Truth, falsehood, and reciprocity in Pindar and Aeschylus Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Park, Arum
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Classics
  • The numerous studies of truth and falsehood in Greek thought are quite varied in scope and methodology but tend to fall into one of two categories: detailed word-studies that identify and explicate terms for truth and falsehood, usually in the poetry of Homer and Hesiod, or general explorations of the nature of truth and the processes for its formation across Greek literature. This study seeks to fill the gaps left by these two approaches by combining meticulous examination of Aeschylus' and Pindar's terms for truth and falsehood with a broader discussion of how truth and falsehood operate in their poetry. The focus is on passages that explicitly mention truth and falsehood, an approach that generates conclusions both about the use of these terms and about the influence of these concepts on a poet's self-conscious purpose. The major claims are that Aeschylean and Pindaric truth and falsehood are generically determined concepts and are incorporated in relationships or cycles of reciprocity integral to each poet's genre. Thus truth and falsehood cannot be understood without adequate consideration of genre and purpose. As a praise poet, Pindar's aims are twofold: he must convince his audience of his devotion to the person he is tasked with praising (the laudandus) and he must persuade them that his claims about the laudandus are accurate. He thus incorporates truth into the relationship he constructs between himself and the laudandus by espousing a truth that combines sincerity with accuracy and by denouncing falsehood for the threat it poses to this relationship. Aeschylus likewise assimilates truth and falsehood to his poetic purpose. Since his primary concern as a tragedian is to present plots of retributive violence, ideas about truth and falsehood appear in contexts of belief or disbelief. Thus characters who speak truth are believed or disbelieved in accordance with what will facilitate plots about violent reprisal; similarly, whether characters successfully or unsuccessfully enact a deception depends on what is required to tell a story of reciprocal aggression.
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  • Smith, Peter M.
  • Open access

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