject to male diseases and male habits.79 The active woman was thought to penetrate her partner in some way, "like a man." Therefore, she "must become phallic."80 The phallic female who seeks to seduce and penetrate was deemed both "masculine" and monstrous.81 Masculinity and femininity, therefore, were configured as modalities or styles with the superordinate, phallic, active position identified as "male" and the subordinate, receptive, passive position as "female," irrespective of the "sex" of the actor so engaged.82

Beliefs about status, sex and gender—described and constituted across a range of ancient medical, literary, and legal sources—served as mutually reenforcing cultural codes.83 Ancient authors "knew" who the elite were because the elite were "virtuous" and, as such, were not slaves. Men were "male" because they were phallic, active, dominant, and superordinate, and women were "female" because they were nonphallic, passive, submissive, and subordinate. Men who violated these categories by desiring "female" sexual satisfaction were depraved and "slavish." Similarly, women who dared to desire "male" sexual satisfaction were viewed as monstrous deviants. These dichotomies—free/slave, dominant/submissive, active/ passive, male/female—appear repeatedly. In a world where the male elite were supposed to be naturally "virtuous," therefore, sexual slander could prove to be a dangerous rhetorical weapon since, by violating status in a sexual act, such men also violated "nature."

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