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Corax and Tisias

Page history last edited by Sarah Murphy 6 years ago

 

 

Corax and Tisias

 

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Getting Acquainted: An Introduction

 

Corax and Tisias – two Sicilians who lived in Syracuse during the 5th century BCE at the time tyranny was overthrown and democracy was established – are widely recognized as the founders of ancient Greek rhetoric, and thought to be responsible (either collaboratively or independently) for the first treatise on the rhetorical art of judicial oratory. The pair is perhaps best-known and most-celebrated in the quasi-folkloric, quasi-historical “legend of Corax and Tisias” [see below].

 

While some scholars argue that Corax himself is a legend, the popular consensus remains that Corax was a 5th century lawyer-turned-teacher who instructed Tisias, his pupil, in the rhetorical art of judicial oratory. Tisias’s existence, on the other hand, is neither doubted nor dubious. Tisias is referenced extensively by later writers and his trips to the Athenian assembly where he (along with Gorgias of Leontini) worked to ease the military and political tensions between Syracuse and Leontini are well-documnted (Enos 102).

 

While much debate surrounds the factual existence of Corax –as does much debate surround the cultural (and/or historical) significance of the well-known “legend of Corax and Tisias" –  scholars are readily in agreement about Corax's and Tisias’s two most foundational contributions to the rhetorical discipline:

 

 

1)  the “doctrine of general probability”

 

2)  the division of the judicial speech into parts

 

 

 

 

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The “Doctrine of General Probability”

 


 


 

 

The “doctrine of general probability” is the theory that people form judgments and draw inferences based on what they think usually happens in a given (or similar) circumstance (Hinks 63). Usualness and likelihood go hand in hand. Likelihood (about what will/will not or has/has not happened) is a derivative process of inference based on the audiences’ perceptions of possibility and probability as well as their own personal experiences with both. Usualness can be thought of as lived likelihoods (experienced personally in the past and used to infer about unknowns). The likely looks forward; the usual looks backwards.

 

Future-oriented, yet with conscious reflection on the past … the “doctrine of general probability” finds itself right at home within the rhetorical discipline. It is suited for both judicial rhetoric (past-orientated judgment) and deliberative rhetoric (future-minded inference). However, because probabilities are inherently non-absolute, they are also inherently arguable and – as Plato cautions in Pheadrus [see below] and as contemporary rhetorician D.A.G. suggests - they are potentially more vulnerable to manipulation and misuse than other argumentative methods. Hinks recognizes that “[w]hen used, argument from probability is an approximation to truth necessary for the practice of oratory,” but he also cautions that “when it [probability] is irresponsibly exploited […] it no longer serves truth but seeks to supplant it” (Hinks 64).

 

Unfortunately, we have no primary source material of Corax's and Tisias's. But, we do have several secondary accounts provided by later writers. In particular, the references and discussions of Corax/Tisias in the work of Plato and Aristotle [see below] allow the rhetorical discipline to credibly credit Corax and Tisias with the “doctrine of probability.” These sources, however (as Hinks suggests), may have inadvertently collapsed a potentially more complex theoretical perspective into a minimalized rendition of it.

 


 

                           The quintessential example of argument from probability:

 

“[…] for example, if a weak man were charged with assault, he should be acquitted as not being a likely suspect for the charge: for it is not probable [that a weak man would attack another]. And if he is a likely suspect, for example, if he is strong, [he should be acquitted]; for it is not likely [that he would attack another] for the very reason that it was going to seem probable [to the judges]”

 

(Aristole, Rhetorica: 2.24.11) 

 

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Parts of a Judicial Speech:

 


 

3 Part

4 Part

5 Part

 

7 Part

 

 

 

 

 

Rabe’s

Prolegomena

Plato

(2)Prolegomena

Marcellinus

*(post)Hellenistic

(2) Prolegomena

Troilus

 

1 Proem

 

 

2 Argument

(agones)

 

 

3 Epilogue

 

 

 

 

 

1 Proem

 

 

2 Narrative

(diegesis)

 

 

2 Argument

 

 

3 Epilogue

 

1 Proem

 

 

