Early relations with the Sophists.
Nearly all the popular sophists of that day are named as teachers of Isokrates1
. Prodikos, skilled in the distinguishing of synonyms, seems to have been esteemed by Sokrates; and it is probable that Isokrates, like Xenophon, was a pupil of both.
Protagoras may have helped to form, by grammatical studies, a style which was afterwards as correct as it was free. Theramenes was the master through whom Isokrates first knew the art of Gorgias. Of all the merely literary influences which reached
Isokrates, that of Gorgias was by far the strongest. Isokrates was not, indeed, a mere imitator. His matured style was not only severer but more completely artistic than that of Gorgias can ever have been. But the first literary inspiration of Isokrates came from the great Sicilian rhetorician; and it is another proof of the astonishing natural force, the power of impressing and fascinating, which Gorgias certainly possessed. It was probably not until about 390 B. C., after he had begun his professional life at Athens, that Isokrates came into personal contact with Gorgias. He then visited Gorgias in Thessaly2
; and, in all likelihood, brought back with him the idea of the work which occupied him for the next ten years,—the Panegyrikos.