Speaking the Same Language

Speech and Audience in Thucydides' Spartan Debates
Paula Debnar
The first systematic study of the internal audiences in Thucydides and the first to focus on Spartan discourse throughout the History


The Peloponnesian War, which destroyed imperial Athens and ultimately Sparta as well, continues to fascinate students of history, politics, and human nature. Thucydides' account of the twenty-seven-year conflict charts the opposition between the two great powers of the classical Greek world and the ways of life they represented. Paula Debnar explores the collapse of these powers from a new perspective, examining the ways discourse changed under the strain of a long and costly war.

Speaking the Same Language seeks to recover the role played by the audiences within the History. By restoring the internal audiences to a more prominent place, Debnar emphasizes the perspective of the participants in the war and heightens the dramatic immediacy of the debates. She thoroughly analyzes twelve speeches delivered by or to the Spartans, demonstrating how the earlier speeches illustrate the role of discourse in the construction of Sparta's identity and the unification of her Dorian allies in the face of their primarily Ionian adversaries.

Combining close textual analysis with an examination of narrative and historical context, Debnar bridges the gap between literary and historical studies of Thucydides. Accessible to specialists and nonspecialists alike, her work will interest those working in the fields of Greek literature, ancient historiography, rhetoric, political science, and ethnic studies.

Paula Debnar is Associate Professor of Classics, Mount Holyoke College.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . Debnar has contributed a valuable study that (i) demonstrates that internal audiences played a significant part in Thucydides' determination of what was most appropriate for speakers to say; (ii) offers a wealth of observations of how various speakers use rhetoric that targets their particular audiences; and 9iii) brings into high relief the Spartan image recoverable from the Spartan debates in the History, an image of the men that the Spartans claimed to be and that the rest of the Greeks thought or hoped they were."
    —Matthew Hartnett, St. Mark's School, Bryn Mawr Classical Review, August 2002

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Copyright © 2001, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 264pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2002
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11236-4

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  • $84.95 U.S.