Antiphon (person)

Antiphon the Sophist 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 (Unicode|Ἀντιφῶν) 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.

Antiphon of Rhamnus

Antiphon of Rhamnus was a statesman who took up rhetoric as a profession. He was active in political affairs at 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 (viii. 68) famously characterized Antiphon's skills, influence, and reputation:

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 Περι μεταστασεως) have been edited by J. Nicole (1907) from an Egyptian papyrus.

His chief business was that of a logographer (λογογραφος), 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, fence, reply, counter-reply; three refer to actual legal processes. All deal with cases of homicide (φονικαι δικαι). Antiphon is also said to have composed a Τεχνη or art of Rhetoric.

Antiphon the Sophist

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 that its author could not be the same person as Antiphon of Rhamnus; for it affirms strong egalitarian and libertarian principles appropriate to a democracy but presumably antithetical to the oligarchical views of one who was instrumental in the anti-democratic coup of 411. (See W. K C. Guthrie, "The Sophists" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971)

"Nature" requires liberty

"On Truth" juxtaposes the repressive nature of convention and law ("nomos") with "nature" ("physis"), 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 desire. (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)

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."Fact|date=October 2008 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." (Mario Untersteiner, "The Sophists", tr. Kathleen Freeman (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1954) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971, p. 247)


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.



* 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
* van Cleef, "Index Antiphonteus", Ithaca, N. Y. (1895)
* [ Antiphon]
* 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.

External links

* Xenophon's [ "Memorabilia" 1.6.1-.15] presents a dialogue between Antiphon the Sophist and Socrates.
* [;layout=;loc=1.1;query=toc "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
*The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on "Callicles and Thrasymachus" [] discusses the views of Antiphon the Sophist.

Further reading

* cite encyclopedia
last = Kerferd
first = G.B.
title = Antiphon
encyclopedia = Dictionary of Scientific Biography
volume = 1
pages = 170-172
publisher = Charles Scribner's Sons
location = New York
date = 1970
isbn = 0684101149


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Antiphon — This article is about the musical term. See Antiphon (person) the orator of ancient Greece. An antiphon (Greek ἀντίφωνον, ἀντί opposite + φωνή voice ) is a response, usually sung in Gregorian chant, to a psalm or some other part of a religious… …   Wikipedia

  • Antiphon (Musik) — Antiphon (von altgr. ἀντί φωνος, entgegentönend, antwortend ) bedeutet Gegengesang oder Wechselgesang. Der Begriff bezeichnet sowohl eine Art des Musizierens (Antiphonie) als auch spezifische Stücke in dieser Art, insbesondere in der Kirchenmusik …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • List of philosophy topics (A-C) — 110th century philosophy 11th century philosophy 12th century philosophy 13th century philosophy 14th century philosophy 15th century philosophy 16th century philosophy 17th century philosophy 18th century philosophy 19th century philosophy220th… …   Wikipedia

  • Pre-Socratic philosophy — The Pre Socratic Greek philosophers were active before Socrates or contemporaneously, but expounding knowledge developed earlier. The popularity of the term originates with Hermann Diels work Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker ( The Fragments of the …   Wikipedia

  • Sophists (The) — The sophists G. B. Kerferd In the fifth century BC the term sophistēs was used in Greece as a name to designate a particular profession, that of certain travelling teachers who went from city to city giving lectures and providing instruction in a …   History of philosophy

  • Christian Burial —     Christian Burial     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Christian Burial     The interment of a deceased person with ecclesiastical rites in consecrated ground. The Jews and most of the nations of antiquity buried their dead. Amongst the Greeks and… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Greek arithmetic, geometry and harmonics: Thales to Plato — Ian Mueller INTRODUCTION: PROCLUS’ HISTORY OF GEOMETRY In a famous passage in Book VII of the Republic starting at Socrates proposes to inquire about the studies (mathēmata) needed to train the young people who will become leaders of the ideal… …   History of philosophy

  • Christian burial — Ascension Parish burial ground, Cambridge, UK. A Christian burial is the burial of a deceased person with specifically Christian ecclesiastical rites; typically, in consecrated ground. Until recent times Christians generally objected to cremation …   Wikipedia

  • Mozarabic Rite — • The name Mozarabic Rite is given to the rite used generally in Spain and in what afterwards became Portugal from the earliest times of which we have any information down to the latter part of the eleventh century, and still surviving in the… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • biblical literature — Introduction       four bodies of written works: the Old Testament writings according to the Hebrew canon; intertestamental works, including the Old Testament Apocrypha; the New Testament writings; and the New Testament Apocrypha.       The Old… …   Universalium

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.