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David D. Phillips, with K. Kapparis, edition of March 27, 2003

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· Isocrates ·

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Isocrates (Isoc. 16).
Isocrates (Isoc. 21).
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Isocrates son of Theodorus (436-338) came from a prosperous Athenian family and studied philosophy as well as rhetoric in his youth. For roughly a decade after the Peloponnesian War, which greatly reduced his family’s assets, Isocrates worked as a speechwriter; six of his forensic speeches (16-21) survive. Around 390, however, he gave up speechwriting (a profession he would later vilify) and turned to teaching. Isocrates’ educational program professed to combine the art of rhetoric with the pursuit of morality; he thus distinguished himself both from pure theoreticians and from those concerned only with persuasion regardless of truth. His students included the historians Theopompus of Chios and Ephorus of Cyme, the orators Isaeus, Hypereides, and Lycurgus, and the general Timotheus.

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Isocrates (Isoc. 7).
Isocrates (Isoc. 4).
Isocrates (Isoc. 5).
Isocrates (Isoc. L. 2).
Isocrates (Isoc. L. 3).
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Isocrates did not participate in Athenian politics in person; he attempted to influence policy by publishing written pamphlets and letters rather than by delivering speeches in the Assembly. Although he was careful to employ the rhetoric of democracy, Isocrates displayed marked oligarchic tendencies; for example, in the “Areopagiticus” (7). He also made his voice heard regarding foreign policy: he was a strident advocate of panhellenism, and his foremost goal was a united Greek invasion of Persia. In the “Panegyricus” (4), published in 380 after at least ten years of composition, Isocrates proposed an expedition under the joint command of Athens and Sparta. But the subsequent rise of Philip II of Macedon provided Isocrates with a new choice of hegemon, and he appealed repeatedly to Philip (in the “Philippus” (5) of 346 and in Epistles 2 and 3) to lead the Greeks against Persia. Disappointed by the results of the battle of Chaeroneia in 338, Isocrates starved himself to death, and thus did not live to see his proposal put into effect by Philip’s son and successor, Alexander the Great. (See also Oratory.)

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