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Second Sophistic

Page history last edited by Amy Saxon 13 years ago

Goldhill, Simon. “Rhetoric and the Second Sophistic.” The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Rhetoric. Ed. Erik Gunderson. Cambridge UP (2009): 228-241.


  • obsessive interest in the past
  • the term “sophistic” marks the commitment to a form and style of learning associated with the great sophists of the classical era. This implies not merely a rhetorical training--that is, an ability to follow the strategies of the master speakers as performer or as audience--but also a delight in paradox, a reveling in exotic argument, and a polyperverse pleasure in the full range of human knowledge. (228-229)
  • no indication (despite Philostratus) that there was ever a coherent group with a shared agenda (229)
  • chronological boundaries are also unclear
  • Rhetoric, then, is not simply a skill or a field, but a fundamental medium for the circulation of ideas, the circulation of power, the performance of the self in the public life of the empire. From the schoolroom to the grandest political venue, rhetoric is integral to the formation and expression of elite culture for the Greek-speaking society of the Roman Empire. (232)
  • Here, then, is our first image of rhetoric in the Second Sophistic. In Lucian’s playful and highly self-aware portrayal [Self Accused--gods hear legal case between Rhetoric and Dialogue and an unnamed Syrian orator], rhetoric is on the one hand the cultural training which makes Greek citizens Greek, which leads to wealth and fame, which links the elite of empire; but it is also, on the other hand, the blowzy strumpet which he rejects first in the name of dialogue, the genre he is writing here. Yet to appreciate the jokes of this dialogue one needs an expert awareness of rhetoric: the citations from Demosthenes, the mocking of the use of Demosthenic prooemia, the parody of the diegesis from a sex’n’scandal case, all point to Lucian’s insider dealing. He has his rhetorical cake and mocks it. The self-consciousness that marks Lucian’s parody is a constant aspect of Second Sophistic rhetoric. (234)
  • The self-expression of the educated Second Sophistic lover depends on its well-learned tropes and forms of articulacy [Philostratus’s Erotic Letters]. With Achilles Tatius [second-century novelist] we are immersed in the world of rhetoric in action. (237)
  • Dio of Prusa, known as Dio Chysostom (“Golden Mouth”) because of his eloquence, gives us a quite different way to appreciate the performance of rhetoric in the Second Sophistic. While we know next to nothing about the lives of either Lucian or Achilles Tatius... in Dio’s case we also have external evidence... His speeches were delivered, it seems, across the empire... He is a figure with strong local ties, who speaks for Greek culture both as a politician and as an orator, and who works in Rome within the power structures of the imperial system... Dio was an orator fully embedded in and engaged with the upper echelons of authority within the Roman Empire. (237-238)
  • Dio was a hero of later rhetoricians... Philostratus lavishes praise on Dio in the Lives of the Sophists and gives two memorable anecdotes, which tell us a good deal about the idealizing image of the orator in this period. [examples of Dio subduing a dangerous crowd and of Trajan’s response to Dio: “I do not know what you are saying, but I love you as myself.”] In the first anecdote Dio embodies the hero who makes a glorious return out of disguise and humiliation--hence the references to Homer. But where a hero would slaughter his enemies, Dio makes a speech that demonstrates the full power of his oratory. The return from exile is a return to the role of public figure, a moral and political arbiter. In the second anecdote we see Dio back at the centre of power, by the right hand of the emperor, as befits the man who wrote of orations on kingship. Dio lets us see, then, first of all, an image of the rhetorician as man of power, swaying the crowds, influencing authority, advising heads of state. This role of the orator as adviser to kinds and moral authority for the citizens is regularly enacted in the writings of the Second Sophistic. (238-239).
  • Dio offers the first example we have of a harsh attack against prostitution as an institution... shifting attitudes towards sexuality (Foucault)... no surprise he becomes a favorite among Christian writers (Synesius)... This is the orator performing as moral authority for the citizens. This powerful, didactic, argumentative rhetorical performance stands at the opposite end of the spectrum from Achilles Tatius’s sly eroticism. (239)
  • we find essays in the Second Sophistic on “how to praise oneself in passing,” worry about true friendship and the dangers of flattery. [Plutarch] (240)




O’Gorman, Ned. “Longinus’s Sublime Rhetoric, or How Rhetoric Came into Its Own.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 24.2. (2004): 71-89.


