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GORGLAS
A Greek sopbist and rhetorician, a native of Leontini in Sicily. In 427 B.C., when already advanced in years, he came to Athens on an embassy from his native city, to implore aid against the Syracusans. The finished style of his speaking excited general admiration. He was successful in the object of his mission, and immediately returned home. But he soon came back to Athens, which he made his headquarters, travelling through Greece, like the other Sophists, and winning much popularity and emolument from a large number of disciples. He survived Socrates, who died in 399, and ended his days at Larissa in Thessaly in his hundredth year. His philosophy was a nihilistic system, which he summed up in three propositions: (a) nothing exists; (b) if anything existed, it could not be known; (c) did anything exist, and could it be known, it could not be communicated. Ile declined to assume the name of Sophist, preferring that of rhetorician. He professed to teach not virtue, but the art of persuasion; in other words, to give his disciples such absolute readiness in speaking, that they should be able to convince their hearers independently of any knowledge of the subject. He did not found his instruction on any definite rhetorical system, but gave his pupils standard passages of literature to learn by art and imitate, practising them in the application of rhetorical figures. He appeared in person, on various occasions, at Delphi, Olympia, and Athens, with model speeches which he afterwards published. It must not be forgotten that it was Gorgias who transplanted rhetoric to Greece, its proper soil, and who helped to diffuse the Attic dialect as the literary language of prose. Two highly rhetorical exercises, the genuineness of which is doubtful, have come down to us under his name, the Encomium of Helen, and the Defence of Palamedes against the charge of high treason brought against him by Odysseus.
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