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Isocrates (English: /aɪ.ˈsɒk.rə.ˌtiːz/; Ancient Greek: Ἰσοκράτης; 436–338 BC), an ancient Greek rhetorician, was one of the ten Attic orators. Among the most influential Greek rhetoricians of his time, Isocrates made many contributions to rhetoric and education through his teaching and written works.
Greek rhetoric is commonly traced to Corax of Syracuse, who first formulated a set of rhetorical rules in the fifth century BC. His pupil, Tisias, was influential in the development of the rhetoric of the courtroom, and by some accounts was the teacher of Isocrates. Within two generations, rhetoric had become an important art, its growth driven by the social and political changes, such as democracy and the courts of law.
Unlike most rhetoric schools of the time, which were taught by itinerant sophists, Isocrates defined himself with his treatise Against the Sophists. This polemic was written to explain and advertise the reasoning and educational principles behind his newly-opened school. He promoted his broad-based education by speaking against two types of teachers: the Eristics, who disputed about theoretical and ethical matters, and the Sophists, who taught political debate techniques.
Isocrates was born to a wealthy family in Athens and received a first-rate education. He was greatly influenced by his sophist teachers, Prodicus and Gorgias, and was also closely acquainted with Socrates. After the Peloponnesian War, Isocrates' family lost its wealth, and Isocrates was forced to earn a living.
Isocrates' professional career is said to have begun as a logographer, or a hired courtroom speech writer. Athenian citizens would not hire lawyers because legal procedure required self-representation. Instead, they would speak for themselves and hire people like Isocrates to write speeches for them in exchange for a fee. Isocrates had a great talent for this since he lacked confidence in public speaking. His weak voice motivated him to publish pamphlets and although he played no direct part in state affairs, his written speech influenced the public and provided significant insight on large political issues of the fourth century BC. Around 392 BC he set up his own school of rhetoric, because at the time Athens had no set curriculum for higher education (sophist teachers often travelled), and proved to be not only an influential teacher, but a shrewd businessman. His fees were unusually high, and he accepted no more than nine pupils at a time. Many of them went on to be philosophers, legislators and historians. As a consequence, he amassed a considerable fortune. According to Pliny the Elder (NH VII.30) he could sell a single oration for twenty talents.
Program of rhetoric 
Isocrates' program of rhetorical education stressed the ability to use language to address practical problems, and he referred to his teachings as more of a philosophy as opposed to rhetoric. He emphasized that students needed three things to learn: a natural aptitude which was inborn, knowledge training granted by teachers and textbooks and applied practices designed by educators. He also stressed civic education, training students to serve the state. Students would practice composing and delivering speeches on various subjects. He considered natural ability and practice to be more important than rules or principles of rhetoric. Rather than delineating static rules, Isocrates stressed "fitness for the occasion," or kairos (the rhetor's ability to adapt to changing circumstances and situations). His school lasted for over fifty years and taught the basis of liberal arts education as we know it today, including oratory, composition, history, citizenship, culture and morality.
Because of Plato's attacks on the sophists, Isocrates' school of rhetoric and philosophy came to be viewed as unethical and deceitful. Yet many of Plato's criticisms are hard to substantiate in the work of Isocrates, and at the end of his Phaedrus Plato even has Socrates praising Isocrates, though some scholars take this to be sarcastic. Isocrates saw the ideal orator as someone who must not only possess rhetorical gifts, but possess also a wide knowledge of philosophy, science, and the arts. The orator should also represent Greek ideals of freedom, self-control, and virtue. In this, he influenced several Roman rhetoricians, such as Cicero and Quintilian, and also had an influence on the idea of liberal education.
On the art of rhetoric, he was also an innovator. He paid closer attention to expression and rhythm far more than any other Greek writer, but because his sentences were so complex and artistic, he often sacrificed clarity to demonstrate his messages.