Author analyzes text Peri Hypsous, literally On Height, but more commonly known as On the Sublime, “typically treated by historians of rhetoric as a ‘manual of style’ discussed in common with those attributed to Dionysus, Demetrius, and others; its stress on grandiose rhetoric and its lament for the ‘decline’ of rhetoric are noted (these are common topics of the style manuals of the Roman period)” (72). However O’Gorman suggests that On the Sublime marks an important transition “in the evolution of rhetoric in Western culture, not primarily for its relationship to the sublime, but for its positioning of rhetoric itself” (72). He considers this text foundational to the development of “the rhetoric of rhetoric.” Rhetoric is “made the sublime object” (72). “Rhetoric as the Aristotelian art-of-the-available-means-of-persuasion, as the broad Isocratean philosophico-literary art for earthy political life, or as the Ciceronian artis for the res publica, are not the Longinian conceptions of rhetoric. Longinus's treatise might as well have been entitled Beyond Persuasion, for its stated subject is not the available means of persuasion or the well-being of the public per se, but the road (methodos) to ecstasy (ekstasis) via ‘height’ or hypsos” (73). Elevation of the speaker in ekstasis, “a mental state beyond reason (logos)” (74). “The result of [On the Sublime’s] amalgamation of Isocratean/Ciceronian and the Gorgianic traditions... is that Longinus moves rhetoric beyond the traditions of charaeter and persuasion, traditions which directly or indirectly bind rhetoric to external criteria for judgment, and brings rhetoric to autonomy. This happens through a sort of elevation” (75). The focus is no longer on the audience or the rhetor; rhetoric becomes an end in and of itself. Rhetoric is made the object of desire. The author suggests that “in response to the demand for rhetoric to justify its own existence, Quintilian institutionalized rhetoric, and thus preserved it. Longinus monumentalized it, and lost it” (84).




Berry, Edmund. “Dio Chrysostom the Moral Philosopher.” Greece & Rome 30.1 (1983): 70-80.


     “The Second Sophistic members have little connection with the sophists of the time of Socrates; rather their work is a continuation, under different circumstances and with a different view of the function of philosophy, of the old rhetorical debate between Atticism and Asianism, but even this distinction is blurred by the time of Dio so that it is impossible to say to which of the two old schools a given work belongs; just as, in content, the philosophy of the speeches, such as it is, is roughly Stoic but often really anamalgam of Stoicism, Cynicism, and Epicureanism” (70-71). Dio was initially more of the showy school of oratory. “Synesius divides Dio's career into two with his exile and distinguishes between his sophistic period before his exile and his philosophic period, after the exile; he says that Dio was earlier a sophist, if by that term is meant one who pays attention to the sound of his speeches, and ended up by becoming a philosopher, in spite of his earlier castigation of the philosophers” (71). Berry identifies the principle quality of Dio’s speeches as moderation--a reasonable calm tone. Berry then details various aspects of Dio’s well-known speeches. “The characteristic of many of Dio's speeches which makes him fail to gain the reader's interest is his philosophic withdrawal from the immediate circumstances. He was famous and highly respected; cities which were neighbours of Prusa gave him honorary citizenship or even membership in their city council, but even in Prusa itself his efforts to embellish and beautify the city were attacked by politicians who saw in his work merely self-aggrandizement or an attempt to ingratiate himself with the imperial government” (79). “It is this generalizing of the facts to a principle, the preaching tone, which makes Dio sometimes seem dull but which at the same time raises him above the ordinary display orator. The theme of his sermons, harmony and peace, is not an exciting one and has become so familiar to us that it seems commonplace. What redeems it is the obvious sincerity and moral earnestness of much of his writing. He writes from conviction and one gets the impression that among the inter-city rivalry and strife of the Eastern Empire, Dio is one of the few who see the wider implications of the petty disagreements and who called for reason and commonsense, order and purpose--in fact for genuine democracy--as the only means of securing the good life for both city and citizens (80).



Eshleman, Kendra. “Defining the Circle of Sophists: Philostratus and the Construction of the Second Sophistic.” Classical Philology 103.4 (2008): 395-413.


     Eshleman argues “that Philostratus’ “creation” of the Second Sophistic as we know it can best be understood as a form of self-fashioning” (395). He spotlights his academic advisers to the exclusion of others, and establishes an intended sophistic canon. Both of these “depend on an aspect of Philostratus’ construction of the Second Sophistic that has been little explored: his vision of the circle of sophists as an almost incestuously self-contained, self-generating, self-regulating community” (396). Eshleman attempts to determine “how” and “by whom” the assignment of “sophist” was determined; she understands Philostratus to be engaged in a community-building. He includes very few men in his canon; this is a “selective portrait.” She considers various aspects of each included rhetor and ponders what rhetorical purpose Philostratus might have had in their inclusion. Not everyone valued certain of these men to the extent that Philostratus did. Nevertheless, “it is easy to be misled into expecting disinterested, “reliable” truth from Philostratus, however, because he goes out of his way to present his sophistic canon as a reflection of cold, hard fact—which is to say, of the consensus opinion of everyone who matters. The deft manipulations that permit this tacit claim are richly on display in the defensive panegyric that begins his Life of Scopelian” (401). “With a very few exceptions, encounters between sophists come in three varieties: (1) one good sophist expresses approval of another, (2) an inferior sophist attacks a better one, thereby revealing his own ineptitude, or (3) a superior sophist puts down an inferior one. Very rarely do we see sophists of equal stature going head to head, and Philostratus virtually never records a successful hit against one of his favorites” (402). He is clearly being selective and deliberate, suggests Eshleman. Furthermore, “quarrel anecdotes participate in a naturalizing discourse that promotes Philostratus’ idiosyncratic version of the sophistic canon as the inevitable opinion of everyone admirable, everyone trustworthy, everyone who counts” (404). Eshleman then lists various figures/networks Philostratus considers. Her main point? “Rhetorically, however, that vulnerability does not exist for Philostratus or his colleagues. Even when they diverge in their evaluation of the status of their peers, they share the assumption that there is no room for legitimate disagreement: as a matter of simple, self-evident fact, orators are lovgou aßxioi or they are not, they deserve to be counted as sophists or they do not. In theory, there can be only one canon, which commands automatic universal assent, a result achieved by excluding from participation nearly everyone who dissents (411). In other words, this is an attempt by Philostratus to legitimize his own position. 



