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Greek Laughter and TearsAntiquity and After$
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Margaret Alexiou and Douglas Cairns

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474403795

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474403795.001.0001

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Staging Laughter and Tears: Libanius, Chrysostom and the Riot of the Statues

Staging Laughter and Tears: Libanius, Chrysostom and the Riot of the Statues

(p.166) 10 Staging Laughter and Tears: Libanius, Chrysostom and the Riot of the Statues
Greek Laughter and Tears

Jan R. Stenger

Edinburgh University Press

The Riot of the Statues in 387 CE was a decisive moment in the history of Antioch in Syria. After the revolt, tears and public lamentations took over, as the inhabitants awaited imperial punishment. In the course of the crisis the rhetorician Libanius and the preacher John Chrysostom each tried to negotiate a settlement of the dispute between the authorities and the city. Their speeches depict dramatic scenes of collective weeping and lamentation and thus reflect not only emotional states but also the public use of tears. In doing so, they shine light on the theatrical qualities of emotional responses in social interaction. The analysis of the purposes for which both authors exploit the themes of laughing and wailing reveals two contrasting attitudes to urban society and oratory. While both recognise the vital role of laughter and tears in managing social relationships, Libanius’ representation of emotional expressions aims to eulogise the virtues of an imperial officer and maintain the traditional order of society. Chrysostom, by contrast, teaches his audience which emotions are acceptable in a Christian society and which are not. His aim is to implement an emotion management that is oriented towards the heavenly realm.

Keywords:   Libanius, John Chrysostom, Antioch, Riot of the Statues, Theatricality, Social drama

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