Attracting the Greatest Numbers of Students with the Least Truth

Isocrates, Against the Sophists 9-10

“We must rebuke not only those sophists but also those who promise to teach political oratory—for these guys don’t care at all about the truth but instead think that it is an art because they get the greatest number of students thanks to the small size of their fee and the greatness of their pronouncements and then they get something from them.

They are so imperceptive and imagine everyone else to be that even though they write speeches worse than some of the untrained masses compose, they still guarantee that they will make their students the kinds of politicians who never leave out any of the possibilities in a matter.

Even worse, they don’t derive any of that power from their experiences or the talent of a student, but they say that they can train the knowledge of speaking as they would basic literacy—in reality, each of them believe that because of the insanity of their promises they will be objects of wonder and that people will think that training in their discipline is worth more than it is. In this, they have not even considered that the people who make arts great are not those who dare to boast about them, but those who have the ability to discover what the power of each art is on its own.”

Οὐ μόνον δὲ τούτοις ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς τοὺς πολιτικοὺς λόγους ὑπισχνουμένοις ἄξιον ἐπιτιμῆσαι καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι τῆς μὲν ἀληθείας οὐδὲν φροντίζουσιν, ἡγοῦνται δὲ τοῦτ᾿ εἶναι τὴν τέχνην, ἢν ὡς πλείστους τῇ μικρότητι τῶν μισθῶν καὶ τῷ μεγέθει τῶν ἐπαγγελμάτων προσαγάγωνται καὶ λαβεῖν τι παρ᾿ αὐτῶν δυνηθῶσιν· οὕτω δ᾿ ἀναισθήτως αὐτοί τε διάκεινται καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους ἔχειν ὑπειλήφασιν, ὥστε χεῖρον γράφοντες τοὺς λόγους ἢ τῶν ἰδιωτῶν τινες αὐτοσχεδιάζουσιν, ὅμως ὑπισχνοῦνται τοιούτους ῥήτορας τοὺς συνόντας ποιήσειν ὥστε μηδὲν τῶν ἐνόντων ἐν τοῖς πράγμασι παραλιπεῖν. καὶ ταύτης τῆς δυνάμεως οὐδὲν [293]οὔτε ταῖς ἐμπειρίαις οὔτε τῇ φύσει τῇ τοῦ μαθητοῦ μεταδιδόασιν, ἀλλά φασιν ὁμοίως τὴν τῶν λόγων ἐπιστήμην ὥσπερ τὴν τῶν γραμμάτων παραδώσειν, ὡς μὲν ἔχει τούτων ἑκάτερον, οὐκ ἐξετάσαντες, οἰόμενοι δὲ διὰ τὰς ὑπερβολὰς τῶν ἐπαγγελμάτων αὐτοί τε θαυμασθήσεσθαι καὶ τὴν παίδευσιν τὴν τῶν λόγων πλέονος ἀξίαν δόξειν εἶναι, κακῶς εἰδότες ὅτι μεγάλας ποιοῦσι τὰς τέχνας οὐχ οἱ τολμῶντες ἀλαζονεύεσθαι περὶ αὐτῶν, ἀλλ᾿ οἵτινες ἄν, ὅσον ἔνεστιν ἐν ἑκάστῃ, τοῦτ᾿ ἐξευρεῖν δυνηθῶσιν.

Vaticanus Graecus, 65. 121v Public Domain


Libanius Goes Straight-Up Nativist

Libanius, Oration 2.65-67

“Although I have especially considered the affairs of the whole world my own business, whether bad or good, and I have become the kind of person which fortune has made me, one who loves the world is not worthy of hatred.

So, if someone should restrain me just to taking care of the city which produced me, then this state would seem to be suffering misfortune because of the many immigrants who leave their own cities and homes to come here. Well, that’s if they really have homes they would be brave enough to see even in dreams, these foreigners who think it right to overpower citizens, despite fearing that the emperor might make a law to examine their unexpected wealth.

