The Great Sophists in Periclean Athens

The Great Sophists in Periclean Athens

Jacqueline de Romilly

Language: English

Pages: 280

ISBN: 019823807X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The arrival of the Sophists in Athens in the middle of the fifth century B.C. was a major intellectual event, for they brought with them a new method of teaching founded on rhetoric and bold doctrines which broke away from tradition. In this book de Romilly investigates the reasons for the initial success of the Sophists and the reaction against them, in the context of the culture and civilization of classical Athens.

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prompted solely by the presence of the Sophists; and although the other reasons for the congregation of so many writers at the foot of the Acropolis may be obvious, it is worth pausing to consider them. The first reason is clearly power. Athens had emerged from the Persian Wars as the major victor. During the wars, she had assumed the place of leader of all the Greeks engaged in the struggle against the barbarians, and she had retained that position ever since. She had organized the former allies

method is that of the master of rhetoric, but behind it stands the philosopher. We sense that the text constitutes a kind of response to Parmenides, who held that being is and non-being is not, since we can have no concept of it. By introducing the notion of the beginning of being or that of its limits, Gorgias reveals contradictions that cannot be avoided. With his sequence of critical demonstrations, he establishes his dominant idea that it is impossible to know anything, 2 To preserve this,

degree of incredulity. For this author, the gods themselves are a fabrication, a myth designed to frighten the wicked. The last two lines of the fragment dispel all doubt on this score; they run as follows: 'Thus, I think, for the first time did someone persuade mortals to believe in a race of deities (.daimonon)'. This is completely different from the scientific view adopted by Prodicus. For Prodicus, the starting-point was the spontaneous feelings that exist in human beings; and his

virtue of which the strong predominate over the weak, and the rules that men have invented are designed to maintain respect for the strong. So, good for those who reject all that hypocritical mumbojumbo! Good for those who know how to seize an advantage for themselves! What is theoretical analysis in Antiphon's writing becomes advice, choice, and practical decision in Callicles' declarations. The thought of the two men seems very close, but to confuse the two would be a serious injustice, however

TABUI.A RASA had refused to accept the city gods (although he was not, strictly speaking, tried for impiety). Clearly much unease was felt, and it tended to turn against the doctrines of the thinkers. The term 'philosopher' began to take on overtones of 'free thinking'—as it was to later, in eighteenth-century France. Certainly Plato, in his Apology, writing of the criticisms levelled against 'those who occupy themselves with philosophy' immediately mentions the accusation of not believing in

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