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Nicole Loraux

Nicole Loraux (1943-2003) was the author of The Divided City, The Children of Athena, The Experiences of Tiresias, Tragic Ways of Killing a Woman, and Mothers in Mourning, among other titles.

Titles by This Author

The Funeral Oration in the Classical City

How does the funeral oration relate to democracy in ancient Greece? How did the death of an individual citizen-soldier become the occasion to praise the city of Athens? In The Invention of Athens, Nicole Loraux traces the different rhetoric, politics, and ideology of funeral orations—epitaphioi—from Thucidydes, Gorgias, Lysias, and Demosthenes to Plato. Arguing that the ceremony of public burial began circa 508-460 BCE, Loraux demonstrates that the institution of the funeral oration developed under Athenian democracy. A secular, not a religious phenomenon, a literary genre with fixed rhetoric effects, the funeral oration was inextricably linked to the epainos—praise of the city—rather than to a ritualized lament for the dead as is commonly assumed. Above all, the funeral oration celebrated the city of Athens and the Athenian citizen.

Loraux interprets the speeches from literary, anthropological, and political perspectives. She explains how these acts of secular speech invented an image of Athens often at odds with the presumed ideals of democracy. To die in battle for the city was presented as an act of civic choice—the "fine" death that defined the citizen-soldier's noble, aristocratic ethos. At the same time, the funeral oration cultivated an image of democracy at a time when there was, for example, no formal theory of a respect for law and liberty, the supremacy of the collective and public over the individual and the private, or freedom of speech.

This new edition of The Invention of Athens includes significant revisions made by Nicole Loraux in 1993. Her aim in editing the original text was to render this groundbreaking work accessible to nonspecialists. Loraux's introduction to this revised volume, as well as important revisions to the 1986 English translation, make this publication an important addition to scholarship in the humanities and the social sciences.

On Memory and Forgetting in Ancient Athens

Athens, 403 B.C.E. The bloody oligarchic dictatorship of the Thirty is over, and the democrats have returned to the city victorious. Renouncing vengeance, in an act of willful amnesia, citizens call for—if not invent—amnesty. They agree to forget the unforgettable, the "past misfortunes," of civil strife or stasis. More precisely, what they agree to deny is that stasis—simultaneously partisanship, faction, and sedition—is at the heart of their politics.

Continuing a criticism of Athenian ideology begun in her pathbreaking study The Invention of Athens, Nicole Loraux argues that this crucial moment of Athenian political history must be interpreted as constitutive of politics and political life and not as a threat to it. Divided from within, the city is formed by that which it refuses. Conflict, the calamity of civil war, is the other, dark side of the beautiful unitary city of Athens. In a brilliant analysis of the Greek word for voting, diaphora, Loraux underscores the conflictual and dynamic motion of democratic life. Voting appears as the process of dividing up, of disagreement—in short, of agreeing to divide and choose. Not only does Loraux reconceptualize the definition of ancient Greek democracy, she also allows the contemporary reader to rethink the functioning of modern democracy in its critical moments of internal stasis.