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Selected Speeches (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 8 May 2014
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[Demosthenes' speeches] impress with their emotional intensity, brilliance and variety of argument (dishonest or not), irony, forceful imagery, wit and general sense of mastery of the spoken word, in Robin Waterfields fine new translations. (Peter Jones, Classics for All)
About the Author
Robin Waterfield was a university lecturer and publisher before becoming a full time writer. His translations for Oxford World's Classics include Plato's Republic and five other editions of Plato's dialogues, Herodotus, Plutarch, two volumes of Euripides' plays, Xenophon's The Expedition of Cyrus and The First Philosophers: The Presocratics and the Sophists. His other books include Dividing the Spoils: the War for Alexander the Great's Empire (OUP, 2011). He lives in Greece. Chris Carey has previously taught at Cambridge, St Andrews, and Royal Holloway before moving to UCL. He has published widely Greek oratory and law, including Democracy in classical Athens (Bristol Classical Press, 2000) and Trials from classical Athens (Routledge, 2/e 2011).
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Waterfield's translation is lively, readable, and often colloquial (sacrificing some of Demosthenes' longer periods, but capturing his renowned stylistic variety). This offers a stimulating counterpoint to the formality preferred by other translators. Carey's succinct introduction caters to the wide readership this volume is likely to attract, with sections on Demosthenes' life and times, style, ancient reception, and on Athenian law and politics, all of which are well tied to the selected speeches and couch complex issues in economical and insightful terms. A key strength of the volume is its commitment to giving a rounded sense of Demosthenes both as rhetorical composer (on others' behalf as well as his own) and as historical actor. This is communicated both in the balance of Carey's notes and in the selection itself: alongside virtually mandatory inclusions like "On the Crown and the Third Philippic", several highlights from the ‘private’ part of the corpus are included (notably the darkly entertaining Against Conon). Another winner here is the under-read public trial speech "Against Aristocrates", which now enjoys an English translation which does justice to its sheer relentless energy. On the other hand, I wondered whether, in view of the several alternatives already available, Apollodorus' admittedly brilliant "Against Neaera" ([Dem.] 59) might have been omitted, thus freeing space for further demonstration of Demosthenes' own oratorical range (no Assembly speeches focusing on issues other than Philip are included, nor is the probably genuine "Funeral Oration"). But any selection from a large corpus will encounter this kind of reservation, and Waterfield's version of "Against Neaera" certainly holds its own both beside the other options and beside his other translations in the volume.
Waterfield and Carey have provided a valuable resource both for those approaching Demosthenes for the first time and for more experienced readers.
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