1. Plato, Phaedrus 261b-c: Then you have heard only of the technai on rhetoric by Nestor and Odysseus, which they wrote when they had nothing to do at Troy, and you have not heard of that by Palamedes? – Nor of Nestor's either, unless you are disguising Gorgias under the name of Nestor and Thrasymachus or Theodorus under that of Odysseus.

See Gercke, Hermae 32, 342 sq. An epigram found at Olympia (Kaibel Ep. gr. 875b: ‘No mortal has discovered an technē better at training the soul for contests of virtue than that of Gorgias’), put there by his relative Eumolpos, may refer to rhetoric, but this is uncertain. Equally uncertain is the possible testimony about a written technē in Plat. Philebus 58C: ‘You will not be hated by Gorgias if, while you grant that his art is best for the sake of the practical needs of people…’ The reference found in Philostratus ep. 73 p. 364 K.: ‘They say that Aspasia of Miletus, Perikles’ girlfriend, whetted her tongue with Gorgias’ art,’ is linked by H. Krauss, Aeschinis Socr. rell. p. 44 n. 45, to a written treatise by Gorgias, since at the time that Gorgias cam to Athens Pericles had already died. On the treatise see again the long discussion in Nestle 310 f.


2. Diogenes Laertius 8.58: (Satyros says that) Gorgias of Leontini was a student of Empedocles, who excelled in rhetoric and left behind a technē.

Quint. 3.1.8: ‘Gorgias of Leontini, a student of Empedocles, as they say.’


3. Diodorus Siculus 12.53.2: This man invented rhetorical technai.


4. Sopatros 5.7.10: see above A V 22.


5. Excerpts…: Gorgias of Leontini – in Athens – and Isocrates both wrote a “Technē”.


6. Syrianus, Commentary on Hermogenes: Dionysius the older in his second book on characters, speaking about Gorgias, writes: “I have come across no forensic speeches of his, but a few political ones and some technai.”

From Syrianus is taken Maximus Planudes W V 548, 8 f. Among the technai of Gorgias seem to have been playthings (paignia), such as the encomium of Helen.


7. Plato, Gorgias 450b-c: (Gorgias says:) The entire knowledge in those other technai is almost wholly concerned with manual work and similar activities, whereas in rhetoric there is no such manual working, but its whole activity and efficacy is through speeches. For this reason I claim for the rhetorical technē that it is concerned with speeches.

Olympiodorus ad loc. p. 131 J. 32 N.: ‘Those with expertise on style deal with the two styles, the manual and the effective, as if they were not spoken. But they are not telling the truth. We say therefore that, since Gorgias is the speaker, that Plato derives from him the notion that the two styles is local, for Gorgias was from Leontinoi.’ From here apparently comes the scholium on this passage in Plato.


8. Plato, Philebus 58a: I would often hear from Gorgias that the technē of persuasion is much different from any other, for it enslaves everything under itself through persuasion, not force.

Philodemus perhaps is referring to Gorgias in On Rhetoric 2.2.7 above S.: ‘He claimed he would lead by his speeches the listeners wherever he wants.’


9. Plato, Gorgias 452e: (Gorgias says:) I call it the ability to persuade with speeches either judges in the law courts or councillors in the council-chamber or the assemblymen in the Assembly or an audience at any other meeting that may be held on public affairs. And I tell you that by virtue of this power you will have the doctor as your slave, and the trainer as your slave; your money-getter will turn out to be making money not for himself, but for another, in fact for you, who are able to speak and persuade the multitude. – (Socrates:) I think now, Gorgias, you have come very near to showing us the technē of rhetoric as you conceive it, and if I at all take your meaning, you say that rhetoric is a producer of persuasion, and has therein its whole business and main consummation. Or can you tell us of any other function it can have beyond that of effecting persuasion in the minds of an audience?

John Doxop. on Aphthonius Prog. W II 104 = P. S. p. 107, 8 R.: ‘Gorgias refers to it as the manufacturer of persuasion’, cf. Proleg. W VII 6 sq. = P. S. p. 190, 6 and 191, 9, which refer these words to the Platonic Gorgias. So already Quint. 2.15.4 f., 18. Cf. also Helen par. 13. But the following definition, 455A-B, is proposed as an invention by Socrates himself.


