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There are reasons to believe that relations between Platonism and rhetoric in Athens during the fifth century CE were rather close. Both were major pillars of pagan culture, or paideia, and thus essential elements in the defense of paganism against increasingly powerful and repressive Christian opponents. It is easy to imagine that, under these circumstances, paganism was closing ranks and that philosophers and orators united in their efforts to save traditional ways and values. Although there is no doubt some truth to this view, a closer look reveals that the relations between philosophy and rhetoric were rather more complicated. In what follows, I will discuss these relations with a view to the Platonist school of Athens. By “the Platonist school of Athens” I mean the Platonist school founded by Plutarch of Athens in the late fourth century CE, and reaching a famous end under the leadership of Damascius in 529. I will first survey the evidence for the attitudes towards rhetoric prevailing amongst the most important Athenian Platonists of the time. I will then consider whether rhetoric played any role in the canonical course of study at the Platonist schools of Athens and Alexandria. Finally, I will conclude with some remarks about the philosophical interest that fifth century Platonists had in rhetoric.


Ryan C. Fowler


De Gruyter





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Plato in the Third Sophistic

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Philosophy Commons