 From Kennedy, George A. The Art of Rhetoric in the Roman World. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1972.


  • On Longinus:  although the exact author is unknown, the response to a previous work on sublimity, the cultural environment of Rome, the concern with literature, the reference to Jews (which became unlikely after the expulsion of Jews in A.D. 19) and the defense of Plato all point to a date of composition “during the later years of Augustus or the earliest years of Tiberius, up to AD 19” (372).  “”Longinus’ assumes and utilizes the traditional rhetorical system, but his rehtor4ic is a highly philosophical one, and his unembarrassed objective is not technical excellence, but genuine greatness. No ancient critic is so clear about the difference between what is great and what is inferior” (373).

On the second sophistic (SS):

  • Quintilian’s hope for “glorious philosophical eloquence” was shared by others and was one of the reasons for the movement (513).
  • Philostratus does not define the word sophist, but describes the SS as being interested in presenting character types and having “no particular theories” (558). Philostratus writes that Aeschines began the SS with “inspired extemporization” (559).  “Declamation was the most important activity of the later sophists” (560).  Philostratus points to three forms: teaching, speaking in the courts, large scale oratory for special occasions (560-561).


From Bizzell, Patricia and Bruce Herzberg, ed. The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2001.

  • Included in this textbook: Longinus, from On the Sublime. The introduction to the Classical Rhetoric section gives information about the first Sophistic movement: “ …The Sophists believed that human knowledge relies solely on sense perception and is therefore necessarily flawed. Certainty or absolute truth is not available to humans” (22).  
  • On declamation: “The form of oratory perhaps most characteristic of this imperial period was a highly stylized ceremonial speech called a declamation” (37)  Other characteristics: “traditional values are lauded. Stylistic embellishment was the mark of a good declamation.” (37). Based on the teaching preserved from the fifth century BCE, the period lasted “from around the time of Quintilian to the sack of Rome in 476.” (38).
  • On Quintilian: the last great rhetorician of the classical period, he “attempted to resist its [declamation] values in his one surviving work” (38).
  • On Longinus (parts of On the Sublime are published here): although this name is given to the author, he actually unknown, but lived in the first century CE and may be “a Greek or a Hellenized Jew who taught rhetoric to Roman clients”; the person to whom it is addressed is also unknown. In this time the study of literature was not separate from the study of rhetoric: “The rhetoricians studied history, philosophy, and oratory as well as poetry and drama because they considered any text that had deliberate designs on its audience as suitable for critical evaluation”( 344).
  • “‘Longius’ is able to link technical proficiency and a noble personal character in the study of the sublime because, he says, only a person who possesses both can produce great writing. Moreover, the audience the audience’s character is almost as important as the artist’s. A text’s sublimity is not determined solely by the features of the text; it depends, too, on the effect on the audience, foremost amount whom ‘Longinus’ locates himself” (344).
  • This author “closely resembles the ideal orator described by Quintilian” (345) in that he thinks only a good man can produce a work that is sublime—which Longinus seems to define as that part of the text that “awakens the audience members to their ‘higher natures’ “ (345).





Bowie, Ewan and Jas Elsner. Philostratus. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Print.


This book is a collection of papers about the work of Philostratus, a man the editors offer as, ". . . the great essyist, biographer and historian of Greek culture in the Roman world, and the most scintillating writer of Greek prose in the third century A.D."  While Philostratus himself is a prime exemplar and figure within the Second Sophistic, and studying every aspect of his writings could glean valuable perspectives on practices and individuals, I am going to present summaries of the four papers that most directly address our collective project; i.e. "The Second Sophistic is. . . "


Bowie, Ewan. "Philostratus: the life of a sophist." p. 19-32.     Bowie gives background on Philostratus ( Athenian, b. A.D. 170, a pupil of Proclus, Damianus, Antipater, and Hippodromus) and also draws parallels between Philostatus' live and that of other well known sophist. He was a prominent figure in both Rome and Athens, though he did not "hold a chair", that is have an official teaching post, in either city. He, unlike most sophists, was an elected official in Athens, his home town, where he is honored by a statue at Olympia. In Rome he was a practicing rhetor and familiar to the court of Emperor Septimius Severus, which he travelled with. Bowie's presents  the Second Sophistic as business that is interested in increasing the wealth, and the influence of teachers. Though ostensibly educators, men like Hippodomus, Heaclides, and other sophists, rise and fall is measure in terms politics/wealth/influence/students/talent. They were neither educators, nor scholars in a way we recognize. These men produced "literature," consisting of declamations, historiography, poetry, letters, and handbooks. They also are tracked according to their political acts.   


