Philostratus of Athens, Lives of the Sophists

LCL 134: 4-5

Go To Section
Go To Section


πολλὰ εἰδέναι πατέρα μὲν τοῦ δεῖνος ἐξεπίστασθαι καὶ μητέρα, τὰς δὲ περὶ αὐτὸν ἀρετάς τε καὶ κακίας οὐ γιγνώσκειν, μηδ᾿ ὅ τι κατώρθωσέ τε οὗτος καὶ ἐσφάλη ἢ τύχῃ ἢ γνώμῃ. τὸ δὲ φρόντισμα τοῦτο, ἄριστε ἀνθυπάτων, καὶ τὰ ἄχθη σοι κουφιεῖ τῆς γνώμης, ὥσπερ ὁ κρατὴρ τῆς Ἑλένης τοῖς Αἰγυπτίοις φαρμάκοις. ἔρρωσο Μουσηγέτα.


Τὴν ἀρχαίαν σοφιστικὴν ῥητορικὴν ἡγεῖσθαι χρὴ φιλοσοφοῦσαν· διαλέγεται μὲν γὰρ ὑπὲρ ὧν οἱ φιλοσοφοῦντες, ἃ δὲ ἐκεῖνοι τὰς ἐρωτήσεις ὑποκαθήμενοι καὶ τὰ σμικρὰ τῶν ζητουμένων προβιβάζοντες οὔπω φασὶ γιγνώσκειν, ταῦτα ὁ παλαιὸς σοφιστὴς ὡς εἰδὼς λέγει. προοίμια γοῦν ποιεῖται τῶν λόγων τὸ “οἶδα” καὶ τὸ “γιγνώσκω” καὶ “πάλαι διέσκεμμαι” καὶ “βέβαιον ἀνθρώπῳ οὐδέν.” ἡ δὲ τοιαύτη ἰδέα τῶν προοιμίων εὐγένειάν τε προηχεῖ τῶν λόγων καὶ φρόνημα καὶ κατάληψιν σαφῆ τοῦ ὄντος. ἥρμοσται 481δὲ ἡ μὲν τῇ ἀνθρωπίνῃ μαντικῇ, ἣν Αἰγύπτιοί τε καὶ Χαλδαῖοι καὶ πρὸ τούτων Ἰνδοὶ ξυνέθεσαν, μυρίοις ἀστέρων στοχαζόμενοι τοῦ ὄντος, ἡ δὲ τῇ θεσπιῳδῷ τε καὶ χρηστηριώδει· καὶ γὰρ δὴ καὶ τοῦ Πυθίου ἐστὶν ἀκούειν


Lives of the Sophists

well informed, to know precisely who was So-and-so’s father and mother, yet fail to learn what were the man’s own virtues and vices, and in what he succeeded or failed, whether by luck or judgement. This essay of mine, best of proconsuls, will help to lighten the weight of cares on your mind, like Helen’s cup with its Egyptian drugs.1 Farewell, leader of the Muses!

Book I

We must regard the ancient sophistic art as philosophic rhetoric. For it discusses the themes that philosophers treat of, but whereas they, by their method of questioning, set snares for knowledge, and advance step by step as they confirm the minor points of their investigations, but assert that they have still no sure knowledge, the sophist of the old school assumes a knowledge of that whereof he speaks. At any rate, he introduces his speeches with such phrases as “I know,” or “I am aware,” or “I have long observed,” or “For mankind there is nothing fixed and sure.” This kind of introduction gives a tone of nobility and self-confidence to a speech and implies a clear grasp of the truth.2 The method of the philosophers resembles the prophetic art which is controlled by man and was organized by the Egyptians and Chaldeans and, before them, by the Indians, who used to conjecture the truth by the aid of countless stars; the sophistic method resembles the prophetic art of soothsayers and oracles. For indeed one may hear the Pythian oracle say:

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.philostratus_athens-lives_sophists.1921