Gorgias (c. 483 BC – 375 BC), philosopher
Gorgias ( /ˈɡɔrdʒiəs/; Greek: Γοργίας, Ancient Greek: [ɡorɡías]; “the Nihilist”; c. 485 – c. 380 BC), Greek sophist, pre-socratic philosopher and rhetorician, was a native of Leontini in Sicily. Along with Protagoras, he forms the first generation of Sophists. Several doxographers report that he was a pupil of Empedocles, although he would only have been a few years younger. “Like other Sophists he was an itinerant, practicing in various cities and giving public exhibitions of his skill at the great pan-Hellenic centers of Olympia and Delphi, and charged fees for his instruction and performances. A special feature of his displays was to invite miscellaneous questions from the audience and give impromptu replies.”
His chief claim to recognition resides in the fact that he transplanted rhetoric from his native Sicily to Attica, and contributed to the diffusion of the Attic dialect as the language of literary prose.
Gorgias originated from Leontini, a Greek colony in Sicily, and what is often called the home of Spartan rhetoric. It is known that Gorgias had a father named Charmantides and two siblings – a brother named Herodicus and a sister who dedicated a statue to Gorgias in Delphi (McComiskey 6-7).
He was already about sixty when in 427 he was sent to Athens by his fellow-citizens at the head of an embassy to ask for Athenian protection against the aggression of the Syracusans. He subsequently settled in Athens, probably due to the enormous popularity of his style of oratory and the profits made from his performances and rhetoric classes. According to Aristotle, his students included Isocrates. (Other students are named in later traditions; the Suda adds Pericles, Polus, and Alcidamas, Diogenes Laërtius mentions Antisthenes,and according to Philostratus, “I understand that he attracted the attention of the most admired men, Critias and Alcibiades who were young, and Thucydides and Pericles who were already old. Agathon too, the tragic poet, whom Comedy regards as wise and eloquent, often Gorgianizes in his iambic verse”).
Gorgias is reputed to have lived to be over one hundred years old. He accumulated considerable wealth; enough to commission a gold statue of himself for a public temple. He died at Larissa in Thessaly.
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