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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-A110-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 12, 2024, from

Article Summary

The Sophists were itinerant educators, the first professors of higher learning, who appeared in Greece in the middle and later fifth century bc. The earliest seems to have been Protagoras, who was personally associated with the statesman Pericles. The next most eminent was Gorgias, an influential author and prose stylist. The Sophists succeeded in earning very large sums for their instruction. They lectured on many subjects, including the new natural philosophy, but their most important teaching was in rhetoric, the art of influencing political assemblies and law courts by persuasive speech. In conservative circles their great influence was regarded with hostility, as corrupting the young.

Citing this article:
Kahn, Charles H.. Sophists, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-A110-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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