III[3arg] The reason and the occasion which are said to have introduced Protagoras to the study of philosophical literature.
THEY say that Protagoras, a man eminent in the pursuit of learning, whose name Plato gave to that famous dialogue of his, in his youth earned his living as a hired labourer and often carried heavy burdens on his back, being one of that class of men which the Greeks call ἀχθοφόροι and we Latins baiuli, or porters. He was once carrying a great number of blocks of wood, bound together with a short rope, from the neighbouring countryside into his native town of Abdera. It chanced at the time that Democritus, a citizen of that same city, a man esteemed before all others for his fine character and his knowledge of philosophy, as he was going out of the city, saw Protagoras walking along easily and rapidly with that burden, of a kind so awkward and so difficult to hold together. Democritus drew near, and [p. 387] noticing with what skill and judgment the wood was arranged and tied, asked the man to stop and rest awhile. When Protagoras did as he was asked, and Democritus again observed that the almost circular heap of blocks was bound with a short rope, and was balanced and held together with all but geometrical accuracy, lie asked who had put the wood together in that way. When Protagoras replied that he had done it himself, Democritus asked him to untie the bundle and arrange it again in the same way. But after he had done so, then Democritus, astonished at the keen intellect and cleverness of this uneducated man, said: “My dear young man, since you have a talent for doing things well, there are greater and better employments which you can follow with me” ; and he at once took him away, kept him at his own house, supplied him with money, taught him philosophy, and made him the great man that he afterwards became. Yet this Protagoras was not a true philosopher, but the cleverest of sophists; for in consideration of the payment of a huge annual fee, he used to promise his pupils that he would teach them by what verbal dexterity the weaker cause could be made the stronger, a process which he called in Greek: τὸν ἥττω λόγον κρείττω ποιεῖν, or “making the worse appear the better reason.”