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Antiphon (orator)

antiphon o rator definition, antiphon meaning
Antiphon the Sophist /ˈæntəˌfɒn, -ən/; Greek: Ἀντιφῶν lived in Athens probably in the last two decades of the 5th century BC There is an ongoing controversy over whether he is one and the same with Antiphon of the Athenian deme Rhamnus in Attica 480–411 BC, the earliest of the ten Attic orators For the purposes of this article, they will be treated as distinct persons

Scholars noted that Iamblichus used many citations from an important early author on education and political philosophy, originally identified in 1889 as Antiphon, but officially referred to as Anonymous Iamblichi1


  • 1 Antiphon of Rhamnus
  • 2 Antiphon the Sophist
    • 21 "Nature" requires liberty
  • 3 Mathematics
  • 4 List of extant speeches
  • 5 Notes
  • 6 References
  • 7 Further reading
  • 8 External links

Antiphon of Rhamnusedit

Antiphon of Rhamnus was a statesman who took up rhetoric as a profession He was active in political affairs in Athens, and, as a zealous supporter of the oligarchical party, was largely responsible for the establishment of the Four Hundred in 411 see Theramenes; upon restoration of the democracy shortly afterwards, he was accused of treason and condemned to death Thucydides famously characterized Antiphon's skills, influence, and reputation:

He who concerted the whole affair of the 411 coup, and prepared the way for the catastrophe, and who had given the greatest thought to the matter, was Antiphon, one of the best men of his day in Athens; who, with a head to contrive measures and a tongue to recommend them, did not willingly come forward in the assembly or upon any public scene, being ill-looked upon by the multitude owing to his reputation for cleverness; and who yet was the one man best able to aid in the courts, or before the assembly, the suitors who required his opinion Indeed, when he was afterwards himself tried for his life on the charge of having been concerned in setting up this very government, when the Four Hundred were overthrown and hardly dealt with by the commons, he made what would seem to be the best defence of any known up to my time

— Thucydides, Histories 8682

Antiphon may be regarded as the founder of political oratory, but he never addressed the people himself except on the occasion of his trial Fragments of his speech then, delivered in defense of his policy called Περὶ μεταστάσεως have been edited by J Nicole 1907 from an Egyptian papyrus

His chief business was that of a logographer λογογράφος, that is a professional speech-writer He wrote for those who felt incompetent to conduct their own cases—all disputants were obliged to do so—without expert assistance Fifteen of Antiphon's speeches are extant: twelve are mere school exercises on fictitious cases, divided into tetralogies, each comprising two speeches for prosecution and defence—accusation, defence, reply, counter-reply; three refer to actual legal processes All deal with cases of homicide φονικαὶ δίκαι Antiphon is also said to have composed a Τέχνη or art of Rhetoric

Antiphon the Sophistedit

A third century AD papyrus attributed to the first book of On Truth POxy XI 1364 fr 1, cols v-vii

A treatise known as On Truth, of which only fragments survive, is attributed to Antiphon the Sophist It is of great value to political theory, as it appears to be a precursor to natural rights theory The views expressed in it suggest its author could not be the same person as Antiphon of Rhamnus, since it was interpreted as affirming strong egalitarian and libertarian principles appropriate to a democracy — but antithetical to the oligarchical views of one who was instrumental in the anti-democratic coup of 411 like Antiphon of Rhamnus3 It's been argued that that interpretation has become obsolete in light of a new fragment of text from On Truth discovered in 1984 New evidence supposedly rules out an egalitarian interpretation of the text4

The following passages may confirm the strongly libertarian commitments of Antiphon the Sophist

"Nature" requires libertyedit

On Truth juxtaposes the repressive nature of convention and law νόμος with "nature" φύσις, especially human nature Nature is envisaged as requiring spontaneity and freedom, in contrast to the often gratuitous restrictions imposed by institutions:

Most of the things which are legally just are none the less  inimical to nature By law it has been laid down for the eyes what they should see and what they should not see; for the ears what they should hear and they should not hear; for the tongue what it should speak, and what it should not speak; for the hands what they should do and what they should not do and for the mind what it should desire, and what it should not desire5

Repression means pain, whereas it is nature human nature to shun pain

Elsewhere, Antiphon wrote: "Life is like a brief vigil, and the duration of life like a single day, as it were, in which having lifted our eyes to the light we give place to other who succeed us"6 Mario Untersteiner comments: "If death follows according to nature, why torment its opposite, life, which is equally according to nature By appealing to this tragic law of existence, Antiphon, speaking with the voice of humanity, wishes to shake off everything that can do violence to the individuality of the person"7 It is reported that Antiphon set up a booth in a public agora where he offered consolation to the bereaved8

