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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: September 2009

Chapter 3 - Angry bees, wasps, and jurors: the symbolic politics of ὀργή in Athens


What are we to do with the ubiquitous moments of emotional intensity in Greek oratory such as the following one from Demosthenes’ prosecution of the wealthy Meidias on a charge of hubris: “All this bad behavior and his habit of adding to the troubles of people who justly defend themselves against him must be paid back with more than just my getting angry and upset while you look the other way ! It's necessary for everyone to be just as angry !” (ἀλλὰ πᾶσιν ὁμοίως ὀργιστέον, 21.123).

Demosthenes is by no means the only Athenian orator to use arguments about anger, and specifically about ὀργή, to construct particular definitions of justice and of the just use of authoritative penal power. Rather, ὀργή was a central argumentative term in all of the orators except Antiphon. Aeschines, for instance, describes the moment when litigants must debate the penalty to be imposed on a convict as being when “the third water is poured in [to the water clock to time the speeches to be made] about the penalty and the magnitude of your anger (τῷ μεγέθει τñς ὀργñς τñς ὑμετέρας)” (Aeschin. 3.197). The juxtaposition of the water in the water clock, which counts time, to the anger in the jurors, which metes out justice, underscores the way in which anger was thought of as being measurable, assessable, and finally dispensable.