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Who's Who Ancient Greece: Orators

Lysias (445-380 BC)

Rhetorician: one versed in the art of rhetoric: in classical oratory: the art of influencing ones hearers, Rhetorical question is designed to create and effect rather than elicit an answer

This Greek orator and speech writer was born and died in Athens. He was the son of a rich Syracusan weapons manufacturer, named Kephalos, and moved to the Athenian colony of Thurii, in Sicily, after the death of his father. There he learned the art of rhetoric from the famed Syracusan orator, Teisias, though forced to return to Athens due to persecution for democtratic leanings by the Thirty Tyrants. He is said to have written some 425 speeches, of which 233 have been verified conclusively as his own. Only 34 have survived, not all of them in their complete form. Most were judicial or forensic, ie. written for the self-defense in court of private citizens. Others were political,, and some were for celebrations and festivals. In one of the latter, the Olympic Oration, he addressed himself to Greeks at the Olympic Games, and injured them to cease their civil strife and join together, in particular against the tyrant of Syracuse, Dionysios, upon which the crowd then looted the sumptuous stage of the visiting Syracusans. One of his most renowned speeches was entitled, "On the Refusal of a Pension', in which a poor man uses guile and humor to plead his case for keeping his very small pension, as he is unable to work. Most of his speeches had personal issues as their themes, which give a good illustration of life in Athens of his times, and the kind of disputes that went on within it. Lysias had a gift for achieving the tone of each speaker appropriate to the individual client, something possible only through a genius for penetrating pysycological discernment.