10. Anonymous author: From Plutarch’s works on Plato’s Gorgias: the definition of “rhetoric” according to Gorgias: “Rhetoric is a technē whose specific force is about speeches, manufacturer of persuasion in political speeches with respect to any given subject, aiming at persuading, not at teaching. Its most peculiar concern is with what is just or unjust, good or bad, noble or base.”

Bernardakis produces the same words from the codex Ambrosianus in Plut. mor. ed. VII praef. LIII. Diels Vors. 76 A 28 n. and others, starting with Spengel (A. S. 35. Abh. d. bayr. Ak. d. Wiss. 1851 p. 458), think that they are a conflation from Plato’s Gorgias. To Plato refers Philod. On Rhetoric II p. 3, col. XII 8: ‘having their completion (kuros) by persuasion through words’, cf. Sext. Emp. Against the Mathematicians II 2. We have Philod. II 181 fr. IV S.: ‘Blaming Gorgias, they want to put him on trial about the naivete of the Greeks, since all disciplines have their completion (kuros) through words’, where kuros, however, is an invention of Sudhaus: if you follow the papyrus, you will complete the text as ‘disciplines and arts through words’.


11. Scholion on Plato, Gorgias 457a: Aristotle and Gorgias share the same opinion on rhetoric: the latter said that both the serious and the corrupt orator have the same knowledge but make different choices.

Cf. Arist. rhet. 1355b15 f. with the n. by Spengel II p. 31.


12. Plato, Gorgias 457a-c: So it is not the teachers who are wicked, nor is the technē either guilty or wicked on this account, but rather, to my thinking, those who do not use it properly. Now the same argument applies also to rhetoric: for the orator is able, indeed, to speak against every one and on every question in such a way as to win over the votes of the multitude, practically in any matter he may choose to take up […]. And, in my opinion, if a man becomes an orator and then uses this power and this technē unfairly, we ought not to hate his teacher and cast him out of our cities. For he imparted that skill to be used in all fairness, whilst this man puts it to an opposite use.

Philod. On Rhetoric I p. 333, 6 S.: ‘At the same time they defend their technē saying it is not bad, but people use it badly’. Anonymus on Iamblichus fr. 3. Isocrates 3.4. Arist. rhet. 1355 b 2. Scholium on εἰς στάσεις W IV 57, 1. Ad Herennium 2.27.44. Cicero inv. 1.50.94. Philod. II p. 75 fr. 13. Sextus Emp. Against the Mathematicians II 43. See also Gorgias Hel. 14.


13. Plato, Meno 95c: That is a point, Socrates, for which I admire Gorgias: you will never hear him promising this, and he ridicules the others when he hears them promise it. Skill in speaking is what he takes it to be their business to produce.

14. Plato, Gorgias 449a-b: in the same way, you must now state what is that technē, and what we ought to call Gorgias; or rather, Gorgias, do you tell us yourself in what technē it is you are skilled, and hence, what we ought to call you. – Rhetoric, Socrates. – So we are to call you a rhetorician? – Yes, and a good one. […] – And are we to say that you are able to make others like yourself? – Yes, that is what I profess to do, not only here, but elsewhere also.

15. Cicero, On Invention 1.5.7: Gorgias of Leontini, one of the most ancient rhetoricians, thought that an orator could speak best of all about any topic.

Cf. above fr. 12, taken from Platon Gorg. 457A, Cic. de orat. 3, 32, 126 and 129.

16. Philodemus, On Rhetoric: The same confusion is found in the claim put forward by some,[2] that it is only or mainly rhetoric that can find out which kind of speech can be used in any given matter, so much so that some have even claimed that this is precisely the object of this technē. […] Second, if they claim that rhetoric finds out the proper kind of speech to be used in anything related to medicine, music, geometry and so on, they must think rhetoric is all of these disciplines and, naturally, according to this claim they would seem to be experts on everything.

See ibid. II 103 fr. IX a. On the subject cf. Plato's Gorg. 456 A f.

17. Plato, Gorgias 454b: Well then, I mean that kind of persuasion, Socrates, which you find in the law-courts and in any public gatherings, as in fact I said just now; and it deals with what is just and unjust.

