Classics Lysias
Mike Edwards
  • LAST REVIEWED: 03 October 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0249


Lysias, son of Cephalus of Syracuse, was the third member of the ancient canon of ten Attic orators. Living as a metic at Athens, Lysias became a professional speechwriter, or logographer, after the confiscation of his family’s wealth by the Thirty, and his speeches were much admired by later critics as being models of the so-called plain style, written in everyday language. In the Roman period 425 speeches survived under his name, of which 233 were considered genuine; only 31 survive in the medieval manuscripts of Lysias, not all of which are genuine. In addition, more than 300 fragments from 145 lost speeches, plus over 200 more unidentified fragments are quoted in later authors or found in papyri. Most notable of these are the extensive fragments of three speeches in the essay On Lysias by Dionysius of Halicarnassus and the probably spurious speech on the theme of love given to Lysias by Plato in the Phaedrus.

General Overviews

There are a number of helpful overviews of Lysias and his works, especially in histories and surveys of oratory. These range from the classic studies like Blass 1887:339–644 and Jebb 1893:140–312, to the more recent Kennedy 1963:133–140 (with an abridged account in Kennedy 1994:65–68) and Usher 1999:54–118; see also Edwards 1994:20–24.

  • Blass, Friedrich. 1887. Die attische Beredsamkeit. 2d ed. Vol. 1. Leipzig: Teubner.

    Blass remains the starting-point for study of the orators, a learned survey in German offering an extensive analysis of each of the speeches. First edition 1874.

  • Edwards, Michael J. 1994. The Attic orators. London: Bristol Classical.

    A short introduction to the life, style, and works of Lysias.

  • Jebb, Sir Richard C. 1893. The Attic orators from Antiphon to Isaeus. 2d ed. Vol. 1. London: Macmillan.

    An in-depth survey of the life, works, and speeches, the English equivalent to Blass. First edition 1876.

  • Kennedy, George A. 1963. The art of persuasion in Greece. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    A relatively brief account of Lysias, but Kennedy’s seminal book rekindled interest in the study of the orators as central figures in the history of rhetoric.

  • Kennedy, George A. 1994. A new history of classical rhetoric. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    This volume is an abridged, but highly useful, version of Kennedy’s three masterful histories of classical Greek, Roman, and later Greek rhetoric.

  • Usher, Stephen. 1999. Greek oratory: Tradition and originality. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    A fine, rhetorical analysis of each of the speeches, from the viewpoint of how Lysias adopted and developed the techniques of the oratorical genre.

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