Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Dee Clayman

Committee Members

Joel Lidov

Lawrence Kowerski

Victor Bers (Yale University)

Subject Categories

Ancient History, Greek and Roman through Late Antiquity | Classical Literature and Philology | Rhetoric


drama, rhetoric, persuasion, history, Greek tragedy, Oresteia


This dissertation demonstrates how the playwright Aeschylus contributes to the development of ancient Greek rhetoric through his use and display of πειθώ (often translated “persuasion”) throughout the Oresteia, first performed in 458 BCE. In this drama, Aeschylus specifically displays and develops πειθώ as a theme, a goddess, a central principle of action, and an important concept for his audience to consider. By tracing connections between Aeschylus’ innovations with πειθώ and later fifth and early fourth century conceptions of Greek rhetoric, I argue that Aeschylus plays a more important role in the development of practical principles and concepts of the rhetorical art than has been previously acknowledged. Methodologically, in this dissertation I combine word studies and thematic analysis together with examinations of choral narratives and staging, iconographical research on the goddess Peitho, and a close study of Athena’s speeches to the Erinyes (Eu. 778-891) through the lens of Aristotle’s Rhetoric. Through these diverse modes of analysis, this dissertation validates Aeschylus as a conceptually innovative playwright and offers an approach for further examination of early Greek rhetoric through the portrayal of πειθώ in drama.



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