a funeral speech, delivered, according to Athenian custom, by a citizen chosen on grounds of intellect and distinction (Thucydides 2. 34, perhaps just a way of introducing Pericles ), at a public funeral of the war‐dead of the previous campaigning season. This practice, said to have been unique to Athens and perhaps introduced 464 bc, was continued into Roman times, and the occasion was clearly solemn and important. But before Hyperides the only certain names of speakers chosen are those of Pericles in 440 and 431, Demosthenes 2 after the battle of Chaeronea (338), and Archinus at some date in between.
The conventional form comprised: tribute to the virtues of the dead, sometimes with particular reference to their youth; summary of their country's glorious achievements in the past (esp. in the Persian Wars (Marathon, Salamis), but see also attic cults and myths, last para.); consolation to relatives; and exhortation to the survivors to imitate their virtues. Thucydides 2 purports to give in full the Funeral Speech delivered by Pericles at the end of the first year of the Peloponnesian War, but this speech may have been idiosyncratic in its concentration on the Athens of the present and its silence on the after‐life.
As a contrast to the impersonal austerity of Pericles we have the speech of Hyperides on Leosthenes (a personal friend) and the other dead of the Lamian War. We also have a florid fragment by Gorgias; Lysias, which may be genuinely Lysianic; and Demosthenes 60 (not genuinely Demosthenic). Finally, Socrates in Plato's Menexenus recites a funeral speech implausibly said to have been composed by Aspasia for delivery by Pericles. See also laudātio funebris.
Subjects: Classical Studies.