It is not enough for them to have what is ours, but if anyone dares to blame their good luck, they get enraged and anyone who complains is annoying. When you are the kind of people you are, how is it not terrifying to meet this limit to your freedom of speech?”

Μάλιστα μὲν οὖν τὰ τῆς οἰκουμένης ἁπάσης ἐμαυτοῦ νενόμικα βελτίω τε καὶ χείρω, καὶ γίγνομαι τοιοῦτος οἷον ἄν με ποιῶσιν αἱ ἐκείνης τύχαι, μισεῖσθαι δὲ ὁ φιλῶν τὴν οἰκουμένην οὐκ ἄξιος.

εἰ δ᾿ οὖν | καὶ κατακλείοι μέ τις εἰς τὴν ὑπὲρτῆς ἐνεγκούσης πρόνοιαν, ἀτυχεῖν μοι δοκεῖ ταῖς μετοικίαις αὕτη πολλῶν τινῶν οἳ τὰς αὑτῶν καταλιπόντες πόλεις καὶ οἴκους, εἰ δὴ καὶ οἴκους καὶ R οὐδ᾿ ἂν ὄναρ ἡδέως ἰδόντες οὗπερ ἔφυσαν, | ξένοι πολιτῶν κρατεῖν οἴονται δεῖν τρέμοντες1 μὴ νόμον θῇ βασιλεὺς εἶναι τῶν παραδόξων πλούτων εὐθύνας.

οἷς οὐκ ἐξαρκεῖ τὰ ἡμέτερα ἔχειν, ἀλλὰ κἂν αἰτιάσηταί τις τὴν Τύχην θυμοῦνται, καὶ βαρὺς ὁ μεμψάμενος· τὸ γὰρ εἰς τοῦθ᾿ ὑμᾶς ἥκειν παρρησίας ὄντας οἷοίπερ ἐστέ, πῶς οὐ πάνδεινον;

Ken Cuccinelli, “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”

Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Manuscript in the public domain
Bronze plaque inside the Statue of Liberty with the text of the poem
This image was originally posted to Flickr by melanzane1013 at It was reviewed on  by FlickreviewR and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0.

A Vote for the Whole Country

Dinarchus, Against Philocles 19-20

“It is right, citizens, that you consider this and remember the current times: you need good faith, not corruption. You need to hate wicked men, cleanse the city of these kinds of monsters, and show all people that the majority of the people have not been ruined by a few politicians and generals. We are not slaves to their opinions because we know that we can easily defend ourselves with justice and values shared with each other as long as the gods favor us if anyone attacks us unjustly. But we know equally that no city will be preserved through corruption, betrayal and the values of wicked men like these.

For this reason, citizens, do not heed any request nor pity. Do not acknowledge the truth of the guilt which you have seen made against the injustice of the acts. […] But all of you help your common country and the laws, since both of these are being tried now against this man’s wickedness. You are about to cast a vote for the whole country, both for the established religions and the ancient laws and the constitution which was prepared for you by your forebears.”

Ἅ χρὴ λογισαμένους ὑμᾶς πάντας, ὦ Ἀθηναῖοι, καὶ τῶν παρόντων καιρῶν ἀναμνησθέντας, οἳ πίστεως οὐ δωροδοκίας δέονται, μισεῖν τοὺς πονηρούς, ἀνελεῖν ἐκ τῆς πόλεως τὰ τοιαῦτα θηρία, καὶ δεῖξαι πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις ὅτι οὐ συνδιέφθαρται τὸ τοῦ δήμου πλῆθος τῶν ῥητόρων καὶ τῶν στρατηγῶν τισιν, οὐδὲ δουλεύει ταῖς δόξαις, εἰδότας ὅτι μετὰ μὲν δικαιοσύνης καὶ τῆς πρὸς ἀλλήλους ὁμονοίας ῥᾳδίως ἀμυνούμεθα, θεῶν ἵλεων ὄντων, ἐάν τινες ἡμῖν ἀδίκως ἐπιτιθῶνται, μετὰ δὲ δωροδοκίας καὶ προδοσίας καὶ τῶν ὁμοίων τούτοις κακῶν, ἃ τοῖς τοιούτοις ἀνθρώποις πρόσεστιν, οὐδεμί᾿ ἂν πόλις σωθείη.