Of the 60 orations in his name available in Roman times, 21 were transmitted by ancient and medieval scribes. Another three orations were found in a single codex during a 1988 excavation at Kellis, a site in the Dakhla Oasis of Egypt. We have nine letters in his name, but the authenticity of four has been questioned. He is said to have compiled a treatise, the Art of Rhetoric, but it has not survived. In addition to the orations, other works include his autobiographical Antidosis and educational texts, such as Against the Sophists.
In Panathenaicus, Isocrates argues with a student about the literacy of the Spartans. In section 250, the student claims that the most intelligent of the Spartans owned copies of and admired some of Isocrates' speeches. The implication is that some Spartans had books, were able to read them and were eager to do so. The Spartans, however, needed an interpreter to clear up any misunderstandings of double meanings which might lie concealed beneath the surface of complicated words. This text indicates that some Spartans were not illiterate. If this speech is taken literally, it would suggest that Spartans could conduct political affairs and that they collected and made use of written works such as speeches. This text is important to scholars' understanding of literacy in Sparta because it indicates that Spartans were able to read and that they often put written documents to use in their public affairs.
"Ἰσοκράτης τῆς παιδείας τὴν ῥίζαν πικρὰν ἔφη, γλυκεῖς δὲ τοὺς καρπούς."
"Isocrates said that the root of education is bitter, but the fruits are sweet."
Panegyricus 50 and the true Hellene debate 
In modern Greece there has been, due to the rise of immigration, debate between nationalists and anti-nationalists on what the passage in Panegyricus 50 actually entails. The proposition by anti-nationalists is that Isocrates said that "A Greek is he who shares our common culture" (meaning Greek culture) and understand from that that he was an early proponent of multiculturalism who wanted barbarians as well as Greeks becoming a part of the Greek ethnic group. On the other hand nationalists refute that, with some of them claiming that he in fact meant that "It is a shame that a Greek is considered by some one who shares our culture rather than our common kinship" and paint him as a proto-racist.
Some claim that Isocrates was merely making an appeal to unite all Hellenes under the hegemony of Athens (whose culture is implied under the words "our common culture") in a crusade against the Persians rather than their customary fighting against each other. That is, Isocrates was referring to Athenian not Greek culture when he said that. In any case, on this theory, Isocrates was not extending the appellation Hellene to non-Greeks.
However, he was also not an early proponent of racism either since he did specifically, in Panegyricus, make an appeal to define the Hellenes as a people sharing a common culture, albeit the Athenian one. This was done in order to boost Athens whose present military weakness meant that its only claim to leadership of the Greeks was its cultural ascendancy.
Nonetheless, the misinterpretation of Isocrates is not wholly new. Second Sophistic Greeks, living in a multi-cultural environment, had a fresh impetus to re-interpret him and apply his words, if not spirit, to their time.
Quotation of Panegyricus 50 
Greek text 
 τοσοῦτον δ' ἀπολέλοιπεν ἡ πόλις ἡμῶν περὶ τὸ φρονεῖν καὶ λέγειν τοὺς ἄλλους ἀνθρώπους, ὥσθ' οἱ ταύτης μαθηταὶ τῶν ἄλλων διδάσκαλοι γεγόνασι, καὶ τὸ τῶν Ἑλλήνων ὄνομα πεποίηκε μηκέτι τοῦ γένους ἀλλὰ τῆς διανοίας δοκεῖν εἶναι, καὶ μᾶλλον Ἕλληνας καλεῖσθαι τοὺς τῆς παιδεύσεως τῆς ἡμετέρας ἢ τοὺς τῆς κοινῆς φύσεως μετέχοντας.
English text 
"Our city of Athens has so far surpassed other men in its wisdom and its power of expression that its pupils have become the teachers of the world. It has caused the name of Hellene to be regarded as no longer a mark of racial origin but of intelligence, so that men are called Hellenes because they have shared our common education rather than that they share in our common ethnic origin."
