The Second Sophistic: A Cultural Phenomenon in the Roman Empire

By Graham Anderson | Go to book overview

4

Atticism and antagonism

The Second Sophistic offers the scenario for a unique lawsuit, when the consonant Sigma brings an action before the Vowels against his fellow-consonant Tau, on thoroughly Thucydidean grounds:

But this fellow Tau here-for I am unable to call him by a name worse than his own-who would not have been heard on his own, I swear by the gods, unless two upstanding and handsome fellows from among you, Alpha and Upsilon, had come to support him, this Tau, then, has had the nerve to do me injuries beyond any of the previous outrages; he has driven me from my ancestral nouns and verbs, and at the same time banished me at a stroke from conjunctions and prepositions, so that I can no longer bear his amazing expansionism. 1

Not all of this is fantasy. It reflects the genuine consciousness of Attic forms that characterises the background of Imperial sophistic practice, and well beyond Athens itself. Nor were such matters confined to the realms of jeu d'esprit. When Philagrus of Cilicia was about to make his Athenian début he engaged in a heated verbal exchange with Herodes Atticus' star pupil Amphicles, but in the course of it let slip an ('outlandish expression'). On being asked in what author it was found, he told his challenger 'in Philagrus'. 2 The visitor's quick thinking may have retrieved the situation, but in Philostratus' reminiscences he still stands condemned. But Herodes himself may have fared no better: he is quoted as describing a wheelbrake as , a word evidently unknown to Attic lexicography. 3 The two stories are symptomatic of an ethos.

-86-

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