The term “boring” is pervasive in contemporary popular evaluations of speakers and speeches. Although familiar today, the term is curiously absent from foundational Greek accounts of the art of rhetoric, raising a question about what, if anything, ancient Greeks thought about the subject. In this article, I aim to clarify Greek ways of thinking about boredom and rhetoric through an examination of the texts of Isocrates, focusing in particular on his Panathenaicus. As the evidence in Isocrates suggests, ancient Greek listeners did experience something akin to boredom, namely ochlos, or annoyance. The Greeks were also delighted (and hence not bored) by certain forms of rhetoric; some forms were delightful to crowds, and others, like the texts of Isocrates, were delightful to cultivated minds. Although Isocrates addresses antecedents of boredom, he makes only a handful of references of this sort, suggesting that boredom has afflicted some rhetorical cultures far less than others.

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