See also 
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- Readings in Classical Rhetoric By Thomas W. Benson, Michael H. Prosser Page 43 ISBN 0-9611800-3-X
- Matsen, Patricia, Philip Rollinson and Marion Sousa. Readings from Classical Rhetoric. Southern Illinois: 1990. Print.
- George Law Cackwell (1998). "Isocrates". The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization. York University: Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth | Oxford University Press. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- "Ancient Kellis". Lib.monash.edu.au. 1998-10-02. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
- Roger Pearse (2005-09-17). "The texts found at Kellis in the Dakhleh Oasis". Tertullian.org. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
- Christian Walz, Rhetores Graeci, p. 63.
- Greeks and Barbarians (Edinburgh Readings on the Ancient World, Edinburgh University Press (25 Oct 2001), ISBN 978-0-7486-1270-3, σελ.139-140 "It has been widely assumed in the past that the word Hellene began by having a ‘national’ sense and later, especially in Hellenistic times, came to mean ‘possessing Greek culture’. For instance, in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt the Hellenes were also known as ol ôô to y4lvuaiou, ‘those from the gymnasium’) and frequently had non- Greek names. From Tebtunis we have a list of five E)Avwv ycwpyIvI, ‘Greek farmers’, of whom only one has a Greek name.’ And it has been thought that the beginning of this extension in the meaning of the word can be traced to the fourth century, when Isocrates wrote,”‘Athens has become the teacher of the other cities, and has made the name of Greek (to tcwE?.Xvwv övopa) no longer a mark of race (yvoç) hut of Intellect (6tãvota), so that it is those who share our upbringing (tiç ltau5c6aEwç) rather than our common nature (tiç coiviIc pioç) who are called Hellcnes.’ This passage has attracted great attention, Jaeger going so far as to claim it as° ‘a higher justification for the new national imperialism, in that it identifies what is specifically Greek with what is universally human’. ‘Without the idea which [Isocrates] here expresses for the first time’, he continues, ‘... there would have been no Maccdonian Greek world-empire, and the universal culture which we call Hellenistic would never have existed.’ Unfortunately for this claim, it has been shown” that in this passage Tsocrates is not extending the term Helene to non-Greeks, hut restricting its application; he is in effect saying, ‘Hellenes are no longer all who share in the yévoç and common qnai; of the Greek people, as hitherto, but only those who have gone to school to Athens; henceforth Greece” is equivalent to Athens and her cultural following.’ Thus Isocrates gives the term a cultural value; but he cannot be regarded as initiating a wider concept of Hellas."
- Jeffrey Walker, Rhetoric and poetics in antiquity, Oxford University Press US, 2000, 0195130359, 9780195130355, p.178, "And so far has our city outpaced all others in thought and speech that her students have become the teachers of the rest, so that the word “Hellenes” suggests no longer A race but a way of thought, and the tide “Hellenes” applies to those who share our culture rather than those who share a common blood. (48—50; my emphasis) In this cnthymcme of great persuasive force and enormous cultural power, Isocrates presents the vision that will define the Greek ideal of paideia for centuries to come, This enthymeme’s power derives not only from a quasi-syllogistic marshalling of evidence to justify a conclusion: the claim that Athens has become the “school” of all Greece because it has most honoured eloquence is, in truth, weakly supported here, though earlier passages do give it some evidential ground. Rather, much of this enthymeme’s power lies in its use of emotively significant oppositions human/animal, wise/foolish, cultured/ignorant, achievement/luck, and so forth), defining eloquence as the distinguishing feature of human-ness and the distinctive sign of an accomplished and wise intelligence, in order to motivate the audience’s admiration and desire—the wish that Athens should indeed be the school of Greece-—a desire that, if it is evoked, will drive or simply be adherence with Isocrares’ vision of a cosmopolitan cultural identity defined by ways of thought (the distinctly human, the discursively constructed) rather than by blood (the animal and accidental). The Athenian paideia as Isocrares defines it is a good thing, and should define Hellenic” identity, for the reasons embodied in the network of emotively significant, evaluative oppositions that his argument has mobilized. This enthyincme, in turn, is meant to motivate audience adherence with his larger theme,"
