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The Essential Isocrates

The Essential Isocrates

The foundational writings of Isocrates, newly translated and placed in historical context.

Series: Ashley and Peter Larkin Endowment In Greek and Roman Culture

June 2022
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240 pages | 6 x 9 |

The Essential Isocrates is a comprehensive introduction to Isocrates, one of ancient Greece’s foremost orators. Jon D. Mikalson presents Isocrates largely in his own words, with original English translations of selections of his writings on his life and times and on morality, religion, philosophy, rhetoric, education, political theory, and Greek and Athenian history. In Mikalson’s treatment, Isocrates receives his due not only as a major thinker but as one whose work has resonated across time, influencing even modern education practices and theory.

Isocrates wrote extensively about Athens in the fourth century BCE and before, and his speeches, letters, and essays provide a trove of insights concerning the intellectual, political, and social currents of his time. Mikalson details what we know about Isocrates’ long, eventful, and complicated life, and much can be gleaned on the personal level from his own writings, as Isocrates was one of the most introspective authors of the Classical Period. By collecting the most representative and important passages of Isocrates’ writings, arranging them topically, and placing them in historical context, The Essential Isocrates invites general and expert readers alike to engage with one of antiquity’s most compelling men of ideas.

  • Writings of Isocrates
  • Terms Needing Definition
  • Persons Perhaps Not Generally Known but Featured in Isocrates’ Writings
  • Chronology of Works of Isocrates and of Major Events Mentioned by Him
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Isocrates: His Life
  • Chapter 2. Isocrates: On Himself
  • Chapter 3. Isocrates: On Morality and Religion
  • Chapter 4. Isocrates: On Philosophy, Education, Rhetoric, and Poetry
  • Chapter 5. Isocrates: On Political Theory
  • Chapter 6. Isocrates: On Athenian and Greek History
  • Notes
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Further Readings
  • General Index
  • Index Locorum

Jon D. Mikalson is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Classics, emeritus, at the University of Virginia. He is the author of many books, including Ancient Greek Religion, Greek Popular Religion in Greek Philosophy, and Religion in Hellenistic Athens.


“Mikalson aims to present Isocrates’ thoughts on a variety of issues in his own words, thus providing a thematic guide to his ideas and observations. There is no comparable book that offers such a convenient and useful access to Isocrates' writings.’’ 

—Joseph Roisman, author of The Classical Art of Command: Eight Greek Generals Who Shaped the History of Warfare