2 Narrative

 

 

 

3 Argument

 

 

4 Digression

(parekbasis)

 

 

6 Epilogue

 

1 Proem

 

2 Preliminary

presentation

(proparaskeue)

 

3 Preliminary

Narrative

(prokatastasis)

 

4 Narrative

 

5 Argument

 

6 Digression

 

7 Epilogue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rhetorical discipline also recognizes Corax and Tisias as the first to discover the “parts of a judicial speech” and to, thereby, develop a systematic approach to teaching judicial oratory. Historical texts, along with modern scholars, also readily recognize the significance of Corax and Tisias’s divisio of the parts of a judicial speech, yet historical accounts of the particular systematics (and, more specifically, the number of parts in their divisio) vary significantly across historical periods – ranging from a tripartite (of the early classical period) to a hepatic structure (common in Hellenistic period).

 

 

 

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The Legend of Corax and Tisias:


 



A Narrative Illustration of the Legend:

 

 

 

 

 

The Equally-Weighted Astasis (isazon) of the Arguments:

 

 

 

 

 

Corax’s

argument:

 

Wins: If I win the lawsuit, you will lose and will be required to pay me the tuition (as per the lawsuit)

 

 

Loses: If I lose the lawsuit, then you will have won your first case and will therefore be required to pay me the tuition (as per our previous agreement)

 

 

 

 

 

Tisias’s

argument:

 

Wins: If I win the lawsuit, I will not have to pay the tuition (as per the lawsuit)

 

 

Loses: If I lose the lawsuit, then you obviously didn’t teach me how to win a lawsuit, and therefore you ought not receive the tuition (as per our previous agreement)

 

 

 

 

Punch line

 /Proverb:

 

“From a bad crow, a bad egg”*

 

*or, a similar variation to the bad-crow/bad-egg proverb

 

 

 

 

 

Common Tale-Type Variations of the Legend:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Variant A

 

 

 

 

Variant B

 

 

 

 

Variant C

 

TUITION STATUS:

 

 

Unpaid

 

Unpaid

 

Paid

 

LEGAL ACTION:

Corax sues for payment

 

Corax sues for payment

Tisias sues for refund

WHO INIATIES ARGUMENT:

 

 

Tisias

 

Corax

 

Tisias

WHO REVERSES ARGUMENT*:

 

Corax

Tisias

Corax

As presented in the scholarship of:

 

 

 

 

George Kennedy

Thomas Cole

 

Bromley Smith

 

George Pullman

 

 

 

 

 

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The Debate(s) Surrounding Corax and Tisias:

 


                                


 

 

The Origins of Rhetoric: Judicial or Deliberative?

 

As rhetorical scholar Edward Schiappa articulates, “[m]ost modern scholarship tends to regard the story of Corax and Tisias inventing the art of rhetoric as questionable only with regard to detail” – doubting, mostly, “the cause and effect relationship between the rise of democracy and the teaching of rhetoric” (4).

 

For many, the debate boils down to explanatory, historically-reconstructionist concerns: deliberative or judicial. Much emphasis is placed on the shift from tyranny to democracy, and the need for political persuasion within the newly formed assemblies. The earliest accounts of Corax and Tisias’s teachings, however, only address the judicial relevance.

 

This is not to suggest that the shift toward democracy was without effect for the budding rhetorical discipline. In fact, quite the opposite is argued by Bromley Smith in his article “Corax and Probability.” After the tyrants were overthrown, groups of previously-exiled citizens returned to Syracuse “naturally recalling the days when their fathers owned the estates and held offices” and claiming property rights to lands and estates that were being occupied by the “favorites of the former tyrants, men to whom the estates had been given, sometimes a whole generation before the revolutions” (15).

 

 

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Corax: Man, Legend … or Nickname?

 

 

In “Who Was Corax?” Thomas Cole reworks the traditional fact or fiction trope of historical constructivism, allowing for an understanding of the “legend of Corax and Tisias” as a “coherent foundation myth” for the rhetorical discipline itself (80).

