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So Sophocles would say that the man exhibited the preliminaries of tragedy, not tragedy itself, and Acumenus that he knew the preliminaries of medicine, not medicine itself.

Exactly so.

Well then, if the mellifluous Adrastus1 or Pericles heard of the excellent accomplishments which we just enumerated, brachylogies and figurative speech and all the other things we said we must bringto the light and examine, [269b] do we suppose they would, like you and me, be so ill-bred as to speak discourteously of those who have written and taught these things as the art of rhetoric? Would they not, since they are wiser than we, censure us also and say, “Phaedrus and Socrates, we ought not to be angry, but lenient, if certain persons who are ignorant of dialectics have been unable to define the nature of rhetoric and on this account have thought, when they possessed the knowledge that is a necessary preliminary to rhetoric, that [269c] they had discovered rhetoric, and believe that by teaching these preliminaries to others they have taught them rhetoric completely, and that the persuasive use of these details and the composition of the whole discourse is a small matter which their pupils must supply of themselves in their writings or speeches.”

Well, Socrates, it does seem as if that which those men teach and write about as the art of rhetoric were such as you describe. I think [269d] you are right. But how and from whom is the truly rhetorical and persuasive art to be acquired?

Whether one can acquire it, so as to become a perfect orator, Phaedrus, is probably, and perhaps must be, dependent on conditions, like everything else. If you are naturally rhetorical, you will become a notable orator, when to your natural endowments you have added knowledge and practice; at whatever point you are deficient in these, you will be incomplete. But so far as the art is concerned, I do not think the quest of it lies along the path of Lysias and Thrasymachus. [269e]

Where then?

I suppose, my friend, Pericles is the most perfect orator in existence.


All great arts demand discussion and high speculation about nature; for this loftiness of mind and

1οὐδ᾽ εἰ Τανταλίδεω Πέλοπος βασιλεύτερος εἴη γλῶσσαν δ᾽ Ἀδρήστου μειλιχόγηρυν ἔχοι, “not even if he were more kingly than Pelops and had the mellifluous tongue of Adrastus.”
” Perhaps the orator Antiphon is referred to under the name of Adstratus, cf. chapter xliii. above.

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