Chapter 3. Aristotle in the Afternoon: Rhetoric, Exoterica, and the Compromised Philosopher

The surviving Aristotelian corpus, which seems largely to preserve the teachings and discussions conducted by Aristotle within his school, contains multitudes enough for Aristotle’s followers and interpreters. It establishes Aristotle, on the one hand, as the original example of the philosopher who has bequeathed us (inter alia) a system, and any of whose works will only be properly understood through a study of the didactic technicalities that the works share and whose exposition must be traced throughout the corpus. On the other hand, partly because of the very strength and flexibility of everything that can be called Aristotelian method, the Aristotelian corpus devotes a full measure of attention to matters of human social life—politics, poetry, persuasion, and the practical and performative demands of ethical perfection. While Aristotle’s treatises on these subjects ask their questions and do their work under the obvious influence of the philosopher’s more theoretical analysis of being, some scholars have nevertheless been tempted to approach a field such as Aristotelian rhetoric with the prejudice that, in Aristotle’s own terms, it is third philosophy at best. [1] Working under the straightforward assumptions that Aristotle was motivated in his practical philosophy to be right, to reach an audience, and to have an effect, I have already given several reasons suggesting that these topics, for Aristotle, had affinities with the concerns of Isocrates and reflect serious engagement with the rival school’s teachings and presentation of itself to the world. In Aristotle’s Protrepticus, we had the advantage of a comparison text that was, at the same time, serious in its allegiance to high philosophical theory, ambitious to reach a popular audience subject to Isocrates’ influence, and available to us in a (more-or-less) coherent literary form, so that we can analyze its rhetoric and ideas in their own terms.
Many other aspects of Aristotle’s career and writings are mostly invisible to us as texts. Often we lack even the merest textual fragments and must work from prejudiced and confused testimonia. Still, whatever the historical and critical cautions imposed on us by these problems, we must digest this evidence, for it clearly records traces of a public and published Aristotle engaged with the topics and personalities of the Isocratean school. Our estimation of what is properly Aristotelian about an approach to rhetoric and politics is complicated by our knowledge of these exoteric writings and of the more public and rhetorical mode of instruction Aristotle may have practiced, for a period, alongside the stricter studies and teaching that produced the extant corpus. Several methodological difficulties attend any study of this strand in Aristotle’s career: the evidence is extremely scant, usually late, and often derived from polemical and scholastic milieus whose tendencies are themselves difficult to reconstruct reliably. With so little positive information, it is tempting to base an interpretation of the exoteric Aristotle on what is more fully known—the surviving Aristotelian works, or, what is scarcely more satisfactory, the doctrines that Aristotle would have discussed in the Academy, as these can be reconstructed from the dialogues Plato is supposed to have composed at any given point. [2] If the investigation’s purpose is to illuminate the significance of Aristotle’s extant works from a new angle, or to place them in a new context, then this runs the risk of circular reasoning. If any reconstructions can be made that are relatively free of such circularity, it will still not be easy to know how boldly to use them to seek new insights into an Aristotelian corpus that, admittedly, has done an admirable job of holding together coherently quite apart from any historical context. Finally, when we begin to take the measure of Aristotle’s lost works, we find ourselves, as with all studies into fragmentary doxographical testimonies, in the presence of many scholarly judgments whose authority, given the seldom-examined complexity of much of the evidence, has often fossilized into dogma; to move forward we have to glean much from these insights while making a fresh approach that does not simply rehash the terms of a debate without the requisite momentum.
It is sometimes assumed, based simply on Aristotle’s Academic affiliation, that the young Aristotle, familiar already as he may have been with Plato’s Phaedrus, as a committed Academic took as strident and partial a position against rhetoric as does Socrates in the Gorgias. Even if Aristotle’s very early work, Gryllus, claimed that rhetoric is not a tekhnē, and may have explored this angle on rhetoric with some vehemence, [3] there is no reason to believe Aristotle’s views were not flexible and rapidly evolving, given what we have seen of his own engagement with the subject and the complexity of the position of Plato’s Phaedrus, upon which he could build. Even if our account of Aristotle does justice to the eventual expansion of his philosophy into areas whose political grounding and political consequences have departed far from Platonism (especially the kind of Platonism usually constructed to play a role in such histories), we must still beware the assumption that this growth does not have its seeds in Aristotle’s (quite prolonged) “youth.” I wish to discover whether we can arrive at equally coherent and tenable conclusions from the hypothesis that Aristotle became involved early in (relatively) public controversy, not purely as the defender of Platonic idealism, but precisely because he was willing to engage in something like the more political-rhetorical mode of education practiced by the Academy’s rivals. We will see that it is just this for which Philodemus blamed, and Cicero praised, Aristotle. I will be content if I can review the evidence and open up the question again, not with totally fresh eyes, but neither taking the old postulates for granted, and not without any recourse to circular arguments, but at least probing whether a less commonly used set of assumptions may expand our view.

Cicero on Aristotle’s Rhetoric Lectures

Several rhetorical writers of the Roman period make mention of a course of rhetorical lectures given by Aristotle. Cicero, as a Roman orator and a philosophical eclectic, is naturally interested in the intertwined histories of Greek philosophy and rhetoric. He turns to Aristotle more than once for an example justifying the principles of his own career. In a particularly prominent passage that culminates the short introduction to the Tusculan Disputations, Cicero—having claimed that all his work and success as an orator flowed from the “springs of philosophy” (1.6), to which he now returns—uses Aristotle as his chief analogy (1.7):
Sed ut Aristoteles, vir summo ingenio, scientia, copia, cum motus esset Isocratis rhetoris gloria, dicere docere etiam coepit adulescentes et prudentiam cum eloquentia iungere, sic nobis placet nec pristinum dicendi studium deponere et in hac maiore et uberiore arte versari. hanc enim perfectam philosophiam semper iudicavi, quae de maximis quaestionibus copiose posset ornateque dicere …
But just as Aristotle, a man of supreme genius, knowledge and fertility of speech, under the stimulus of the fame of the rhetorician Isocrates, began like him to teach the young to speak and combine wisdom with eloquence, similarly it is my design not to lay aside my early devotion to the art of expression, but to employ it in this grander and more fruitful art: for it has ever been my conviction that philosophy in its finished form enjoys the power of treating the greatest problems with adequate fullness and in an attractive style.
trans. King 1945
Here Aristotle exemplifies the conjoined powers of philosophy and rhetoric because he was drawn to emulate the successful education that Isocrates called “philosophical,” an education that was explicitly rhetorical and political. Like Isocrates himself, he offered that kind of instruction (“to teach the young to speak”). Cicero’s account would have been based not only on the ancient secondary sources for Aristotle’s career, but also on his familiarity with the exoteric writings, several of which may have been produced for the same audience before which this anecdote is situated. Indeed, “Aristotle” to Cicero meant, first and foremost, the exoteric Aristotle who wrote the elegant dialogues upon which Cicero modeled his own philosophical works, for Aristotle’s esoteric works seem only to have been rediscovered in Cicero’s lifetime, and the ancestor of our Aristotelian corpus was probably not produced until after his death. [4]
In a related passage of the dialogue De oratore, Cicero’s character Crassus insists upon the broad range of the orator’s proper knowledge; he is again concerned to demonstrate that exemplary statesmen have acquired their learning from philosophers, and that philosophy in turn is necessarily concerned (and ideally quite concerned) with the art of persuasive speaking. The former fact is shown through Classical Greek examples such as Pericles’ attainment of mastery over Athenian politics and war on the basis of his education from Anaxagoras, vir summus in maximarum rerum scientia (3.138). This leads again to the story of Aristotle’s entering the ring with Isocrates, which Crassus takes as defining Aristotle as the very type of the teacher who can best train the man of action (3.141):
Itaque ipse Aristoteles cum florere Isocratem nobilitate discipulorum videret, quod suas disputationes a causis forensibus et civilibus ad inanem sermonis elegantiam transtulisset, mutavit repente totam formam prope disciplinae suae versumque quendam Philoctetae paulo secus dixit: ille enim turpe sibi ait esse tacere, cum barbaros, hic autem, cum Isocratem pateretur dicere; itaque ornavit et inlustravit doctrinam illam omnem rerumque cognitionem cum orationis exercitatione coniunxit. Neque vero hoc fugit sapientissimum regem Philippum, qui hunc Alexandro filio doctorem accierit, a quo eodem ille et agendi acciperet praecepta et eloquendi.
Accordingly when Aristotle observed that Isocrates succeeded in obtaining a distinguished set of pupils by means of abandoning legal and political subjects and devoting his discourses to empty elegance of style, he himself suddenly altered almost the whole of his own system of training, and quoted a line from Philoctetes with a slight modification: the hero in the tragedy said that it was a disgrace for him to keep silent and suffer barbarians to speak, but Aristotle put it “suffer Isocrates to speak”; and consequently he put the whole of his system of philosophy in a polished and brilliant form, and linked the scientific study of facts with practice in style. Nor indeed did this escape the notice of that extremely sagacious monarch Philip, who summoned Aristotle to be the tutor of his son Alexander, and to impart to him the principles both of conduct and of oratory.
trans. Rackham 1942
From here, Crassus goes on to declare that, when faced with those who succeed in combining the two well-matched accomplishments, we may well grant the philosopher the name of orator, and the orator the name of philosophus; while wisdom is more fundamentally important, eloquence is undoubtedly its fairest crown (3.142f.).
Cicero’s telling accords with modern judgments in casting Isocrates as the type of unphilosophical eloquence. Yet the facts as narrated again grant Isocrates a notably powerful influence over the educational arena. Aristotle evidently aspires to the success enjoyed by Isocrates in an arena marked off and dominated by Isocrates, and he is willing to deform the existing shape of his educational mission to compete for the students who will only choose an education that is rhetorical. Since Aristotle begins the story as an authentic philosopher, it is hard to accept that a transformation such as Cicero describes can be fully consistent with the philosophical principles that Aristotle had previously held. Historically, given the absence of evidence that Aristotle’s independent philosophical career had yet begun in earnest, it is legitimate to wonder whether Aristotle even had much of a system to change, and whether we may not implicate the influence of Isocrates’ school in Aristotle’s very first steps into the career of offering philosophical instruction.
Isocrates died in 338, and Aristotle did not return to Athens until 335, so that the story takes place during Aristotle’s period in the Academy (before Plato’s death in 348/7), and almost certainly in the early 350s (the consensus of e.g. Solmsen 1929, Düring 1957, Chroust 1964). Another version (Quintilian 3.1.14) places Aristotle’s rhetoric lectures in the afternoon (postmeridianis scholis Aristoteles praecipere artem oratorem coepit). This by itself is compatible with the Ciceronian testimony, but it may cause or evince confusion, since Aulus Gellius, without any mention of Isocrates, has the “exoteric lectures and speaking exercise” (exotericas auditiones exercitiumque dicendi, 20.5.5, more fully described in 20.5.2 as quae ad rhetoricas meditationes facultatemque argutiarum civiliumque rerum notitiam conducebant) taking place in the afternoon in the same place and during the same period as the morning “acroatic” instruction, i.e. the activities of the Lyceum after Isocrates’ death. The “disgraceful to keep silent” quotation is combined with the idea of simultaneous instruction in two arts of persuasion—rhetoric and dialectic—by the fifth-century AD commentator (and scholarch of the Academy) Syrianus, who writes that Aristotle “would continually cry out to his companions, stirring them to exercise in speaking, ‘It is a disgrace to keep silent and suffer Isocrates to speak’” (Scholia in Hermogenem IV.297 Walz = II.59.21 Rabe). [5]
David Blank has helpfully brought together the principal evidence for Aristotle’s “course on rhetoric” in a recent publication [6] but focuses on the question of whether we should commit to the “lectures” as a likely item among the lost Aristotelian texts. I do not find it surprising that there is no evidence that these lectures had a permanent existence as texts; the testimonia in question are in fact more interesting, consistent, and congruent when taken as evidence for oral teaching and polemic: for school activity rather than authorial and school production. Our sources report a historical fact (the public rhetorical instruction provoked by rivalry with Isocrates) and interpret it in the light of the Aristotle known to them directly, especially his many exoteric writings. Thus our sources’ handling of the historical report does reveal something about the literary Aristotle, because the literary Aristotle was the main context in which they could make sense of anecdotes about the scholastic Aristotle (though Philodemus should also be considered, to a greater extent, the inheritor of a purely scholastic set of attitudes, some of which can tenuously and partially be traced back to the fourth century). For example, Cicero (in De oratore) determines the credibility and interest of the historical report through his devoted knowledge of the exoteric writings, which had inspired him to take Aristotle as the preeminent model for himself as teacher-of-ornate-speech-cum-wisdom. I do not believe the anecdote would have resonated amid so much solid knowledge of the literary Aristotle, if Cicero had not found compatible and similarly targeted material in the exoteric corpus.
Likewise, in the Disputations, it is not the “lectures” that are important to Cicero—he does not mention them in this context—but the general portrait of Aristotle as conjoining, in his teaching (disciplina), theoretical study (rerum cognitio) with rhetorical practice (orationis exercitatio). This is compatible with Philodemus’ testimony that Aristotle “used to train [egumnazen] (his students) in the afternoon.” [7] Since there is no sign he is thinking about the “lectures” anecdote in this programmatic passage claiming the Aristotelian mantle, we may well believe that the whole of Cicero’s information about Aristotle tends to confirm this practical-rhetorical strand. Blank rightly emphasizes that the conjoining itself is of exemplary importance to Cicero, but it is difficult to allow on that basis that Cicero’s language of exercise implies nothing of “rhetoric on its own” but only Aristotle’s incidental example, to his students, of doing philosophy “in an eloquent manner.” [8] Could Cicero really have believed that Aristotle’s charming expression of philosophical matter was his competitive response to Isocrates’ success—not a turn to practical matter, but an improvement in his style? This seems unlikely. Cicero explicitly names two subjects of Aristotle’s new instruction to Isocrates’ audience of young men: speaking (dicere) and combining wisdom and eloquence (prudentiam cum eloquentia iungere). The second subject does not eclipse and contain the first. In Orator 46, Cicero plainly believes that Aristotle trained such young men (adulescentes … exercuit) in an argumentative performance in the manner of orators and not that of philosophers (non ad philosophorum morem tenuiter disserendi, sed ad copiam rhetorum). This consistent Ciceronian belief says something about his Aristotle quite apart from any particular course of rhetoric lectures: that he was a force to be reckoned with in practical training in practical philosophy.