In his championship of the natural liberty and equality of all men, Antiphon anticipates the natural rights doctrine of Locke, and the Declaration of Independence


Further information: Bryson of Heraclea, Pi, and squaring the circle

Antiphon was also a capable mathematician Antiphon, alongside his companion Bryson of Heraclea, was the first to give an upper and lower bound for the value of pi by inscribing and then circumscribing a polygon around a circle and finally proceeding to calculate the polygons' areas This method was applied to the problem of squaring the circle

List of extant speechesedit

This is a list of extant speeches by Antiphon:

  1. Against the Stepmother for Poisoning Φαρμακείας κατὰ τῆς μητρυιᾶς
  2. The First Tetralogy: Anonymous Prosecution For Murder Κατηγορία φόνου ἀπαράσημος
  3. The Second Tetralogy: Prosecution for Accidental Homicide Κατηγορία φόνου ἀκουσίου
  4. The Third Tetralogy: Prosecution for Murder Of One Who Pleads Self-Defense Κατηγορία φόνου κατὰ τοῦ λέγοντος ἀμύνασθαι
  5. On the Murder of Herodes Περὶ τοῦ Ἡρῷδου φόνου
  6. On the Choreutes Περὶ τοῦ χορευτοῦ


  1. ^ Johnson and Hutchinson 10 April 2015 "Introduction to Iamblichus' Exhortation to Philosophy upcoming talk" 
  2. ^ trans by Richard Crawley, revised by Robert Strassler, 1996
  3. ^ W K C Guthrie, The Sophists, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971; see also Mario Untersteiner who cites Oxyrhynchus Papyrus #1364 fragment 2 in his The Sophists, tr Kathleen Freeman Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1954, p 252
  4. ^ pp 351, 356, Gerard Pendrick, 2002, Antiphon the Sophist: The Fragments, Cambridge U Press; also p 98 n 41 of Richard Winton's "Herodotus, Thucydides, and the sophists" in CRowe & MSchofield, The Cambridge Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought, Cambridge 2005
  5. ^ Antiphon, On Truth, Oxyrhynchus Papyri, xi, no 1364, fragment 1, quoted in Donald Kagan ed Sources in Greek Political Thought from Homer to Polybius "Sources in Western Political Thought, A Hacker, gen ed; New York: Free Press, 2965
  6. ^ Fr 50 DK, quoted at Stobaeus 43463
  7. ^ Mario Untersteiner, The Sophists, tr Kathleen Freeman Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1954 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971, p 247
  8. ^ Michael Gagarin, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome, Volume 1 2010, p 281


  • Edition, with commentary, by Eduard Maetzner 1838
  • Text by Friedrich Blass 1881
  • R C Jebb, Attic Orators
  • Ps-Plutarch, Vitae X Oratorum or Lives of the Ten Orators
  • Philostratus, Vit Sophistarum, i 15
  • Frank Lovis Van Cleef, Index Antiphonteus, Ithaca, NY 1895
  • "Antiphon" at Swansea University's website
  • Michael Gagarin, Antiphon the Athenian, 2002, U of Texas Press Argues for the identification of Antiphon the Sophist and Antiphon of Rhamnus
  • Gerard Pendrick, Antiphon the Sophist: The Fragments, 2002, Cambridge U Press Argues that Antiphon the Sophist and Antiphon of Rhamnus are two, and provides a new edition of and commentary on the fragments attributed to the Sophist
  • David Hoffman, "Antiphon the Athenian: Oratory, Law and Justice in the Age of the Sophists/Antiphon the Sophist: The Fragments", Rhetoric Society Quarterly, summer 2006 A review of Gagarin 2002 and Pendrick 2002
  • Jordi Redondo, 'Antifont Discursos I-II', Barcelona, Fundació Bernat Metge, 2003-2004 ISBN 84-7225-822-X et 84-7225-840-8 Argues for the identification of both authors

Further readingedit

  • Kerferd, GB 1970 "Antiphon" Dictionary of Scientific Biography 1 New York: Charles Scribner's Sons pp 170–172 ISBN 0-684-10114-9 

External linksedit

  • Antiphon's Apology, the Papyrus Fragments, French 1907 edition from the Internet Archive
  • Xenophon's Memorabilia 161-15 presents a dialogue between Antiphon the Sophist and Socrates
  • Speeches by Antiphon of Rhamnus on Perseus
  • A bio on Antiphon of Rhamnus by Richard C Jebb, The Attic Orators from Antiphon to Isaeos, 1876 on Perseus
  • O'Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F, "Antiphon orator", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews 
  • Antiphon Orations
  • The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on "Callicles and Thrasymachus"1 discusses the views of Antiphon the Sophist
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed 1911 "Antiphon" Encyclopædia Britannica 11th ed Cambridge University Press 

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