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Ion's hymn to Kairos

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Chapter Summary

Ion of Chios wrote a hymn to Kairos. Nothing survives but this 'title', attested six hundred years on by the periegete Pausanias. The antiquarian-oriented poet Antimachus named one of Adrastus' horses "Kairos"; a fragment suggests that Menander made kairos a god. Kairos is commonly translated as "opportunity". This is a later sense; indeed, kairos eventually becomes synonymous with chronos or time, and, as such, it is understandable why it is often associated with precise arts like chariot-racing, navigation, medicine and cooking. Kairos was something of a Sophistic buzz-word. Once again, chronology provokes a question: was Ion in Athens when Gorgias visited in 427? A work Peri Kairou is ascribed to Gorgias, and it is conjectured that he was the first to produce such. Kairos is all-important for the orators: in the rhetorical manuals, kairos stresses the importance of the "à-propos": in subject, in timing, in delivery, in audience, in everything.

Keywords: Antimachus; Athens; Gorgias; Ion's hymn; Kairos; Pausanias



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