- James I. Porter, Classical pasts: the classical traditions of Greece and Rome Classical pasts, Princeton University Press, 2006, 0691089426, 9780691089423, p.383-384, "The telos towards which the whole encomium is directed is neither military nor material, but cultural, and in particular linguistic: •toiio4ia (in Isocrates’, not in Plato’s sense) is Athens’s gift to the world, and eloquence, which distinguishes men from animals and liberally educated men (τους ευθύς εξαρχής ελευθέρως τεθραμμένους) from uncultured ones, is honoured in that city more than in any other.3° Thus Isocrates can claim that it is above all in the domain of language that Athens has become the school for the rest of the world: “And so far has our city distanced the rest of mankind in thought and in speech that her pupils have become the teachers of the rest of the world; and she has brought it about that the name ‘Hellenes’ suggests no longer a race but an intelligence, and thin the title ‘Hellenes’ is applied rather to those who share our culture than to those who share a common blood:’3’ Like Pericles’ funeral oration in Thucydides, upon which this section of the Panegyricus is closely modelled,32 Isocrates’ panegyric emphasizes abstract cultural values but its ultimate goal is in fact more concretely military: the speech as a whole aims at convincing the other Greek cities to grant Athens hegemony and leadership in an expedition against the Pεrsians, which will reunite the Greeks by distracting them from their internecine warfare. But Athens’s present military weakness in the wake of the Peace of Antalcidas (387 B.C.E.) deprives Isocrates of the easiest argument, that leadership should be given to the city that has the greatest military strength. Hence he must appeal to past military and culturall glories in order to justify present claims—indeed, his evident reuse of themes from Pericles’ funeral oration is part of the same rhetorical strategy, designed as it is to remind fourth-century pan-Hellenic readers of Athens’s fifth-century glory. But what passes itself off here as the disinterested praise of a city is in fact the canny self-advertisement of a successful businessman, and Isocrates’ climactic celebration of Athenian philosophy and eloquence is little more than a thinly disguised panegyric for what he saw as his very own contribution to Athenian, Greek and world culture. For φιλοσοφία and eloquence were in fact the slogans of Isocrates’ own educational program.
- Takis Poulakos, David J. Depew, Isocrates and civic education, University of Texas Press, 2004, 0292702191, 9780292702196, p.63-64, "He crafts onto his predecessor’s analogy Athens as a school of Hellas an enduring bond among the Hellenes and a great divide between them and the Persians: Athens’ pupils have become the teachers of the rest of the world” and “the title ‘Hellenes’ is applied rather to those who share our culture than to those who share a common blood” (50). The cultural links Pericles had named as uniting Athenians and their allies lies together are refigured here rhetorically, and in a way that forges a symbolic unification among all the cities of Hellas, including Sparta and its allied states. Relying on and at the same time changing Pericles’ wise words, Isocrates creates the perception of Athens as having been unified with all Greek city-stares from the very beginning, and thereby makes this perception part and parcel of Athens’ glorious history. As a result of this rhetorical engagement of conventional wisdom, current concerns about pan-Hellenism find their way into the city’s timeless traditions. Capitalizing on the propensity of epideictic language to amplify and to augment, lsocrates finesses the stable doxa of the community and enlarges its boundaries 90 as to accommodate the less stable doxa of the present".
