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Who's Who Ancient Greece: Orators

Isokratis (436-338 BC)

Rhetorician: one versed in the art of rhetoric: in classical oratory: the art of influencing ones hearers, Rhetorical question is designed to create and effect rather than elicit an answer

This orator, who lived to be almost one hundred years of age, was best known for the speeches made during the last part of his life, during the 4th century BC, from about the age of sixty. His speeches were forensic, advistory and also showpieces. Born in a town to the east of Athens, he was the son of a prosperous flute maker, and educated by the best rhetoricians and Sophists of his time.

He also attended classes held by Socrates, but did not follow his teachings systematically. In the epilogue to the Platonic dialogue Phaedrus, Plato writes that Socrates predicted a brilliant future for the young Isokratis, were he to pursue either philosophy or rhetoric.

He worked for eight years writing speeches for others to use in court, and later, in 393 BC, opened a school of rhetoric on the island of Hios (Chios);three years later he opened a school of rhetoric in Athens (though he called it a school of philosophy, using the word in the sense of building character, cultivating the mind in general., achieving soundness of judgment, and developing the use of language to its highest capacity. This school developed into a university, with pupils coming from afar to study there, including historians, politicians and orators.

In his speeches, Isokratis enjoined Greeks to unite against the enemy, and he died of grief, at 98 years of age, five days after the Macedonia victory at Chaironea in 338 BC, which marked the end of the old Greek city states . He was buried at public expense.

Six forensic speeches, eight letters, and 14 showepiece and advisory speeches are all that remain of his work.