The Second Sophistic: A Cultural Phenomenon in the Roman Empire

By Graham Anderson | Go to book overview

Preface

This book is an attempt to characterise a cultural phenomenon, or rather a complex of phenomena, that has come to be known as The Second Sophistic'. In part it has come about in response to textbook statements so often encountered in studies of individual writers of the Early Empire, that Plutarch or Dio or Marcus Aurelius or any other writer 'belonged to the period known as the Second Sophistic'. Such statements may often be unexceptionable in themselves, but they can also give the impression that the Second Sophistic can be characterised much more specifically than is really the case. The student or scholar who wishes to enquire further will soon find out that it can be very difficult to find out what the Second Sophistic amounts to or implies. The term itself has long been used in standard histories of Greek literature, and is now accepted in dealing with early Imperial history as well. But sophists can be elusive, ambiguous and apparently diffuse both in their interests and patterns of behaviour. Yet there is really no 'book about' the Second Sophistic as such, or the wide variety of perspectives from which it may be seen. While most angles of vision will produce a perspective that will be defensible, it may not always be easy to harmonise with other perspectives to obtain a view of the whole.

For several decades there has been a sustained scholarly interest in the cultural history of the first three centuries AD. The political prominence of sophists has been stressed, and the literary range of the period thoroughly characterised; the archaising outlook of sophists and their associates has also been noticed. But literary and historical activities of sophists have tended to be treated as though they belong to separable

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