Swain, Simon. "Culture and nature in Philostratus." p. 33-48.      Swains views Philostratus' work against the backdrop of political realities of his times. His thesis positions Philostratus as a defender and preserver of Hellenistic culture and influence, threatened by an expansion of Roman power. Specifically, Philostratus is attempting to ". . . bring forward a more exclusive model of Hellenic culture that had been accepted before and to present this as the natural culture of his elite peers." Philostratus wrote this in reaction to the "Edict of Caracalla," of 212 A.D., through which the Emperor Caraculla extended Roman citizenship to all freemen in the empire, and the same rights of Roman women to all free women. This was seen as a crass expansion of the tax base of Rome, however, by bringing new people, cultures and nations into the citizenry Caraculla diluted the power of the existing groups, in this case the Greeks. Philostratus writes therefore to differentiate and elevate his culture, the livelihood, and political power of his fellow Greek rhetoricians. All of this reminds me of the way France tries to influence the world today. Their arguments are based more on sophistry/philosophy, cultural residue, and snobbery than on raw economic/military or demographic power. Such power is a pretense, an elitist veneer. Swain's argument in essence, is that the Second Sophistic was a PR construction. 



Schmitz, Thomas. "Narrator and audience in Philostratus' Lives of the sophists." p. 49-68.      This is a literary analysis of Lives of the Sophists in which Schmitz addresses the ambiguity found in the text, an ambiguity that is reflected in our question. Schmitz sees Philostratus as a "somewhat flippant, yet basically serious historiographer." Philostratus' narrative sometimes appears to be little more than gossip about orators, sometimes though it becomes a classical reference to important figures. Schmitz says the book comes off to readers as a confusing blend of entertainment/imagination/and fact. Schmitz then sets forth his thesis that Philostratus is writing with a created narrative voice designed to "impress his readers with the knowledge and the perspective of an insider." Philostratus is in the know, the reader is not. He is the authority, and the reader's confusion about tone is evidence of their ignorance. "Its a Greek thing, you wouldn't understand." This theory fits well with Swain's view of posturing, and elitism.


Sidebottom, Harry. "Philostratus and the symbolic roles of the sophist and the philosopher." p. 69-99.     Sidebottom compares and contrast the roles of the two main types of intellectuals during the Second Sophistic. Philostratus writes of figures who are either philosopher or sophist, and he writes of men who combine the role, with emphasis on one over the other (sophistic-philosopher or philosophical-sophist). Sidebottom says modern scholarship claims the two role were not very different.  They were educated the same, from the same classes, executed the same functions (both were orators and both could "deploy philosophical acumen). The main distinction coming from how typical one of those functions were for the man in question.  Sidebottom disagrees, and instead argues the two roles, while in reality not very different, need to be understood symbolically as very distinct, and those distinctions are necessary for understanding the text. His main point is "When sophists and philosopher are brought into proximity the semantic motivation comes from the latter and the former becomes downgraded." That is, the term "sophist" to a philosopher is a derogatory term, and therefore combining is nonsense to a philosopher and an act of legitimization for a sophist. For our question, Sidebottom gives three useful definitions:


Rhetors: "First and foremost teachers of eloquence, sometimes to a destined practical end (law or politics). They could also be declaimers or forensic orators."


Sophist:  "The title of sophist went to rhetors of surpassing eloquence. . . they are "sophists" because of the virtuosity with which they practice their art. . . Sophists, then, can be seen as rhetors especially skilled in their art."


Philosopher: The education of a philosopher began after studying oratory under a rhetor. "The philosopher was thought to deal with general issues, while the sophist with particular ones. . .advise to individuals, including consultation, could be seen as primarily a philosophic activity, while declaiming would be considered as primarily a sophistic activity."Second Sophistic  






Aelius Aristides:


Greek orator, lived in Roman Empire 117-181 AD. Well respected orator, considered the best of his day and an exemplar of the Second Sophistic.


Devoted to the study of rhetoric as a child and throughout his life. Was an orator until the age of 26 when illness prevented him from practicing. He had a close personal relationship with the Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. As a scholar and orator, he was well traveled and regarded and rather famous, and people would erect monuments in his honor when he visited. A weak constitution and illness led him to the baths at Smyrna, and when an earthquake destroyed much of the town he used his influence with the Emperor to garner assistance in rebuilding the city. The citizens erected a bronze statue in their agora in his honor for his assistance, and they referred to him as the city’s founder.


