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Antiphon the Athenian

Antiphon the Athenian
Oratory, Law, and Justice in the Age of the Sophists

This book convincingly argues that Antiphon the orator and Antiphon the Sophist were the same person.

January 2002
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236 pages | 6 x 9 |

Antiphon was a fifth-century Athenian intellectual (ca. 480-411 BCE) who created the profession of speechwriting while serving as an influential and highly sought-out adviser to litigants in the Athenian courts. Three of his speeches are preserved, together with three sets of Tetralogies (four hypothetical paired speeches), whose authenticity is sometimes doubted. Fragments also survive of intellectual treatises on subjects including justice, law, and nature (physis), which are often attributed to a separate Antiphon the Sophist. Were these two Antiphons really one and the same individual, endowed with a wide-ranging mind ready to tackle most of the diverse intellectual interests of his day?

Through an analysis of all these writings, this book convincingly argues that they were composed by a single individual, Antiphon the Athenian. Michael Gagarin sets close readings of individual works within a wider discussion of the fifth-century Athenian intellectual climate and the philosophical ferment known as the sophistic movement. This enables him to demonstrate the overall coherence of Antiphon's interests and writings and to show how he was a pivotal figure between the sophists and the Attic orators of the fourth century. In addition, Gagarin's argument allows us to reassess the work of the sophists as a whole, so that they can now be seen as primarily interested in logos (speech, argument) and as precursors of fourth-century rhetoric, rather than in their usual role as foils for Plato.


2003 Friends of the Dallas Public Library Award
Texas Institute of Letters

  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. The Sophistic Period
    1. Who Were the Sophists?
    2. Inquiry and Experiment
    3. Paradox and Play
    4. Public Competition
    5. Logos, Argument, Rhetoric
    6. Relativism and Humanism
    7. Conclusion
  • 2. Antiphon: Life and Works
    1. Orator and Sophist
    2. The Authenticity of the Tetralogies
  • 3. Truth
    1. The Papyrus Fragments
    2. Nomos and Physis
    3. Justice
    4. Advantage and Disadvantage, Pleasure and Pain
    5. The Senses and the Intellect
    6. Language and Truth
    7. Structure and Style
    8. Conclusion
  • 4. Concord, Dream-Interpretation
    1. Concord: Content
    2. Concord: Style
    3. Dream Interpretation
    4. Other Works
  • 5. The Tetralogies
    1. The Tetralogies and Their Audience
    2. Pollution
    3. Tetralogy 1
    4. Tetralogy 2
    5. Tetralogy 3
    6. Conclusion
  • 6. The Court Speeches
    1. Athenian Homicide Law
    2. Antiphon 6: On the Chorus Boy
    3. Antiphon 1: Against the Stepmother
    4. Antiphon 5: The Murder of Herodes
    5. Antiphon's Speech in His Own Defense
    6. Antiphon's Logographic Strategies
    7. Conclusion
  • 7. From the Sophists to Forensic Oratory
    1. The Complete Antiphon
    2. Style
    3. Argument
    4. Thought
    5. The Career of Antiphon--A Summary
  • Appendix A. Truth: The Papyrus Fragments
  • Appendix B. Concord: The Fragments
  • Works Cited
  • Indices
    • Citations from Ancient Authors
    • General Index

Michael Gagarin is James R. Dougherty, Jr. Centennial Professor of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin.


My interest in Antiphon was first awakened in a course taught by Tom Cole some forty years ago, when I was an undergraduate at Stanford. At the time I put Antiphon aside to write a dissertation on Protagoras, and then went on to write on Aeschylus, justice, law, and rhetoric, which has now brought me back at last to this book on Antiphon. Another important stimulus came in 1977, when, while working on Athenian homicide law—and thus naturally encountering Antiphon again frequently—I had an opportunity to teach the Attic orators at Berkeley. I included a good bit of Antiphon in the course, and the students (a mixture of undergraduates and graduates) responded enthusiastically. I became convinced that Antiphon should be included in every Classics student's reading, as he rarely was at that time. In the last two decades, as I have worked on other subjects, I have never strayed far from Antiphon, and the conviction has strengthened that his work is important for understanding the intellectual movement of the last half of the fifth century, and especially the origin and nature of forensic oratory. Antiphon's various identities—logographer, Sophist, political adviser, political leader, even dream-interpreter—suggest not so much a multiplicity of persons with the same name living and working in roughly the same time and place, but rather a single individual with a wide-ranging mind, ready to tackle most of the diverse intellectual interests of his day. In this book I try to do what no one else has yet attempted: to bring together into a single, complete picture the many parts of this multidimensional fifth-century intellectual, Antiphon the Athenian.


Not that scholars have not written about Antiphon before now. The first edition of his speeches, the Aldine, appeared in 1513. The first modern edition and commentary was produced by Maetzner in 1838, but a century and a half would pass before there was another commentary on all the speeches (Gagarin 1997). Other notable texts of all the speeches are the editions by Blass (later revised by Thalheim), Gernet, and Maidment. In addition, several books have been devoted to Antiphon's three court speeches, beginning with the influential work of Solmsen (Solmsen 1931, Vollmer 1958, Due 1980, Heitsch 1984). Fewer scholars have interested themselves in the Tetralogies, where the question of authorship has dominated discussion, though Decleva Caizzi (1969) produced a good commentary on them. And the publication of the papyrus fragments in the early twentieth century stimulated many papers on "Antiphon the Sophist."


All these studies have isolated pieces of the work of Antiphon, and so have continued to foster the view that these were the products of more than one individual. In recent years, however, more and more scholars have been inclined to see Antiphon as a single person. Thus, the time seems ripe for a study that takes this unitarian premise as its starting point, and reassembles these pieces as the work of one man. To the extent that the resulting picture is coherent and interesting, it will help justify the premise from which the work begins.




“Gagarin demonstrates persuasively that Antiphon the logographer is identical with the Antiphon who made intellectual contributions on more abstract topics.”
Mervin R. Dilts, Professor of Classics, New York University