Lyric and the Second Sophistic
: the case of Aelius Aristides

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis aims at investigating how a Second Sophistic author like Aelius Aristides engaged with the multifaceted tradition of archaic and classical lyric poetry and music. Affinities and similarities between rhetorical texts and specific lyric genres have already been recognised, but the deeper implications of the relationship between ancient lyric and imperial rhetoric for Greek literature and culture under the Empire are yet to be discussed fully. This thesis attempts to fill this gap by focusing on Aristides as a prominent and paradigmatic case study.

Apart from a methodological Introduction and a Conclusion, the main body of the thesis consists of five chapters. Chapter 1 provides a broad overview of the presence of lyric in Greek imperial culture by surveying a series of fields in which lyric appears to have left substantial traces: readership and education; visual representations and local traditions; contemporary lyric performances and the relation between lyric and sophistic performative practice. Chapter 2 discusses Aristides’ apparent fondness for the famous lyric poet Pindar from a new perspective, arguing that, apart from direct quotations and allusions to Pindaric texts, the lyric model influenced more extensively the way in which the imperial sophist shaped his own self-presentation. Pindaric poetry is also at the core of Chapter 3, where Aristides’ Isthmian Oration is read and interpreted alongside the Pindaric tradition of epinician poetry. From the fourth chapter onwards, then, the attention moves to other lyric poets and traditions referred to in Aristides’ corpus. In particular, Chapter 4 deals with Aristides’ uses of archaic political lyric within the context of a political exhortation to imperial Rhodes. Imperial politics is relevant also to Chapter 5, which analyses Aristides’ deployment of musicolyric imagery in his representation of the cultural and political capital cities of the Empire, Athens and Rome. Finally, Chapter 6 tackles the issues of Aristides’ constructions of the Greek past by studying his recourse to age-old song traditions alongside his reception of the ‘modern’ lyric production of late classical New Music.
Date of Award1 Jul 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorMichael Trapp (Supervisor) & Pavlos Avlamis (Supervisor)

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