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Chapter Two The Sophists and the Forms of λόγος

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Chapter Summary

Right from the Homeric poems, words had occupied a fundamental position in Greek thought and literature. During the 5th century the use of the spoken word became the subject for a profound reflection by a group of philosophers who are traditionally known as Sophists. Helen Gorgias embarked on a profound reflection on the nature and power of discourse in the Encomium of Helen. He set out to justify Helen from accusations that her conduct had brought about the Trojan War and hence the Greeks' dire sufferings. According to ancient tradition, Gorgias was the inventor of speeches of praise and blame. Both Syrianus and Maximus Planudes reported that Dionysius of Halicarnassus attributed to Gorgias a few demegoric speeches and a greater number of epideictic speeches. With the Encomium of Helen Gorgias inaugurated the practice of composing encomia which deal with mythological and paradoxical subjects.

Keywords: ancient tradition; Encomium of Helen; epideictic speeches; Greek literature; Helen Gorgias; sophists; Trojan War

10.1163/9789004258846_004
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