18. Plato, Phaedrus 267a-b: And shall we leave Gorgias and Tisias undisturbed, who saw that probabilities are more to be esteemed than truths, who make small things seem great and great things small by the power of their words, and new things old and old things the reverse, and who invented conciseness of speech and measureless length on all subjects?

Cf. Soph. 259 D. One must believe that Gorgias in some way connected the length-and-brevity method with the art of the good opportunity; thus Alcidamas On Wisdom 22 f. (Scheel 18). ‘Measureless length’ seems to mean what Philod. On Rhetoric I p. 239, 5 calls ‘to form a sea in one’s speeches’ (and ‘examine and reject the short ones’), Polyb. 34.4.5: ‘to form an ocean’.


19. Aristotle, Rhetoric 3.17.11 1418a35: This is what Gorgias meant when he said that he was never at a loss for something to say; for, if he is speaking of Peleus, he praises Achilles, then Aeacus, then the god; similarly courage, which does this and that, or is of such or such a kind.

Cf. Isocrates 9.13-17 (Vahlen) and below on Lycophron (B XXVI 1).

20. Plato, Gorgias 449b-c: (Gorgias:) There are some answers, Socrates, that necessitate a lengthy expression: however, I will try to be as brief as possible; for indeed it is one of my claims that no one could express the same thing in briefer terms than myself. – That is just what I want, Gorgias: give me a display of this very skill—in brevity of speech; your lengthy style will do another time.


21. Plato, Gorgias 473e: What is that I see, Polus? You are laughing? Here we have yet another form of refutation—when a statement is made, to laugh it down, instead of disproving it![3]

The scholiast ad loc.: ‘This is one of Gorgias’ teachings: to blow up the opponent’s seriousness with laughter and to knock out the jokes with seriousness’.

22. Aristotle, Rhetoric 3.18.7 1419b4: the advice of Gorgias was good: to confound the opponents' earnestness with jest and their jest with earnestness.

Aristoph. Wasps 567. Cic. Brut. 53.197: ‘He turned the minds of all who were present from earnestness to hilarity, which is one of the three things I said (49, 185) an orator must be able to achieve’. Cf. de orat. II 58.236 f., Anaximenes 35 p. 84, 17 H. ‘One must be ironical even while blaming and poke fun at the opponent on matters he is serious about’. But Philod. On Rhetoric II p. 49 col. XLVIII S. (attacking Nausiphanes): ‘It is not possible to do rhetoric seriously if one is joking’. On the power and value of seriousness and ridicule see also Xen. Cyrop. II 2, 12 f.; Quint. 6.3.11: ‘Ridicule, however, whatever it is, I don’t want to claim it totally lacks an art of its own, since there is some attention paid to it and there are teachings regarding it both in Greek and in Latin works; I simply assert that it is peculiarly dependent on nature and opportunity.’ That is, physis and kairos. Cf. the following.

23. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, On Composition (?): I think we ought to mind the middle path in everything; for this is the best measure of pleasure and pain. So far, however, neither a rhetor nor a philosopher has defined a technē of the middle path, and even Gorgias of Leontinoi, who first attempted to write about it, came up with nothing worthwhile on the subject. This thing can by its own nature not be pressed into a general and rigorous definition; the middle path cannot even be pursued through rigorous science, but only through opinion.

Cf. Philostratus Lives of the Sophists, book 1 proem. p. 203, 10 K.: ‘Gorgias is thought to have started the tradition of improvising speeches: he stepped up in the theatre of Athens and dared to say “give me the topic”, thus for the first time uttering such a dare. In this way he communicated that he knew everything and would speak about any topic as the moment demanded’. Ibid. l. 19: ‘Gorgias, mocking Prodicus for uttering old and commonplace stuff, gave himself over to the present moment; he did not, however, avoid incurring ill-will.’

24. Plato, Phaedrus 272a: When he has acquired all this, and has added thereto a knowledge of the times for speaking and for keeping silence, and has also distinguished the favorable occasions for brief speech or pitiful speech or intensity and all the classes of speech which he has learned, then, and not till then, will his art be fully and completely finished.