 

In Ancient Greek culture, as Cole argues, the name Corax [korax], which meaning “crow” or “raven” (and with its associations with death, bad betrayal, and flesh-feasting), would have been a shameful choice for a child’s name. Rather than a first name, Cole suggests that the name “Corax” is more likely a nickname for either a real man (possibility Calandes) or for Tisias himself (80).

 

The folkloric potential of this tale is further compounded by the fact that the tale’s motif (of a student-teacher rhetorical throw-down over the cost of tuition) is repeated in a story about Protagoras and his pupil Euathlus. In the tale, Protagoras proclaims that any student who feels as though they’ve been overcharged for their education may feel free to go to the temple, and after taking an oath, may pay whatever he deems appropriate for the value of the instruction he received.

 

The (re)payment of a fee is a nearly universal tale type, as is the theme of out-witting an opponent, verbal trickery and impossible debates; however, the repetition of the specific motifs (the student-teacher pairing and the tuition fairness factor) within an isolated disciplinary context (ancient Greek rhetoric) invites further inquiry into the “folkness” of the rhetorical discipline ... as well as into to the nature of rhetorical play as cultural (and, perhaps disciplinary) semiotics.

 


 

 

A Rhetorical "Trickster" Inclination:

 

 

“What’s a more appropriate fate for the putative founder of the entire rhetorical tradition, with  the centuries-long study of figural speech it incorporates, than to be finally revealed as nothing more – or nothing less – than a figure of speech himself?”

 

(Cole 83-84)

 

 

 


 

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Guest Appearances: In Ancient Texts

 

 


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who?

 

 

 Primary Source References:   

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Said what about Corax & Tisias?

 

 

Plato

 

In Phaedrus …

 

Socrates: “[…] And Tisias and Gorgias? How can we leave them out when it is they who realized that what is likely must be held in higher honor than what is true; they who, by the power of their language, make small things appear great and great things small; they who express modern ideas in ancient garb, and ancient ones in modern dress; they who have discovered how to argue both concisely and at infinite length about any subject?”

(267A)

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Socrates: No doubt you’ve churned through Tisias’ book quite carefully. Then let Tisias tell us this also: By “the likely” does he also mean anything but what is thought to be by the crowd?

 

Phaedrus: What else?

 

Socrates: And it’s likely it was when he discovered this clever and artful technique that Tisias wrote that if a weak but spunky man is taken to court because he beat up a strong but cowardly one and stole his cloak or something else, neither one should tell the truth. The [strong] coward must say that the spunky man didn’t beat him up all by himself, while the latter must refute this by saying that only the two of them were there, and fall back on that well-worn plea, “How could a man like me attack a man like him?” The strong man, naturally, will not admit his cowardice, but will try to invent some other lie […] And in other cases, speaking as the art dictates will take similar forms. Isn’t that so, Phaedrus?

 

Phaedrus: Of course.

 

Socrates: Phew! Tisias – or whoever else it was and whatever name he pleases to use for himself – seems to have discovered an art which he has disguised very well! […]

(273B – 273C)

 

 

 

 

Aristotle

 

In Rhetorica … 

 

“For some things happen contrary to probability, so what is contrary to probability is also probable. If this is so, the improbable will be probable. But not generally so; as in erisitics, not adding the circumstances and reference and manner makes for deception, so here [in rhetoric] because the probability is not general but qualified. The Art of Corax is made up of this topic: for example, if a weak man were charged with assault, he should be acquitted as not being a likely suspect for the charge: for it is not probable [that a weak man would attack another]. And if he is a likely suspect, for example, if he is strong, [he should be acquitted]; for it is not likely [that he would attack another] for the very reason that it was going to seem probable [to the judges]”

(2.24.11)

 

 

 

Sophistici Elenchi…  

 

“The beginnings of all inventions are small in bulk, though in importance they outweigh everything that follows. So in rhetoric the first inventors' the first inventors did not carry the art far; and it attained its present bulk by the subsequent labors first of Tisias, then of Thrasymachus, then of Theodorus and many others. In dialectics, on the other hand, nothing at all had been done before the present work [Sophistici Elenchi]”

183B; 17ff

 

 

 

 

Cicero

 