Works: 55 orations and declamations, 2 treatises on rhetoric. Sacred Tales is a type of diary about his illnesses, and is the only mention of an ancient spa settlement, Allianoi, in modern day Turkey; this work is important in understanding medicine and treatments of the time. He was known as a superior orator to many of his time because he preferred thought to style. Studied the ancients because he despised the witticisms and ornamentation of his contemporaries. His style is remembered as concise, but unable to connect with his audience, and often he seems like he just liked to listen to himself talk. But he is still considered the best orator of his time. His work is important now for casting light on social history of the area he traveled.


His (surviving) Complete Works is available from a Dutch publisher. Aristides, Aelius, and Allison Behr, Charles. The Complete Works: Orations I-XVI. 1986. The book begins with a “brief sketch” of Aristides’ life, available here: http://books.google.com/books?id=vsgUAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=%22Aelius+Aristides%22&hl=en&ei=zf-cTYyAM5CEtgfxz4nJBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false.  These works include: The Panathenaic Oration; To Plato: In Defense of Oratory; To Plato: In Defense of the Four; The Third Platonic Discourse: To Capito; On Sending Reinforcements to those in Sicily; The Opposite Argument; On Behalf of Making Peace with the Lacedaemonians; On Behalf of Making Peace with the Athenians; To the Thebans: Concerning the Alliance I; To the Thebans: Concerning the Alliance II; The First Leuctran Oration: The First Speech on Behalf of the Lacedaemonians; The Second Leucratan Oration: The First Speech on Behalf of the Thebans; The Second Leuctran Oration: The Second Speech On Behalf of the Lacedaemonians; The Third Leuctran Oration: The Seconds Speech on Behalf of the Lacedaemonians; The Fourth Leuctran Oration: The Second Speech on Behalf of the Thebans; The Fifth Leuctran Oration: In Defense of Aiding Neither Side; The Speech of the Embassy to Achilles.


If you’re interested in this guy, see Vernon Harris, William, and Holmes, Brooke. Aelius Aristides between Greece, Rome, and the gods. New York: U Columbia P, 2008. Petsalis-Diomidis, A. Truly Beyond Wonders: Aelius Aristides and the Cult of Asklepios. Oxford, 2010. Wells, Louise. The Greek Language of Healing from Homer to New Testament Times. Gruyter, 1998. There’s also the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology available online.



Ancient Greek and Roman Rhetoricians: A Biographical Dictionary



An unknown author of the treatise commonly called On the Sublime. Longinus asserts that great writing is achieved through five different means, two of which, vigorous mental conception and inspired emotion, are innate; the other three, proper use of figures of speech, noble diction, and careful arrangement of words, can be learned. The central theme is interrupted by three digressions--one on Homer, the second a comparison of Demosthenes and Cicero, and the third a discussion as to which is preferable, impeccable mediocrity or faulty genius. The last chapter seeks to explain the decline of eloquence; moral decadence, rather than loss of individual freedom, is the chief cause.



Satirist and author of Dialogues of the Dead. About 165 he abandoned rhetoric, feeling it too artificial and pretentious, and found philosophy more to his liking. It was because of his success as a rhetorician that he was able to assume the contemplative and leisurely life of a philosopher in Athens and become anti-rhetorician. Although he makes many admiring references to Herodes the Athenian, there is no evidence that Lucian ever studied under him. Treating the three canons, inventio, dispositio, and elocutio, he emphasizes the importance of subject matter for the young man aspiring to be an orator. “How does one become an orator?” he asks. It is simple. The first requirements are presumption and impudence; there is no place for decency and modesty; they may even detract. Further, get a healthy set of lungs and much confidence. Wear fine clothes, have an entourage of servants following you, and always carry a book in your hands. In a day or two once can be the complete orator! Forget about reading the ancients (Demosthenes, Isocrates, Plato); read only the moderns. And never write down what you want to say; extemporaneous speaking can excuse your faults. In private life, gambling, adultery, and homosexuality can all be yours--or at least you can boast as though they are. Act effeminate. If one behaves thus, he will in short order be the orator.


Polemon of Laodicea

Polemon was one of the chief luminaries of the Second Sophistic period. Although he adopted the Asian style of oratory, he was free from its worst excesses. As a result of Timocrates’ influence he emphasized the importance of the orator’s physical appearance. To Polemon, natural talent and practice were more important than theory, and his instruction concentrated mainly on student exercises. Of the many speeches attributed to him only two declamations are extant.



He studied under and greatly admired Herodes Atticus in Athens. In his teaching he was an Atticist, speaking with a strong Greek accent. His declamations have not come down to us. He died in Rome at an advanced age.


