A podcast of this seminar can be downloaded here.

Ancient historians regularly argue that the Athenian dēmos (‘people’) held sailors in much lower esteem than hoplites. They cite in support of this the extant funeral speech of Pericles. Certainly this famous speech said a lot about courageous hoplites but next to nothing about sailors. Yet it is also clear that this was not a typical example of the genre. Funeral speeches usually gave a detailed account of Athenian military history. In 431 BC Pericles decided to skip such an account because of the difficult politics that he faced. In rehearsing military history funeral speeches always mentioned naval battles and recognised sailors as courageous. Old comedy and the other genres of public oratory depicted sailors in the same positive terms. Their sailors displayed no less courage than hoplites, with both groups equally benefitting the state. All these non-elite genres assumed that a citizen fulfilled his martial duty by serving as either a sailor or a hoplite. They used a new definition of courage that both groups of combatants could easily meet. In tragedy, by contrast, characters and choruses used the hoplite extensively as a norm. In epic poetry heroes spoke in the same hoplitic idiom. By copying this idiom the tragic poets were setting their plays more convincingly in the distant heroic age. In spite of this, tragedy still recognised Athens as a major seapower and could depict sailors as courageous. In Athenian democracy speakers and playwrights had to articulate the viewpoint of non-elite citizens. Their works put beyond doubt that the dēmos esteemed sailors as highly as hoplites.


About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Event details

  • The seminars take place at 4pm, in the Michie Building (09), Room 536
  • Seminars are also on Zoom. Send an email to Duncan Keenan-Jones (d.keenanjones@uq.edu.au) for the link.
  • Upcoming seminars can be found here.
  • Please be aware that we are still operating under Covid-19 regulations during public events. Masks are no longer required at UQ locations - however, UQ strongly encourages mask wearing when physical distancing is not possible. UQ strongly encourages all campus attendees to be up to date with vaccinations. And finally, those who are feeling unwell, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 7 days, are asked not to attend this seminar.
  • For those attending in person, if you would like to join us for drinks and/or dinner afterwards at UQ’s St. Lucy's from 5:15 pm, please RSVP by email to Duncan Keenan-Jones (d.keenanjones@uq.edu.au) by 9am on the day of the seminar.
  • Please also contact Duncan Keenan-Jones should you have questions about the event.

The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at https://alumni.uq.edu.au/friends-of-antiquity