Brutus… 

 

“[46] Aristotle, therefore, informs us, that when the Tyrants were expelled from Sicily, and private property (after a long interval of servitude) was determined by public trials, the Sicilians Corax and Teisias (for this people, in general, were very quick and acute, and had a natural turn for controversy) first attempted to write precepts on the art of speaking. Before them, he says, there was no one who spoke by method, and rules of art, though there were many who discoursed very sensibly, and generally from written notes: but Protagoras took the pains to compose a number of dissertations, on such leading and general topics as are now called common places”

(12.46)

 

De Oratore…

 

[In summarizing Charmadas response to Crassus:]

 

 “[91] for first, as if stating an indisputable fact, he [Charmadas] affirmed that no writer on the art of rhetoric was ever even moderately eloquent, going back as far as I know not what Corax and Tisias, who, he said, appeared to be the inventors and first authors of rhetorical science; and then named a vast number of the most eloquent men who had neither learned, nor cared to understand the rules of art, and amongst whom, (whether in jest, or because he thought, or had heard something to that effect,) he instanced me as one who had received none of their instructions, and yet, as he said, had some abilities as a speaker; of which two observations I readily granted the truth of one, that I had never been instructed, but thought that in the other he was either joking with me, or was under some mistake”

(1.20.91)

 

 

 

 

De Inventione…

 

“And Aristotle, indeed, has collected together all the ancient writers on this art, from the first writer on the subject and inventor of it, Tisias, and has compiled with great perspicuity the precepts of each of them […]”

(2.2.6) 

 

 

 

 

Quintilian

 

Institutia Oratoria…

 

The first who laid down rules for rhetoric were two Sicilians, Corax and Tisias

(3.1.8)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bibliography

 



 

 

 

Works Cited:

 

 

Cole, Thomas. "Who was Corax?" Illinois Classical Studies 16.1 (1991): 65-84.

 

Enos, Richard Leo. Greek Rhetoric Before Aristotle. Anderson: Parlor Press, 2012. Print

 

Hinks, D.A.G. “Tisias and Corax and the Invention of Rhetoric.” Classical Quarterly 34 (1940): 61-69. Print.

 

Kennedy, George. The Art of Persuasion in Greece. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963. Print.

 

Pullman, George. Persuasion: History, Theory, Practice. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2013.

 

Schiappa, Edward. The Beginnings of Rhetorical Theory in Classical Greece. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999. Print.

 

Smith, Bromley. “Corax and Probability.” Quarterly Journal of Speech Education 7.1 (): 13-43. Print.

 

 

 

 

Primary Sources Cited:

 

 

Aristotle. Rhetorica

 

Cicero. Brutus

 

---. De Oratore

 

---. De Inventione

 

Isocrates. Against the Sophists

 

Plato. Phaedrus

 

Quintilian. Institutia Oratoria

 

Sextus, Empiricus. Against the Professors: Against the Rhetoricians

 

 


 

 

Works Referenced and Recommended:

 

 

 

Clark, D.L. Rhetoric in Greco-Roman Education. New York: Columbia University Press, 1957.

 

Enos, Richard Leo, and Margaret Kantz. "A Selected Bibliography on Corax and Tisias." Rhetoric Society Quaterly 13.1 (1983) 71-74.

 

Finley, M.I. A History of Sicily. London: Chatto and Windus, 1968.

 

---. The Use and Abuse of History. New York: Viking Press, 1975.

 

Harder, Dan. "The Tempest in the Trivium." Upstart Crow: A Shakespeare Journal 26 (2006/2007): 70-74.

 

 

Kennedy, George.  Classical Rhetoric and Its Christian and Secular Tradition from Ancient to Modern Times. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina      Press, 1980.

 

---.  A New History of Classical Rhetoric. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

 

 

Murphy, James J. A Synoptic History of Classical Rhetoric. New York: Random House, 1972.

 

 

Roberts, Rhys W. "The New Rhetorical Fragment (Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Part III., Pp. 27-30) in Relation to the Sicilian Rhetoric of Corax and Tisias." The      Classical Review 18.1 (1904) 18-21.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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