How was Sophism portrayed in contemporary Greek literature?

In the fifth century the Sophists were widely distrusted, probably due to the fact that their teaching of rhetoric and philosophy was mostly available only to the wealthiest members of society, and the fact that Sophistic ideas, with their moral relativism, were radical, new, and striking. The Sophists were associated with a particular style of writing, which was characterised by heavy use of flowery rhetorical techniques and a tendency to break apart seemingly simple concepts. For instance, Antigone, in the eponymous tragedy, distinguishes between the laws of the gods below and those of the gods above - this would have been understood by the play's original audience to be a 'Sophistic' act. Sophocles treats both Antigone and Creon with a mixture of positive and negative characterisation, but likening Antigone to the Sophists probably made her appear less trustworthy to contemporary audiences. When Thucydides gives an account of Pericles' funeral oration, he has him speak with typical Sophistic rhetoric, and this (as well as the juxtaposition of the oration with the plague in Athens, which comes about as a result of Pericles' policy of moving the citizens of Attica into Athens) serves to imply that his leadership is misguided. Essentially, there appears to have been a very real stereotype for the way Sophists spoke and argued, and this was readily used by the authors of contemporary literature to colour their characters. 


Daniel  T. IB Classical Greek tutor, GCSE Classical Greek tutor, 13 p...

9 months ago

Answered by Daniel , an A Level Classical Greek tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


£22 /hr

Phoebe W.

Degree: Classics (Bachelors) - Bristol University

Subjects offered:Classical Greek, Maths+ 1 more

Classical Greek

“Hello!! I am a 2nd year student reading Classics at Bristol University. I have always loved studying these languages and hope that I can inspire you to continue on this epic journey that mirrors Odysseus' - long and difficult at times...”

MyTutor guarantee

£20 /hr

Karalyn G.

Degree: Classics (Bachelors) - Exeter University

Subjects offered:Classical Greek, Latin+ 1 more

Classical Greek

“Hi! I am in my first year at the University of Exeter where I study Classics. I am very passionate about languages especially Latin and Classical Greek. I have grown up in Brussels and completed my secondary education in French. While ...”

MyTutor guarantee

£26 /hr

Jack A.

Degree: Classics (Bachelors) - Oxford, Magdalen College University

Subjects offered:Classical Greek, Latin+ 3 more

Classical Greek
English Literature

“In my opinion the best tutoring session is highly engaging, fully supportive and educational, and allows you to learn with confidence in your subject”

About the author

£20 /hr

Daniel T.

Degree: Classics (Bachelors) - Oxford, Balliol College University

Subjects offered:Classical Greek, Latin+ 1 more

Classical Greek
-Personal Statements-

“Top tutor from the renowned Russell university group, ready to help you improve your grades.”

MyTutor guarantee

You may also like...

Other A Level Classical Greek questions

How active a role does Penelope play in the Odyssey?

What is the central moment of Aeschylus' Agamemnon?

What is the Second Sophistic?

How does aspect work in Greek?

View A Level Classical Greek tutors

We use cookies to improve your site experience. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss