Plato’s Counterfeit Sophists

  Tell, Håkan. 2011. Plato's Counterfeit Sophists. Hellenic Studies Series 44. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

2. Wisdom for Sale? The Sophists and Money

Plato constantly accuses the sophists of teaching for money. For example, in the Hippias Major (282c–d) Socrates elaborates a distinction between the wise men of old, who did not think it right to charge fees, and the sophists of his own day, who all made huge profits from their instruction. This comparison is not incidental; it is absolutely integral to Plato’s characterization of the sophists and their practices. But why is money so important as a distinguishing trait? In this chapter I will argue that it is not a descriptive term reflecting historical realities—that the sophists were the first to charge money for wisdom—but rather that the close association of the sophists with money is redolent of disparagement and bias, a fact that scholars have perhaps not paid sufficient attention to. [1] In what follows I will explore some possible connotations this connection carried in antiquity, and I will also develop reasons why Plato adopted it as basic to his portrayal of the sophists.

I will argue that teaching for pay was an inflammatory charge to which all sophoi, to one degree or another, were susceptible. It is important that we allow for a split between historical realities—about which we often know very little—and the way that those realities were expressed. A fee can be described as a gift or a bribe, but the practice of charging money can also go without comment. The language surrounding monetary transactions in antiquity is notoriously difficult to assess. Of particular sensitivity is the language surrounding sophia and the commodification of wisdom. Indeed, a favorite way to undermine the authority of a sophos (or public figures in general) was to suggest that they had monetary motivations and were driven by greed. We need to read the accusations—which is really what they are—against the sophists of exacting fees in light of these considerations.

Sophists and Money in the Platonic Tradition

Similar attitudes can be found in the Sophist (223b). There the visitor gives a definition of the expertise of the sophists. He describes it as belonging to the moneychanger’s trade (νομισματοπωλικῆς), since it is a chase of rich and prominent young men (νέων πλουσίων καὶ ἐνδόξων γιγνομένη θήρα). [6] This juxtaposition of sophists and fees is ubiquitous in Plato. E. L. Harrison has collected some thirty passages where the two are mentioned in conjunction, and he argues that this association is essential to Plato’s portrayal of the sophists:

It should be clear that if Plato is not outright condemning the sophists for taking fees, he is also not using a value neutral language when describing their practices. Far from it: they are regularly portrayed as more interested in procuring material rewards for their services than in worrying about the intellectual content or effect of their sophia. All this is in sharp contrast to his characterization of Socrates in the Apology, where Socrates’ commitment to wisdom and the moral development of his fellow citizens has reduced him to all but total poverty. This hostile attitude towards the sophists is picked up and further elaborated by Xenophon and Aristotle. In the Cynegeticus (13.8–9), for example, Xenophon asserts that:

The sophists speak to deceive and write for their own profit (κέρδει), and they never benefit anyone in any way. There neither was nor is any wise man (σοφός) among them, but each one of them is content to be called a sophist, which is a reproach, at least among prudent men (παρά γε εὖ φρονοῦσι). I thus recommend that you shun the precepts (παραγγέλματα) of the sophists, but that you do not dishonor the arguments (ἐνθυμήματα) of the philosophers. The sophists hunt young and wealthy men (πλουσίους καὶ νέους θηρῶνται), while the philosophers are common (κοινοί) to and friends with all; they neither honor nor dishonor the fortunes of men.

The phrase πλουσίους καὶ νέους θηρῶνται echoes the line νέων πλουσίων … θήρα of the Sophist quoted above, and the thematic content of the passage—that the sophists prioritize money over wisdom and are thus undeserving of serious intellectual consideration—is perfectly in line with Platonic sentiments. Aristotle makes the same connection in the Sophistical Refutations (165a22): “The sophist is a trafficker (χρηματιστής) in what seems to be, but is not, wisdom (σοφία).” In the Memorabilia (1.6.13), Xenophon employs a double strategy of first asserting and then condemning what he sees as an inherent connection between money and wisdom (the latter predicated on the former) among the sophists. But this time he adds an extra layer of opprobrium by expanding on the cultural implications associated with offering one’s personal qualities for sale:

Here Xenophon establishes a thematic sequence consisting of wisdom, money, and prostitution, in which the interference of the intermediary phase—money—runs the danger of corrupting and even conflating the things of the mind with the sphere of the body. [
10] This is, of course, exactly the opposite trajectory of what we are wont to see in Plato. [11] In the Symposium and the Alcibiades I, for example, love (ἔρως) is restricted to using the physical as an initial stepping stone only to climb the philosophical ladder and ultimately reject the body in favor of the mind, thus gradually transforming itself from a physical, sexual desire directed at a specific individual to a generic non-physical love of the beautiful. [12] By reversing this trajectory and by introducing the concept of intellectual promiscuity, Xenophon invites us to appreciate the contentiousness of his portrayal of the sophists. In this antagonistic depiction the mention of teaching for money is crucial in allowing the association of sophistic sophia with the body and, ultimately, with prostitution. Read in this way, teaching for pay takes on a more sinister facet than has previously been recognized, and it paves the way for the successive ubiquitous complaints of the speciousness of sophistic wisdom.

The fourth-century CE philosopher Themistius is a testament to the enduring relevance of the Platonic tradition. When trying to clear himself of accusations of being a sophist, he invokes Plato’s definition in the Sophist (231d):

According to the first in the list of arguments (καταλόγου τῶν λόγων) that Plato established with respect to the sophists, to be a sophist means charging the young and wealthy men (νέων καὶ πλουσίων) for any form of instruction (ἐφ’ ὅτῳ δὴ σχήματι παιδείας).


Themistius understands Plato’s definition of sophist to include anyone who teaches for pay, regardless of the content of the instruction:


In Themistius’ mind, then, the sole criterion for distinguishing a sophist hinges on whether he charges money for instruction. Considerations of intellectual content (e.g. rhetoric vs. dialectic; relativism vs. idealism) are of less relevance than this formal characteristic. To Themistius, just as to Socrates in the passage from Xenophon’s Memorabilia quoted above (1.6.13), the pecuniary focus of the sophists inevitably disqualifies them from being considered serious philosophers and consigns them to the sphere of the body. Themistius is careful to highlight the difference between himself, who improves both the body and the mind of his students, and the sophists, whose focus is exclusively on the body:

But if he should care for the body (σαρκός) while plotting against the mind (τῇ διανοίᾳ), he would be a sophist and impostor (ἀλαζών).


The sixth century CE Platonic commentator Olympiodorus brings the significance of the theme of teaching for pay into focus in his comments on a passage in Plato’s Alcibiades I. At 119a4 Socrates says that Pythodorus and Callias became wise by associating with Zeno, and that each paid him a hundred minas (ἑκάτερος Ζήνωνι ἑκατὸν μνᾶς τελέσας). “Why,” writes Olympiodorus, “did Zeno exact a fee, if he was a philosopher?” He goes on to speculate about possible reasons: to accustom his students to despise money, or to assist the poor by taking from the rich. The assumption seems to be that philosophy is incompatible with teaching for money, and Olympiodorus consequently concludes that Zeno “pretended to take money without taking it,” (91–92 Westerink). But why is Olympiodorus so hesitant to accept this portrayal of Zeno in the Alcibiades I? Gregory Vlastos is very helpful in clarifying what such a portrayal would entail: “To so represent him [Zeno] is to portray him unmistakably as a professional sophist.” [14] Olympiodorus presumably reached similar conclusions, that is, that teaching wisdom for pay is shorthand for sophist, and that is the reason for his consternation. [15] In accounting for this portrayal, Vlastos faced a dilemma. He either had to accept the depiction of Zeno as a sophist by Plato—which would question Zeno’s traditional inclusion in the canon of the Presocratic philosophers—or else he had to reject the Alcibiades I as inauthentic:

A little later Vlastos revisits the issue of the dialogue’s inauthenticity and writes:

But there is a case to be made that the two portrayals of Zeno in the Alcibiades I and Parmenides are not necessarily incompatible. [
18] To begin with, in the Parmenides 128b–e Zeno says that he wrote his book in a youthful competitive spirit and that it was later published through unauthorized copying. This seems to imply that to Plato Zeno’s work was predominantly eristic in nature and had more affinities with the sophists than with philosophers. In Phaedrus 261b–e it is presumably Zeno who is intended by the epithet “the Eleatic Palamedes” whose rhetorical skill is such that “his listeners will perceive the same things to be both similar and dissimilar, both one and many, both at rest and also in motion” (trans. Gill and Ryan). This portrayal reinforces the picture from the Parmenides that to Plato Zeno’s work was predominantly eristic in character, and it does not seem entirely unreasonable to think that Plato regarded him as a sophist. The question remains why Vlastos would find the Zeno-sophist portrayal incompatible with his characterization as “Parmenides’ right-hand man.”

Nevertheless, as representatives of the Platonic tradition, both Olympiodorus and Vlastos found it puzzling, even impossible, to accept as sincere the designation of Zeno as teaching for pay by Plato, and so they devised different strategies to circumvent this dilemma: Olympiodorus postulated hidden motivations for Zeno’s behavior, while Vlastos challenged the Platonic authorship. To both, however, teaching for pay had become synonymous with being a sophist, even though Plato himself never explicitly made that connection or used the word sophist in connection with Zeno.

Thus far we have seen that there is a remarkable unity of attitudes in the representations of the sophists in the Platonic tradition. This tradition exhibits a thematic emphasis on money over wisdom, on body over mind, in stark opposition to the Platonic valorization of the intellect. More than anything, though, the lasting effect, as exemplified by Xenophon, Themistius, Olympiodorus, and Vlastos, is that the definition of “sophist” became based on a formal characteristic rather than on intellectual content. Next we shall turn to old comedy and Isocrates to see to what extent this unanimity of attitudes is reflected there as well.

Sophists and Money in Old Comedy and Isocrates

In surveying Blank’s testimonia for popular discontent with the sophists, I have chosen to divide the material into five sections. We shall first treat Plato’s predecessors and contemporaries in old comedy (1) and Isocrates (2). Next, we shall consider the evidence found in Philostratus (3). Finally, we shall deal with two groups (4–5) of predominantly later sources that offer testimonia regarding the one hundred mina fees of Zeno, comments on Protagoras and Gorgias, and miscellaneous remarks about the sophists and fees.

Following Nestle, [23] Blank quotes liberally from the comic fragments to illustrate attacks on the sophists’ avaricious practices. But his treatment is often problematic. For example, when referring to Eupolis’ Κόλακες, he translates fragment 175 (K-A) as: “neither fire nor spear nor sword could keep sophists from coming to dinner” (1985:5), though there is no equivalent for the word sophists in the Greek (οὐ πῦρ οὐδὲ σίδηρος / οὐδὲ χαλκὸς ἀπείργει / μὴ φοιτᾶν ἐπὶ δεῖπνον). Storey offers a different interpretation of this passage, one where the sophists have no place at all: “I suspect it comes from the parodos, when the chorus of kolakes enters. The chorus would be describing their own abilities.” [24] Blank assigns Protagoras as the speaker of fragment 172 (K-A), although there is no evidence to support the view that the chorus consisted of sophists or indeed had anything to do with sophistical practices. [25] Storey has recently argued that such associations are mistaken: “these kolakes do not sound the least bit sophistic in fr. 172; they are expert spongers, and it is that picture that Eupolis is exploiting here.” [26] Blank also incorrectly represents Plato Comicus as criticizing the sophists’ greed, [27] when his remark is in fact limited only to Antipon’s φιλαργυρία. [28] He further writes (1985:5) that in Ἀστράτευτοι ἢ Ἀνδρογύνοι (fr. 36, K-A) Eupolis “referred to the sophists who spent their time ‘in the nicely shaded walks of the god Akedemos.’” But here, too, Blank seems to be mistaken: [29] “the associations of the Academy c. 420 are surely those of athletics rather than intellectuals.” [30] Finally, Blank’s assertion (1985:5) that the chorus of Eupolis’ Αἶγες was “comprised of goats representing sophists,” seems equally unwarranted. [31]

In the Antidosis (220) he asserts that the income of a sophist is contingent upon the moral development of his students: the better the student, the larger the earnings. He describes the successful students as “noble, honorable and wise and held in great esteem by their fellow citizens” (καλοὶ κἀγαθοὶ καὶ φρόνιμοι … καὶ παρὰ τοῖς πολίταις εὐδοκιμοῦντες). This characterization strikes a different tone from what we find in the Platonic dialogues, where the very possibility of teaching someone to be καλὸς κἀγαθός for a fee is questioned. In the same speech (155–156), in an effort to downplay the rumored gains of the sophists, Isocrates mentions that Gorgias—in his view the most successful of the sophists—left behind only a thousand staters despite his dedication to money-making. At the beginning of the Helen (2–3), Isocrates identifies particular individuals as sophists. He speaks disparagingly of their intellectual activities and criticizes them for “caring for nothing else but to make money off of the youth” (χρηματίζεσθαι παρὰ τῶν νεωτέρων, Helen 6). But the individuals that Isocrates singles out as sophists in the Helen significantly differ from the Platonic equivalent: Isocrates names Protagoras, Gorgias, Zeno, and Melissus. [36] Elsewhere he also refers to Solon, Empedocles, Ion, Alcmaeon, and Parmenides as sophists, [37] and he alludes to Plato’s Republic and Laws as sophistical works in a remark in To Philip (12). [38]

As opposed to the unsympathetic treatment of the sophists in the Platonic tradition—a treatment that seems motivated by their portrayal as greedy peddlers of specious wisdom—Isocrates offers a more nuanced critique. In Against the Sophists (4) he points to the discrepancy between their practice of charging fees while publicly downplaying the importance of money:

They say that they have no need for money, dismissively referring to wealth as worthless silver and gold (ἀργυρίδιον καὶ χρυσίδιον τὸν πλοῦτον ἀποκαλοῦντες), but in their desire for a small profit they promise to make their students all but immortal (μικροῦ δὲ κέρδους ὀρεγόμενοι μόνον οὐκ ἀθανάτους ὑπισχνοῦνται τοὺς συνόντας ποιήσειν).

In Isocrates there is a distinction between what the sophists say and what they do: their official position is to dismiss the value of money—presumably in line with dominant social norms—while privately pursuing monetary gains. What upsets Isocrates is that they deviate from their publicly stated position. In contrast to Plato’s one-dimensional picture of sophistic greed, Isocrates acknowledges two points about teaching for pay: one that the sophists themselves publicly promote (disregard for money), and one that attracts Isocrates’ censure (greed). Far from openly announcing their fees, the Isocratean sophists are careful, at least rhetorically, not to violate the propriety of the social norms by presenting themselves as engaged in money-grabbing practices. They do not publicly endorse the practice of offering instruction for money, nor do they describe their relationship with students as an economic rapport between producer and consumer.

Money and Sophia

Teiresias is repeatedly referred to as σοφός [81] and is welcomed on stage as a well-disposed and potentially salutary figure. When he first appears in Oedipus Rex (300), for example, he is heralded by Oedipus as possessing omniscient powers and as being the sole savior of the state, the one on whom they were all depending (ἐν σοὶ γὰρ ἐσμέν, 314). After Teiresias’ initial refusal to share his divinely inspired information (φάτιν, 323), Oedipus gently prods him by pointing out that his unwillingness to share his knowledge is not a grateful gesture vis-à-vis the city that nurtured him (οὔτε προσφιλῆ πόλει / τῇδ’, ἥ σ’ ἔθρεψε, 322–323). Oedipus’ strategy consists in emphasizing the bonds of kinship and mutual dependency that exist between them to compel the seer to volunteer his information. When Teiresias finally speaks out and reveals that it is Oedipus who is the murderer of Laius, Oedipus quickly discards any remaining notions of affinity and accuses Teiresias of conspiring against him with Creon. He goes on to add that Teiresias has eyes only for profits but is blind in respect to his art (ἐν τοῖς κέρδεσιν / μόνον δέδορκε, τὴν τέχνην δ’ ἔφυ τυφλός, 388–389). There is thus a complete reversal of the initially cordial reception: Teiresias goes from being a savior to an impostor and quack (μάγος and ἀγύρτης, 387–378). [82] In connection with this emotional turnaround, Oedipus introduces the accusation of greed.

To judge from his cordial reception, we can infer that Teiresias’ advice was well-received in the past, and that his socially elevated position depends on his previously successful guidance. As opposed to comedy, tragedy does not convey an exclusively negative picture of seers as butts of abuse, but tends instead to focus on the breakdown in reciprocity, when cordiality turns into invective. What motivates this charge, then, is not the historical realities—all seers were greedy and all too willing to sell their wisdom for money—but the rhetorical strategy of attacking one’s opponent’s weakest point. The allegation of greed and bribery accomplishes precisely that: it undercuts the authoritative position of the sophos by implying that he has ulterior motives.


[ back ] 1. Blank 1985:3 is an exception to this trend: “The testimonia referring to the fees, wealth, and mode of life of the sophists are tinged with both envy and disgust. They are extremely difficult to interpret, both in specific and in their general tendency.”

[ back ] 2. For a discussion of what is meant by the Platonic tradition, see chapter one, 22.

[ back ] 3. Blank 1985:6.

[ back ] 4. Laches 186c; Meno 91b; Protagoras 310d, 313c, 349a; Gorgias 519c–d; Hippias Major 281b–283b; Sophist 223a, 224c, 226a. Quoted from Corey 2002:189n4.

[ back ] 6. I agree with Harrison 1964, when he remarks that, although this is a reference to “the eristical type of sophist … it makes little difference whether he is a genuine successor of Protagoras or merely a degenerate Socratic: he is still a true sophist in the Platonic sense, i.e. he teaches rhetoric and makes money out of it,” 191n46. Cf. 231d, where the first definition of the sophist is given: νέων καὶ πλουσίων ἔμμισθος θηρευτής, “hired hunter of wealthy young men.”

[ back ] 7. Harrison 1964:191 and n44.

[ back ] 8. For the meaning of παρ’ ἡμῖν, see Morrison 1953 and Pendrick 2002:229.

[ back ] 9. ὥσπερ πόρνους was deleted by Ruhnken and then Sauppe.

[ back ] 10. For an exploration of the mind-body division in Plato, see Robinson 2000.

[ back ] 11. This observation is indebted to Kurke’s discussion (unpublished manuscript) of the philosophical trajectory from the body to the soul in the Alcibiades I.

[ back ] 12. See Ferrari 1992 for a fuller account of the role of ἔρως in Plato.

[ back ] 13. In reaching the conclusion that anyone who teaches for pay is a sophist, Themistius refers to Plato’s Protagoras (316d–317a), where the athletic trainers Iccus from Taras and Herodicus from Selymbria are outed as sophists, since this was their true identity, despite their attempts to hide under the veil of athletics out of fear of public hatred. Themistius goes on to say that Plato so designated them because they made money off of young men (ὅτι ἐχρηματίζοντο ἀπὸ τῶν νέων). But this is not the emphasis of Protagoras’ speech. He focuses instead on his ability to educate men better than their own relatives and acquaintances. The issue of remuneration is ignored by Plato’s Protagoras.

[ back ] 14. Vlastos 1975:155.

[ back ] 15. Zeno is never explicitly called a sophist in Plato. Isocrates (Helen 2) calls him a sophist along with Protagoras, Gorgias, and Melissus.

[ back ] 16. Vlastos 1975:156.

[ back ] 17. Vlastos 1975:156.

[ back ] 18. I owe this point to one of CP’s anonymous readers (cf. Tell 2009).

[ back ] 19. Blank 1985.

[ back ] 20. Blank 1985:1 and 3. See also his useful compilation of relevant testimonia (25–49); cf. Nestle 1942:455–476.

[ back ] 21. Blank’s reconstruction of popular discontent with Protagoras, Prodicus, Hippias, and Thrasymachus is based exclusively on Plato and thus needs no comment. As for Eupolis’ attack on Protagoras in Κόλακες (fr. 157 K-A) for being “the aliterios who speaks nonsense about the heavenly phenomena while eating the things from the ground,” this has nothing to do with Protagoras’ fees or monetary ambitions; it pokes fun at the discrepancy between his unworldly intellectual pursuits and earthly desires. For a discussion on how to translate aliterios, see Storey 2003:185–187.

