The research project is funded by the Swedish Research Council
Researcher: Mikael Johansson
In Late Antiquity declamation was a literary genre in which leading personalities within the field of culture had the opportunity to display their education (paideia) and rhetorical skill. The declamations were delivered orally in rhetorical contests, and performed either well-prepared or ex tempore. Many declamations were also published and distributed over the Roman East. The popularity of the most famous declaimers seems to have been enormous, and one of the most famous was Libanius, a teacher of rhetoric (sophist) in Antioch in the Roman province of Syria in the 4th century A.D. He has left an unusually large amount of letters, speeches, and declamations. Although he was active in a Roman and increasingly Christianized cultural context, Libanius defended old Hellenic virtues and pagan beliefs, and both his language and style reflect his passion for authors of the Greek classical past.
I am currently working on a commentary on Libanius’ (and Pseudo-Libanius’) Declamations 17–23, the so-called “Philippic Declamations”. These declamations are based on themes from Athenian history in the age of Demosthenes (4th century B.C.), especially the wars between Athens and king Philip II of Macedonia. The texts are carefully elaborated fictitious orations of Demosthenes and other forceful speakers.
The project, which is funded by the Swedish Research Council, is a continuation and an expansion of my earlier research on Libanius’ Declamations 9 and 10. The project has a threefold aim: to present a linguistic and rhetorical commentary, to publish an English translation, and to improve the Greek text. The purpose of the commentary is to provide the keys for understanding the text as a whole. Special consideration will, however, be given to Libanius’ relation to the rhetorical tradition attributed to Hermogenes of Tarsus. The question whether the doctrines of Hermogenes were embraced by the orators of the 4th century has been much discussed, and most scholars answer in the negative. My current standpoint is that there are manifest traces of Hermogenes’ rhetorical tenets in the declamations of Libanius. Another important element of the commentary will be the discussion on literary authorities. As the name “Philippic Declamations” indicates, these texts have many points of contact with the political orations of Demosthenes.
With the exception of Declamation 22, the “Philippic Declamations” have never been translated into any modern language; hopefully, my translation of these often difficult texts will facilitate the future work for scholars of many disciplines. The aim of the project is not to provide a new critical edition of these declamations (a possible new edition has been announced in the Budé series). My translation will be accompanied by the Greek text of Richard Förster’s 1911 Teubner edition, with some minor improvements; textual problems will be discussed in the commentary.
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