84 - Silver Tongues in Golden Mouths: Rhetoric and Ancient Philosophy

Posted on 10 June 2012

Peter looks at the interaction between rhetoric and philosophy in the Roman Empire, discussing authors like Quintilian, Lucian and Themistius.

Further Reading

• G. Anderson, The Second Sophistic (London: 1993).

• G. Bowersock, “Philosophy in the Second Sophistic,” in Philosophy and Power in the Graeco-Roman World, ed. G. Clark and T. Rajak (Oxford: 2002), 157-70.

• M. Heath, “Platonists and the Teaching of Rhetoric in Late Antiquity,” in P. Vassilopoulou and S. Clark (eds), Late Antique Epistemology (London: 2009), 143-59.

 • P. Heather and D. Moncur, Politics, Philosophy and Empire in the Fourth Century: Select Orations of Themistius (Liverpool: 2001).

• L. Holtz, M. Baratin and B. Colombat (eds), Priscien: Transmission et refondation de la grammaire de l’Antiquité aux Modernes (Turnhout: 2009).

• J. Lauwers, Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Sophistry in the High Roman Empire: Maximus of Tyre and Twelve Other Intellectuals (Leiden: 2015).

 • A. Luhtala, Grammar and Philosophy in Late Antiquity (Amsterdam: 2005).

 • P. Swiggers and A. Wouters, eds, Grammatical Theory and Philosophy of Language in Antiquity (Leuven: 2002).

 • I. Sluiter, Ancient Grammar in Context (Amsterdan: 1990).

 • R.B. Todd (trans.), Themistius: On Aristotle On the Soul (London: 1996).


Spencer 4 July 2021

Wow, in nine years no one has left a comment on this episode! 

In the last couple of months, Doug Metzger released two episodes on Lucian of Samosata in his superb Literature and History podcast. In the first of these episodes, Doug discussed (I'm going from memory) a variety of literary works by Lucian, many of which were satires aimed at philosophy and religion. According to Doug, Lucian saw little difference between these two areas, which he (Lucian) saw as more or less the same thing. I did not remember if Lucian had been mentioned in this podcast, but, alas, I found that he was indeed briefly discussed in this episode of the HoP. Peter, you too described Lucian's satirical take on philosophy.

From my completely non-expert perspective (big understatement), it seems that Lucian was one of the first to take philosophy and/or religion to task for more or less inventing out of whole cloth explanations for the origin and workings of the world and the people who inhabit Earth. Am I close to correct in this assessment? Can I assume that given that Lucian only merited a few minutes in the HoP that his influence was rather minimal?

Happy Fourth of July!

Peter Adamson 5 July 2021

In reply to by Spencer

Sounds like I should check out that other podcast! You're right, Lucian doesn't figure much in the history of philosophy; I think you are right that he is unusual, if not pioneering, in his wide-ranging satire of philosophy. And also you're right that he wasn't influential, at least not on philosophers. I don't recall running across his name much if at all, though googling now I find an exciting page at the British Library on the earliest known manuscript of Lucian, which it turns out was made for Arethas, whom we discussed in the Byzantium series! There are even annotations by Arethas in it.


Karen Sklar 8 January 2022

I am enjoying HoP in huge doses, catching up.  Even if no one comments, someone is listening.  Thank you, Peter

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