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Headword: Prôtagoras
Adler number: pi,2958
Translated headword: Protagoras
Vetting Status: high
Of Abdera;[1] son of Artemon, or of Maeandrides or Neandrius; some write that he was from Teos. Originally he was a porter, but on meeting Democritus[2] he fell in love with discourse, became a philosopher and then turned to rhetoric. He was the first to be called a sophist, and the first to invent eristic arguments and make a contest of speeches, and to charge his pupils (100 minas - for which reason he was nicknamed 'Speech for Hire'). He was the teacher of the rhetor Isocrates.[3]
He was the first to divide all discourse into four: wish, question, answer, command. After him others made a division into seven, as follows: narration, question, answer, command, statement, wish, appellation. Alcidamas[4] says there are four kinds of discourse: assertion, denial, question, address.
Protagoras' books were burned by the Athenians, because he once made a speech which began like this: 'About the gods I can know nothing - neither that they exist, nor that they do not exist'. He was older than the philosopher Plato.[5] He was the teacher of Prodicus of Ceos[6] and many others.
Greek Original:
Prôtagoras, Abdêritês, huios Artemônos ê kai Maiandridou ê Neandriou. tines de auton kai Têïon egrapsan. houtos proteron ên phortobastaktês, entuchôn de Dêmokritôi êrasthê logôn kai philosophêsas epi rhêtoreian etrapê. kai epeklêthê prôtos houtos sophistês, prôtos te houtos tous eristikous logous heure kai agôna logôn epoiêsato kai misthon epraxe tous mathêtas mnas r#: dio kai epeklêthê Logos emmisthos. didaskalos de gegone kai tou rhêtoros Isokratous. dieile te panta logon prôtos houtos eis tessara: euchôlên, erôtêsin, apokrisin, entolên: meta de touton heteroi eis z# dieilon tauta: diêgêsin, erôtêsin, apokrisin, entolên, eisangelian, euchôlên, klêsin. Alkidamas de tessaras einai phêsin ideas logôn: phasin, apophasin, erôtêsin, prosagoreusin. tou de Prôtagorou ta biblia hupo Athênaiôn ekauthê, dioti logon pote eipen houtôs arxamenos: peri theôn ouk echô eidenai, oute hôs eisin, oute hôs ouk eisi. kai presbuteros esti Platônos tou philosophou: didaskalos de Prodikou tou Keiou kai allôn pollôn.
c.490-420 BC. See generally RE Protagoras(1); OCD4 Protagoras; DK 80; Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists 1.10; Diogenes Laertius 9.50-56.
[1] Barrington Atlas map 51 grid D3; present-day Avdira.
[2] [delta 447] Democritus, also from Abdera.
[3] [iota 652] Isocrates.
[4] [alpha 1283] Alcidamas.
[5] [pi 1707] Plato.
[6] [pi 2365] Prodicus.
Keywords: biography; chronology; economics; geography; philosophy; religion; rhetoric
Translated by: Malcolm Heath on 26 March 1999@15:02:18.
Vetted by:
Catharine Roth (Added keyword; raised status.) on 25 September 2000@17:45:08.
David Whitehead (added note; cosmetics) on 13 September 2002@08:45:53.
David Whitehead (more notes and keywords; cosmetics) on 29 November 2011@04:35:08.
David Whitehead (updated a ref) on 2 August 2014@11:47:46.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 11 December 2014@01:26:20.


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