- Apologetics in the Roman Empire: pagans, Jews, and Christians, Mark J. Edwards, Martin Goodman, S. R. F. Price, Christopher Rowland, Oxford University Press, 1999, 0198269862, 9780198269861, σελ. 185, "I want now to pursue the relation between Apollonius and Hellenism and the East by looking at Apollonius’ relations with the sages and some other matters. In the court of the Persian king Vardanes, Apollonius lectures Damis on the difference between Hellenic and barbarian morals. ‘To a wise man Hellas is everywhere’ (i . 3c). The origin of the tag is Isocrates, Panegyric, 50 (‘the name “Hellenes” [is the name of] those who share our culture rather than a common nature’). Isocrates was speaking of Athenian culture in particular; but he was well aware of the power of Hellenic culture to civilize barbarians (such as Cyprians/ Phoenicians at Evagoras, 47—SO). Second-sophistic Greeks took the outlook of Isocrates very much to heart. For Philostratus, it is essential to present Hellenism as a universally appreciated ideal. Thus the court of Vardanes is thoroughly philhellenic (i. 29, 32;2. 1 7, etc.), and the statement of Hellenism’s appeal follows Apollonius’ exposition of Pythagoreanism" (t. 32).
- Prof. John P. Adams, Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures (2009-05-25). "Panegyricus 50 English Translation". Csun.edu. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
Further reading 
- Benoit, William L. (1984). "Isocrates on Rhetorical Education". Communication Education: 109–119.
- Bizzell, Patricia; Herzberg, Bruce, eds. (2001). The rhetorical tradition : readings from classical times to the present (2nd ed.). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's. ISBN 0-312-14839-9.
- Bury, J.B. (1913). A History of Greece. Macmillan: London.
- Eucken, von Christoph (1983). Isokrates : seine Positionen in der Auseinandersetzung mit den zeitgenössischen Philosophen (in German). Berlin: W. de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-008646-8.
- Golden, James L.; Berquist, Goodwin F.; Coleman, William E. (2007). The rhetoric of Western thought (9th ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall / Hunt. ISBN 0-7575-3838-X.
- Grube, G.M.A. (1965). The Greek and Roman Critics. London: Methuen.
- Haskins, Ekaterina V. (2004). Logos and power in Isocrates and Aristotle. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 1-57003-526-1.
- Isocrates (1968). Isocrates. Loeb Classical Library. George Norlin, Larue van Hook, trans. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-99231-8.
- Isocrates (2000). Isocrates I. David Mirhady, Yun Lee Too, trans. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-75237-7.
- Isocrates (2004). Isocrates II. Terry L. Papillon, trans. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-70245-0.
- Livingstone, Niall (2001). A commentary on Isocrates' Busiris. Boston: Brill. ISBN 90-04-12143-9.
- Papillon, Terry (1998). "Isocrates and the Greek Poetic Tradition". Scholia 7: 41–61.
- Poulakos, Takis; Depew, David J., eds. (2004). Isocrates and civic education. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-70219-1.
- Poulakos, Takis (1997). Speaking for the polis : Isocrates' rhetorical education. Columbia, SC: Univ. of South Carolina Press. ISBN 1-57003-177-0.
- Romilly, Jacqueline de (1985). Magic and rhetoric in ancient Greece. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-54152-9.
- Smith, Robert W.; Bryant, Donald C., eds. (1969). Ancient Greek and Roman Rhetoricians: A Biographical Dictionary. Columbia, MO: Artcraft Press.
- Too, Yun Lee (2008). A commentary on Isocrates' Antidosis. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-923807-1.
- Too, Yun Lee (1995). The rhetoric of identity in Isocrates : text, power, pedagogy. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. ISBN 0-521-47406-X.
- Usener, Sylvia (1994). Isokrates, Platon und ihr Publikum : Hörer und Leser von Literatur im 4. Jahrhundert v. Chr. (in German). Tübingen: Narr. ISBN 3-8233-4278-9.
- Robin Waterfield's Notes to his translation of Plato's 'Phaedrus', Oxford University Press, 2002.
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- Speeches of Isocrates (Perseus Project)
- English Translation of various texts
- "Plutarch", Life of Isocrates (attalus.org)
- B. Keith Murphy (Fort Valley State University) – Isocrates
- Isocrates (436 – 338 B.C.)