Dio Chrystostum

A much traveled sophist, orator, and philosopher and grandfather of the historian by the same name. He reflected on the training needed for the public speaker. He suggested that 1) there is no need for toil or exacting labor; one should read the orators, poets, historians, and philosophers; and 2) sometimes, as for his wealthy friend, it is best to dictate to a secretary one’s speech rather than write it out in the speaker’s own hand. One should not, however (in contradistinction to Quintilian’s advice) do this with school declamations. As an itinerant philosopher-teacher he lacked originality, but did take philosophy seriously enough for it to shape his life.


Aelius Aristides

His style in speaking was strongly influenced by Demosthenes, Isocrates, and others. As a speaker, he valued content and ideas more than most of his contemporaries; he despised silliness and striving after effect, yet his orations indicate that he liked to hear himself talk. Perhaps his unpopularity as a teacher is partially explained by his impatience with unappreciative audiences. In the 4th century, Libanius was his imitator. Several of his works survive including a treatise on political speaking and another on unaffected speaking. The first discusses such matters as dignity, diction, trustworthiness, vehemence, emphasis, shrewdness, diligence, pleasantness, and clearness and perspicuity. The second deals with dignity, diction, pleasantness, beauty, trustworthiness, arrangement, power, and interpretation. Four speeches serve as convenient means of praising rhetoric, with the first two seeking to answer Plato’s attack on rhetoric in the Gorgias.



Much of Libanius’s work remains; these works provide a considerable insight into the rhetorical training of the times. Libanius admired Aristides, the imitator of Demosthenes, and therefore his style was somewhat more Attic that that of his contemporaries. Through the years he trained above two hundred known students.


Comments (13)

Marcia Bost said

at 8:46 pm on Apr 3, 2011

Notes on Dio Chrysostom from Kennedy
Kennedy, George A. The Art of Rhetoric in the Roman World. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1972.

Kennedy considered this man to be “the best example of a sophistic philosopher among those cited by Philostratus” (566). There are 80 orations attributed to him, but some may be the work of others.

After becoming a famous orator in his home province of Bithynia, he went to Rome. He befriended the wrong member of the imperial family, who was executed. Dio was exiled by Domitian in 82 C.E. and, on the advice of the Delphic oracle, wandered as far as Russia. Philostratus writes that Dio, on hearing of Domitian’s death, threw off his ragged clothing, jumped on an altar, and exhorted the Roman troops in Russia to fight against tyranny. He was allowed to travel freely again. His exile may have turned him more towards philosophy. Kennedy writes, “The effect of exile, however, was to convince Dio that the rewards of life which he had been pursuing, power, wealth, fame, and pleasure, were idle and to turn him in the direction of moral philosophy” (568). His style was always more classical than declamatory, according to Kennedy. His surviving work with the most sophistic tone is the Encomium of Hair, about a bad hair day (570). Another sophistic work is Trojan Discourse, in which he claims the Trojans won (571). Much like Quintilian, Dio gives his own educational plan for an orator (572). One of Dio’s best speeches is one he gave at the Olympic games in the summer of 97 C.E. and illustrates “the transition of oratory into the sermon” since he exhorts the audience to revere the gods (578).

Marcia Bost said

at 8:48 pm on Apr 3, 2011

Longinus, On the Sublime. H.L. Havell, trans. London: MacMillan and Co. , 1890. Project Gutenburg. Ebook #17957

“There are two things essential to a technical treatise: the first is to define the subject; the second (I mean second in order, as it is by much the first in importance) to point out how and by what methods we may become masters of it ourselves” (1.1.1).
“…the Sublime, wherever it occurs, consists in a certain loftiness and excellence of language, (1.1.3) A lofty passage does not convince the reason of the reader, but takes him out of himself”(1.1.4).
“…a writer can only learn from art when he is to abandon himself to the direction of his genius” (1.2.3).
“…bombast is one of the hardest things to avoid in writing” (1.3.3).
“Now all these glaring improprieties of language may be traced to one common root—the pursuit of novelty in thought… those ornaments of style, those sublime and delightful images, which contribute to success, are the foundation and the origin, not only of excellence, but also of failure” (1.5.1)
“It is natural to us to feel our souls lifted up by the true Sublime, and conceiving a sort of generous exultation to be filled with joy and pride, as though we had ourselves originated the ideas which we read” (7.2). “ If then any work, on being repeatedly submitted to the judgment of an acute and cultivated critic, fails to dispose his mind to lofty ideas; if the thoughts which it suggests do not extend beyond what is actually expressed; and if, the longer you read it, the less you think of it,—there can be here no true sublimity, when the effect is not sustained beyond the mere act of perusal (7.3)