Philodemus on Aristotle’s Rhetoric Lectures

Accordingly, if we follow the facts as Cicero sees them, it is not surprising to find Cicero’s contemporary Philodemus (in Book VIII of his Rhetorica) citing the same event to upbraid Aristotle for his treachery to philosophy. [9] Philodemus—a deeply committed Epicurean philosopher whose technical and polemical writings would not have survived without the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, which carbonized and buried a library full of Epicurean texts—holds a challengingly different point of view on the same episode, giving us the chance to look for recoverable truths between the two partial perspectives. If we are skeptical about how well Aristotle was yet known or established as a philosopher at the time of his alleged confrontation with Isocrates, then we may decide that Philodemus anachronistically charges Aristotle with betraying philosophical principles he had not yet developed. In any case, Philodemus knows the story of Aristotle’s competitive charge into the field of rhetoric and is disgusted that Aristotle has despised true philosophy while still professing his compromised mixture under the name “philosophy.” This is the most interesting point in Philodemus’ tirade, because it allows us to rethink the valences and sympathies of Aristotle’s philosophia:
περὶ Ἀριστοτέλους ἀναγγέλλουσιν, ὅτι τῆς δείλης ἐγύμναζεν ἐπι-φωνήσας “αἰσχρὸν σιωπᾶν, Ἰσοκράτην δ’ ἐᾶν λέγειν.” ἐμφαίνει δὲ τὴν κρίσιν ἱκανῶς κἀκ τοῦ συγγεγραφέναι τέχνας ῥητορικὰς κἀκ τοῦ μέρος τῆς φιλοσοφίας τὴν πολιτικὴν νομίζειν, εἰ καὶ ψελλίζει διαφέρειν αὐτὴν φάσκων τῆς ῥητορικῆς … τῶν περὶ τὰς πόλεις συμβαινόντων οὐθέν ἐστι φίλον· δεύτερον δὲ διὰ τὸ φιλοσοφίαν πολλὴν ἐπίδοσιν λαβεῖν τυχοῦσαν χρηστῆς πολιτείας· τρίτον δ’ ἀγανακτήσαντας ἐπὶ τοῖς πλείστοις τῶν νῦν τὰ πολιτικὰ πραττόντων, ὡς εὐτελεῖς ὄντες οἱ μὲν ἄρχουσιν, οἱ δ’ ἄρχειν ἀξιοῦσιν.
[Finally let us examine what] they report about Aristotle, that he used to train (his students) in the afternoon, commenting “it is shameful to remain silent while allowing Isocrates to speak.” He makes his judgement quite clear both by having written rhetorical handbooks and by considering politics to be part of philosophy, even if he does lisp when he says that politics is different from rhetoric … [ca. 70 words] [He used to give three reasons why his students should go into politics. First, …] nothing is dear [to one who pays no attention to] what happens concerning cities; second, because of the fact that philosophy makes great progress when it happens to find a good constitution; third, because they are angry with most of those who are now in politics, since they either rule or think they should rule, though they are worthless.
PHerc 832 cols. 36–37 + PHerc 1015 col. XLVIIIb (ed. Blank 2007:34f. = Sudhaus 1896:50 = Düring 1957 T 31 a, b) (trans. Blank 2007:44)
This passage seems relatable to the context of Aristotle’s teaching and dialogues before Plato’s death. [10] Philodemus goes on immediately to emphasize the rewards available to someone like Aristotle if he is willing to subvert his high philosophical principles and regress to the level of teaching a junior and preparatory (but popular) subject like rhetoric. [11] Rhetoric is dismissed as something appropriate for the education parents have provided to their children (ἐμ παισὶν διὰ τὴν τῶν γονέων ἐπιμέλειαν, XLIX.17–19); if an Aristotle surrounds himself with adults who value it as a serious undertaking in preference to truly satisfying philosophical pursuits, he will inflict on himself the toilsome kind of service that involves tolerating the ignoble souls that fall short of philosophical tastes (ἐπίπονον … τὸ λειτούργημα καὶ τὸ τοιούτων ἀνέχεσθαι ψυχῶν, ὅσαι πρὸς ῥητορικὴν ἐσπουδάκασιν, 38.8–13). As Düring has remarked, “If this text had been found isolated from its context, we might have conjectured that it was an echo of an attack by Aristotle on Isocrates.” That we do not, in fact, have this kind of attack by Aristotle on Isocrates could reflect Aristotle’s care in appropriating Isocratean protreptic to his own use: his transformation of his educationally successful predecessor’s limited attempt to fuse wisdom, knowledge, and praxis into a rival protreptic that better satisfied his own philosophical principles.
Philodemus’ framing—in terms of preliminary and youthful versus better and mature pursuits—is suggestive of the fourth-century schools’ protreptic overtures to intellectually inclined youth. The word restored at PHerc 1015 col. LIII.1, προτροπ̣[ὰ]ς, indicates that Aristotle’s response to Isocrates induced him to debase the “exhortations” of protreptic. [12] We have seen previously that a school may use the preliminary stage of training to incorporate its rivals’ fields of specialization into a more complete vision of educational self-realization (Isocrates’ attitude towards eristics and geometry, or the Platonic school’s eventual acceptance of Isocratean parenetics as ethical propaedeutic). It is in part by reading these maneuvers uncharitably that Philodemus found the raw material for his chastening tirade about the corruption and betrayal of philosophy. Protreptic’s fundamental claim that the philosophical life is also the more practically successful life (with more or less obfuscation of how well this may agree with worldly standards) only adds to the exploitable confusion. What is more surprising is to notice that Philodemus feels the need to stake out protreptic territory of his own by claiming that true philosophy (in comparison to Aristotle’s debased compromise) not only leads its practitioner toward the Epicurean aim of stability and tranquility (ἡσυχίας εὐσταθοῦς, PHerc 1015, col. L.3f.), but also wins in the struggle for reputation and (“natural”) material abundance (the rhetoric teacher’s “toilsome service” is οὔτε περιουσίας φυσικῆς οὔτε δόξης ποριστικώτερον, L.10–12).
The differences between these rival versions of what is to be undertaken and why may be serious and consequential, yet, even in Philodemus’ polemics, we can see how partial and complicated any distinction is bound to be between philosophoi who share so many elements from the common philosophical tradition, whose prestige they arrogate to themselves. As a further example of this, we may note the low rank Philodemus seems to assign geometry; he lumps it in with the proverbially junior and instrumental skills of literacy (grammatika), music, and military tactics. [13] This surface echo of Isocrates’ idea that geometers have distracted themselves from true wisdom, goodness, and care for their souls suggests the complexity of the array of positions from which Philodemus constructed his polemic. As we will see, Philodemus may well have created (with however much deliberate distortion or sarcasm) a portrait of Isocrates as slowly and eventually progressing towards philosophy, in contrast to Aristotle’s degeneration from philosopher to popularity seeker.
Philodemus cites the authority of Epicurus himself to say that Aristotle (offering a false hope of real philosophy) was a more pernicious force than the unabashedly and practically political teachers who “oiled up” (aleiphontōn) their students for the arena of public life. [14] According to Philodemus’ view, political and forensic oratory did not depend on an expertise and had no place among the philosopher’s pursuits, whereas “sophistical” epidictic was at least a tekhnē, built “on understanding which is available to rational persons in common” and thus useful to the philosopher. [15] Aristotle, then, in this polemic has gone farther than Isocrates in leaving even philosophical rhetoric behind. Cicero could look at Isocrates and Aristotle both and appreciate “philosophy” free to contribute to practical politics; Philodemus looked at Isocrates and saw “sophistic” able to rise above practical politics and reach the philosophical realm. Together these two partial perspectives imply an Isocrates who ably established his claim to both political and philosophico-ethical authority.
Did Isocrates’ boundary-blurring use of philosophia for his school’s education influence Aristotle’s move to compete in some sense with this mode of instruction? [16] If we accept Philodemus’ evidence, how does Aristotle’s reorientation towards such a philosophia stand in relation to his mature philosophy and tribē? Some of the ideas in this passage can be paralleled in Aristotle’s extant works on ethics and politics, among his writings on “the philosophy that concerns human matters” (ἡ περὶ τὰ ἀνθρώπινα φιλοσοφία). [17] The real question is not whether Aristotle practiced human-focused practical philosophy during both periods—he certainly did—but how much the earlier practice, if we knew more about it, might expand and challenge our view of the limits that define how practical the aims and context of such “philosophical” teaching were for Aristotle. As Philodemus’ tirade develops, he is pleased enough to include, anachronistically, the Lyceum’s later activities, such as its collections of polis constitutions, as further evidence of Aristotle’s disloyalty to philosophy in its Epicurean bounds:
Of course he inspired great admiration for the (rhetorical) power but contempt for his proper business, and because of this he was caught red-handed collecting the laws together with his pupil (Theophrastus) as well as the large number of constitutions and the decrees concerning places and those regarding particular occasions and everything which belonged to this sort of [study]. [ca. 20 words] choosing to be seen both to know and to teach philosophy, rhetoric, politics, agriculture, perfumery, metallurgy, stopping just short of the activities of people who are ashamed of what they do and say that they pursue under compulsion.
PHerc 1015 col. LIII + PHerc 832 col. 42 (trans. Blank 2007:45f.)
But here too comparison with Isocrates is illuminating. In this description of the “political” pole of corruption to which Aristotle has been drawn, a modern reader may well see a point of connection to the Isocratean school. Isocrates praises the study of history, [18] and his school produced such notable historians as Theopompus and Ephorus, the first universal historian. [19] Yet it seems that, far from this being Philodemus’ point, he is actually ignoring the applicability of these interests to Isocrates, damning Aristotle by contrasting the utterly unphilosophical status of the political oratory to which Aristotle has descended with the relative worth of sophistic (epidictic) oratory. Once more Philodemus seems to give us a valuable perspective on Isocrates in spite of his own doctrinal principles. For he accepts Metrodorus’ critique of political rhetoric, precisely because political advice depends on experience and research, whereas “sophistical” rhetoric constructs ethical advice on a rational basis compatible with philosophy. [20] With his counterintuitive appraisal of how wisdom and politics interacted in Isocrates’ and Aristotle’s “rhetoric,” Philodemus helps us see just how much potential overlap could be discovered in the ambits of their two careers in this area. The most conservative interpretation of Philodemus’ account is that it corroborates Cicero quite independently from the Ciceronian desire to rhetoricize all philosophy.
I have already suggested that Philodemus focuses our attention on the possible positive significations of Isocratean philosophy. [21] Just as Cicero was unable to cleanse his account of the implication of Aristotle’s offense against (one kind of) philosophy, Philodemus is either polemically driven to claim, or is unable to suppress the idea, that Isocrates’ school practice is legitimately valued as philosophy:
Σιωπῶ γὰρ ὅτι τῶν παρ’ αὐτῷ τὰ ῥητορικὰ μαθόντων ὁλόκληρος οὐδεὶς ἐν οὐδετέρᾳ κατέστη . . καὶ . . . . . . νετ̣ι̣κα παρά τισι ἐδίδασκεν, Ἰσοκράτους καιτο . τοῖς χρόνοις προκόψαντος· ὥστε κἄν, εἰ πρότερον ἐδίδασκεν τέχνην, ἐπὶ τὴν ἡσυχιωτέραν καὶ δαιμονιωτέραν, ὥσπερ εἶπε, φιλοσοφίαν ἀποχωρεῖν.
I shall not mention the fact that of those who learnt rhetoric with him [=Aristotle] no one became a perfect practitioner in either kind of rhetoric. [22] And he taught [ca. 3 words] [23] to some people, whereas Isocrates, as time went on, advanced (to the opposite standpoint), so that even if he taught the art before, he could retire to the “more peaceful” and “more divine” (art of) philosophy, as he called it.
PHerc 832 col. 43 + PHerc 1015 col. LV = Sudhaus 1896:59f. = Düring 1957 T 31 g = Blank 2007:40f. [24] (trans. Blank 2007:46 and Düring 1957:307 for Ἰσοκράτους … προκόψαντος)
Who retired from rhetoric to philosophy? It is not perfectly clear that it is not Isocrates. Düring has probably overstated the case to say that “from the point of grammar, it would be most natural to assume that Isocrates is the subject of εἶπε,” but he voiced this conviction despite himself feeling forced to go against his grammatical instinct and refer the retirement and description of philosophia to Aristotle, based on the assumption that Isocratean philosophia could not be described in these terms. [25] Blank, in his discussion, because of the “garbled” state of the papyrus after Ἰσοκράτους, does not even mention the possibility or significance of Isocrates’ involvement in this assertion, [26] despite his observation that the quoted description of philosophia is as unknown in our texts of Aristotle as it is in Isocrates. [27] In any case, a reference to Isocrates would accord with some of the loftier intellectual pretensions of Isocratean protreptic and glorification of logos and his own philosophia. Philodemus’ philosophical prejudice seems to compete with an ingrained ambivalence towards these pretensions. This derives in part from the complex Epicurean attitude towards rhetoric developed in the Rhetorica: epidictic orators and teachers are sophistai, alone of all teachers and practitioners of eloquence tekhnitai in possession of an art [28] ; Aristotle is deluded to believe that political rhetoric (rhētoreuein) can come about through the epidictic scholasticism (sophisteuein) that has drawn him into contest with Isocrates. [29] Aristotle’s students presumably failed to achieve either result, according to Philodemus, because their teacher did not have the sense to focus on one or the other. Isocrates, in contrast, is more amenable to progressing from a lower form of philosophy to a higher one, somehow better aware of the relation between artful and artless practice, whereas Aristotle is going in the opposite direction, trying to make higher philosophical principles suddenly and crudely practical. Hubbell took the ascent to “more divine philosophia” as Isocrates’ and saw a surprisingly extreme polemical tactic on Philodemus’ part:
Perhaps the most remarkable part is his exaltation of Isocrates; “while Aristotle descended from philosophy to rhetoric, Isocrates rose from rhetoric to philosophy.” This passage must rest on a misinterpretation of Isocrates’ use of φιλοσοφία, a misinterpretation which must be deliberate on the part of Philodemus, and not due to any love of Isocrates, but to a desire to take a fling at Aristotle. [30]
Yet a purely polemical explanation of this statement does not seem adequate [31] ; if Aristotle is to be contemned as untrue to philosophy, and Isocrates had never professed fidelity in the first place, then Aristotle’s gravitation in Isocrates’ direction would prove how far he has fallen, which would have served the polemic just as well.
So this passage provokes us to consider Isocrates’ participation in something perceived as truly philosophical, whosever estimation is reflected. Whatever our interpretation of this vexed passage, Philodemus weighed both Aristotle and Isocrates against Epicurean values and found Aristotle’s showy display of polymathy dangerous and mercenary in comparison to the ideal rhetorical education’s cultivation of ability, tranquility of the soul (τῆς κατὰ ψυχὴν γαλήνης χάριν), and bodily health:
And in this respect he was actually much more shameful than the orators, who try to train (their students) in the afternoons for (speaking) on [these sorts of topics] not just for the sake of their tranquility of mind, but also for the sake of the good temperament of their body which conduces to health…
PHerc 832 col. 42 + PHerc 1015 col. LIV (trans. Blank 2007:46)
Philodemus would have been primarily familiar with Aristotle through the exoteric works, and his perspective may thus help us recover what the profile of Aristotle’s career could be made to resemble when viewed in the absence of the esoteric corpus, while challenging us with an Isocrates whose style of rhetoric could play a role in the philosophical life precisely because of its impractically ethical mode.

The Academy’s Attitude toward Rhetoric

Is the idea that Aristotle wanted, at this stage of his career, to meet Isocrates on a common field of pedagogical contest (whether this would constitute a “descent” or not) at odds with the picture we are usually given of Aristotle in his late twenties as a devoted partisan of the Academy? Here again the terms of the received wisdom—what does it mean to be a partisan of the Academy?—can interfere with a clear assessment. It is certainly not clear that this must mean the determined enemy of Isocratean rhetoric. Every reader of the Phaedrus knows how seriously it engages with the necessary and proper use of rhetoric in philosophy, and it is this work that provides the natural backdrop for Aristotle’s engagement with Isocrates. [32] It is worth looking in more detail at the only passage in all of Plato’s works in which he names Isocrates: the praise of Isocrates at the end of the Phaedrus, whose sincerity I briefly suggested in the previous chapter. It is all the more relevant to the question we have been considering by its speaking of “some divine impulse” and “some philosophia” in this connection. In some ways it is a strange echo of the Philodeman appreciation of Isocratean “sophistic.”
ΣΩ. Τίνα τοῦτον;
ΦΑΙ. Ἰσοκράτη τὸν καλόν· ᾧ τί ἀπαγγελεῖς, ὦ Σώκρατες; τίνα αὐτὸν φήσομεν εἶναι;
ΣΩ. Νέος ἔτι, ὦ Φαῖδρε, Ἰσοκράτης· ὃ μέντοι μαντεύομαι κατ’ αὐτοῦ, λέγειν ἐθέλω.
ΦΑΙ. Τὸ ποῖον δή;
ΣΩ. Δοκεῖ μοι ἀμείνων ἢ κατὰ τοὺς περὶ Λυσίαν εἶναι λόγους τὰ τῆς φύσεως, ἔτι τε ἤθει γεννικωτέρῳ κεκρᾶσθαι· ὥστε οὐδὲν ἂν γένοιτο θαυμαστὸν προϊούσης τῆς ἡλικίας εἰ περὶ αὐτούς τε τοὺς λόγους, οἷς νῦν ἐπιχειρεῖ, πλέον ἢ παίδων διενέγκοι τῶν πώποτε ἁψαμένων λόγων, ἔτι τε εἰ αὐτῷ μὴ ἀποχρήσαι ταῦτα, ἐπὶ μείζω δέ τις αὐτὸν ἄγοι ὁρμὴ θειοτέρα· φύσει γάρ, ὦ φίλε, ἔνεστί τις φιλοσοφία τῇ τοῦ ἀνδρὸς διανοίᾳ. ταῦτα δὴ οὖν ἐγὼ μὲν παρὰ τῶνδε τῶν θεῶν ὡς ἐμοῖς παιδικοῖς Ἰσοκράτει ἐξαγγέλλω, σὺ δ’ ἐκεῖνα ὡς σοῖς Λυσίᾳ.
Soc. Whom do you mean?
Phdr. The beautiful Isocrates. What are you going to tell him, Socrates? What shall we say he is?
Soc. Isocrates is still young, Phaedrus. But I want to tell you what I foresee for him.
Phdr. What is that?
Soc. It seems to me that by his nature he can outdo anything that Lysias has accomplished in his speeches; and he also has a nobler character. So I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, as he gets older and continues writing speeches of the sort he is composing now, he makes everyone who has ever attempted to compose a speech seem like a child in comparison. Even more so if such work no longer satisfies him and a higher, divine impulse leads him to more important things. For nature, my friend, has placed the love of wisdom in his mind. That is the message I will carry as if to my beloved, Isocrates, from the gods of this place; and you have your own message, as if to yours, Lysias.
278e7–279b3 (trans. after Nehamas and Woodruff 1995)
Naturally, many readers have been tempted, or even compelled, to read the passage as an ironic deflation of Isocrates’ pretensions, with a view to (what we are all supposed to know already) how little of this philosophical potential Isocrates realized. But this is to set aside everything that is most remarkable and distinctive about the dialogue as a whole (that it takes rhetoric seriously [33] ) in order to make it conform to a view of the Plato–Isocrates relationship that has been constructed from much more tenuous and allusive stuff than this passage. Moreover, such a reading turns a deaf ear to Plato’s literary habits, for the best parallel to the tone of this encomium is the praise of the philosophical youth Theaetetus. Besides the echo of the word gennikos in both passages (noted in the previous chapter), they are also linked by the prophetic context: Socrates in Theaetetus also has reason to admire Theaetetus’ phusis and prophetically—μαντικῶς, cf. μαντεύομαι here—anticipates the high repute he will earn (142c4–d3).

Aristotle’s Exoteric Writings

With a wider conception of Aristotle’s interests, and even of his willingness to practice philosophy in a more public context in Athens and in the rhetorical-political mode of philosophy’s alleged rivals, we may be more fully receptive to the dazzlingly encyclopedic range of interests displayed in the surviving catalogues of Aristotle’s writings. [34] These testify to Aristotle’s full immersion in his age’s consuming “nonphilosophical” questions and suggest a considerable variety of style and method. Moreover, their wide appeal may be felt through Cicero’s passionate praise of their style: “Aristotle, pouring forth a golden stream of eloquence” (flumen orationis aureum fundens Aristoteles, Academica 2.119), “an unbelievable charm and richness in his style” (dicendi quoque incredibili quadam cum copia tum etiam suavitate, Topics 1.3). Even more important for my argument is that Cicero associates the style of the exoteric Aristotle with that of Isocrates (and the members of his school—a reminder of the scholastic structures through which Aristotle and Isocrates encountered each other), regarding them both as models for his own brand of writing: “Now my book [about his consulship, in Greek] has used up Isocrates’ entire perfume cabinet with all the little scent boxes of his pupils, and some of Aristotle’s rouge as well.” [35] Cicero again mentions Aristotle and Isocrates together as stylistic models in connection with his composition of a Letter of Advice to Caesar. [36] All of Isocrates’ addresses to rulers have strong didactic elements that can be seen, in comparison to Platonic examples, as indicating philosophical ambitions. [37] Aristotle seems to have composed letters to Macedonian kings and officials, and the Isocratean texts are worth studying before speculating on the approaches and purposes Aristotle’s epistles may have adopted.
One lost work often discussed in studies of Aristotle’s early rhetorical writings and compilations is the Collection of the Art of Theodectes (Τέχνης τῆς Θεοδέκτου συναγωγή), or Theodectea (Θεοδέκτεια). Whether Aristotle’s “Theodectean” rhetoric was an original work or a digest of Theodectes’ ars rhetorica, [38] there has been a broad consensus that Theodectes’ prior example furnished an important point of departure for Aristotle’s eventual Rhetoric. In the archaeology of Aristotelian rhetoric, it is sometimes noted that our ancient sources give Theodectes a scholastic affiliation with Plato, [39] Aristotle, and Isocrates, but this fascinating convergence of philosophical schoolings is not really explored. Because Theodectes lives on in most histories of philosophy for the sole purpose of contributing something to the Rhetoric, the full range of his scholastic and literary career remains in the dark. I wish, therefore, to provide here a more complete sketch of our fragmentary knowledge of this remarkable intellectual, as an example of the quasi-philosophical and rhetorically oriented career that could have been served by sitting in the audience of Aristotle’s public rhetoric lectures.

The Careers of Theodectes of Phaselis and Isocrates of Apollonia

It falsifies the historical development to distinguish sharply between philosophical schools, such as the Academy and the Peripatos, and the schools of the sophists and the minor Socratics. To call one “philosophical schools” and the other “mere rhetorical schools” as if there were no essential similarity between them is to foster a rather extreme form of the Platonic viewpoint.
John Patrick Lynch, Aristotle’s School [40]
Theodectes of Phaselis [41] seems to have spent most of his life in Athenian intellectual circles, and he is remarkable to us especially for the versatility with which he moved from one to another. Today, as in his own maturity, he is best known as a successful tragic poet [42] ; he probably won his first victory at the Great Dionysia when Plato and Isocrates were in their fifties. [43] But the difficulty of pigeonholing him becomes obvious when we look into the evidence for his scholastic career, which overlaps and intermingles with his life as a poet.
Several sources identify Theodectes as a student of Isocrates: the Suda (s.v., θ 138), Photius, [44] the pseudo-Plutarchian Life of Isocrates (837c), and Hermippus’ On the Students of Isocrates (the sole pertinent surviving fragment of which [45] concerns him as a tragedian). [46] Besides these testimonia, Theodectes’ attested literary versatility, from prose to verse, from oratory to rhetorical theory, fits the broader picture of the directions in which Isocrates’ pupils scattered (or at least ended up classified into disciplines that are usually segregated by modern scholarship). Michael Flower, in his study of Theopompus, hits on Theodectes’ name first of all when searching for fourth-century parallels to the astonishing variety of Theopompus’ writings—all the more interesting since Flower is skeptical of the traditions placing Theopompus in Isocrates’ school, and he does not mention the tradition that says the same of Theodectes. [47] In any case, though, the Phaselite was not associated with the supposed “rhetorical history” of his day that has been used to cast doubt on the tradition of Theopompus and Ephorus as Isocrateans.
Finally, Theodectes is said to have participated in the funeral competitions for the Carian ruler Mausolus (winning with his tragedy Mausolus but bested by Theopompus in oratory), in which the other known contestants—the contemporaries Naucrates of Erythrae, Isocrates of Apollonia, and Theopompus—were all traditionally said to have studied with Isocrates. [48] The import of the varied sources for this has often been minimized, because in some of them the familiar Athenian Isocrates has displaced the obscure Isocrates of Apollonia. Jacoby’s apparent bestowal of his authority to this view—that Theodectes and Theopompus were the Athenian Isocrates’ contemporary rivals and thus couldn’t have been his students—was not as confident and consistent as it could have been. Jacoby did claim that Photius’ intriguing report (“[Theopompus] himself says that he was in his prime together with [sunakmasai] Isocrates the Athenian, Theodectes of Phaselis, and Naucrates of Erythrae, and that these together with himself occupied the first place among Greeks in the paideia of logoi [49] ) renders impossible the student–teacher relationship between Theopompus and Isocrates “unless one wishes to see in συνακμάσαι a deliberate cover-up.” [50] But the plain meaning of sunakmasai raises an obvious chronological difficulty: Theopompus, though his year of birth is uncertain, [51] would have outlived the ninety-eight-year-old Isocrates by approximately twenty years. We must, therefore, believe that Theopompus actually spoke of Isocrates of Apollonia, especially since this correction yields the selfsame list of competitors in the Mausolus agōn as is found elsewhere. [52] Oddly enough, Jacoby later in the same comment accepts the solution to the latter problem: “The information concerning competition between Isocrates and Theopompus in the Mausolus-agon (T6) has to be ruled out: if the list of competitors together with the variants is not merely conjecture (Blass Ber.2 II 75), then Theopompus’ competitor was not the Athenian (T6b) but the Apolloniate (T6a).” The same argument should be applied to the fragment in Photius, but Jacoby’s judgment continues to be cited with approval. [53]
The Suda entry on the lesser Isocrates [54] indicates many parallels with Theodectes and contains enough detailed information to give us a plausible impression. This Isocrates’ place in Athenian intellectual circles reminds us of Theodectes’. He is said to be the son of an unknown philosophos (Amyclas) and to have soaked up some Academic instruction on his way to becoming Isocrates’ “successor.” For this last point, we have apparent corroboration from none other than Speusippus (Plato’s nephew and successor as head of the Academy) in his Letter to Philip (11), where a “Pontic student” of Isocrates is named (at a time when the master was ancient but still living) as his successor. This Pontic student—and the “successor” (diadokhos) designation, coincident with the Suda, makes it hard not to suppose that it is Isocrates from Pontic Apollonia—was evidently as deeply mired in scholastic polemics as anyone at the time, for Speusippus, in calling him the most hateful of all sophists, abuses him more harshly than he does even Isocrates or Theopompus. The Suda’s attestation of an “Amphictyonic” speech means that Isocrates of Apollonia had something to say about a topic intensively exploited for its propaganda value, versus Isocrates, in the Letter to Philip. As for the work On Not Performing a Taphos for Philip, it hardly matters whether it was hostile or flattering, so directly does it place the younger Isocrates beside Speusippus in the business of investing intellectual capital in Philip’s public image.
Theodectes becomes all the more interesting as a participant in this scene if there is any truth to his Academic associations. The Suda identifies him as a student not only of Isocrates, but also of Plato and Aristotle. [55] Though some would doubt that Aristotle had the older Theodectes under his tutelage, it is indisputable that Aristotle took a close interest in Theodectes’ work. Theodectes’ point of connection to philosophy in general is the same as the point of connection between Aristotle and Isocrates: the art of rhetoric. Aristotle’s extant works show that he was not only intimately acquainted with Theodectes’ tragic oeuvre, [56] but also a reader of Theodectes’ political-theoretical Nomos [57] and his Apology of Socrates. [58] While these are valuable confirmations of overlapping lives and interests (the Apology of Socrates leaves us to make the perhaps false choice between whether it was written by Theodectes qua confirmed Isocratean, or was a product of sympathy or closer association with an explicitly “Socratic” school), it is in the fragmentary and indirect record of Aristotle’s rhetorical work that he is most closely connected to Theodectes. Quintilian even indicates that there was some ancient doubt about the attribution of the Aristotelian Rhetoric to Aristotle or to Theodectes, [59] which implies a close connection indeed. But the more general picture that emerges from the lost works of Aristotle deambulantis ad auram post meridiem is of a fellow rhetorical theorist taken seriously as such and known personally to Aristotle. Not only did Aristotle write a work entitled Theodectea, but the book-length Τέχνης τῆς Θεοδέκτου συναγωγή is the only attested work focused on an individual to complement the two books of the Aristotelian Τεχνῶν συναγωγή. [60] Cicero classed Theodectes, an author of a tekhnē, with Aristotle and Theophrastus, [61] and Dionysius of Halicarnassus also joined Theodectes and Aristotle in their setting the model for this kind of philosophia. [62] Plutarch tells the story of how Alexander in Phaselis honored Theodectes’ statue “because of the association he had with the man through Aristotle and philosophy” (τῇ γενομένῃ δι’ Ἀριστοτέλην καὶ φιλοσοφίαν ὁμιλίᾳ πρὸς τὸν ἄνδρα), [63] which has generally been considered to support at least the philosophical association of Theodectes and Aristotle. Finally, a particularly fascinating mention is made by the contemporary comic poet Antiphanes:
οὐχ ὁρᾷς ὀρχούμενον
ταῖς χερσὶ τὸν βάκηλον; οὐδ’ αἰσχύνεται
ὁ τὸν Ἡράκλειτον πᾶσιν ἐξηγούμενος,
ὁ τὴν Θεοδέκτου μόνος ἀνευρηκὼς τέχνην,
ὁ τὰ κεφάλαια συγγράφων Εὐριπίδῃ.
Don’t you see the
pansy dancing with his hands? He’s not ashamed—
the man who explains Heracleitus to everyone,
and is the only person able to make sense of Theodectas’ art
and the author of summaries of Euripides.
fr. 111 Kassel-Austin = Athenaeus 4.134bc (trans. Olson 2006)
That Theodectes’ tekhnē could be represented on the stage in his own lifetime as something that a womanish idiot would profess in the same vein as he might busy himself with pedantically expounding Heraclitus and writing prefaces to Euripides’ plays is powerful (but hitherto unremarked) evidence for his stature as a theorist in Athenian intellectual circles. [64] Indeed, the intellectual concerns of Isocrates’ school left their mark elsewhere in iambus and on the comic stage. In particular, the methodological fixation on the respective roles played by nature, practice, and knowledge was enough of a commonplace to be treated humorously twice in the fourth century: by Simylus in relation to the art of the playwright, and by Dionysius’ Thesmophoros in relation to the art of cookery. [65] In the latter fragment, “cookbook” learning is literally disparaged: cookery cannot be written down in black-and-white precepts, the kairos cannot be defined by rule, and the cook whose attention goes to all the precepts misses the opportune moment and labors in vain.

Crossover between the Schools

As we review more evidence of this kind, a general framework emerges of inter- and intrascholastic relations. It is the cumulative weight of such evidence that creates the context in which we can understand Isocrates of Apollonia’s involvement with Plato, [66] and the evidence suggesting Theodectes’ association with the Aristotle of the afternoon rhetoric lectures. But there is one important direct, Academic source furnishing us with a comparandum for, and a confirmation of, the idea that a student could migrate from Isocrates’ school to Plato’s: the Platonic Epistle XIII. This letter contains a recommendation of a certain Helicon to Dionysius (360b7–e3):
… πέμπω σοι … καὶ ἄνδρα, ὥσπερ ἐδόκει ἡμῖν τότε, ᾧ γε σὺ καὶ Ἀρχύτης, εἴπερ ἥκει παρά σε Ἀρχύτης, χρῆσθαι δύναισθ’ ἄν. ἔστι δὲ ὄνομα μὲν Ἑλίκων, τὸ δὲ γένος ἐκ Κυζίκου, μαθητὴς δὲ Εὐδόξου καὶ περὶ πάντα τὰ ἐκείνου πάνυ χαριέντως ἔχων· ἔτι δὲ καὶ τῶν Ἰσοκράτους μαθητῶν τῳ συγγέγονεν καὶ Πολυξένῳ τῶν Βρύσωνός τινι ἑταίρων. ὃ δὲ σπάνιον ἐπὶ τούτοις, οὔτε ἄχαρίς ἐστιν ἐντυχεῖν οὔτε κακοήθει ἔοικεν, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον ἐλαφρὸς καὶ εὐήθης δόξειεν ἂν εἶναι. δεδιὼς δὲ λέγω ταῦτα, ὅτι ὑπὲρ ἀνθρώπου δόξαν ἀποφαίνομαι, οὐ φαύλου ζῴου ἀλλ’ εὐμεταβόλου, πλὴν πάνυ ὀλίγων τινῶν καὶ εἰς ὀλίγα· ἐπεὶ καὶ περὶ τούτου φοβούμενος καὶ ἀπιστῶν ἐσκόπουν αὐτός τε ἐντυγχάνων καὶ ἐπυνθανόμην τῶν πολιτῶν αὐτοῦ, καὶ οὐδεὶς οὐδὲν φλαῦρον ἔλεγεν τὸν ἄνδρα. σκόπει δὲ καὶ αὐτὸς καὶ εὐλαβοῦ. μάλιστα μὲν οὖν, ἂν καὶ ὁπωστιοῦν σχολάζῃς, μάνθανε παρ’ αὐτοῦ καὶ τἆλλα φιλοσόφει· εἰ δὲ μή, ἐκδίδαξαί τινα, ἵνα κατὰ σχολὴν μανθάνων βελτίων γίγνῃ καὶ εὐδοξῇς, ὅπως τὸ δι’ ἐμὲ ὠφελεῖσθαί σοι μὴ ἀνιῇ.
… I am sending you … also a man whom we thought, you remember, that both you and Archytas, if Archytas comes to you, could use to advantage. His name is Helicon, his family is of Cyzicus, and he is a disciple of Eudoxus and well versed in all that eminent man’s doctrines. Moreover he has been associated with one of the pupils of Isocrates and with Polyxenus, one of the followers of Bryson. But, what is rarer with such men, he is pleasant to meet, seemingly not difficult, but easy and mild mannered. I put it thus cautiously, for it is a man I am giving my opinion of; and though man has his good qualities, he is, with rare exceptions and in the greater part of his actions, quite changeable. I had my fears and doubts even about this man, so I not only conversed with him myself but also made inquiry among his fellow citizens, and nobody had anything to say against him. But look him over yourself and be on your guard. Above all, if you can in any way find leisure for it, take lessons from him as part of your studies in philosophy. If not, have him instruct someone else so that when you do have leisure you can learn and thereby add to your character and your good name. In this way I shall continue to be of help to you.
trans. Morrow 1997
I have quoted this passage at such length both because it is so rarely brought into discussions of Isocrates as head of a “philosophical” school, and because the author’s curious ambivalence seems wryly to comment on how a monarch can be expected to receive a philosopher, with the sympathies of “Plato” seeming to be on the tyrant’s side while critiquing the all-too-human weaknesses of a junior “philosopher” (!)—or is he really just hedging his bets? The similarities to the letter telling Perdiccas about Euphraeus (Epistle V) [67] are clear: a man is recommended to the monarch for the utility of his logoi, which here are even more definitely in the realm of serious philosophy. But this Academic source is able to recommend a man not only based on his association with Academic mathematics (Eudoxus of Cnidus [68] ), but also—these are arguments in the man’s favor, not accidental details of his circuitous life—based on his connection to extra-Academic mathematics (in a line traceable back to an association with Socrates, through Bryson [69] ) and, most strikingly, to Isocrates (at the remove of two handshakes). If anything, the reference in this curriculum vitae to study with “a certain one of Isocrates’ students” accords Isocrates more respect than if Isocrates himself were named as the teacher, as we might easily imagine that the master’s variant passion for philosophy would be better tolerated in Academic circles than the pedagogical activities of his students who used his name (as the one here does: he is anonymous, his significance and value defined by the name of his teacher). What is the best explanation for the author’s reservations about Helicon? Is this man’s human weakness of changeability manifested in his flitting from one scholastic environment to another? Is it that an apologetic tone must be taken with Dionysius for sending the “kind of man” who is a school creature in the first place, these days? If so, is it reassurance that, despite or perhaps because of his tortuous career, Helicon is free of the usual polemical toadiness of philosophical men at court? What, in this context, do his links to the rival Isocratean school suggest about how objectionable a philosopher he can be expected to be, in comparison to others who might come with the Academic imprimatur? The text does not answer these questions, leaving us only with the net fact that this Academic source has some positive motivation for bringing up the Isocratean connection.
It is interesting to observe that some of the notable orators most widely attested to have studied with Isocrates—Lycurgus and Hyperides—are also explicitly said to have been “hearers” of Plato. [70] Getting beyond mere nuggets of biographical testimonia, it is perhaps most rewarding to focus on the case of the lesser-known orator Philiscus of Miletus, Isocrates’ pupil (credited with producing a handbook of Isocratean rhetoric and a collection of his master’s sayings [71] ) and the author of a Life of Lycurgus in which he seems to have reflected upon the interscholastic milieu in which both Lycurgus and he were educated. Philiscus’ adherence to Isocrates’ school is stated in an abundant variety of sources (probably including Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Cicero). Less clear is whether he may also have received instruction at the Academy, though his epigram for Lysias has been found to show that he “was familiar with Platonic eschatology.” [72] It is Philiscus’ work on Lycurgus’ life that more remarkably shows the Isocratean’s esteem for Plato. Olympiodorus preserves this fragment of it: [73]
καὶ πάλιν ὁ Φιλίσκος τὸν βίον γράφων τοῦ Λυκούργου φησὶν ὅτι μέγας γέγονε Λυκοῦργος καὶ πολλὰ κατώρθωσεν, ἅ οὐκ ἔστι δυνατὸν κατορθῶσαι τὸν μὴ ἀκροασάμενον τῶν λόγων Πλάτωνος.
… and again Philiscus, writing on the life of Lycurgus, says that Lycurgus became a great man and accomplished many things that are impossible to accomplish for a person who never attended Plato’s lectures.
trans. after Engels 1998:361
Engels rightly finds significance in the fact that “he, a prominent pupil of Isokrates, nevertheless stressed Plato’s influence on Lykurgos, another well-known pupil of Isocrates … Philiskos regarded Plato’s philosophical teaching as the basis for the astonishing political achievements of Lykurgos in his later years.” [74] To this we may add a reminder that the project of prose biography itself was still quite new in Philiscus’ day; in chapter 5 below I will consider the formative influence of Isocrates and his school in establishing it, all of which makes the simple existence of a prose work on an individual’s life a likely sign of Isocrateanism.
Let us turn to Clearchus, the tyrant of Heraclea Pontica, who crossed from the scholastic to the political world, in addition to his crossover between Plato and Isocrates’ schools. Memnon, the first-century AD historian of Heraclea, [75] said he was “not untrained in philosophical education, but was one of Plato’s students, and studied with Isocrates the orator for four years” (222b10–13). Isocrates confirms his tuition of Clearchus in his letter to the tyrant’s son and successor Timotheus (Epistle 7), which is both a didactic overture to a powerful ruler (and thus to be read alongside such a ruler-address as his Philip [76] ) and a related apologia, distinguishing the fine qualities and conduct of Clearchus the pupil from the notorious savagery of Clearchus the tyrant. Timotheus is praised for using his power with more intelligence (phronimōteron, 1) than his father, [77] and for choosing virtue and the fine reputation that accompanies it over wealth. Isocrates predicts that if he continues on this path, he will not lack for encomia of his intelligence (phronēsis) and of this admirable choice (proairesis). [78] He adopts a somewhat ambivalent attitude to the father’s violent rise to power. On the one hand, this was the necessary and only way to gain the rulership of Heraclea and so to put Timotheus in the position of using his dynastic power nobly and humanely (kalōs kai philanthrōpōs, 6), as Isocrates advises him to do in some detail. On the other hand, Isocrates is at pains to insist that Clearchus too possessed such mild and humane qualities while he was still a student (eleutheriōtaton … kai praotaton kai philanthrōpotaton, 12), undergoing a shocking change with his acquisition of power, which led to an estrangement between teacher and student (13). Memnon’s account of Clearchus sees the contradiction in his character as persisting, for it contrasts his ruthless dispatch of his enemies with his innovative program of intellectual patronage (“However, he built a library before the others to whom tyranny has given her name,” 222b25–27). [79] His fellow Isocratean Theopompus, however, is only known to have recounted Clearchus’ poisoning of rivals (FGrHist 115 F 181), not his better qualities.
The phenomenon of scholastic “crossover” in the Hellenistic period has attracted some attention from Christian Habicht, and it is worth asking if the same spirit Habicht finds in this period (including in early Hellenistic Athens) can be usefully carried back into our part of the fourth century, as a hypothesis challenging the easy assumption that divisive polemics were definitive of scholastic interactions. Diogenes Laertius, so eager to report on polemics when he can, has plenty of evidence for exchanges that qualify the “permanent rivalry” of the schools. Examples of school adherents freely attending rival lectures include:
Zenon used to go to the lectures of the Platonists Xenokrates and Polemon, to those of the Cynic Krates and those of the Sceptic Stilpon. [80] In the second century, Kleitomachos followed the teaching of the masters of the Academy, the Peripatos, and the Stoa before he himself became headmaster of the Academy (DL 4.67). A hundred years earlier, his predecessor Arcesilaus even encouraged his students to attend the classes of others (DL 4.42). Such may have been the exception, but there is nowhere any indication that the freedom of choice was limited. [81]
This evidence is strengthened by cases in which a student left one school for another: Heraclides Ponticus’ switch from the Academy to the Peripatos (Diogenes Laertius 5.86), his student Dionysius’ departure for the Stoa (Diogenes Laertius 7.166), another case where the Academic Arcesilaus himself introduced a Chian student to the Peripatetic Hieronymus, to whom the student transferred his adherence (Diogenes Laertius 4.42), and this same Arcesilaus’ migration from Theophrastus’ Peripatos to Polemo’s Academy (Diogenes Laertius 4.22, 28). [82] In short, there is an overall picture that “personal relations were generally friendly and collegial, even between philosophers engaged in sharp polemical exchange.” [83] Similar conditions may also have prevailed, for many of the same reasons, in our earlier period.

