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Headword: *sofisth/s
Adler number: sigma,812
Translated headword: sophist
Vetting Status: high
[Meaning a] deceiver. [Derived] from the [verb] sofi/zesqai, i.e. to deceive with speeches/words.[1] However, a teacher, as one who instructs, is also called a sophist.[2] And in the old days a sage was called a sophist.[3]
"[...] and to become a consummate practictioner in pains and diseases."[4]
And Aristophanes says 'you deal subtly' [sofi/zh|] instead of 'you employ art' [texna/zh|].[5] For they used to call skills of speaking [sofi/as] and quibbles [sofi/smata] 'arts' [te/xnas.[6]
Greek Original:
*sofisth/s: a)patew/n. para\ to\ sofi/zesqai, o(/ e)/sti lo/gois a)pata=n. le/getai de\ sofisth\s kai\ o( dida/skalos, w(s sofi/zwn. to\ de\ palaio\n sofisth\s o( sofo\s e)kalei=to. o)du/nais te kai\ no/sois gene/sqai sofisth\n a)/kron. kai\ *)aristofa/nhs le/gei sofi/zh|, a)nti\ tou= texna/zh|. sofi/as ga\r kai\ sofi/smata ta\s te/xnas e)/legon.
The first and principal paragraph here is also in other lexica; references at Photius sigma425 Theodoridis. See also sigma 813, sigma 814.
[1] See e.g. Plato, Gorgias 449Dff, Meno 95C, Phaedrus 267A, Symposium 198C, Protagoras 313A-314B; Aristotle, Rhetoric passim; Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists 1 (483); Aelius Aristides (DK 79, 1). See LSJ entries at web address 1 and web address 2.
[2] Plato, Meno 95C, Protagoras 318D-E, 327E-328B. As Dover (below) 144 says: 'The practitioner of an art is normally also a teacher of apprentices'. See Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists passim, for the teaching activity of imperial-era sophists. On imperial sophists in particular, see G.W. Bowersock (1969), Greek Sophists in the Roman Empire, Oxford University Press; E.L. Bowie (1982), 'The importance of sophists', in J.J. Winkler and G. Williams (eds.), Later Greek Literature, Yale Classical Studies 27: 29-60.
[3] So e.g. in (?)Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 62 and 944.
[4] A garbling of part of Aelian fr. 108b Domingo-Forasté (105 Hercher); see in context at iota 73.
[5] Scholia to Aristophanes, Knights 299.
[6] Dover (below) xxxvi: 'Since Plato we have been accustomed to distinguish between the sophist and the philosopher, and therefore lack a word to cover both. The distinction was not made in language of Ar.'s time, nor was the word sophistes so narrowly confined so later'. See also Woodruff (below). Thus Plato presents Protagoras saying that sophistry is a techne (Prot. 317C). See also Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists 1. Praef. (480-484).
Aristophanes, Clouds, edited with Introduction and Commentary by K.J. Dover, Oxford, OUP, 1968
A.W. Adkins, 'Arete, techne, democracy and sophists: Protagoras 316B-328D', in Journal of Hellenic Studies 93 (1973)
M. Canto-Sperber (ed.), Philosophie grecque, Paris, PUF, 1997
E. Dupreel, Les sophistes; Protagoras, Gorgias, Prodicus, Hippias, Neuchatel, Editions du Griffon, 1948
W.K.C. Guthrie, The History of Greek Philosophy, vol. III: The fifth-Century Enlightment, Cambridge, CUP, 1969
M.C. Stokes, Plato's Socratic Conversations, London, The Athlone Press, 1986
M. Untersteiner, I Sofisti, Turin, Einaudi, 1947; second edition translated: Les Sophistes, Paris, Vrin, 1993, 2 vols
P. Woodruff, 'Plato's Early Theory of Knowledge', in H. Benson (ed.), Essays on the Philosophy of Socrates, Oxford, OUP, 1992
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2
Keywords: biography; comedy; definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; ethics; history; medicine; philosophy; rhetoric
Translated by: Marisa Divenosa on 17 November 1999@18:37:44.
Vetted by:
Svetla Slaveva on 18 February 2000@17:48:51.
William Hutton (Minor cosmetics; removed some non-essential transliterations; raised vetting status.) on 20 February 2000@19:39:49.
David Whitehead (augmented notes and keywords; restorative and other cosmetics) on 2 February 2003@11:07:40.
Catharine Roth (added betacode) on 4 December 2006@11:59:50.
David Whitehead (restorative cosmetics in bibliog) on 5 December 2006@03:16:25.
Aikaterini Oikonomopoulou (Enhanced notes; added keywords; added links to on-line LSJ.) on 25 May 2012@09:15:03.
Catharine Roth (tweaked note) on 1 October 2013@21:59:22.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 1 October 2013@22:17:32.
David Whitehead (another note and keyword; tweaks and cosmetics) on 30 December 2013@07:42:49.
David Whitehead on 30 December 2013@07:45:58.
Catharine Roth (updated reference in note 4) on 3 July 2014@00:03:31.
David Whitehead on 4 October 2015@11:03:23.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 20 March 2022@01:51:04.


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