μηδεμίαν οὖν δέησιν, ὦ Ἀθηναῖοι, μηδ᾿ ἔλεον εἰς ὑμᾶς λαμβάνοντες αὐτούς, μηδὲ τὴν ἐξ αὐτῶν τῶν ἔργων καὶ τῆς ἀληθείας ἀποδεδειγμένην ὑμῖν κατὰ τῶν κρινομένων ἀδικίαν . . . ἄκυρον ποιήσαντες, βοηθήσατε κοινῇ τῇ πατρίδι καὶ τοῖς νόμοις· ταῦτα γὰρ ἀμφότερα διαδικάζεται νῦν πρὸς τὴν τούτου πονηρίαν. ὑπὲρ πάσης, ὦ Ἀθηναῖοι, τῆς χώρας νῦν μέλλετε φέρειν τὴν ψῆφον καὶ τῶν ἐν ταύτῃ κατεσκευασμένων ἱερῶν καὶ τῶν ἀρχαίων νομίμων καὶ τῆς παραδεδομένης ὑπὸ τῶν προγόνων ὑμῖν πολιτείας.

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Demosthenes from the Yale University Art Gallery


It Is Their Fault They Suffer: Libanius with Some Malicious Stupidity

At the news that thousands of children are still separated (and being separated) from their families at the border, some Americans lay the blame on their parents, claiming that if they all just stayed home, we wouldn’t have to put them in concentration camps. This is a rather ancient rhetorical strategy.

Libanius, Oration 23.1-2

“We are all hearing the reports that everywhere is filled with corpses—the fields, the roads, the hills, crests, caves, peaks, groves, and trenches—and that some of the corpses are feasts for birds and beasts while the rivers carry others to the sea.

I am sometimes surprised by this news but at other times I blame those who suffer it and I say that they have suffered what is right, that they have earned this for going into exile. You might even say that they invited upon themselves the swords of their murderers.

They would not have suffered these things if they stayed at home. They have met these events because they are wandering and are offering themselves as a feast to these men who have been criminals for a long time. Think of it like this: they have made others into bandits by making the inducement greater! Who could pity people who ruin themselves willingly?”

Τὰ μὲν ἀγγελλόμενα πάντες ἀκούομεν, ἅπαντα εἶναι μεστὰ νεκρῶν, τάς τε ἀρούρας τάς τε ὁδοὺς τά τε ὄρη τούς τε λόφους τά τε σπήλαια καὶ τὰς κορυφὰς τῶν ὀρῶν καὶ τὰ ἄλση καὶ τὰς φάραγγας, τῶν τε νεκρῶν τοὺς μὲν ἑστιᾶν ὄρνιθας καὶ θηρία, τοὺς δὲ ὑπὸ τοῦ ποταμοῦ πρὸς θάλατταν φέρεσθαι.

πρὸς τοίνυν τὰς ἀγγελίας ποτὲ μὲν πλήττομαι, ποτὲ δὲ τοῖς παθοῦσιν ἐγκαλῶ καί φημι δίκαια πεπονθέναι τοὺς τῆς φυγῆς ταῦτα ἀπολαύσαντας. οὓς φαίη τις ἂν αὐτοὺς ἐπισπάσασθαι τὰ τῶν κακούργων ξίφη. ἃ γὰρ οὐκ ἂν ἐπεπόνθεσαν οἴκοι μένοντες, τούτοις περιέπεσον πλανώμενοι θοίνην μὲν αὑτοὺς προθέντες τοῖς πάλαι λῃστεύουσι, ποιήσαντες | δὲ λῃστὰς ἑτέρους τῷ ποιῆσαι πολὺ τὸ πεισόμενον. ἑκόντας οὖν ἀπολωλότας τίς ἂν ἐλεήσειε;

