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Gorgias
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Gorgias

Gorgias (c. 483-375 BC), Greek sophist and rhetorician, was a native of Leontini in Sicily.

In 427 he was sent by his fellow-citizens at the head of an embassy to ask Athenian protection against the aggression of the Syracusans. He subsequently settled in Athens, and supported himself by the practice of oratory and by teaching rhetoric. He died at Larissa in Thessaly.

His chief claim to recognition consists in the fact that he transplanted rhetoric to Greece, and contributed to the diffusion of the Attic dialect as the language of literary prose. He was the author of a lost work On Nature or the Non-existent, the substance of which may be gathered from the writings of Sextus Empiricus, and also from the treatise (ascribed to Theophrastus) De Melisso, Xenophane, Gorgia.

The authenticity of two rhetorical exercises, The Encomium of Helen and The Defence of Palamedes (edited with Antiphon by F. Blass in the Teubner series, 1881), which are attributed to him is disputed.

Gorgias also refers to the Platonic dialogue between the eponymous sophist and his inexperienced student, Polus. Plato thought that the art of oratory, of which Gorgias partook, was the root of the evil in the Athenian state. He considered oratory to be making something bad be thought of as good. But Gorgias, being the last dialogue before Plato left Athens also critized the political state of Athens: the people there were more inclined to beautiful words than to good and right deeds. Plato considers Power to be inherently evil. Power opens many opportunities for being unjust, and being unjust is the worst thing that could happen to a man.

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This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica.


This article is part of The Presocratic Philosophers series
Thales | Anaximander | Anaximenes of Miletus | Pythagoras | Empedocles | Heraclitus | Parmenides | Xenophanes | Leucippus | Democritus | Protagoras | Gorgias | Prodicus