The Oath in Greek Society


July 27th, 2007





The importance of oaths to ancient Greek culture can hardly be overstated, especially in the political and judicial fields; but they have never been the object of a comprehensive, systematic study.This volume derives from a research project on the oath in ancient Greece, and comprises seventeen chapters by experts in law, in political and social history, in literary criticism, and in cross-cultural studies, exploring the subject from a broad spectrum of positions. Topics covered include the nature of ancient Greek oaths; the functions they performed within communities and in relations between them; their exploitation in literary texts and at critical moments in history; and connections between Greek oath phenomena and those of other cultures with which Greek came into contact, from the Hittites to the Romans.

Alan Sommerstein is Professor of Greek at the University of Nottingham and Director of the ‘Oath in Archaic and Classical Greece’ project. He has published widely on Aeschylus, Aristophanes and other Greek dramatists. Judith Fletcher is Associate Professor of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, and co-editor with Bonnie MacLachlan of Virginity Revisited: The Autonomy of the Unpossessed Body (2006).

List of contributors: Judith Fletcher Alan H Sommerstein Myrto Gkarani Arlene Allan Mary R. Bachvarova Sarah Bolmarcich Edwin Carawan D.M. Carter Serena Connolly Michael Gagarain Simon Hornblower Bonnie MacLachlan David C. Mirhady Jonathan S. Perry Peter Rhodes Julia L. Shear Tarik Wareh


Author Information

Alan H. Sommerstein is Professor of Greek and Director for Ancient Drama and its Reception, University of Nottingham, and editor of a celebrated complete edition of Aristophanes volumes in the Aris & Phillips Classical Texts series. His many other publications include 'Aeschylean Tragedy' (1996), an edition of 'Aeschylus Eumenides' (1989), 'Greek Drama and Dramatists' (2002) and 'Sophocles: Selected Fragmentary Plays' Volumes 1 and 2 (2006, 2011) in the Aris & Phillips Classical Texts series. Judith Fletcher is Associate Professor of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, and co-editor with Bonnie MacLachlan of 'Virginity Revisited: The Autonomy of the Unpossessed Body' (2006).

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
Introduction (Alan H. Sommerstein)
Part I: Oaths and their Uses
1 Oaths in political life (P.J. Rhodes, University of Durham, UK)
2 Oaths in Greek international relations (Sarah Bolmarcich, University of Michigan, USA)
3 Litigants' oaths in Athenian law (Michael Gagarin, University of Texas, Austin, USA)
4 The dikast's oath (David C. Mirhady, Simon Fraser University, Canada)
5 Could a Greek oath guarantee a claim right? (David M. Carter, University of Reading, UK)
6 Oath and contract (Edwin M. Carawan, Missouri State University, USA)
7 "An Olympic victory must not be bought": oath-taking, cheating and women in Greek athletics (Jonathan S. Perry, University of Central Florida, USA)
Part II: Case studies
8 Epinician swearing (Bonnie MacLachlan, University of Western Ontario, Canada)
9 Horkos in the Oresteia (Judith Fletcher, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada)
10 Masters of manipulation: Euripides' (and Medea's) use of oaths in Medea (Arlene Allan, University of Otago, New Zealand)
11 Cloudy swearing: when is an oath not an oath? (Alan H. Sommerstein, University of Nottingham, UK)
12 Thucydides and Plataian perjury (Simon Hornblower, University College London, UK)
13 The oath of Demophantos and the politics of Athenian identity (Julia L. Shear, University of Glasgow, UK)
14 The Syracusans' great oath and the Greek hierophantic performance (Tarik Wareh, Union College, Schenectady, USA)
Part III: From East, to West
15 Oath and allusion in Alcaeus 129 (Mary R. Bachvarova, Willamette University, USA)
16 Cosmological oaths in Empedocles and Lucretius (Myrto Gkarani, University of Patras, Greece)
17 "I swear by Augustus himself": the Greek oath in the Roman world (Serena Connolly, Yale University, USA)