Other Entanglements between Aristotle and Isocrates

The relationship between Aristotle and Isocrates can be fleshed out further. The following is a brief account intended to put the material discussed above into perspective. Aristotle’s early work Gryllus was probably published before the Isocrates-inspired rhetoric lectures and within a couple of years of the death of Xenophon’s son Gryllus at the Battle of Mantinea (362). [84] The most definite and useful context for it is found in Diogenes Laertius’ life of Xenophon (2.55):
φησὶ δ’ Ἀριστοτέλης ὅτι ἐγκώμια καὶ ἐπιτάφιον Γρύλλου μυρίοι ὅσοι συνέγραψαν, τὸ μέρος καὶ τῷ πατρὶ χαριζόμενοι. ἀλλὰ καὶ Ἕρμιππος ἐν τῷ Περὶ Θεοφράστου καὶ Ἰσοκράτην Γρύλλου φησὶ ἐγκώμιον γεγραφέναι.
Aristotle mentions that there were innumerable authors of epitaphs and eulogies upon Gryllus, who wrote, in part at least, to gratify his father. Hermippus too, in his Life of Theophrastus, affirms that even Isocrates wrote an encomium on Gryllus.
trans. Hicks 1925
It is possible to conclude, from “ingratiating” and the mention of Isocrates’ encomium, that Aristotle criticized Isocrates among others for finding in Gryllus’ death the occasion for a self-serving rhetorical display; moreover this could fit into Plato’s critique of rhetoric in the Gorgias. [85] On the other hand, the qualification (“in part at least”) is then odd, and the idea of Xenophon, a Socratic, as the addressee of these compositions perhaps makes it only more necessary to consider whether this could have been a case of more scholastic polemics among parties with different claims to “philosophy.” It is just as easy to imagine Aristotle’s work as a “higher” praise of Gryllus rather than as a polemic against all rhetoric.
In any case, whether provoked by the Gryllus (as scholars generally maintain [86] ) or by the rhetoric-lecture activities Aristotle undertook in the following years, Isocrates’ “most genuine pupil,” [87] Cephisodorus of Athens, published a book Against Aristotle. A fragment of a second-century AD treatise by Numenius, who was apparently well informed about Cephisodorus and his work, [88] has been much discussed:
ὃς δὴ ὁ Κηφισόδωρος, ἐπειδὴ ὑπ’ Ἀριστοτέλους βαλλόμενον ἑαυτῷ τὸν διδάσκαλον Ἰσοκράτην ἑώρα, αὐτοῦ μὲν Ἀριστοτέλους ἦν ἀμαθὴς καὶ ἄπειρος, ὑπὸ δὲ τοῦ καθορᾶν ἔνδοξα τὰ Πλάτωνος ὑπάρχοντα οἰηθεὶς κατὰ Πλάτωνα τὸν Ἀριστοτέλην φιλοσοφεῖν, ἐπολέμει μὲν Ἀριστοτέλει, ἔβαλλε δὲ Πλάτωνα καὶ κατηγόρει ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ τῶν ἰδεῶν, τελευτῶν εἰς τἄλλα, ἃ οὐδ’ αὐτὸς ᾔδει, ἀλλὰ τὰ νομιζόμενα ἀμφ’ αὐτῶν ᾗ λέγεται ὑπονοῶν. Πλὴν οὕτως μὲν ὁ Κηφισόδωρος, ᾧ ἐπολέμει μὴ μαχόμενος, ἐμάχετο ᾧ μὴ πολεμεῖν ἐβούλετο.
Cephisodorus, when he saw his master Isocrates being attacked by Aristotle, was ignorant of and unversed in Aristotle himself; but seeing the repute which Plato’s views enjoyed, he thought that Aristotle was following Plato. So he waged war on Aristotle, but was really attacking Plato. His criticism began with the Ideas and finished with the other doctrines—things which he himself did not know; he was only guessing at the meaning of the opinions held about them. This Cephisodorus was not attacking the person he was at war with, but was attacking the person he did not wish to make war upon.
Eusebius, Praeparatio eva ngelica 14.6.9–10, 732bc = Düring 1957 T 63 c = Numenius fr. 25 des Places (trans. after Revised Oxford Translation)
Cephisodorus has mistaken Aristotle for a Platonist—what is the explanation? For scholars like Jaeger, this can be pressed into the service of a larger account of the early, Platonist Aristotle. [89] For our purposes, what is most significant is that this polemical work did engage with philosophical doctrines, so that just as we may see Plato’s school (in the person of Aristotle) as encountering rhetoricians on their field of contest, so may we see Isocrates’ school (in Cephisodorus) as countering Aristotle on the ground of more abstract philosophical discourse. The evidence as a whole for Cephisodorus and his book does not allow us to dismiss the composition as a shallow tirade. It was lengthy, in four books (Athenaeus 2.60de), and Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Isocrates 18) regarded it as a reliable source to rebut insinuations Aristotle had made against Isocrates.
I differ with the view of Düring [90] that another passage of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Letter to Pompey 1, is “our most trustworthy witness,” or even that this text “says that Cephisodorus had written his book not in order to start a quarrel but to seek the truth.” Düring takes this interpretation to the point of claiming that entirely friendly relations prevailed between Aristotle and Isocrates. The passage in question reads:
Πολλοὶ γὰρ εὑρεθήσονται πρὸ ἐμοῦ τοῦτο πεποιηκότες [sc. criticize Plato], οἱ μὲν κατὰ τὸν ἐκείνου γενόμενοι χρόνον, οἱ δὲ λίαν ὕστερον ἐπακμάσαντες. καὶ γὰρ τὰ δόγματα διέβαλον αὐτοῦ τινες καὶ τοὺς λόγους ἐμέμψαντο πρῶτον μὲν ὁ γνησιώτατος αὐτοῦ μαθητὴς Ἀριστοτέλης, ἔπειτα οἱ περὶ Κηφισόδωρόν τε καὶ Θεόπομπον καὶ Ζωίλον καὶ Ἱπποδάμαντα καὶ Δημήτριον καὶ ἄλλοι συχνοί, οὐ διὰ φθόνον ἢ διὰ φιλαπεχθημοσύνην κωμωιδοῦντες ἀλλὰ τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἐξετάζοντες. [91]
For many will be found who have criticized Plato before me, some in the time of Plato, and others who flourished a good deal later. Some of them attacked his doctrines and found fault with his writings, first his most genuine pupil Aristotle, and then Cephisodorus, Theopompus, Zoïlus, Hippodamas, Demetrius—both they and their associates—and many others, not out of envy or quarrelsomeness, but in an effort to discern the truth.
It is indeed noteworthy that Dionysius credits Cephisodorus and his colleagues with serious intellectual purposes and states that they took up dogmata and logoi as the subject matter of their works. What does not seem sound to me, however, is to draw a neat line distinguishing a “favorable” notice such as this one from the churlish scribbling of hacks. Note how easily the regard for the critics as serious writers sits in Dionysius beside such terms as diebalon, whose slanted and slanderous connotations cannot be argued away. With regard to accusations of tendentious and empty howling (which itself is characterized by Dionysius with the word kōmōidountes, evoking Owen’s category [92] of “good” verbal warfare among philosophers), we must not allow ourselves to forget that such dismissal is itself the commonest currency of intellectual contest. What proof do we really possess that allegedly vituperative treatises were in fact wholly different from those purported to make serious critiques? All that is clear is that individual sources regard them in those different lights; and when the sources seem to be sending a mixed message, it is hardly the most economical solution to decide that a simple truth is hiding behind a complex range of reactions. In any case, the passage before us cannot bear Düring’s burden, since it doesn’t seem to refer to the same book Dionysius called an apologia in the Letter to Pompey. If Dionysius is indeed the “most trustworthy,” we should look to the place where he speaks clearly and specifically about the book, and the relationship behind it (between Aristotle and Isocrates), [93] that interests us.
In evidence like this, the names and scholastic lineages associated with Cephisodorus are very suggestive of the intellectual milieu of genre-crossing intellectuals I have been evoking. Zoïlus is a particularly good example. For one thing, the attribution of serious motivations to him by Dionysius can be put alongside the more complete picture we possess of him [94] as a notoriously savage critic of Homer, Plato, and Isocrates. On the other hand, in two genres—Homeric criticism and rhetorical theory—he fits in closely with Aristotle and was evidently an interlocutor whose writings demanded such a response as the Aristotelian Aporēmata Homērika. A critic of both Plato and Isocrates, Zoïlus has additional importance as a “nonaligned” figure who is nonetheless utterly exemplary of the world of intellectual contest that we are studying. There is some evidence that Zoïlus may have counted as a force to be reckoned with in conjunction with a group of students, especially in the area of rhetorical theory—one of his pupils being Anaximenes of Lampsacus (ἐν ἁπάσαις ταῖς ἰδέαις τῶν λόγων τετράγωνόν τινα, “an all-round performer in every branch of literature”). [95]
Theopompus’ presence here is interesting; we will consider his connections and controversies with contemporary writers below. A word should also be said about the collocation of Zoïlus and Theopompus in its own right. While the former is considered a cynic and the latter a historian, the overlap in generic range between these two is striking. Besides their common interest in philosophical invective, oratory and history were outlets for both men. Zoïlus, whom the Suda calls “rhētōr and philosophos” (s.v., ζ 130), also wrote a history terminating with Philip II.
A few notices in Athenaeus help us form a more specific impression of Cephisodorus’ work. The first of these reports (2.60de):
ὅτι Κηφισόδωρος ὁ Ἰσοκράτους μαθητὴς ἐν τοῖς κατὰ Ἀριστοτέλους (τέσσαρα δ’ ἐστὶ ταῦτα βιβλία) ἐπιτιμᾷ τῷ φιλοσόφῳ ὡς οὐ ποιήσαντι λόγου ἄξιον τὸ παροιμίας ἀθροῖσαι, Ἀντιφάνους ὅλον ποιήσαντος δρᾶμα τὸ ἐπιγραφόμενον Παροιμίαι· ἐξ οὗ καὶ παρατίθεται τάδε·
Isocrates’ student Cephisodorus in his Against Aristotle (fr. 3 Radermacher = Arist. fr. 464)—there are four books—faults the philosopher for not treating collecting proverbs as a worthwhile activity, even though Antiphanes wrote an entire play entitled Proverbs. The following lines (fr. 186) are cited from it.
trans. Olson 2006
While the dearth of examples of whole works of this type and period does stand in the way of our appreciation of a notice like this, we learn more here than elsewhere about the actual character of the work—the fact of its publication at a certain length, and a little about the nature of the disputations it contained. The loss of Aristotle’s early works renders this latter part obscure. Adolf Stahr, in one of the fullest discussions of this whole matter yet written, aggressively argued against the interpretation followed here. The understanding of Stahr, who develops Athenaeus’ testimony into an elaborate reconstruction of the date of the incident and the published nature of Aristotle’s criticisms of Isocrates that provoked it, was that Cephisodorus rather criticized Aristotle for having authored “a work of no account, the collection entitled Paroimiai.” [96] Even if we accept this, the actual nature of the dispute remains in doubt, beyond the likelihood of its connection to Aristotle’s early rhetorical writings. [97]
Athenaeus 3.122a–c has Cephisodorus in book 3 of his Pros Aristotelēn demonstrating through quotations that vulgar expressions (φαῦλα, πονηρῶς εἰρημένα) can be found in the best canonical authors. Stahr draws out from this the inference that “Cephisodorus uses examples from the best-known and most famous poets to turn bonus interdum dormitat Homerus into a generally valid basis for pardoning stylistic mistakes in turning phrases and aphorisms; and this fragment allows me to conclude that in this locus Isocrates is being stood up for against similar accusations made against him by Aristotle.” [98] It would indeed seem that these defensive arguments imply that Aristotle had gone enough on the offense to make stylistic criticisms of Isocrates. [99] Athenaeus 8.354bc, in which “not even Cephisodorus” ventured into the basest kind of accusations against Aristotle preferred by Epicurus, is another piece of mixed evidence in which Cephisodorus’ motives and methods are neither black nor pure.
One of the most important points on which we have consistent evidence is that Cephisodorus in this matter is behaving in his capacity as a follower of Isocrates. The sources are less helpful in situating the incident in an Academic context. In any case, this may count as early creditable evidence of a more overt rivalry between the Academy and Isocrates’ school than we can infer from Plato and Isocrates’ works—a rivalry that by the 340s would be unmistakable, as we will see. [100]
Cephisodorus’ emergence from Isocrates’ school to fight the philosophers with philosophical weapons is paralleled in Isocrates’ student Theopompus, famous as a historiographer, but also the author of a work Against the Diatribē of Plato that attacks the theory of forms cogently enough to be quoted later in Simplicius’ commentary on Aristotle’s Categories. [101] I will discuss this strand of Theopompus’ career in the following chapter. We may well wonder whether Theopompus’ mode of engagement was not as respectable and serious as Cephisodorus’ is generally granted to be (however real and fierce the assault on the reputation of a rival intellectual and school).
The tradition of “Platonism” in turn was eventually to take a friendly interest in Isocratean parenesis. The Neoplatonic commentators on Aristotle gave an important propaedeutic role to the Isocratean To Demonicus, To Nicocles, and Nicocles as “ethical studies.” [102] These were just one element in a wide syncretism, but the manuscripts show that the Neoplatonists edited these works as part of their students’ canon, and considered their author Isocrates an authority on ēthē among other ethical writers (ēthika grapsantes). Isocrates was harmonized with philosophical authorities, as when Olympiodorus turns to the Busiris to shed light on Socrates. [103] The last scholarch of the Academy, Damascius, praises his teacher Severianus for infusing these Isocratean readings with their full measure of philosophical significance: “He took me through the most important and political of Isocrates’ speeches, not in the technical manner of a sophist, but with the wisdom of a philosopher.” [104] Already in the fourth century BC Xenocrates, the Academy’s scholarch, was writing parenetic works. [105] The two schools’ mutual (and not always hostile) interest in each other’s topics seems to have a long history.
Still, caution is called for in evaluating evidence of philosophical polemics. In my readings of Nicomachean Ethics, Protrepticus, and Phaedrus, I have laid an emphasis on the possibilities of reflective engagement with “Isocratean” ideas across the boundary of scholastic rivalry. I would not claim that this completely refutes the results of the scholarly game of detecting hostile allusions, especially between Isocrates and Plato. [106] It is my hope, however, that readers will return to those possible allusions with less certainty about their significance. In some cases, skepticism is needed to avoid the circular reinforcement of existing prejudicial constructs of these authors. For example, it is often repeated with near-certainty that Isocrates’ attacks on “eristics” in the proem of his Helen and elsewhere are aimed at Plato and his circle, rather than at the type of eristic whom Plato’s dialogues also engage in polemic. [107] Recently Sandra Zajonz has given persuasive and satisfying reasons for doubting this facile conclusion. [108] Yet it was precisely the less careful commonplace that Chroust, who applied it to Antidosis 258ff., uses to maintain the connection between the Antidosis and Aristotle’s Protrepticus. [109] Now, I have accepted on other grounds that Isocrates is, in fact, an important voice in the Protrepticus, but we may legitimately worry whether the edifice of common wisdom about Isocrates and Plato deserves our confidence. I have defended my doubts about whether Plato’s works can be read as simply inimical to Isocrates, but Chroust accepts this and makes it the necessary first link in the chain that leads him to see Aristotle’s early rhetoric lectures as having “taught this ‘new dialectics’ or scientific form of argumentation and presentation.” [110] If we are less certain about the tone and even reference of the intellectual position-taking we discover in our texts, then we will be less likely to base our understanding of the historical testimonia on questionable assumptions. Our direct examination of these testimonia shows them to be often cryptic and uncertain, and we should leave ourselves open to being surprised by the conditions of scholastic politics that they imply.
The likely motivations and concerns of Aristotle appear in a different light if we are more fully and open-mindedly acquainted with the surprisingly varied range of evidence for the interests and interactions of different but interconnected scholastic circles during the period when Plato (d.  348/7), Isocrates (d.  338), and Aristotle (d.  322) were all active. The historical sources understand Aristotle as fully engaged in a mode of education usually associated with rhetorical “rivals” to philosophy. It has usually been taken for granted that Aristotle championed a very Platonizing “cultural ideal” in these encounters, but this assumption may not be helpful. What seems beyond doubt is that Aristotle felt the rhetorical arena, and the Isocratean school, to be impossible to ignore and highly relevant to his own self-definition. Rather than joining Philodemus in denouncing Aristotle for this flexibility and curiosity about working in ta anthrōpina, we can better take these entanglements as a suggestive background against which to understand the range of approaches and ideas of the Aristotelian works we do possess (including the features with Isocratean affinities that we have explored in chapter 1).


