Hyperides, Funeral Speech

LCL 395: 534-535

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Funeral Speech

according to the custom which Thucydides has described,a the Athenian dead were buried at a public funeral and Hyperides was chosen to pronounce the oration over them. A funeral speech, to judge from those which have survived,b was bound to observe certain rigid conventions. The speaker confessed his inadequacy for the task, and besides praising the dead and consoling the bereaved, paid tribute to the prowess of their ancestors and the glory of the city. Hyperides discharged all these duties but in his own way. It was unusual to give to one man the prominence which he here gives to Leosthenes; and there is no surviving parallel to the passage in which the leader is depicted in Hades as welcomed by the heroes of old. The speech was counted a remarkable one in antiquity,c and despite a few faults of inaccuracy and certain rhetorical features which modern readers may think inappropriate, it still claims admirers, and is probably the orator’s best known work.

534

Funeral Speech

Analysis
  • §§ 1–3. Introduction: praise is due to the city, to the soldiers and to the general.
  • §§ 4–5. This is not the time to dwell upon the virtues of the city, great though they are.
  • §§ 6–40. Praise of Leosthenes and his men:
    • §§ 6–9. To describe their birth and education is unnecessary.
    • §§ 10–14. Leosthenes dedicated himself and Athens to the cause of freedom and, by his victories, laid the foundations of a successful campaign.
    • §§ 15–19. The courage of the men, which was increased by the sight of ruined Thebes. They have won undying fame.
    • §§ 20–23. The prospect of Macedonian domination if they had not resisted. The rigours of the campaign.
    • §§ 24–34. They must be counted happy; for they have proved their valour, brought content to those they loved, and won honour and respect from all. They will be more famed than the heroes of the Trojan War.
    • §§ 35–40. The welcome which, it may be imagined, Leosthenes will receive from the heroes of old.
  • §§ 41–43. Message of comfort to the bereaved.
  • 535
    DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.hyperides-funeral_speech.1954