Abusive Mouths in Classical Athens

This study of the language of insult charts abuse in classical Athenian literature that centres on the mouth and its appetites, especially talking, eating, drinking, and sexual activities. Attic comedy, Platonic dialogue, and fourth-century oratory often deploy insulting depictions of the mouth and its excesses in order to deride professional speakers as sophists, demagogues, and women. Although the patterns of imagery explored are very prominent in ancient invective and later western literary traditions, this is the first book to discuss this phenomenon in classical literature. It responds to a growing interest in both abusive speech genres and the representation of the body, illuminating an iambic discourse that isolates the intemperate mouth as a visible emblem of behaviours ridiculed in the democratic arenas of classical Athens.

• Offers a valuable new approach to the study of public discourse in classical Athens • Discusses many of the central authors and texts of classical Athenian literature • Makes comparisons with similar patterns of invective attested from other cultures


Introduction; 1. The mouth and its uses in Homer, iambos, and tragedy; 2. Open mouths and abusive talk in Aristophanes; 3. Gluttonous speechifying in Euripides\' Cyclops; 4. Crude talk and fancy fare in Plato; 5. Defamation and oral excess in Demosthenes and Aeschines; 6. The intemperate mouth in Aristotle and Theophrastus; Epilogue.