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The Rhetoric of Manhood: Masculinity in the Attic Orators

Joseph Roisman
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 297
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pprv2
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  • Book Info
    The Rhetoric of Manhood
    Book Description:

    The concept of manhood was immensely important in ancient Athens, shaping its political, social, legal, and ethical systems. This book, a groundbreaking study of manhood in fourth-century Athens, is the first to provide a comprehensive examination of notions about masculinity found in the Attic orators, who represent one of the most important sources for understanding the social history of this period. While previous studies have assumed a uniform ideology about manhood, Joseph Roisman finds that Athenians had quite varied opinions about what constituted manly values and conduct. He situates the evidence for ideas about manhood found in the Attic orators in its historical, ideological, and theoretical contexts to explore various manifestations of Athenian masculinity as well as the rhetoric that both articulated and questioned it. Roisman focuses on topics such as the nexus between manhood and age; on Athenian men in their roles as family members, friends, and lovers; on the concept of masculine shame; on relations between social and economic status and manhood; on manhood in the military and politics; on the manly virtue of self-control; and on what men feared.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93113-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    This book is about perceptions of manhood as they are recorded in the works of Athenian orators. The corpus of works commonly known as “The Attic Orators” consists of speeches, the majority of them addressed Athenians who sat in political assemblies and institutions and the law courts roughly from the two last decades of the fifth century to the 320s B.C.E. It was thus Athenian citizens whom the orators were seeking to win over, and the French scholar Nicole Loraux has aptly remarked that “the true name of the citizen is reallyanēr[man], meaning that the sexual identity comes...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Manly Youth
    (pp. 11-25)

    From the age of thirty on, free adult males stood at the pinnacle of the social and political hierarchy of Athens; younger adults ranked lower, as did older men. Yet the precise age that separated young from mature adults (in the singular, both may be calledanēr), as well as the ages that separated various categories of youth, are difficult to pin down. The rituals by which the Athenians marked the incorporation of a male baby into the household(amphidromia)and the young man’s coming of age are of little help here.¹

    Broadly speaking, an Athenian male was considered a...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Roles and Responsibilities of the Adult Male: Kurios, Husband, Son, Kinsman, Friend, and Citizen
    (pp. 26-63)

    Chapter 1 has dealt with orations written for Athenian youths. Most of the extant orations were, however, delivered by or on behalf of mature men. This chapter deals with what the orations tell us of the responsibilities—and the attendant apprehensions—of the adult man, aged roughly twenty to sixty, in his role as head of the household, orkurios,husband, son, kinsman, friend, and citizen. My focus is on the ideology and expectations of masculinity relevant to these roles. The chapter therefore includes an examination of the obligation to dower brides, the complex perceptions of marital and extramarital relationships,...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Manly Shame
    (pp. 64-83)

    Honor and shame were essential qualities in Athenian manhood, integral to virtually every aspect of the man’s being and life as the Athenians conceived of them. We have seen that young men were accorded less honor than their elders and deemed to have a proclivity for shaming, or dishonoring, others (Lys. 24.16; Dem. 54.21; 55.7). Men who fulfilled their duties to family and polis were considered honorable; those who acted negligently in their roles askurioior friends were deemed dishonorable (And. 1.57; Is. 3.51; 7.31, 39; Dem. 40.24, 49).

    Other masculine activities and roles were also perceived, partly or...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Manhood and Social Standing
    (pp. 84-104)

    Any student of the relationship between manhood and social standing in Athens must ascertain the term that best describes a man’s social position. Although Solon’s reforms of 594 officially divided the Athenian citizenry into classes defined by property, ancient sources used many other terms to designate social position. Privileged Athenians were often referred to askhrēstoi(worthy ones),aristoi(best),plousoi(rich),euporoi(wellpropertied),gnōrimoi(notables),eugeneis(well-born),kaloi k’agathoi(beautiful and good). The less fortunate were known aspenētes(poor or beggars),aporoi(propertyless),ptōkhoi(destitute),hoi polloi(the many),to plēthos(the majority),dēmos(commoners), and, derogatorily,ho...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Men in the Military
    (pp. 105-129)

    In Athens, all able-bodied men between the ages of eighteen and fiftynine could be called to military service.¹ The exclusion of women, children, physically frail, older men, and sometimes slaves created an exclusive group of males who valued physical and mental power in general and in the military arena in particular. In the words of the sociologist David Morgan, such exclusivity and division of labor define not only whodoeswhat but whoiswhat.²

    In the military, Athenian men were able to meet the masculine expectations of courage, strength, fraternity, order, self-control, discipline, self-sacrifice, loyalty, and service to the...

  11. CHAPTER 6 The Struggle over Power
    (pp. 130-162)

    Next to sexuality, the most common theme in studies of masculinity, modern and ancient alike, is the drive for power. A few examples will serve to illustrate this point: The sociologist Steven Goldberg argues that patriarchy is a universal pattern because it is anchored in men’s preoccupation with power, rooted in their unique neuro-endocrinological makeup. The psychoanalysts Gerald Stechler and Samuel Kaplan attribute contemporary men’s aggressive power struggles to the male need to assert the self, arguing that men relate to the world under the assumption that passivity will undermine their identity. As for “the Greek world of war and...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Men, Desires, and Self-Control
    (pp. 163-185)

    In chapter 6, I discussed the struggles over power between the demos and its leaders and the role that the rhetoric of masculinity played in them. The subject here revolves around a different sort of power struggle, this one between a man and his own desires or appetites.

    As they fashioned a positive or negative manly image, speakers appealed to an ethic of restraint. In so doing, they chastised young men, delinquentkurioi,and members of the elite for lacking in restraint or committing hubristic and out-of-control assaults. Indeed, orators express and manipulate the perceived threat posed by pleasures in...

  13. CHAPTER 8 What Men Fear
    (pp. 186-204)

    As we have seen, orators often bear witness to fear in the experience of manhood in the family, the military, and politics. Following Aristotle, I shall define fear here as the anticipation of something bad in the future (Arist.EN3.6. 1115a9;Rhet.2.5.2 1382a20–1383a13; cf. PlatoLaches198b–c). Scholars distinguish between fear and anxiety, which is a general uncertainty about the future. Fear is more concrete and focused, and hence easier to manage, augment, reduce, or even eliminate.¹ The malleability of fear and anxieties invited speakers to take advantage of both. In so doing, they often appealed...

  14. CONCLUSION. Old Age and Manipulating Manhood
    (pp. 205-214)

    We conclude with a discussion of old men and old age in the oratorical corpus.¹ The ancient Greeks normally divided adult males into youths and elders(presbuteroi),the latter roughly between thirty and fifty-nine years old. Men over sixty were called “old”(gerontes).However, the following discussion often conflates the elderly and the old, given that the Athenians were not particularly strict as regards age categories.²

    In public discourse, age was associated with certain types of behavior. Like male youths, old men were judged by the standards expected men in their prime, but with a significant difference. It was hoped...

  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 215-250)
  16. General Index
    (pp. 251-258)
  17. Index Locorum
    (pp. 259-283)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 284-284)