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York Psalter, c. 1170 CE: Adam and Eve Expelled from Eden

On Homer’s Poverty and Lies

Dio Chrysosthom, Oration 11. 15-19

“First, people claim that Homer was a beggar in Greece because of his poverty and lack of means. But they believe that this sort of a man is incapable of lying for the sake of those who gave him things, that he would not say the sorts of things he would intend only to please them! Yet people say that beggars today say nothing credible, and no one ever provides one as a witness on anything, nor do they ever accept praise from them as something true. For they know that beggars say everything to manipulate, by necessity.

And then they say that some people gave money to a beggar while others gave money to a madman and that they think the people then decided he was crazy when he was speaking truth rather than lying. Really, I am not so much rebuking Homer in these things. For nothing prevents a wise man from begging or seeming insane. But I am saying that, according to the belief people hold about Homer and these sort of people, nothing they say is believable.

Furthermore, they do not believe that lying is in Homer’s nature or that he employs this sort of thing at all. Yet he makes Odysseus lie the most, a man he praises, and he says that Autolykos even breaks an oath and that this was granted to him by Hermes! Nearly everyone agrees that Homer says nothing true about the gods, even those who praise him, and they try to offer various defenses, that he does not say these things because he means them but because he is riddling and using metaphor. What keeps him from speaking this way about men too?

For, whoever speaks nothing manifestly true about the gods, but so much to the contrary that people who encounter them take them as lies—and which bring no help to the singer—how would he hesitate to utter any kind of falsehood about men too? Many have previously noted that he has created gods grieving and groaning, wounded and nearly dying, and has added divine adulteries, bonding, and vows. I don’t wish to prosecute Homer, only to show what the truth was. I will also defend the matters as they seem to me. I say that he showed no hesitation in lying and did not think it a shame. I will move now to consider whether he was right or not.”

πρῶτον μὲν οὖν φασι τὸν ῞Ομηρον ὑπὸ πενίας τε καὶ ἀπορίας προσαιτεῖν ἐν τῇ ῾Ελλάδι· τὸν δὲ τοιοῦτον ἀδύνατον ἡγοῦνται ψεύσασθαι πρὸς χάριν τῶν διδόντων, οὐδ’ ἂν τὰ τοιαῦτα λέγειν ὁποῖα ἔμελλεν ἐκείνοις καθ’ ἡδονὴν ἔσεσθαι· τοὺς δὲ νῦν πτωχοὺς οὐδέν φασιν ὑγιὲς λέγειν, οὐδὲ μάρτυρα οὐδεὶς ἂν ἐκείνων οὐδένα ποιήσαιτο ὑπὲρ οὐδενός, οὐδὲ τοὺς ἐπαίνους τοὺς παρ’ αὐτῶν ἀποδέχονται ὡς ἀληθεῖς. ἴσασι γὰρ ὅτι πάντα θωπεύοντες ὑπ’ ἀνάγκης λέγουσιν. ἔπειτα δὲ εἰρήκασι τοὺς μὲν ὡς πτωχῷ, τοὺς δὲ ὡς μαινομένῳ ἀπάρχεσθαι, καὶ μᾶλλον οἴονται τοὺς τότε καταγνῶναι αὐτοῦ μανίαν τἀληθῆ λέγοντος ἢ ψευδομένου. οὐ μὴν ὅσον γε ἐπὶ τούτοις ψέγω ῞Ομηρον· κωλύει γὰρ οὐθὲν ἄνδρα σοφὸν πτωχεύειν οὐδὲ μαίνεσθαι δοκεῖν· ἀλλ’ ὅτι κατὰ τὴν ἐκείνων δόξαν, ἣν ἔχουσι περὶ ῾Ομήρου καὶ περὶ τῶν τοιούτων, εἰκός ἐστι μηθὲν ὑγιὲς εἶναι τῶν εἰρημένων ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ.