[ back ] 1. For example, Depew (2004) takes the status of Aristotelian ethics, politics, and rhetoric as “third philosophy” to mean that Aristotle and Isocrates’ fundamental theories of knowledge and philosophy are so incompatible as to render insignificant the apparent analogies between their ideas, excluding Isocrates’ concerns from Aristotle’s conception of philosophy. Garver (2004) places a helpful emphasis on the two authors’ shared interest in the practical and particular, but with a strong focus on the limitations of the merely practical in the rest of Aristotle’s theory. Such comparative studies as Haskins 2004 have not looked beyond Aristotle’s Rhetoric for the matter of the comparison. Poster (1997:243) concludes that rhetoric’s role was “an unfortunate necessity” for Aristotle.
[ back ] 2. I am primarily concerned with developments in Aristotle’s career that unfolded, perhaps, in the middle 350s.
[ back ] 3. Cf. Chroust 1965, Viano 1967. For the position of this work, see below, chap. 5.
[ back ] 4. For some of the contradictions and nuances in this story, see Ford 2011:168f. and the literature cited at 214nn26f.
[ back ] 5. See also the version in Diogenes Laertius 5.3, where Ξενοκράτην is usually emended to Ἰσο-κράτην.
[ back ] 6. Blank 2007. Compare the earlier edition (of PHerc 832 col. 41.12–PHerc 1015 col. LIV.17 = Sudhaus 1896:57–59) and discussion of Angeli 1997.
[ back ] 7. PHerc 832, col. 36: see below.
[ back ] 8. Blank 2007:19.
[ back ] 9. The relevant passages of Philodemus’ Rhetorica may be consulted in Düring 1957:299–311 and Blank 2007. See Kleve and Longo Auricchio 1992 for an introduction to Philodemus’ Rhetorica, and Gigante 1999 for an account of relations between the Peripatos and Epicurus and his followers.
[ back ] 10. In particular, the call to political engagement is likely from one of the dialogues, perhaps the Statesman (Düring 1957:303, cf. Bignone 1936:II.97ff.). To see the rest as allied to this and likely to be of the same vintage is a matter of interpretation.
[ back ] 11. PHerc 1015 col. XLIX + PHerc 832 col. 38. At XLIX.5f., Düring 1957:303: “keeps up a kind of school in rhetoric” is perhaps better for ἔχοι δὲ ποσὴν τριβὴν ἐν τοῖς ῥητορικοῖς than Blank 2007:44: “has some familiarity with rhetoric,” given the constant association of the trib- stem with school activity.
[ back ] 12. The reference to protreptic survives even if the dialogue Protrepticus is not specifically meant. See Angeli 1997:11–15, suggesting a reference to the Aristotelian Gryllus “and to the exhortation to the youth, mediated by it, not to dedicate themselves to rhetoric qua non-art.”
[ back ] 13. PHerc 1015 col. LI.9–11, τὰ γεωμετρικὰ διδάξειν καὶ γραμματικὰ καὶ μουσικὰ καὶ τακτικά. Blank (2007:45n83) rightly finds that “This passage is still puzzling, and I have little confidence in its reconstruction.” At any rate, in XLIX.15f., γράμματα was included alongside παλαιστρική as an analogy for the suitability of rhetoric to children, so that, while acknowledging that Philodemus may here be listing pursuits somewhat more worthwhile than rhetoric (and not forgetting the sophisticated moral purpose for mousika that Philodemus argues elsewhere), the parallel supports my claim that these studies are all being considered here as distractions from wisdom.
[ back ] 14. PHerc 1015, col. LIV.10–17.
[ back ] 15. See Blank 2009:229f.
[ back ] 16. The usual restricted (rhetorical) interpretation of Isocratean philosophia may present an obstacle to this interpretation. But this group of testimonia suggests that Aristotle felt the need to challenge Isocrates intellectually as well as rhetorically. Mulvany (1926:167) argues this specifically with attention to the context in De oratore, concluding, “If Isocrates was merely a teacher of eloquence … then Aristotle could not contend with him except in rhetoric … In §139 we read that Timotheus was trained by Isocrates in the same accomplishments as Dio by Plato, Epaminondas by Lysis, Agesilaus by Xenophon, Archytas by Philolaus, and all Magna Graecia by Pythagoras; for, §140, there once was a single comprehensive system of instruction, which satisfied the needs both of the scholar and of the statesman … So the sense required in §141 … is that … Isocrates imparted both learning and eloquence, whereas Aristotle imparted learning only.” (Mulvany supports this interpretation by setting aside the clause quod … transtulisset, which all editors acknowledge involves some corruption.)
[ back ] 17. Nicomachean Ethics X 1181b15, cited by Düring (1957:303).
[ back ] 18. See e.g. Isocrates To Nicocles 35.
[ back ] 19. The work of these historians, which survives only in fragments, shows a range of interests that defies the label “rhetorical history” used by many scholars based on presuppositions about the Isocratean paideia. Arguments against the ancient sources’ testimony that Theopompus and Ephorus were Isocrates’ students are generally limited by taking for granted these same presuppositions about what it would mean to be an “Isocratean.” See the discussion in the following chapter.
[ back ] 20. See Blank 2009:229f. The seeds of Isocrates’ dual political/sophistical significance in the public arena as envisaged by Philodemus may be seen in nuce at Antidosis 84f., where Isocrates distinguishes himself from esoteric philosophers who have to exert themselves to attract students through protreptic (protrepein). Isocrates, in contrast, promotes a praxis of universally accessible virtue and intelligence (tēn aretēn kai tēn phronēsin … tēn hupo pantōn homologoumenēn, cf. Alexiou 2007), with both ethical and (pace Philodemus) political dimensions: “I endeavor to persuade the whole city to undertake the kind of actions from which they will both enjoy happiness themselves [eudaimonēsousin] and will rid the rest of the Greeks from their present evils.” Even the former is collective for Isocrates, read apart from Philodemus’ distorting lens.
[ back ] 21. Cf. Di Matteo 1997, who sees Philodemus’ allusions to Isocrates as integral to the polemic of the Rhetorica.
[ back ] 22. I.e. Isocratean “school” rhetoric (δοκοῦσαν ὁμοίαν Ἰσοκράτει ῥητορικήν, 43.1f.) or the “political” rhetoric Aristotle distinguished from this (τὴν πολιτικὴν ἣν ἑτέραν ἐκείνης ἐνόμιζεν, 43.4–6).
[ back ] 23. Blank makes the attractive suggestion τὰ παραινετικά based on the papyrus’ νετ̣ι̣κα.
[ back ] 24. I have followed Blank’s text, also accepting Sudhaus’s restoration of προκόψαντος (something of the kind is wanted).
[ back ] 25. Düring 1957:308.
[ back ] 26. Blank 2007:30. Compare the translation of Di Matteo (1997:124): “col tempo il progresso di Isocrate è innegabile, sì che, anche se prima insegnava la retorica, si ritrasse, come egli stesso disse, nel grembio della filosofia, più tranquilla e demonica della retorica.”
[ back ] 27. Blank 2007:30n71.
[ back ] 28. Blank 2009:229f., cf. Hubbell 1920:255–257; Di Matteo 1997:128–130, quoting the important passage, PHerc 1580, fr. 4 = Sudhaus 1896:122: Καὶ λέγουσι τὸν Ἰσοκράτην καὶ τὸν Γοργίαν καὶ τὸν Λυσίαν ὁμολογεῖν οὐκ ἔχειν ἐπιστήμην. Ἀπιθάνως δὲ λέγεται καὶ ἀδυνάτως, ἐπειδὴ τεχνῖται τε ἐπηγγέλλοντο εἶναι καὶ διδάξειν ἄλλους …, in which “Philodemus would be lashing out against all who declared—in his opinion ἀπιθάνως and ἀδυνάτως—that Isocrates, Gorgias, and Lysias had admitted not possessing knowledge” (with a good account following, 130ff., of the anti-rhetoric side of Philodemus’ argument); Ferrario 2007:217.
[ back ] 29. PHerc 1015 col. LI.12–19, following immediately on τὰ γεωμετρικὰ διδάξειν καὶ γραμματικὰ καὶ μουσικὰ καὶ τακτικά, quoted above. See Blank 2009:231 for additional passages in which Philodemus denies that “sophistic” training has any effective, real-world political result.
[ back ] 30. Hubbell 1920:320.
[ back ] 31. No doubt Philodemus’ construction of Isocrates in the role of sophist is very partial, but we lack the evidence that it is driven by duplicity, and we should consider the possibility that ambivalence or confusion about Isocrates’ actual status is also at play.
[ back ] 32. I will not attempt to review arguments for the dating of Phaedrus, but it is reasonable to suppose that its ideas, at least, were current in the Academy at this period.
[ back ] 33. This is a fairly widespread interpretation of Phaedrus, though there are those readers for whom not only this concluding passage, but every apparent overture towards rhetoric in the dialogue, can be interpreted away. Guthrie (1975:413) says that Phaedrus “by pretending to take [rhetoric] seriously only discovers that ‘true’ rhetoric is philosophy.” I hope I have shown in the preceding chapter how “only” is particularly awkward to reconcile with the rich complexity of the dialogue.
[ back ] 34. For a full discussion of these lists, see Moraux 1951.
[ back ] 35. Letters to Atticus II 1, no. 21, trans. Shackleton-Bailey 1999.
[ back ] 36. Ibid. XII 40, no. 241.
[ back ] 37. That this is so of Isocrates’ Philip and Evagoras will be argued in chap. 5.
[ back ] 38. See Moraux 1951:98–101. The ambiguous reference by “Aristotle” to ταῖς ὑπ’ ἐμοῦ τέχναις Θεοδέκτῃ γραφείσαις (Rhetoric to Alexander 1421a38) has evidently influenced the traditions.
[ back ] 39. But the statement of Berti (1962:180)—that “Theodectes would have himself occupied the chair of rhetoric in the Academy” after Aristotle’s departure from Athens—is, more than Berti seems to acknowledge, a speculative embellishment on the reference by Diels (1866:13) to the Academic Theodectes as “Lehrer der Beredsamkeit in Athen.”
[ back ] 40. Lynch 1972:63f.
[ back ] 41. See Matelli 2007 with bibliography.
[ back ] 42. See Martano 2007 with bibliography.
[ back ] 43. IG II2 2325b.
[ back ] 44. Library 176.120b31, 260.487a1.
[ back ] 45. Athenaeus 10.451ef = fr. 77 Wehrli = FGrHistCont 1026 F 48, ed. Bollansée (1999).
[ back ] 46. Other traditions name Theodectes together with Theopompus, Ephorus, and Cephisodorus, who are discussed below (e.g. Dionysius of Halicarnassus To Ammaeus 2).
