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Isocrates(īsŏk`rətēz), 436–338 B.C., one of the Ten Attic Orators. He was a pupil of Socrates and of the Sophists. Perhaps the greatest teacher in Greek history, he taught every younger orator of his time. He did not deliver his speeches, but either wrote for litigants (six such speeches survive) or wrote discourses to be read (15 of which remain) dealing mainly with politics and education. Panegyricus (in which he urges Hellenic unity against Persia) is his most celebrated oration. Isocrates committed suicide (according to tradition) after the defeat of Athens by Philip II of Macedon at Chaeronea.
Born 436 b.c. in Athens; died there in 338 b.c. Ancient Greek publicist.
A student of the sophists and influenced by Socrates, Isocrates was the author of political pamphlets written in the form of speeches. He consistently upheld the interests of the upper class of slaveholding society. In his first and most important publicistic work, the Panegyricus (380), he urged the Greeks to unite politically for a joint military campaign against the East. Isocrates regarded a Panhellenic war against the Persians as a means of overcoming the political fragmentation of Hellas and solving social problems, including poverty. In his subsequent works he argued the advantages of a monarchy over a republic (known as the speeches to the citizens of Cyprus) and criticized democracy as a form of government, in particular condemning the foreign policy of Theban democracy (the speeches Plataicus and Archidamus) and the policies of Athens (On the Peace and Areopagiticus). In his last years Isocrates appealed to the Macedonian king Philip II to unify Hellas and lead the Greeks against the Persians. His extant works consisting of 21 speeches and nine letters, of which some are thought to be spurious, are a valuable source for studying the sociopolitical history and culture of Greece in the fourth century B.C.
WORKSDiscours, 4 vols. Paris, 1928–62.
In Russian translation:
Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1965, nos. 3, 4; 1966, nos. 1–4; 1967, nos. 1, 3–4; 1968, nos. 1-; 1969, nos. 1–2.
REFERENCESBorukhovich, V. G., and E.D. Frolov. “Publitsisticheskaia deiatel’nost’ Isokrata.” Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1969, no. 2.
Blass, F. Die attische Beredsamkeit, 2nd ed., part 2. Leipzig, 1892.
Cloché, P. Isocrate et son temps. Paris, 1963.
E. D. FROLOV