The Second Sophistic: A Cultural Phenomenon in the Roman Empire

By Graham Anderson | Go to book overview

8

Logos Erōtikos: the sophist as storyteller

From the very first exercise in the progymnasmata sophists could expect to be trained in the art of telling stories as such, and some sophists at least would have made successful raconteurs in their own right. The prolaliae to sophistic performances frequently entail inserted stories for the purpose of relaxing the audience; and we hear that Hadrian of Tyre used marvellous accounts of the practices of magicians, 1 to the extent of actually being mistaken for one. Lucian's Philopseudes and Apuleius' Metamorphoses would testify to a similar talent; and we have already seen how far the world of the progymnasmata is reflected in the extended narrative that begins Dio Chrysostom's Euboicus. It is time to consider sophists as narrators in their own right.

The reflexes of telling a simple story in elaborate form can perhaps be seen to best advantage in a predictable tale such as that of a holy man raising a patient from the dead. In the story of Jairus' daughter as it appears in St Mark's Gospel we have such an account in almost its simplest possible form:

And they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, and saw the hubbub, and a great deal of weeping and wailing. And [Jesus] went in and said to them, 'Why are you making a row and weeping? The child is not dead, but is sleeping.' And they laughed at him…and taking the child's hand he said…'Girl, I tell you, wake up.' And she immediately got up…and immediately there was great rejoicing. 2

When Apuleius tells a similar tale about the healing powers of the doctor Asclepiades, we have the chance to see such a scenario in sophistic hands:

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