Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Janet Atwill

Committee Members

Jeffrey Ringer, Tanita Saenkhum


The diverse corpus of Aelius Aristides helps to demonstrate the various ways ancient ritual practice in the second century influenced rhetorical production, especially through the orations composed in the kathedra--the two-year period he spent in the Pergamene Asclepion. The rhetorical moves of religious hymns and orations composed during this time parallel closely with a certain non-ordained, yet distinct role called the confessor. Using this traditional role as a paradigm, I explore how ritual practice characterizes the orations Aristides writes in and about the kathedra. I suggest that considering this section of Aristides’ work through the cultic confessor paradigm helps to explicate Aristides’ unique way of constructing ethos. To this end, I give special attention to an oration Aristides composed for a wide audience: In Defense of Oratory. Like a confessor, Aristides uses this argument to position himself between both human and divine as a divinely-inspired orator. In this way, Aristides provides a starting point for thinking about intimacy with the divine as a strategy for ethos-construction in the second century.

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