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Title: Commentary on the Pseudonymous Letters of Aeschines (excluding Letter 10)
Author: Guo, Zilong
ISNI:       0000 0004 7229 5805
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2018
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The aim of the thesis is to study the pseudonymous letters of Aeschines, all of which purport to give an account of his sojourn in exile. There is a strong consensus among scholars that all the letters are forgeries, and their date of composition tends to be located in the first few centuries CE on linguistic grounds. Embracing a variety of literary forms, these letters were probably composed by multiple hands and may for convenience be divided into three categories: Letters 2, 3, 7, 11, 12 imitate the ‘Demosthenic’ letters in a manner similar to the Hellenistic (and beyond) historical declamations and progymnasmata; Letters 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 come to us with features reminiscent of what German scholars would call Briefromane, or ‘epistolary novels’, and are normally deemed typical of the so-called Second Sophistic; and Letter 4 is a showpiece assuming the form of a Pindaric exegesis. The thesis consists of two parts. The first gives an extensive account of the letters, including their background, history of scholarship, and basic features, to seek to present the ‘forger’ and the text in their proper historical and cultural contexts. The second part, which constitutes the basis for the reflections developed in the first, provides a detailed commentary in thematic sequence. It begins with the ‘Demosthenic’ counterparts (Epp. 2, 3, 7, 11, 12), and stylistic comparisons are made throughout. The analysis of the fictional letters (Epp. 1, 5, 6, 8, 9) pays particular attention to their consistency of narrative and engagement with other literary genres. The commentary on Letter 4 foregrounds the Pindaric elements and completes the thesis. Letter 10 is discussed at sporadic points: it is a later attachment to the corpus and the erotic content is inconsistent with the ‘original’ forgeries. The overall focus of the thesis is on two overlapping aspects of Aeschines’ early reception in antiquity – as ‘the other orator’ beside Demosthenes and as inspiration for later rhetorical education. Existing studies, however, are more concerned with textual criticism and linguistic analysis and have left the letters almost unproductive in these respects: so Drerup (1904), Schwegler (1914), and, most recently, García Ruiz and Hernández Muñoz (2012). In his classic work Goldstein (1968) took the parallel passages in the pseudonymous letters as evidence for authenticating Demosthenes’ letters, and scholars are now able to take advantage of a more reliable reference when studying Ps.-Aeschines. Holzberg (1994), on the other hand, established a set of generic criteria for the Briefromane and has substantially changed the way we read Ps.-Aeschines: it is now possible to appreciate the literary value of the letters without scrutinising their authenticity. Yet both these studies tell us only half the story: while Goldstein left more remarks on the imitative counterparts of Demosthenes’ letters, Holzberg focused on the way the letters reflect the epistolary narrative. Following Rohde (1876/1960), moreover, it seems common sense to characterise the pseudo-historical tale as seen through the letters as a product of the ‘Second Sophistic’, though discoveries of new papyri, e.g. the Ninus romance c. first century BCE, undermined this assumption. My study is built on these investigations in an attempt to form the most extended analysis. The study of the ‘Demosthenic’ counterparts will contribute to a better understanding of Ps.-Aeschines’ intertextual engagement with Demosthenes and his successors, e.g. Ps.-Leosthenes (FGrH 105 F 6 = MP3 2496). It shows that Ps.-Aeschines owes a great deal to the culture of rhetoric and highlights his significance in the Nachleben of Attic oratory. As for the other letters, this thesis argues that they deserve some space in our accounts of the history of exilic, periegetic, and epinician literatures for contextualising a wide range of preexisting literary forms such as the Homeric Odyssey (Ep. 1) and Pindar’s victory odes (Ep. 4). As contingent by-products of the ‘Demosthenic’ counterparts, however, they seem to allow no confident judgement about generic consciousness, esp. the very notion of ‘novel’, and need to be approached as antedating the Imperial exponents. Contrary to the communis opinio, therefore, I attempt to move the date of composition forward to the late Hellenistic period, in which there was already ample encouragement for a sophist, as well as for his students, to write pseudonymous letters. The ‘traitors’ blacklist’ (Ep. 12.8–9) and the term for the Rhodian family of Diagoreans (Ep. 4.4) entertain this possibility inasmuch as both show marked affinities with the Hellenistic sources. Last but not least, the two coexisting, radically opposed interpretations of one’s civic orientation in exile will help us tackle the stability and change in the political cultures of the post-Classical era. My conclusion is that these letters hold a unique position as very early – and very illuminating – examples of how different literary, political trends were interwoven to make, and to remould, a Classic. It is hoped that this study may have done something to reappraise Ps.-Aeschines, who is, in all likelihood, a pre-sophisticated forerunner at a crossroads in the history of Greek literature.
Supervisor: Canevaro, Mirko ; Maciver, Calum Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Aeschines ; Demosthenes ; Pindar ; victory odes ; post-Classical era ; rhetorical examples ; literary forms ; textual analysis