Kairos is a concept mentioned often by the Attic orators and can be understood as opportunity derived from the condition of things or of the times, cf. e. g. Thucyd. 2.43.2, 6.9 f., Demosth. Olynth. 1.24. It is described excellently by the author of To Demonicus (Isocr. 1.41): ‘Assume there are two kinds of kairos for speaking: either speak about what you know well, or about what you must say something.’ Compare Gorgias, Epitaphios: ‘May I be able to say what I want to, and want what I have to.’ That in the eyes of these sophists there was an affinity between what is necessary and what the occasion demands is also shown be the Dialexeis, which teach (5.9): ‘We must also discuss whether the wise or the fools speak when appropriate. It is however received wisdom that while both groups say the same things when someone asks them, the wise will speak at the right moment, whereas the fools will speak when it is not the right time.’ Also, the author of On Justice (Plat. 375 A) says: ‘In my opinion, when each of these things is done at the right time, the right kairos, it is just, and when at the wrong time, it is unjust’, and we ought to compare what follows as well, see also Dial. 2.19 f. (H. Gompers 166 f. refers these words to Protagoras [sic]). Longinus On Rhetoric 559 W p. 187, 13 H. is perhaps the last author to draw on this tradition with the words: ‘He measures duty by kairos, necessity and beauty/honor’.

Aristotle himself, when in Rhet. 1361a32 teaches that ‘many gain respect through seemingly small things, but place and time are the cause’, plainly means the ‘where’ (places) and the ‘when’, which can be confirmed from Top. 1.15 p. 17 a8: ‘Sometimes it comes down to the “when”, such as what is good at a particular time.’

Less narrowly Demosthenes (23.122): ‘Up to this point ought one, I think, both to love and to hate, without missing the kairos of either.’ Read also Hermogenes On Ideas β p. 396, 12 Sp.: ‘It is the hallmark of great and fully developed knowledge to know how to and be able to conform to the kairoi. This is the true ability […], to know when to use each form of speech and each idea, and where, and toward whom and how and under which conditions.’ I add that Hermogenes (On Invention 1.4 p. 186 Sp.) knew of a proem ‘named for the kairos’. Finally, Gorgias in Palamedes 22: ‘If you saw it, please tell these gentlemen the manner, the place, the time, when, where, how you saw it.’ From this one can at least surmise that Gorgias in his writing on kairos dealt with such artifices as are observed from the occasion. We do not know, however, how he did it. How to apply the examples of the ancestors in the kairos is taught after Gorgias by Isocrates according to W. Suess, Ethos 19. I personally would like, however, that we understood more clearly what Dinarchus (1.31) says about Demosthenes: ‘While he used the most kairoi in public speeches, he missed all the kairoi that were on your behalf,’ for there a distinction is openly made between rhetorical and political kairoi. But perhaps he means the topoi, cf. 1.17: ‘and he did not mention the kairoi nor think something different from what he said in his public speeches.’ Cf. Isocrates 10.11. See below n. on Isocr. 2.33. – Hence comes the idea of ‘good kairos’ (eukairia): Plat. Phaedr. 272 A, Arist. Rhet. 1408 b and others. Tzetzes Theogon. 734f.: ‘I am wont to observe faces, places, characters, the kairoi and facts and to write down what is appropriate.’ Cf. Nestle p. 317 n. 54.


25. Quintilian, 3.1.12: Gorgias and Protagoras are reported to have been the first to deal with topoi.

On the teaching structure cf. Arist. Soph. el. 183 b 36.

26. Cicero, Brutus 12.46-47: (They say that there) were written and edited disputes on well-known issues, which are now called topoi. Gorgias is said to have done the same, writing as he did praises and criticisms of each single thing, for he thought that this was an orator’s typical field of expertise, his being able to strengthen something through praise and to cut it back down through blame.

Philod. rhet. I p. 214, 1 S., attacking the sophists in book 4: ‘The are alone in claiming to be able both to praise and to blame anything without exception.’  See what follows. A subtle disputation on this topic is found in Plat. Rep. 492 B, and compare it with what Isocrates recounts in Panath. (12) 18 f.