[ back ] 22. The following survey will be based on the sources Blank has collected in his 1985 paper “Socratics Versus Sophists on Payment for Teaching.” I have occasionally left out or included an additional item to Blank’s list. For the most part, however, I have attempted to adhere closely to his sources.

[ back ] 23. Nestle 1942, esp. 455–476.

[ back ] 24. Storey 2003:191.

[ back ] 25. Blank 1985:6. Storey translates the fragment in the following way (2003:17): “We shall now describe to you the life which the spongers lead. Hear first that we are clever men in every way. First we have a slave attending us, mostly someone else’s, but a little bit mine as well. I have two good cloaks and putting on one or the other I head off to the Agora. When I see some fellow there, not too bright but very rich, I am all over him at once. Whatever this rich man utters, I praise to the skies and I stand there struck, pretending to enjoy his words. Then we go our various ways to dine off another man’s bread. There the sponger must come out with many witty things immediately or be chucked out the door. I know that’s what happened to Akestor (used to be a slave); he made a really bad joke, and the slave took him outside with a collar round his neck, and handed him right over to Oineus.”

[ back ] 26. Storey 2003:192.

[ back ] 27. “The sophists’ reputation for greed grew along with their bank balances. Plato the comic poet mentions their greed (φιλαργυρία),” 5. My emphasis.

[ back ] 28. Plato Comicus Peisandros 110 (K-A) = [Plutarch] Lives of the Ten Orators 833c: κεκωμῴδηται δὲ (sc. Ἀντιφῶν) εἰς φιλαργυρίαν ὑπὸ Πλάτωνος ἐν Πεισάνδρῳ.

[ back ] 29. Nestle 1942:459, too, thinks that the mention of Academus is meant to refer to a crowd of philosophers and sophists.

[ back ] 30. Storey 2003:78.

[ back ] 31. See Storey’s discussion of the play, 2003:67–74.

[ back ] 32. There is considerably more interest devoted to Socrates’ person in old comedy. For references and discussions, see, for example, Dover 1968; Patzer 1994; Imperio 1998; Carey 2000; Whitehorne 2002; and Edmunds 2006.

[ back ] 33. Carey 2000:427. Protagoras is mentioned by Eupolis in Kolakes, frs. 157–158 (K-A).

[ back ] 34. Carey 2000:430.

[ back ] 35. For Plato’s and Isocrates’ contention over philosophia, see discussion in introduction n3, and chapter one n4–5, n51, and n76.

[ back ] 36. For a list of the Platonic sophists, see chapter one, 34.

[ back ] 37. Isocrates uses the word thirty-three times: Helen 2 and 9; To Philip 12–13 and 29; To Demonicus 51; Busiris 43; Panegyricus 3 and 82; To Nicocles 13; Panathenaicus 5 and 18; Antidosis 2, 4, 148, 155, 157, 168, 194, 197, 203, 215, 220–221, 235, 237, 268, 285, and 313; Against the Sophists title, 14, and 19; fragments 8 and 17.

[ back ] 38. See chapter one for a fuller discussion of the differences between Plato’s and Isocrates’ sophists.

[ back ] 39. 13.13; cf. 13.7 and 13.9. See Too 1995:156–161, for a discussion of the stratification of the targets of Isocrates’ invective.

[ back ] 40. He is reported not to have charged Athenian citizens, only students from abroad (see Forbes 1942:20, and Too 1995:109). This claim seems to be based on Isocrates’ remark in Antidosis 39, where he states that all his wealth has come from abroad (ἐμοὶ δὲ τὰς εὐπορίας … ἔξωθεν ἁπάσας γεγενημένας).

[ back ] 41. “In several works he insists that by offering counsel to certain individuals he is continuing the friendship which he had with their fathers (cf. Epistle 5.1; Epistle 6.1). He specifically asks the addressees of Epistle 6 to consider the epistle as xenia, as a token of guest-friendship (4),” Too 1995:110. For the importance and relevance of the institution of xenia in general, see Herman 1987.

