Aelius Aristides, Oration 1. Panathenaic Oration

LCL 533: 10-11

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justice to the city, and he declares his intention of surpassing them by making good this defect. At the same time, and in a further series of comments distributed throughout the speech, he insists on a uniquely close connection between his own efforts as celebrant and the achievements of the city he is celebrating. As a star orator he is a true nursling of Athens in her central identity as the mother city of culture, and so ideally placed to honor her on her own terms (§§2, 6, 329); in addition, the courage and effort he displays in meeting the challenge of praising her as she deserves also matches the courage and effort shown by her people in achieving their great feats in the first place (§§3, 151–53). Thus, although the speech may end with what looks like a gesture of modesty, leaving the question of its success or failure with its audience to Athena (§404), it is clearly presented overall as a meeting of the mighty, of the first city of Hellenism with the reigning champion of Hellenic culture.

The date of composition cannot be fixed with certainty. J. H. Oliver argues intricately but implausibly for the year AD 167,12 C. A. Behr more plausibly for 155.13 The latter date depends on connecting the oration with a visit to Athens apparently predicted in the dream recorded in Sacred Tales 6.1–3, which can be dated to the first half of that year. Oliver, for his part, on the basis of a dubious story in the Aristides Prolegomena,14 supposed that Aristides



was commissioned by Herodes Atticus to perform at the Panathenaea of 167 but produced an unperformably long composition that he had to content himself with circulating in written form only. Boulanger and Jones, perhaps most wisely, offer no firm date.

  • Beecke, E. Die historischen Angaben in Aelius Aristides Panathenaikos auf ihre Quellen untersucht. PhD diss. Strassburg, 1905.
  • Day, J. W. The Glory of Athens: Popular Tradition as Reflected in the Panathenaicus of Aelius Aristides. Chicago, 1980.
  • Kelly, C. “Greek Piety in a Roman Context: Aelius Aristides’ Panathenaic Oration.” Digressus 11 (2011): 51–73.
  • Oliver, J. H. “The Civilizing Power: A Study of the Panathenaic Discourse of Aelius Aristide against the Background of Literature and Cultural Conflict.” TAPhA 58 (1968): 1–223.
  • Oudot, E. “Athènes repeinte en cité grecque? Quelques remarques sur l’idéologie du Panathénïque d’Aelius Aristide.” Mètis n.s. 3 (2005): 319–35.
  • ———. “Au commencement était Athènes. Le Panathénaïque d’Aelius Aristide ou l’histoire abolie.” Ktêma 31 (2006): 227–38.
  • ———. “Aelius Aristides and Thucydides: Some Remarks about the Panathenaic Oration.” In Aelius Aristides between Greece, Rome, and the Gods, edited by W. V. Harris and B. Holmes, 31–49. Leiden, 2008.
  • ———. “‘Dresser un trophée sans verser le sang’: Athènes
DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.aelius_aristides-oration_1_panathenaic.2017