Medical Language in the Speeches of Demosthenes
Das, Allison E.
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This project is intended as an examination of medical language and imagery in the speeches of Demosthenes, with special attention given to his speeches against his political opponent Aeschines, Against the False Embassy (19) and On the Crown (18). In Chapter 1, I contextualize his use of such language and imagery by exploring the influence of Hippocratic medicine on fourth- and fifth-century non-medical literature. I argue that the shared anxieties of medicine and politics, namely that both arts demand quick action and foresight on the part of the good practitioner, and the rich new vocabulary of suffering and disease, made Hippocratic medicine an enticing model for the political writer, that is, the historian, philosopher, and orator. Demosthenes' medical language and imagery should thus be seen as part of a tradition of analogizing the two arts, which began during the circulation of the first Hippocratic treatises and continued well into and past his own day. In Chapter 2, I look at medical language and imagery in Demosthenes' prosecution of Aeschines for political misconduct during the Second Embassy to Philip II of Macedon, On the False Embassy. I examine how Demosthenes plays with the Hippocratic concepts of "right timing" (kairos) and "forecast" (prognôsis) to underscore Aeschines' political failures. I also look at how he blends contemporary medical and magico-religious views of disease to depict his opponent as infected with the contagious disease of Philippizing. In Chapter 3, I scrutinize Aeschines' response to Demosthenes' medical invective in On the Embassy (2), his defense against Demosthenes' charges of political corruption during the Second Embassy (Dem. 19), and Against Ctesiphon (3), his prosecution of Ctesiphon for proposing an illegal action, namely that Demosthenes should be awarded a civic crown for exceptional service to the state. In each case, I argue that he appropriates his rival's medical language, particularly the analogy of the physician, in order to turn it against him. By redefining prognôsis in terms of the present, he deflects Demosthenes' accusation not only of political malice but also of political incompetency. Moreover, by applying the invective label "purifier" (goês) to his accuser, he draws attention to the absurdity of Demosthenes' self-representation as a physician of the state, especially in light of Athens' defeat by Philip at Chaeronea. In Chapter 4, I turn to Demosthenes' use of medical language and imagery in his grand defense of his political career, On the Crown. I argue that he uses this language and imagery to redirect blame for his failed political policies onto Aeschines. By reintroducing the image of the charlatan physician, he both responds to Aeschines' purifier invective and transfers the blame for Athens' current misfortunes onto the inaction and bad leadership of politicians like Aeschines. In addition to the physician analogy, I look at how Demosthenes draws upon the language of physical suffering to exhibit the consequences of allowing the politically and morally corrupt politician to remain in the city. In the final chapter of this project, I examine Demosthenes' use of medical language and imagery in his political speeches, in particular, the Olynthiacs (Dem. 1-3) and Philippics (Dem. 4, 6, 9). I argue that similarities between the medical imagery and language of these speeches and that of his speeches against Aeschines suggest that Demosthenes recycled this imagery because of its positive reception by his audience. In the appendix to this chapter, I look at examples of medical imagery and language in the speeches of Demosthenes whose authenticity is contested: Fourth Philippic (10), Reply to Philip (11), and Against Aristogeiton I (25). I conclude with a recapitulation of my findings and brief discussion about the further directions in which this research can be taken.