οὐ τοίνυν οὐδὲ τόδε νομίζουσιν, οὐκ εἶναι ἐν τῇ ῾Ομήρου φύσει τὸ ψεῦδος οὐδὲ ἀποδέχεσθαι αὐτὸν τοιοῦτον <οὐδέν>· πλεῖστα γοῦν τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα πεποίηκε ψευδόμενον, ὃν μάλιστα ἐπῄνει, τὸν δὲ Αὐτόλυκον καὶ ἐπιορκεῖν φησι, καὶ τοῦτ’ αὐτῷ παρὰ τοῦ ῾Ερμοῦ δεδόσθαι. περὶ δὲ θεῶν πάντες, ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, ὁμολογοῦσι μηθὲν ἀληθὲς λέγειν ῞Ομηρον καὶ οἱ πάνυ ἐπαινοῦντες αὐτόν, καὶ τοιαύτας ἀπολογίας πειρῶνται πορίζειν, ὅτι οὐ φρονῶν ταῦτ’ ἔλεγεν, ἀλλ’ αἰνιττόμενος καὶ μεταφέρων. τί οὖν κωλύει καὶ περὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων αὐτὸν οὕτως εἰρηκέναι; ὅστις γὰρ περὶ θεῶν οὐ φανερῶς τἀληθῆ φησιν, ἀλλὰ τοὐναντίον οὕτως ὥστε τὰ ψευδῆ μᾶλλον ὑπολαμβάνειν τοὺς ἐντυγχάνοντας, καὶ ταῦτα μηδὲν ὠφελούμενος, πῶς ἂν περί γε ἀνθρώπων ὀκνήσειεν ὁτιοῦν ψεῦδος εἰπεῖν; καὶ ὅτι μὲν πεποίηκεν ἀλγοῦντας τοὺς θεοὺς καὶ στένοντας καὶ τιτρωσκομένους καὶ ἀποθνῄσκοντας σχεδόν, ἔτι δὲ μοιχείας καὶ δεσμὰ καὶ διεγγυήσεις θεῶν, οὐ λέγω, πρότερον εἰρημένα πολλοῖς. οὐδὲ γὰρ βούλομαι κατηγορεῖν ῾Ομήρου, μόνον δὲ ἐπιδεῖξαι τἀληθὲς ὡς γέγονεν· ἐπεί τοι καὶ ἀπολογήσομαι περὶ αὐτοῦ τὰ ἐμοὶ δοκοῦντα. ὅτι δὲ τὸ ψεῦδος οὐκ ὤκνει πάντων μάλιστα οὐδὲ αἰσχρὸν ἐνόμιζε, τοῦτο λέγω· πότερον δὲ ὀρθῶς ἢ μὴ παρίημι νῦν σκοπεῖν.


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Trojan-War Truther Types on Tablet

Deceptive Faces and Useful Snakes

Hyperides was a politician and speech-writer during the 4th century BCE in Athens.

Uncertain Fragments

1. “Teachers must examine whatever is unclear by means of evidence and what is likely.”

Ἃ δ᾿ ἐστὶν ἀφανῆ, ἀνάγκη τοὺς διδάσκοντας τεκμηρίοις καὶ τοῖς εἰκόσι ζητεῖν.

Clem. Alex. Strom. vi. 625


2. “Peoples’ faces bear no traces of their opinions.”

Χαρακτὴρ οὐδεὶς ἔπεστιν ἐπὶ τοῦ προσώπου τῆς διανοίας τοῖς ἀνθρώποις.

Clem. Alex. Strom. vi. 625 c


11.“A good person must show what they think in words and what they do in deeds”

 Δεῖ τὸν ἀγαθὸν ἐπιδείκνυσθαι ἐν μὲν τοῖς λόγοις ἃ φρονεῖ, ἐν δὲ τοῖς ἔργοις ἃ ποιεῖ.

