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Works by Alcidamas


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Alcidamas, of Elaea, in Aeolis, Greek sophist and rhetorician, flourished in the 4th century BC.

He was the pupil and successor of Gorgias and taught at Athens at the same time as Isocrates, whose rival and opponent he was. We possess two declamations under his name: Peri Sofiston, directed against Isocrates and setting forth the superiority of extempore over written speeches (a more recently discovered fragment of another speech against Isocrates is probably of later date); Odusseus, in which Odysseus accuses Palamedes of treachery during the siege of Troy (this is generally considered spurious).

According to Alcidamas, the highest aim of the orator was the power of speaking extempore on every conceivable subject. Aristotle (Rhet. iii. 3) criticizes his writings as characterized by pomposity of style and an extravagant use of poetical epithets and compounds and far-fetched metaphors.

Of other works only fragments and the titles have survived: Messeniakos, advocating the freedom of the Messenians and containing the sentiment that "all are by nature free"; a Eulogy of Death, in consideration of the wide extent of human sufferings; a Techne or instruction-book in the art of rhetoric; and a Fusikos lolos. Lastly, his Mouseion (a word of doubtful meaning) contained the narrative of the contest between Homer and Hesiod, two fragments of which are found in the Agon Omerou kai Esiodou, the work of a grammarian in the time of Hadrian. A 3rd century papyrus (Flinders Petrie, Papyri, ed. Mahaffy, 1891, pl. xxv.) probably contains the actual remains of a description by Alcidamas.
Texts by Alcidamas, included in our collection:
On the Sophists |
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