Using the past to shape the future: ancestors, institutions and ideology in Aeschin. 2.74-8

Matteo Barbato

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The Athenian ancestors were constantly made object of praise in Athenian public discourse, and the orators often exhorted their audience to imitate their deeds and follow their example. The ancestors’ ideological weight risked reducing the representation of Athens’ future policies to a perpetual reenactment of the city’s glorious past. Then how could Aeschines, in an address to the Assembly recalled in his speech On the Embassy, invite the Athenians to avoid the mistakes of their ancestors during the Peloponnesian War? According to a recent study, Aeschines challenged the prevalent image of the city’s past by relying on his family tradition as an alternative carrier of social memory. This chapter argues that an institutionalist approach offers a more convincing explanation. Far from challenging the Athenians’ shared image of their past, Aeschines adapted it to the discursive parameters of the Assembly, which compelled orators to construct their speeches around issues of advantage.     

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConflict in communities. Forward-looking memories in Classical Athens
EditorsElena Franchi, Giorgia Proietti
Place of PublicationTrento
PublisherUniversità degli Studi di Trento
Number of pages41
ISBN (Print)9788884437716, 8884437717
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series



  • ideology
  • New Institutionalism
  • Discourse
  • Aeschines
  • ancestors


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