Oratory at the Panhellenic festivals.
Of the Epideictic speeches of Lysias at least one genuine specimen remains—the fragment of an oration delivered at the Olympic festival. The fashion of addressing a set harangue to the Panhellenic concourse at the great national meetings had been set by the earliest sophists. Hippias ‘used to charm Greece at Olympia with ornate and elaborate speeches.’1
The Olympic oration of Gorgias was renowned; and at Delphi his golden statue stood in the temple where, during the panegyris, he had ‘thundered his Pythian speech from the altar.’2
If only as displays of rhetorical art, such harangues were in harmony with the character of the great Panhellenic meetings, the central idea of which was open competition in every sort of excellence, physical and mental. But the speaker at such a time would have certain practical themes suggested to him by the occasion itself, and would enjoy a rare opportunity of treating them with practical effect. He could interpret and apply to passing events the thought, necessarily present to every mind in such an assemblage, of a common Hellenic brotherhood. Gorgias had not failed to strike this chord. ‘His speech at Olympia dealt with the largest of political questions. Seeing Greece torn by faction, he became a counsellor of concord, seeking to turn the Greeks against the barbarians, and advising them to take
for the prizes of their arms not each others' cities but the land of the barbarians.’3
Hellenic nationality as a tie no less real than local citizenship, the Hellenic cause as paramount to all individual interests, must, in one form or another, have always been the foremost topic of speakers at the Panhellenic festivals.