27. Aristotle, Politics 1260a 21-27: The temperance of a woman and that of a man are not the same, nor their courage and justice, as Socrates thought […]; those who enumerate the virtues of different persons separately, as Gorgias does, are much more correct than those who define virtue in that way. – Plato, Meno 71e-72a: First of all, if you take the virtue of a man, it is easily stated that a man's virtue is this, that he be competent to manage the affairs of his city, and to manage them so as to benefit his friends and harm his enemies, and to take care to avoid suffering harm himself. Or take a woman's virtue: there is no difficulty in describing it as the duty of ordering the house well, looking after the property indoors, and obeying her husband. And the child has another virtue, one for the female, and one for the male; and there is another for elderly men, one, if you like, for freemen, and yet another for slaves. And there are very many other virtues besides, so that one cannot be at a loss to explain what virtue is; for it is according to each activity and age that every one of us, in whatever we do, has his virtue; and the same, I take it, Socrates, will hold also of vice.

Underlying this is the famous distinction based on people and places, which in the context of a different genre is affirmed by Philodemus On Rhetoric 1 p. 201, 16: ‘Thus, one would not be wrong to claim that the successful response is one of the relative ones. For it is that of a rhetor; and another one would likely be appropriate for the politician, the sophist, the philosopher, or whatever discipline one belongs to. It is also different whether a young person is talking or an old one, or a man or a woman. Furthermore, different answers are appropriate to different places: among a certain people one gores through and another is laughed at.’ You would think you are hearing an author of Dialexeis.


28. Aristotle, Rhetoric 3.14.2 1414b30ff.: In epideictic speeches, the sources of the exordia are praise and blame, as Gorgias, in the Olympiacus, says, “Men of Greece, you are worthy to be admired by many,” where he is praising those who instituted the solemn assemblies.

See Burckhardt, Spuren der athenischen Volksrede in der alten Komoedie (Diss. Basil. 1924) 70 f.

29. Aristotle, Rhetoric 3.1.9 1404a24: And as the poets, although their utterances were devoid of sense, appeared to have gained their reputation through their style, it was a poetical style that first came into being, as that of Gorgias. Even now the majority of the uneducated think that such persons express themselves most beautifully.

30. Hermogenes, On Types of Style 2: A kind of speech seems skilled, but is not, to which I have referred as the third kind of skillfulness: that of the Sophists, I mean the likes of Polus, Gorgias, Meno and not a few – not to say all – of today’s ones. The bulk of it lies in the phrasing, when one brings together harsh, powerful, or even lofty expressions and uses them to express shallow and commonplace thoughts; in particular, if one uses figures of speech, verse parts and the like or embellishments of highest quality and loftiness. 

To the ‘apparent enthymemes’, which Plato and Aristotle recognized in the art of the sophists, Hermogenes adds ‘the apparent great skill’.

377 The style of the sophists, that is, of Polus and Gorgias and Meno and their followers, and of quite a few in our own times (I need not name them all), is the sort that appears to be forceful but is not really so, which is, as I said, the third kind of Force. This is created primarily by the diction, when a speaker uses rough and vehement or even solemn words to express thoughts that are shallow and commonplace. This is especially true if he also uses figures of speech and clauses and some or all of the other aspects of style that are typical of Beauty and Florescence and Solemnity. Moreover, it is typical of a style that appears to be forceful, but is not, to utter reproaches and vehement attacks at random before showing that they are justified, or to use them where they are unnecessary, as Aristogiton usually does. This is typical of sloppy composition and is artificial.
Wooten, III, Cecil W.. Hermogenes' On Types of Style, The University of North Carolina Press, 1987.

31. Suda s.v. Gorgias: He was the first to give the rhetorical kind of education expressive ability and a technē, and he made use of tropes, metaphors, allegories, hypallages, analogical applications, transpositions, reduplications, repetitions, apostrophes and balancing of clauses.

Isocrates understands Gorgias’ diction in Panathen. 2; so does Plato Rep. 498 E; a critique of it Philod. 2 p. 257, 11 f. (Epicurus fr. 53 Us.); Cratinus the younger already alludes to it in a fragment of the Tarantinoi in Diog. Laert. 8.37 (Meineke fr. Com. Gr. 3.376): ‘They have the habit, whenever they have a lay person come in to test out the power of their speeches, of irking and confusing him though antitheses, definitions, parallelisms, digressions and shrewd loftiness.’