Marcia Bost said

at 8:50 pm on Apr 3, 2011

Quotes from Longinus, part 2

“I shall now proceed to enumerate the five principal sources, as we may call them, from which almost all sublimity is derived, assuming, of course, the preliminary gift on which all these five sources depend, namely, command of language. The first and the most important is (1) grandeur of thought, as I have pointed out elsewhere in my work on Xenophon. The second is (2) a vigorous and spirited treatment of the passions. These two conditions of sublimity depend mainly on natural endowments, whereas those which follow derive assistance from Art. The third is (3) a certain artifice in the employment of figures, which are of two kinds, figures of thought and figures of speech. The fourth is (4) dignified expression, which is sub-divided into (a) the proper choice of words, and (b) the use of metaphors and other ornaments of diction. The fifth cause of sublimity, which embraces all those preceding, is (5) majesty and elevation of structure” (7.1)

“It is only natural that their words should be full of sublimity whose thoughts are full of majesty. Hence sublime thoughts belong properly to the loftiest minds”(7.4).

He recommends “the emulous imitation of the great poets and prose-writers of the past”(8.2).
” Therefore it is good for us also, when we are labouring on some subject which demands a lofty and majestic style, to imagine to ourselves how Homer might have expressed this or that, or how Plato or Demosthenes would have clothed it with 31 sublimity, or, in history, Thucydides. For by our fixing an eye of rivalry on those high examples they will become like beacons to guide us, and will perhaps lift up our souls to the fulness of the stature we conceive. (9.1)

Marcia Bost said

at 8:50 pm on Apr 3, 2011

quotes from Longinus, part three

” But the term [image] is now generally confined to those cases when he who is speaking, by reason of the rapt and excited state of his feelings, imagines himself to see what he is talking about, and produces a similar illusion in his hearers” (15.1). “…In all such cases our nature is drawn towards that which affects it most powerfully: hence an image lures us away from an argument: judgment is paralysed, matters of fact disappear from view, eclipsed by the superior blaze” (15.11).
“But supposing now that we assume the existence of a really unblemished and irreproachable writer. Is it not worth while to raise the whole question whether in poetry and prose we should prefer sublimity accompanied by some faults, or a style which never rising above moderate excellence never stumbles and never requires correction?´(32.1)
In answer to those who wonder about the lack of genius in his time: ““My dear friend, it is so easy, and so characteristic of human nature, always to find fault with the present. Consider, now, whether the corruption of genius is to be attributed, not to a world-wide peace, but rather to the war within us which knows no limit, which engages all our desires, yes, and still further to the bad passions which lay siege to us to-day, and make utter havoc and spoil of our lives.

Marcia Bost said

at 9:09 am on Apr 4, 2011

Summay: Chrysostom, Dio. “The Twelfth or Olympic Discourse: or, On Man’s First Conception of God.” In Discourses, Loeb Classical Library, 1939. Web. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Dio_Chrysostom/Discourses/12*.html

Favorite quote: “Indeed the race of man is more likely to run short of everything else than of voice and speech; of this one thing it possesses a most astounding wealth” (65).

The introduction, for which no author or translator is given, notes that Dio gives the fullest treatment of the theories of art in any surviving text and that Paul Hagen has shown Dio derived most of his ideas from the art school at Pergamum, which based its ideas on Cicero, Pliny and Quintilian.

Dio uses an elaborate metaphor, comparing the philosopher to the owl, the sophist to the peacock, and the poets to the nightingale and the swan. He also gives part of the speech in the voice of Pheidias, who made the famous statue of Zeus at Olympus, based on the supposition that Pheidias has been called to defend his work as worthy of the gods. The main point made by “Pheidias” is that he did the best he could with the materials that he had, based on the superior and much more flexible language of the poets, particularly Homer. In particular, “Pheidias” defends the choice of the human figure to portray the invisible, intelligence of the gods. He also describes the longing of man for contact with the gods, comparing it to that of a child reaching out his arms to an absent parent (60-61). Dio ends in his own voice, recapping his points: “It has dealt with the dedication of statues, how it should best be done, and with the poets, as to whether their conceptions of the gods are better or inferior, and also with the first conception of God, what it was and how it came into existence among men. And much too, I believe, was said about the power of Zeus and about his titles” (84).

kowens18@... said

at 12:59 am on Apr 5, 2011

Nigel Guy Wilson, The “Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece” by Nigel Guy Wilson (which you can view the majority of on google books) not only discusses the Second Sophistic but provides a number of "Further Reading" sections concerning the topic. I've listed a few books he mentions below, but I'm not sure if they will be helpful or not. Also, I'm still confused as to what we're suppose to be doing in terms of the reading material. Are we each going to read a book or two? I'm not sure if we decided on what the best approach would be to the Second Sophistic assignment or not.