[ back ] 47. Flower 1994:40f. Note that the parenthetical dates Flower assigns to Theodectes are too late to agree with the epigraphic evidence of his dramatic victories.
[ back ] 48. In chap. 5, I will show that the Mausolus competition was part of a larger pattern of novel prose funerary commemoration that originated in the Isocratean school.
[ back ] 49. FGrHist 115 F 25 = Photius Library 176.120b31–35.
[ back ] 50. FGrHist II D, p. 352, lines 11–34, ad 115 T 1.
[ back ] 51. See Flower 1994:14–17.
[ back ] 52. 52 GrHist 115 T 6a (Suda, s.v. Θεοδέκτης, θ 138, cf. T 6b, where Aulus Gellius 10.18.6 shares Photius’ difficulty with the obscurity of the lesser Isocrates, remarking sunt etiam qui Isocratem ipsum cum his certauisse memoriae mandauerint).
[ back ] 53. E.g. Flower 1994:60n63, seizing on the apparent availability of “the most difficulty for those who believe in the connection [between Theopompus and Isocrates] … in the words of Theopompus himself.”
[ back ] 54. “Isocrates (2): Son of Amyclas the philosopher, of Apollonia in Pontus (or Heraclea, according to Callistratus); the orator. Pupil and successor of the great Isocrates; he also studied with the philosopher Plato. This Isocrates took part in a rhetorical contest with Theodectes, the orator and tragic poet, and Theopompus of Chios, and also with Erythraeus of Naucratis, to give the funeral speech for Mausolus, the king of Halicarnassus. His speeches are five: Amphictyonic Speech; Protreptic [Προτρεπτικός, an intriguing connection to our discussion of Aristotelian and Isocratean protreptic in chap. 1]; On Not Making a Tomb for Philip; On Being Resettled; On His Own Political Career” (Suda ι 653, trans. Natoli, Suda On Line,
[ back ] 55. This tradition is accepted by, among others, Ostwald and Lynch (1994:602).
[ back ] 56. Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 1150b9; Poetics 1455a9, 1455b29; Rhetoric 1397b3, 1399b29, 1400a28, 1401a36.
[ back ] 57. Rhetoric 1398b6, 1399b1.
[ back ] 58. Rhetoric 1399a9: cited here as Socrates but clearly a reply to the charges against Socrates; for the fuller title, cf. Aristotle fr. 465 R3.
[ back ] 59. Training in Oratory 2.15.10. Cf. the proem attached to the Rhetoric to Alexander (1421b1, proem §§16f.), περιτεύξῃ δὲ δυσὶ τούτοις βιβλίοις, ὧν τὸ μέν ἐστιν ἐμὸν ἐν ταῖς ὑπ’ ἐμοῦ τέχναις Θεοδέκτῃ γραφείσαις, τὸ δὲ ἕτερον Κόρακος. (Here “Aristotle” gives examples of the particularly useful and well-written antecedent treatises he will incorporate into his present work: “You will find two such books, one of which is my own, viz., the Oratorical Art which I wrote for Theodectes, while the other is the treatise of Corax,” trans. after Revised Oxford Translation.)
[ back ] 60. Diogenes Laertius 5.24.
[ back ] 61. Orator 194.
[ back ] 62. ταῦτα δὲ Θεοδέκτης μὲν καὶ Ἀριστοτέλης καὶ οἱ κατ’ ἐκείνους φιλοσοφήσαντες τοὺς χρόνους ἄχρι τριῶν προήγαγον, ὀνόματα καὶ ῥήματα καὶ συνδέσμους πρῶτα μέρη τῆς λέξεως ποιοῦντες (De compositione verborum 2). Rose gives this, together with another branch of the same tradition, as Aristotle fr. 127 R3.
[ back ] 63. Life of Alexander 17.9.
[ back ] 64. Cf. the title of σοφιστής given him by Pollux Onomasticon 6.108.
[ back ] 65. Shorey 1909:185–187, 198. Simylus fr. 727 Lloyd-Jones and Parsons 1983 (who point out that the iambic poet who made these nondramatic verses is not the same as the comic poet, the two having been distinguished by Meineke) = Stobaeus 4.18α.4; Dionysius fr. 2 Kassel-Austin = Athenaeus 9.404e (on which further Giannini 1961). See also Strattis Atalante fr. 3 Kassel-Austin with the interpretation of Azoulay (2010:38f.).
[ back ] 66. On Isocrates of Apollonia see further Fricel-Dana 2001–2003.
[ back ] 67. To be discussed in chap. 5.
[ back ] 68. Eudoxus’ presence at the court of Mausolus—where so many Isocrateans competed on the occasion of the king’s death—is connected to his rivalry with Plato by Diogenes Laertius 8.87.
[ back ] 69. On Bryson see Giannantoni 1990:I.475–483, IV.107–113. The report of the Suda (s.v. Σωκράτης), connecting this Bryson (of Heraclea) with Euclides and the Megarian school, as suggestive as it would be for our purposes, may reflect conflation with a later philosopher.
[ back ] 70. Engels 1998:363 with n6.
[ back ] 71. Engels 1998:367f.
[ back ] 72. “Plutarch” Lives of the Ten Orators 836c, Engels 1998:364.
[ back ] 73. Olympiodorus, Commentary on Plato’s Gorgias 515c Westerink 41.10 p. 215.23–37 = FGrHistCont 1013 F 1.
[ back ] 74. Engels 1998:370.
[ back ] 75. According to the report of Photius Library 224.222b9ff. = FGrHist 434 F 1.
[ back ] 76. See chap. 5. “Plutarch” Life of Isocrates 837c reports that Isocrates accepted commissions and fees from Timotheus. For a productively political approach to Isocrates’ Timotheus, see Ober 1998:268–273.
[ back ] 77. Memnon repeats and confirms this.
[ back ] 78. οὐκ ἀπορήσεις τῶν ἐγκωμιασομένων τήν τε φρόνησιν τὴν σὴν καὶ τὴν προαίρεσιν ταύτην (1).
[ back ] 79. Memnon goes on to make a contrast between Clearchus and his brother Satyrus (Timotheus’ guardian), who was crueler still and who had no truck whatsoever with learning (mathēmata and philosophia).
[ back ] 80. Diogenes Laertius 7.2, SVF 1 T 11.
[ back ] 81. Habicht 1988:5.
[ back ] 82. Habicht 1988:5.
[ back ] 83. Habicht 1988:6.
[ back ] 84. The Gryllus will be discussed again in the context of competitive scholastic innovations in funerary commemoration in chap. 5.
[ back ] 85. This is the view of Berti (1962) and Chroust (1965). For a work by Speusippus entitled Gryllus, see Theys 1998:219n11.
[ back ] 86. See esp. Berti 1962:185, for the dating of Cephisodorus’ attack.
[ back ] 87. Dionysius of Halicarnassus Isocrates 18.
[ back ] 88. Düring 1957:390.
[ back ] 89. Jaeger 1948:37.
[ back ] 90. Düring 1957:389.
[ back ] 91. Cited according to Düring 1957:379 (T 63a).
[ back ] 92. See the introduction to the following chapter.
[ back ] 93. Indeed, in this passage, Aristotle and Cephisodorus are placed on the same side. Note that Düring (1957:389) is led—in part by his interpretation—to find “baffling,” and a “mistake,” the testimony of Aristocles of Messene (in Eusebius Praeparatio evangelica 15.13–15 = F 2, §7, in the edition of Chiesara [2001]). Chiesara (2001:72n6) does note that the more vulgar charges leveled by Cephisodorus according to Aristocles are not those we encounter in our other sources for Cephisodorus. In this she sees the likelihood of Aristocles’ dependence on Hermippus’ book On the Disciples of Isocrates. This is an alternative solution to the difficulty seen by Düring in what he considered the anachronistic charge against Aristotle of being tenthēs. In any case, Chiesara does not join Düring in questioning the unanimity of our evidence for Cephisodorus’ critical attitude towards Aristotle. And I must add once more that serious critiques may sometimes mingle with scurrilous slanders.
[ back ] 94. FGrHist 71.
[ back ] 95. Dionysius of Halicarnassus Isaeus 19 (trans. Usher 1974).
[ back ] 96. Stahr 1830–1832:I.68–71, II.42–46, II.285–288. Blass (1892:452) gives the same interpretation. The title Paroimiai is given in the catalogue of Aristotle’s works at Diogenes Laertius 5.26. It is interesting to observe in Stahr’s discussion how he too wrestled with the seeming ambiguity in our sources about whether Cephisodorus’ book was scurrilous or estimable. He accepts that Isocrates’ pupil defended his teacher in part by attacking Aristotle’s moral character, but he is impressed by the high regard in which Cephisodorus seems to have been held (Dionysius of Halicarnassus Isocrates 18 as cited above, Athenaeus 3.122ab, Themistius Sophistēs 285c3; the citation of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, however, depends on the confusion between Cephisodorus and Cephisodotus [a confusion also present in the manuscripts of Athenaeus], although it is parallel to Düring’s valid speculation on the basis of that work’s quotations of Isocrates).
[ back ] 97. Blass (1892:452) is allowing himself considerable license to speculate when he suggests that “ein beschränkter, wenig liberaler Sinn und eine unverständige Verachtung des Volks und seiner Weisheit” is to be seen in Cephisodorus’ criticisms of a work on proverbs.
[ back ] 98. Stahr 1830–1832:I.70f. Reinhardt (1873:43) suggests that Aristotle had Panathenaicus 117 in view.
[ back ] 99. Thus Blass (1892:451f.) characterizes Cephisodorus’ work as a “Schutzschrift für Isokrates gegen Aristoteles’ Angriffe, welche Schrift Dionysios ausserordentlich bewundert. Jene Angriffe werden, da sie veröffentlicht sein mussten, in dem Dialoge ‘Gryllos oder über die Rhetorik’ enthalten gewesen sein … und entsprechend scheinen auch die Angriffe gegen den Ankläger, die sich nothwendig mit einfanden, gemässigt gewesen zu sein; wenigstens hören wir nichts von ehrenrührigen Beschuldigungen.”
[ back ] 100. On Cephisodorus, see further the bibliography in Düring 1957:389.
[ back ] 101. CAG VIII, p. 216; see FGrHist 115 T 48, F 259, and F 359. Simplicius does not seem to quote popular versions of philosophical ideas.
[ back ] 102. Hoffmann 2006:605.
[ back ] 103. See Menchelli 2007.
[ back ] 104. οὐ τὸν τεχνικόν τε καὶ σοφιστικόν, ἀλλὰ τὸν ἔμφρονα καὶ φιλόσοφον τρόπον, Damascius, Life of Isidore fr. 282 Zintzen = The Philosophical History 108 Athanassiadi (trans. Athanassiadi 1999). Compare the identification of Proclus’ teacher Syrianus as Ἰσοκρατίων in Suda, s.v. Συριανός (σ 1662).
[ back ] 105. See Diogenes Laertius 4.11 (Xenocrates’ extant works are συγγράμματα καὶ ἔπη καὶ παραινέσεις) and 4.14 (three titles of the form pros + name).
[ back ] 106. Eucken 1983 is a starting point for exploring such evidence; important earlier work includes Teichmüller 1881–1884, Blass 1892:28–41, and Ries 1959.
[ back ] 107. For a more nuanced view, see Cooper 1986:87.
[ back ] 108. Zajonz 2002: esp. 86.
[ back ] 109. Chroust 1964.
[ back ] 110. I also question the use Berti (1962) and Chroust (1964) make of the testimony that Gorgias was Isocrates’ teacher; we have an extensive Isocratean corpus on which we may base our understanding of Isocrates, instead of substituting the convenient “sophist Gorgias.”