[ back ] 42. Too 1995:109–111. “In the prefaces to To Demonicus and To Nicocles Isokrates characterises the advice he gives to his addressees as a gift (dōron, To Demonicus 2; dōrean, To Nicocles 2),” 111.

[ back ] 43. For the importance of χάρις in Isocrates, see Too 1995:109. For χάρις in the orators, see Ober 1989:226–230 and 236 with bibliography.

[ back ] 44. For an exhaustive discussion of banausia, see Nightingale 1995:56–59, esp. n93. See also Nightingale 2004:123–127.

[ back ] 45. See Kurke 1991:85–107 for Pindar’s employment of the language of ξενία and χάρις in respect to his patrons and audience.

[ back ] 46. The most obvious example of such attacks is perhaps Aristophanes’ treatment of Socrates in the Clouds and the defense mounted by the Platonic tradition; cf. Owen’s (1986) illuminating discussion of “Philosophical Invective.”

[ back ] 47. When it comes to Plato and Aristotle, for example—who both accuse the sophists of taking fees—we have only vague ideas of how they financed their schools: “Very little is known about the financial aspect of either school. Plato accepted gifts of money from Dion, Dionysios, and others (Epistle 13). There is similar evidence that support from Alexander the Great was one of the means by which Aristotle’s school was able to carry on some of its more elaborate research,” Lynch 1972:83. See Forbes 1942 for a general discussion of the evidence of teaching for pay in antiquity.

[ back ] 48. For Isocrates’ invective in Against the Sophists, see Too 1995:161–164.

[ back ] 49. Too 1995:160–161.

[ back ] 50. Carey 2000:430.

[ back ] 51. Lives of the Sophists 1.10.

[ back ] 52. Protagoras 349a.

[ back ] 53. Lives of the Sophists 1.13.

[ back ] 54. Lives of the Sophists 1.12.

[ back ] 55. Lives of the Sophists 1.11.

[ back ] 56. Vlastos 1975:159, esp. n114. Zeno: Alcibiades I (119a). Protagoras: Diogenes Laertius 9.52; scholion to Plato, Republic 600c Greene. Gorgias: Diodorus Siculus 12.53.2; Suda [Gorgias].

[ back ] 57. Vlastos 1975:160.

[ back ] 58. Kerferd 1981:27.

[ back ] 59. This story was also retold by Roman authors. For discussion and references, see Forbes 1942:18, esp. n45.

[ back ] 60. 23.286b–c; cf. 289c–d.

[ back ] 61. “[I]f we had been considering the orators and not the philosophers it would have seemed no more than a commonplace that there are stock forms of abuse in fourth-century invective, conventional slanders which can be employed with little or no care for the facts,” Owen 1986:357. See Worman’s (2008) recent exploration of how the language of insult operates in Greek literature, which has chapters devoted to Plato, Aristotle, and Theophrastus.

[ back ] 62. Lloyd 1979:16–17. For practitioners of medicine as sophoi and members of the Greek wisdom tradition, see e.g. Lloyd 1979 and Thomas 2000. There is a strong link between wisdom and healing in figures such as Epimenides, Empedocles, and Alcmaeon. For examples of doctors as sophoi in Plato, see, for instance, Lysis 210a, Euthydemus 280a, Theages 123d–e, and Epinomis 976a. All references to the Sacred Disease are from the edition of Jones 1923.

[ back ] 63. We need to be careful not to maintain or assign exact meanings to these terms of abuse. They are generally employed in reference to anyone singled out for strong censure. Cf. Lloyd’s (1979:56) comments regarding the practice of accusing one’s rivals of practicing magic or of being magicians in the Hippocratic corpus: “The connotations and denotations of these terms are not fixed (any more than those of ‘charlatan’, ἀλαζών, were); rather they are used of what particular writers happen to disapprove of.”

[ back ] 69. Socrates (Apology 19b–c) refers to Aristophanes’ representation of him in the Clouds as slander (διαβολή).

[ back ] 70. Aristophanes stages a χρησμολόγος in the Birds and a μάντις in the Peace. “A μάντις is one who interprets divine signs: a χρησμολόγος is one who has a store of oracles,” Platnauer 1964:154. See also Mikalson 1991:92 and n118 for bibliographical references; and Flower 2008:58–65 for the differences among seers, priests, and oracle-singers.

