Envoys and Eloquence: A Study on Hellenistic Diplomatic Oratory

William Coles

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis examines the representation of ambassadorial oratory in Polybios’ Histories and in the inscriptions of the third and second centuries. In doing so, it highlights the marked similarity between the historiographical evidence and the epigraphic evidence for speeches performed by envoys during interstate interactions between Greek communities, as well as interactions between Greek communities and Romans. Polybios’ Histories and the inscriptions of the third and second centuries facilitate the exploration of this type of oratory since neither rhetorical treatises nor speeches composed for actual delivery have survived from this period. Thus, the representation of speeches by envoys in Hellenistic historiography, combined with the evidence of contemporary inscriptions, constitute our most important evidence for oratory in the Hellenistic Period. This thesis contributes to existing scholarship by taking an in-depth analysis and comparison of both historiographical and epigraphic evidence for ambassadorial oratory, building on previous studies which have looked at both media individually and have begun to scratch the surface when comparing them both. After addressing several important methodological considerations, this thesis opens with a case study on the rhetoric of renewal in diplomatic oratory, as represented in historiography and the inscriptions, demonstrating how both sources of evidence suggest important changes in the rhetorical strategies of Greek envoys in the third and second centuries. I then move to a deeper rhetorical analysis of the speeches in historiography and argue that the representation of envoys’ speeches in Polybios and Xenophon is much more personalised and multifaceted compared with those in Thucydides. I then analyse the epigraphic evidence and argue that many of the rhetorical strategies and changes in the representation of ambassadorial oratory in historiography are also present in the epigraphic evidence, including the greater personalisation of the speaker, the representation of the corporate voice of the state, and the oratorical projection of both local and regional identities.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Rubinstein, Lene, Supervisor
  • Kremmydas, Christos, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Jun 2023
Publication statusUnpublished - 2023


  • rhetoric
  • diplomacy
  • communication
  • oratory
  • Persuasion
  • Ancient Greece
  • Polybius
  • Thucydides
  • Xenophon
  • epigraphy

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