Antiphon of Rhamnus in Attica (480-403 BC) was the earliest of the ten Attic orators.
Antiphon was an orator and statesman who took up rhetoric as a profession. The assertions that he was a Sophist and a contemporary of Socrates are disputed by some historians. The problem seems to revolve round whether there was one Sophist philosopher named Antiphon who lived around this time or whether there are two, or as some experts claim, three distinct Antiphons.
He took an active part 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); on the restoration the democracy in 403 BC he was accused of treason and condemned to death. Thucydides (viii. 68) expresses a very high opinion of him.
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 defence of his policy have been edited by J. Nicole (5907) from an Egyptian papyrus.
His chief business was that of a logographer—a professional speech-writer for those who felt incompetent to conduct their own cases, as all disputants were obliged to do, 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.
He maintains that natures's laws are necessary to mankind, while human laws are extraneous additions based on support from the general public. He also argues that the human law inhibits the person from following the decrees of nature.
This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.
Antiphon and Andocides (The Oratory of Classical Greece) by Michael Gagarin (Translator), Douglas M. MacDowell (Translator) University of Texas Press; 1998, ISBN: 0292728093
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire
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