Did Gorgias Coin Rhetorike?
A Rereading of Plato's GorgiasPDF
Thirty years after E. Schiappa’s self-styled ‘coining-of-rhetorike thesis’, the assumption that rhetorike was invented by Plato in Gorgias (448d) is meeting with increasing consensus; yet the foundations of the ‘revised’ approach, besides contrasting with Aristotle’s narrative and all our ancient sources, have never been examined in detail. Indeed, Plato’s Gorgias is our main evidence to the contrary, since an unbiased reading of the dialogue very clearly points to the sophist from Leontini as the teacher who first ‘disciplined’ rhetoric and coined rhetorike. It is my aim to put Gorgias in context, and to reconsider in a different light both his relationship with the earlier logon techne and his statements about speech in Helen. The new discipline’s powerful impact on contemporary politics seriously alarmed Plato, fuelling his attack against the sophist’s school. Once we put Gorgias back in place, the absence of rhetorike in fifth-century texts is no longer an anomaly, and the missing word is readily found where it might be expected to appear.