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Bodily Arts

Rhetoric and Athletics in Ancient Greece

By Debra Hawhee

Publication Year: 2004

The role of athletics in ancient Greece extended well beyond the realms of kinesiology, competition, and entertainment. In teaching and philosophy, athletic practices overlapped with rhetorical ones and formed a shared mode of knowledge production. Bodily Arts examines this intriguing intersection, offering an important context for understanding the attitudes of ancient Greeks toward themselves and their environment. In classical society, rhetoric was an activity, one that was in essence “performed.” Detailing how athletics came to be rhetoric’s “twin art” in the bodily aspects of learning and performance, Bodily Arts draws on diverse orators and philosophers such as Isocrates, Demosthenes, and Plato, as well as medical treatises and a wealth of artifacts from the time, including statues and vases. Debra Hawhee’s insightful study spotlights the notion of a classical gymnasium as the location for a habitual “mingling” of athletic and rhetorical performances, and the use of ancient athletic instruction to create rhetorical training based on rhythm, repetition, and response. Presenting her data against the backdrop of a broad cultural perspective rather than a narrow disciplinary one, Hawhee presents a pioneering interpretation of Greek civilization from the sixth, fifth, and fourth centuries BCE by observing its citizens in action.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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pp. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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A Note on Texts and Translations

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pp. xi

While this book engages classical materials and therefore may be of interest to classicists, I have written it for a broader audience, primarily scholars and students who are interested in the history of rhetoric, rhetorical pedagogy, and studies of the body, and I have therefore tried to make the book accessible to those who do not read classical Greek....


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pp. xiii-xiv

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Introduction: Shipwreck

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pp. 3-14

Sometime in the first century BCE, a ship destined for Rome, carrying a cargo of Greek sculptures by various artists of the Classical period, went down off the island of Antikythera. For millennia, the shipwreckand its contents remained submerged in the waters of the Ionian Sea, until accidentally discovered by sponge divers in 1901. Found in the...

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Chapter 1: Contesting Virtuosity: Agonism and the Production of Aretē

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pp. 15-43

The role of the agōn, the struggle or contest, in early Greek culture cannot be overemphasized: it was the place where wars were won or lost (or, for that matter, happened at all), the reason gods and goddesses came into being, the context for the emergence of philosophy and art, and even, according to Hesiod, the reason crops grew (Works...

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Chapter 2: Sophistic Metis: An Intelligence of the Body

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pp. 44-64

Oppian’s vivid account of the sea fight helps illustrate the mode of agonistic struggle, Protagoras’ ‘‘mixing in,’’ which, as suggested in the last chapter, operates in a matrix of response production. The twisting octopus ‘‘enfolds’’ the sea eel with its tentacles, attaching suckers to its surface, forming a bond between the two, as the sea eel plunges into the octopus’s watery flesh. The struggle produces a fluid mass of movement, a convergence of forces, which Oppian delineates when...

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Chapter 3: Kairotic Bodies

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pp. 65-85

Book 23 of the Iliad features a series of contests held among the Greeks in honor of their dead comrade Patroclus. The footrace portion of the games pits three men against each other: ‘‘swift Oïlean Ajax, wily Odysseus, and Nestor’s son Antilochus, the fastest of all the army’s youngmen’’ (Iliad 23.839–41). As soon as the race begins, Ajax darts quickly...

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Chatper 4: Phusiopoiesis: The Arts of Training

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pp. 86-108

With mētis and kairos as central concepts for ancient rhetorical practices, then training, as suggested toward the end of the last chapter, might take the form of exemplary display (thus emphasizing the teaching body), or, as suggested in chapter 2, would focus on the body’s capacity to ‘‘think’’ (emphasizing the learning body). To be sure, at the...

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Chapter 5: Gymnasium I: The Space of Training

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pp. 109-132

The opening of Plato’s Lysis shows Socrates walking from the Academy to the Lyceum, two of Athens’ three public gymnasia,1 when he is intercepted by his friend Hippothales, who invites Socrates to venture in to join his circle of friends. The ensuing exchange, as narrated by the character Socrates, proceeds as follows: ...

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Chapter 6: Gymnasium II: The Bodily Rhythms of Habit

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pp. 133-161

A number of vase paintings illustrate Archaic school scenes that offer a glimpse of ancient training practices. Figure 6.1, side A of a kylix from 480 BCE, shows two lessons occurring simultaneously. The first, on the left, features a lyre lesson with the bearded teacher sitting on the left facing the student; the second shows the teacher with an inscribed scroll that reads ‘‘Muse to me . . . I begin to sing of wide-flowing Scamander,’’ suggesting the two are in the midst of a recitation session...

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Chapter 7: The Visible Spoken: Rhetoric, Athletics, and the Circulation of Honor

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pp. 162-188

In many ways, the instances of bodily reading and production considered in the last chapter—Aeschines’ remark about the athlete’s recognizable body, Aristotle’s comment about knowing a healthy man’s walk by virtue of having seen it repeatedly, and the oft-repeated story of Demosthenes’ development as an orator through observation—turn on a logic of the visible. The visible, in turn, depends on the knowable, an associative knowledge of bodies: Aristotle’s perceiver, for example, must...

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pp. 189-196

Raphael’s ‘‘School of Athens’’ (figure C.1) could stand on its own as this book’s conclusion. Completed in 1511 and shown here in its restored form, the fresco presents an almost seamless blending of classical Greece with early modern Italy, as it simultaneously cites the flowering and the reflowering of the intellectual. In the foreground, Heraclitus writes with his head perched on his hand and Euclid gives a geometry lesson; Raphael features himself...


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pp. 197-206

Works Cited

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pp. 207-216


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pp. 217-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780292797277
E-ISBN-10: 0292797273
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292705845
Print-ISBN-10: 0292705840

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 24 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2004