[ back ] 71. Cf. Flower 2008:147. This is, of course, not to ignore the similarities (more commonly noted among scholars) between seers and poets: “Now poets and seers were closely related, as both were dependent on kings, were inspired, led itinerant lives, were often represented as blind, and pretended to possess supernatural knowledge,” Bremmer 1996:102. On seers, see Burkert 1983 and 1985; Roth 1984; Smith 1989; Mikalson 1991; Dillery 2005; and Flower 2008.

[ back ] 72. Teiresias: Bacchae 178–179, Oedipus Rex 484; cf. Calchas: Iphigeneia in Tauris 662 and Ajax 783, and seers in general in Rhesus 65–66. For a discussion of the early Greek wisdom tradition, see Guthrie 1971, esp. 27–32, and Kerferd 1976. [ back ] The necessity to split Teiresias’ competence in the Bacchae into two (as does Mikalson 1991:95 and 147)—one pertaining to mantic expertise and one pertaining to traditional qualities of the wise man—is thus unnecessary; the figure of the seer was ipso facto a wise man.

[ back ] 73. Herodotus 2.49; Aristophanes Clouds 331–334; Dio Chrysostom 32.39. References quoted from Kerferd 1950:8. For the sophistic qualities of Teiresias in the Bacchae, see Roth 1984 and Smith 1989.

[ back ] 74. Bremmer 1996:97. Cf. 1996:100. For the elite status of many seers, see Flower 2008, esp. 5–6 and 47.

[ back ] 75. Griffith forthcoming.

[ back ] 76. Cf. Laws 909b, where Plato accuses religious experts of being willing to use their expertise to wreak havoc on individuals, homes, and cities for the sake of money (χρημάτων χάριν). For a discussion of the Greek conception of magic and the use of the terms ἀγυρτής and μάντις in Plato’s Republic, see Graf 1997, esp. 20–29.

[ back ] 77. For example, Callias’ house in the Protagoras and Callicles’ in the Gorgias. Plutarch (Pericles 36.3) also chronicles Pericles’ association with known sophists, especially Protagoras.

[ back ] 78. Grube 1961:404, quoted from Roth 1984:60n4.

[ back ] 79. Roth 1984.

[ back ] 80. For Teiresias in Greek tragedy, see Flower 2008:204–208.

[ back ] 81. For references, see n72.

[ back ] 82. It is of particular interest that Oedipus chooses to call Teiresias an ἀγύρτης and μάγος here. The author of The Sacred Disease uses the same words to attack all who assert that the sacred disease is divine (he adds καθαρταί and ἀλαζόνες to the list), and Plato employs ἀγύρτης in the Republic (364b–c) to brand seers as greedy peddlers of fraudulent religion.

[ back ] 83. Already in the Odyssey (2.186), Eurymachus scolds Halitherses for his interpretation of a bird portent, and charges him with trying to procure gifts for his own household.

[ back ] 84. See Flower 2008:188–210, who outlines what a successful consultation between diviner and client would have looked like.

[ back ] 85. Plato’s treatment of the sophists deviates from this pattern, since he avoids the epithets ἀλαζών, ἀγύρτης, and μάγος in conjunction with his criticism of their practice of charging money. But his satirical portrayal of them as hunters of the young (Sophist 221–223) and as retailers in wisdom (Protagoras 313d) leaves little doubt that his remarks belong to an abusive context (for more examples, see discussion above: 40–41); Plato seems to be more concerned in his choice of epithets with emphasizing the trend towards unchecked commodification of wisdom among the sophists—a fact that Xenophon’s likening them to prostitutes perfectly illustrates (Memorabilia 1.6.13).

[ back ] 86. For discussions of bribery and the many inflated charges found there, see, e.g. Perlman 1976; MacDowell 1983; Harvey 1985; and Taylor 2001a and 2001b..

[ back ] 87. The practice of charging money seems to have been common among poets, artists, and doctors. For references and discussion, see Kerferd 1981:25 and Lloyd 1987:92n152.