32. Diodorus Siculus 12.53.4: For he was the first to use the rather unusual and carefully devised structures of speech, such as antithesis, sentences with equal members or balanced clauses or similar endings, and the like, all of which at that time was enthusiastically received because the device was exotic, but is now looked upon as labored.

Perhaps ‘<or same cases> or similar endings. Cf. Aquila Romanus below; Philod. On Rhetoric 1 p. 162, 8: ‘We also say that the greatest of the rhetorical sophists seem to have gone astray the most shamefully with their same endings, same cases and same beginnings.’

33. Dionysius of Halicarnassos, On Lysias: He makes things seem lofty, superior and magnificent using the most everyday words and without any poetic apparatus. The orators who preceded him were not known for this same thing, but in their intention to add some elegance to the words they changed out of their common-man self and resorted to poetic formulations, using many metaphors and hyperboles and all the others figures of speech, trying to impress lay people with unusual or foreign words and by changing the usual morphology and similar uncommon ways of speaking. A clear example is Gorgias of Leontinoi, who in many cases made his speech unkempt and over-the-top, as are his disciples such as Likymnios and Polus.

Gorgias’ poetical and figure-rich diction (balanced clauses etc.) is mentioned by Dionysius 1.135, 18 f., 138, 2 f., 184, 15 f., 362, 22 f., 424, 11 f., 437, 4 f., 2.214 f. (fr. On Imitation VIII. IX) U. R. Cf. Aristot. rhet. 1404 a 24.

34. Cicero, Orator 12.39 (after dealing with the crafting of periods and figures of speech in Ch. 38 he continues as follows:) Thrasymachus of Chalcedon and Gorgias of Leontinoi are said to have been the first to deal with such topics, and after them Theodorus of Byzantium and many other, whom Socrates in the Phaedrus calls logodaedaloi (terrific wordsmiths). Among these precepts there were many clever ones, but as they were, so to speak, just being born and for the first time, they had a small scope and were in some cases similar to short verses and too embroidered.

Cicero is clearly not referring to anybody’s theoretical teachings but to elaborate speeches, which one could nonetheless regard, in a sense, as specimens of the art.

35. Cicero, Orator 52.176: Gorgias is excessively greedy of the refinement of this genre and uses these "festivities" – for he judges them so himself – in an immoderate way.

Hence Quint. 9.3.74: ‘Gorgias spoke of “adornments”.’ Cf. Dionysius Hal. On Thucydides 46 p. 402, 5 and 16 U. R. and Hermogenes On Ideas 1 p. 332, 24 Sp.

36. Aquila Romanus 21 p. 29, 23H.: There are other figures of speech that are apt only to ornate one’s language and, so to speak, color it. Gorgias of Leontinoi was the first to make use of them, but without measure, so that a speech of his, however short, which at the beginning would impress the audience through its novelty, would quickly grow unpalatable. […] We shall first expound those figures.

There follow antitheses, equal parts, balanced parts, same case, same ending, assonances.

37. Cicero, Orator 49.164-165: Some kinds of words, whose very nature entails elegance, that is, which have cases with similar endings, are of equal length to each other or stand in contrast to one another, are numerous by their own nature, even if nothing is done on purpose. We have learned that Gorgias was the first to actively pursue such stylishness.

Cf. ibid. 52.175 (on Thrasymachus see below).

38. Rufinus, On Meter in the Orators: On the subject of composition and meters and feet in the orators, as Cicero says, the following authors wrote among the Greeks: Thrasymachus, Naucrates, Gorgias, Ephorus, Isocrates, Theodectes, Aristotle, Theodorus of Byzantium, Thephrastus and Hieronymus.

See Rhet. lat. min. 581.14 f. H., Solmsen, RE V A 2, 1846.



[1] Peri logous to kyros echousa. In Plat. Gorg. 450e we read dia logou to kuros echousa (“which has its effect through speech”), which may be the original version and have been distorted into what we read here.



[2] That is, sophists who taught rhetoric.



[3][3] According to the Scholion ad loc., Gorgias taught that one should defuse serious arguments from the opponent with laughter and undermine comical arguments with seriousness.