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Chapitre D'ouvrage Année : 2016

Le Panathénaïque d’Ælius Aristide (or. 1)


Starting from the prologue of the Panathenaic Oration - where Ælius Aristides says that, as no literary work, so far, was up to celebrate worthily Athens, he must conceive a new rhetorical form -, we attempt to analyse the implementation of this project. Which rhetorical criteria should meet a history fitting to Athens and to what extent do they affect the narrative and the overall structure of the panegyric? Aristides rejects simple factual history, which, according to him, does not provide the right model. Athens definitely needs an axiological approach, which, through archetypal events and actions, will reveal the proper character (ethos) of its people. Thus are explained many Aristides’ comments on the difficulty to begin such a eulogy (what is to be said first?) and on the different ways he followed (interrupting the account, then resuming it and adding new elements, using flashbacks), all of that, paradoxically, bringing to light the steadiness and consistency of Athens’ history. In doing so, Aristides makes a specific use of the criteria (opsis and akoē, for instance) and the traditional words of the historia. Thus, through certain kinds of decisions and behaviour, Athens gives rise to a historical paradigm which, exceeding the world of the Greek cities, tends towards a universal history. Described by Aristides as the place of birth not only of the Athenians, but of all the human beings, Athens has become the common hearth of humanity, while preserving Greek values. But the Panathenaic Oration is also settled in the Roman Empire and, therefore, is to be assessed according to Roman political components (for instance, legal citizenship, characteristics of imperialism, political constitution…). In some ways, Athens’ history, in Aristides’ ideological and rhetorical world, serves as ‘pre-history’ to Rome. Why such a complex oration? Obviously, Aristides yearns to be a new Attic orator. Besides, he may give Athens a literary work matching the emperors’ (especially Hadrian’s) religious and architectural politics in Greece. So the Panathenaic Oration, far from being only epideictic, may probably also be read as a sort of rhetorical ‘melting-pot’, uniting history, eulogy and appeal to concord within Hellenism.

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Dates et versions

hal-01400220 , version 1 (21-11-2016)



Estelle Oudot. Le Panathénaïque d’Ælius Aristide (or. 1) : les voies et les enjeux d’une nouvelle histoire d’Athènes . Ælius Aristide écrivain , 19, Brepols, pp.23-58, 2016, Recherches sur les rhétoriques religieuses (ISSN : 0770-0210), 978-2-503-56783-9. ⟨10.1484/M.RRR-EB.5.110764⟩. ⟨hal-01400220⟩
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