External influences: The Practical culture of Ionia
The theories of the Ionian physicists had not been able to interest more than a few, still less had they been able to draw away the mass of the people from the old poetical faith; nor had the Ionian chroniclers made any but the rudest approaches to a
written prose. But the national Wars of Liberation had quickened all the pulses of civic life. Freedom once secured, the new intellectual tendency took a definite shape. Men arose who, in contrast with the speculative philosophers, undertook to give a practical culture. This culture had representatives in every part of Greece. But, while in Sicily and Magna Graecia it was engrossed with Rhetoric, in Asiatic, and especially Ionian, Hellas it was more comprehensive. There, its essence was Dialectic, in connexion with a training sometimes encyclopaedic, sometimes directed especially to grammar or to literary criticism. These more comprehensive teachers were known by the general name of Sophists1
. Those who, like the Sicilians, had a narrower scope were sometimes called Sophists, but were especially and properly called Rhetors.
Protagoras of Abdera, the earliest of the Sophists
proper, was born about 485 B. C., and travelled throughout Greece, teaching, for about 40 years, from 455 to 415. The two things by which he is significant for artistic oratory are, his Dialectic, and the
Commonplaces which he made his pupils commit to memory. His Dialectic is famous for its undertaking to make the weaker cause the stronger. One of the uses of Rhetoric, as Aristotle says, is to succour truth when truth is imperilled by the weakness of its champion; but this is not the place to inquire whether Protagoras intended, or how far he was bound to foresee, an immoral application. As a mental discipline, his Dialectic was important to oratory, not merely by its subtlety, but by its treatment of the rhetorical syllogism. The prepared topics which his pupils learned seem to mark a stage when public speaking in general was no longer purely extemporary, but when, on the other hand, the speech was not, as in Antiphon's time, wholly written. In regard to language, Protagoras insisted on ὀρθοέπεια
—i.e. a correct accidence: but there is no proof that he sought to make a style; both the Ionic fragment in Plutarch2
and the myth in Plato (Protag. pp. 320 D—328 C
) are, for the prose of the time, simple, and they are free from the Gorgian figures.
Prodikos of Keos—the junior by many years of Protagoras—was neither, like the latter, a dialectician nor a rhetor of the Siceliot type, but rather, like Hippias, the teacher of an encyclopaedic culture. There is no reason to think that he, any more than Protagoras or Hippias, concerned himself with the artistic oratory of Gorgias. Xenophon gives in the Memorabilia
(II. i. §§ 21—33
a paraphrase of the ‘Choice of Herakles’
as related by Prodikos in his fable called Ὧραι
. When Philostratos4
says that he need not describe the style of Prodikos because Xenophon has sketched it, he is refuted by Xenophon himself, who observes that the diction of Prodikos was more ambitious than that of his paraphrase5
. There are certainly confusions of synonyms which the Platonic Prodikos distinguishes6
; and the only safe inference appears to be that, however faithful Xenophon may have been to the matter of the fable, he is a witness of no authority for its form. The true point of contact between Prodikos and the early Rhetoric is his effort to discriminate words which express slight modifications of the same idea, and which, therefore, were not ordinarily distinguished by poets or in the idiom of daily life. However unscientific his effort may have been, it at least represented a scientific tendency, which soon set its mark on literature as well as on thought. Two men who are said to have been pupils of Prodikos— Euripides and Isokrates—show clear traces of it; but, for reasons which will appear further on, it is especially distinct in the earliest phase of artistic oratory—in Antiphon, and above all in Thucydides.
Hippias of Elis is of no immediate significance
for our subject. Neither Dialectic nor Rhetoric was included, or at least prominent, in the large circle of arts and sciences which he professed to teach. Economics, Ethics and Politics—‘the faculty of managing public affairs along with his own7
’— formed his especial province. Like all the other Sophists, he touched, of course, the domain of grammar and prosody; his Τρωικὸς λόγος8
, a dialogue between Nestor and Neoptolemos, made pretensions to elegance of style, but probably not of a poetical or Gorgian cast9
; and, in Plato, Hippias assigns, not his oratory, but his political insight, as the ground of his selection as an ambassador by the Eleans10
Thrasymachos of Chalkedon stands in a far riper and more definite relation to Attic rhetorical prose, and will more properly be noticed in connexion with the progress from Antiphon to Lysias, when we come to look back on the development as a whole11
Summary: influence of the Ionian Practical culture.
These, then, were the two things by which the Eastern or Ionian school of practical culture prepared the ground for Attic oratory: first and chiefly, popular Dialectic; secondly, in the phrase of Protagoras, orthoepy—attention to correctness in speaking or writing. In contrast with the Eastern
Dialectic stands the Western Rhetoric. In contrast with the Ionian study of correct diction, ὀρθοέπεια
, stands the Sicilian study of beautiful diction, εὐέπεια