Plato's sophists, intellectual history after 450, and sokrates

Robert W Wallace*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

16 Scopus citations


Plato's Sophists A series of figures whom Plato called “the sophists” were among the most prominent intellectuals working in Athens during the second half of the fifth century. By a traditional consensus based largely on his testimony, the sophists were traveling wisdom professors for hire, especially in the art of rhetoric. Plato's principal sophists include Protagoras of Abdera, Gorgias of Leontini, Prodikos of Keos, Hippias of Elis, and Thrasymachos of Chalcedon. Less prominent sophists include the Athenians Antiphon, Kallikles, Kritias, the Chian brothers Euthydemos and Dionysodoros, and Polos of Akragas. Most of these figures are featured in Plato's dialogues, and some seven dialogues bear sophists’ names. The sophists were among Plato's constant preoccupations, for reasons we shall see. Plato and his followers sharply distinguish the sophists from the philosophers who worked before and after them. “Never before had such teachers been seen, never such teaching.” “Philosophers”–our sense of this term is also Platonic–investigated metaphysical, political, and ethical questions in search of the truth. “Sophists” taught expository and argumentative techniques to those who sought success in public life (Pl. Prt. 316b, 319a). Rhetoric “brings freedom to men and to each man dominion over others,” Plato's Gorgias proclaims. “Possessed of such power you will make the doctor and the trainer your slaves; your businessman will prove to be making money not for himself but for another, for you who can speak and persuade multitudes†Gorg. 452d—e).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to the Age of Pericles
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781139001151
ISBN (Print)9780521807937
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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