Max. Conf. Loci Comm. col. 729


12. “People are restrained from injustice by two things: fear and shame”

Διὰ δύο προφάσεις τῶν ἀδικημάτων οἱ ἄνθρωποι ἀπέχονται, ἢ διὰ φόβον ἢ διὰ αἰσχύνην.

Max. Conf. Loci Comm. col. 753


13. “The least educated of all things is verbal abuse”

 Πάντων ἀπαιδευτότατον (ἔφη) τὸ λοιδορεῖν.

Dionys. Antiochi, Epist. 79.

Fr. 19.5

“[It is true] that politicians are like snakes. Some snakes are completely hateful: some of those snakes, adders, harm people; but the brown ones eat the adders.”

Εἶναι δὲ τοὺς ῥήτορας ὁμοίους τοῖς ὄφεσι· τούς τε γὰρ ὄφεις μισητοὺς μὲν εἶναι πάντας, τῶν δὲ ὄφεων αὐτῶν τοὺς μὲν ἔχεις τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἀδικεῖν, τοὺς δὲ παρείας αὐτοὺς τοὺς ἔχεις κατεσθίειν.


Opinion: A Product of Habit and Pleasure

Dio Chrysostom, the 68th Discourse On Opinion

“Most people practice however many things they do or desire even though they don’t understand about any of them what kind of thing they are or what type of benefit they provide—they are compelled by opinion or pleasure or habit to these things. It is the same too in however many things they avoid and are careful not to do: they do not abstain because they know it is harmful or what kind of harm certain matters threaten, but because they see others taking care concerning these things or just because they have been in the habit of caution regarding affairs or because they imagine that these matters must be unpleasant for them and present what seems to be toilsome, they are really suspicious of them.

And, in addition, the matter of pleasure and toil is common to all people even though some people are slaves to them more than others. But opinion is ungoverned and is not the same for all. This is why some people praise these things and carp at those and others often do the complete opposite.”

Οἱ πολλοὶ ἄνθρωποι ὁπόσα ἐπιτηδεύουσιν ἢ ζηλοῦσιν, οὐδὲν αὐτῶν εἰδότες ὁποῖόν ἐστιν οὐδὲ ἥντινα ἔχει ὠφέλειαν ἐπιτηδεύουσιν, ἀλλ᾿ ὑπὸ δόξης ἢ ἡδονῆς ἢ συνηθείας ἀγόμενοι πρὸς αὐτά· οὐδ᾿ αὖ ὅσων ἀπέχονται καὶ εὐλαβοῦνται μὴ πράττειν, εἰδότες ἃ βλάπτει ἀπέχονται οὐδὲ ὁποίαν τινὰ φέρει τὴν βλάβην, ἀλλὰ καὶ τούτων ὅσα ὁρῶσι τοὺς ἄλλους εὐλαβουμένους ἢ περὶ ὧν ἂν εἰς ἔθος καταστῶσιν ὥστε εὐλαβεῖσθαι, ἢ ἃ νομίζουσιν ἀηδῆ ἔσεσθαι αὐτοῖς καὶ πόνον τινὰ δοκεῖ ἔχειν, ὡς τὸ πολὺ ταῦτα ὑποπτεύουσιν.

Καὶ τὸ μὲν τῆς ἡδονῆς καὶ τὸ τοῦ πόνου πᾶσι κοινόν· ἀλλ᾿ οἱ μὲν ἧττον, οἱ δὲ1 μᾶλλον ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν δουλοῦνται· τὸ δὲ τῆς δόξης ἀνόμοιον καὶ οὐ ταὐτὸ πᾶσιν. ὅθεν οἱ μὲν ταῦτα, οἱ δὲ ταῦτα ἐπαινοῦσι καὶ ψέγουσι, πολλάκις τἀναντία.

Detail from "The Rutland Psalter", medieval (c1260), British Library Add MS 62925. f 70v
Detail from “The Rutland Psalter”, medieval (c1260), British Library Add MS 62925. f 70v