The Second Sophistic: A Cultural Phenomenon in the Roman Empire

By Graham Anderson | Go to book overview

9

Adoxa paradoxa: the pepaideumenos at play

So far we have noted those activities of sophists which in one sense or another are predominantly serious. But a sophist could strike other poses that were much less so, and attitudes that fostered a more light-hearted literature could influence the main body of his output. It is worth exploring this seldom discussed aspect of sophistic activity as a force in its own right.


'THINGS WITHOUT HONOUR': THE WORLD OF THEADOXON

In the course of his travels Apollonius of Tyana meets a conceited composer of an panegyric on Zeus, and wryly acknowledges him to be an expert in encomium:

'And for that reason, ' the young man replied, 'I have composed an encomium of gout as well, and of blindness and deafness.' 'And why not of dropsy into the bargain?' said Apollonius, 'and you mustn't deprive catarrh of your talents, if you really must praise those sorts of things. And while you're about it, you would do even better to attend funerals and rehearse encomia of the diseases the victims died of; for the fathers, children and close relatives of the dead will feel less pain if you do.' 1

It is this kind of activity, the writing of so-called adoxa, or praise of things normally disreputable or worthless, 2 that has brought the Sophistic itself most quickly into disrepute in the past. There is felt to be something inscrutably perverse or stupid about a society whose most learned members expend their energies on the praise of, for example, hair or baldness, as Dio

-171-

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