British rhetorical theorists demonstrate a persistent interest in Demosthenes, but their interpretations of his significance reflect different understandings of rhetoric. This article uses reception theory to illuminate how British depictions of Demosthenes at different moments in history reflect writers’ values and rhetorical aims. The focus on Demosthenes as a model of rhetorical prowess becomes particularly important for nineteenth-century British theorists who conceive of rhetoric as an individualistic display of linguistic virtuosity. Viewing Demosthenes through the lens of reception history reveals the inherent instability of a disciplinary history that is not only shaped by important figures, but also constructs those figures in ways that reflect shifting scholarly values.

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