Graham Anderson, “The Second Sophistic: A Cultural Phenomenon in the Roman Empire”
G.W. Bowersock, “Greek Sophists in the Roman Empire”
Barbara Cassin, “L’Effet Sophistique”
Graham Anderson, “Athenaeus: The Sophistic Environment”
E.L. Bowie, “The Greeks and Their Past in the Second Sophistic”

sheidt2@... said

at 2:55 pm on Apr 7, 2011

Goldhill, S. (ed). Being Greek Under Rome: Cultural Identity, the Second Sophistic, and the Development of Empire. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

In this volume, Goldhill and the contributing authors attempt to explain the experience of living under the “economic, military, and social domination” of the Roman Empire. In this sense, they define the Second Sophistic as existing within a particular Imperial context. It is this context that matters most because it formed the conditions for producing the Sophistic movement as a move of identity formation and (potentially) resistance.

sheidt2@... said

at 2:56 pm on Apr 7, 2011

Nasrallah, L. “Mapping the World: Justin, Tatian, Lucian, and the Second Sophistic,” Harvard Theological Review 98:3 (2005): 283-314.

In this article, Nasrallah argues that the Second Sophistic was a form of “geographical thinking” that provided “mental maps of the world” that included both the literal territory of the empire as well as the social configuration imposed upon ethnic and cultural minorities living under Rome. As such, Nasrallah argues that the Second Sophistic was distinctly “Greek” in terms of “region, ethnicity, [and] language” as well as in a “set of practices” which could be classified as paying homage to “Plato and Homer”, the Greek genre, and Attic Style.

Consequently, Nasrallah defines the Second Sophistic an act of naming a pre-existing cultural and academic tendency in which people “participated” as a form of cultural identity expression. The naming both put to words this trend and constituted it: participants embodied the identity that it named and thus became part of something that may not have existed in any definable form prior to its naming.

sheidt2@... said

at 2:57 pm on Apr 7, 2011

Eshleman, K. “Defining the Circle of Sophists: Philostratus and the Construction of the Second Sophistic,” Classical Philology 103 (2008): 395-413.

In this article, Eshleman suggests that the key issue related to the Second Sophistic is related to how the sophists self-fashioned. For Eshleman, the creation of the Second Sophistic was a form of self-fashioning, led by Philostratus. This reading suggests that Philostratus was motivated in “establishing the value of his own professional pedigree” and that attempting to “catalogue” the “sophistic canon” was equally an attempt to maintain control over his profession. Therefore, the Second Sophistic was an insular tradition “constituted entirely from within” that positioned dissenters as non-members who lacked standing to criticize.

This article, then, argues that the Second Sophistic was a system of academic privilege, formed by insiders, for their own enrichment (fame and fortune). Eshleman concludes that it was a “masterful attempt” to construct a world in which Philostratus benefited as a legitimate, important scholar and practitioner of rhetoric. The name that Philostratus used, “the Second Sophistic” was more about carving out a niche in academia then about constituting a particular epistemology.

Kelly Elmore said

at 3:19 pm on Apr 8, 2011

Thiselton, Anthony. The First Epistle to the Corinthians: a commentary on the Greek text. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000.

That's the book I mentioned in class that has material about Paul, his Christian rhetoric, and his conflict with the rhetoric of the second sophistic.

kowens18@... said

at 1:48 am on Apr 19, 2011

William Dominik's "A Companion to Roman Rhetoric"

Chapter 25 gives a really detailed summary of the Second Sophistic. It provides the major individuals who influenced the movement, quotes from different Sophistics, and a really precise "Further Reading" section.

“Philostratus, an Athenian literary grandee of the Severan age, coined the term Second Sophistic in the early third century CE to apply to the self-styled sophists of his own time and much of the two centuries precious. He presents in his Vitae Sophistarum an impression of self-confident display orators in the context of revitalized Hellenism, and that picture has to be understood as a contribution to Greco-Roman culture in its own right”

Pliny’s impression of the sophist Isaeus; said by the Dominik to have performed “exactly as Philostratus expected sophists to do, and with the same effect:

He ask for several controversia-themes, allows the audience to choose from them, often even which side he is to take; then he stands up, puts on his cloak, and begins; at one he has almost every point equally at his fingertips; hidden implications suggests themselves again and again, and his extraordinary language is finely chosen and polished. A great deal of read, a great deal of written practice shines forth from his improvisation. He offers suitable preamble, sets out the facts of the case plainly, argues incisively, makes competing deductions, and gives us sublime oratory. To sum up: he instructs, he entertains, he reaches the emotions: it is hard to determine which he does best. The rhetorical figures and syllogisms come in profusion, as if worked to perfection, no easy task even in writing. He has an amazing memory, and he can repeat word perfect what he has said extempore--such technique he has attained by applying himself and practicing constantly; for day and night he does nothing else: he neither listens to nor speaks anything else.

kowens18@... said

at 1:49 am on Apr 19, 2011

"A Companion to Roman Rhetoric" continued...

“Pliny knows the game as well as any. He has an eye for the skill of the performer on the platform, and is suitably impressed by the equipment of the speaker for extempore delivery; he has an ear for verbal and argumentative devices in the preferred archaizing style of a second language; and the information about memory must be either from report or from more than one hearing."

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