Nature vs. Nurture, or On Hands and Walls

Philostratus, Discourse II

“To me, custom and nature are not merely not opposed but they are most closely related, similar and overlapping one another. For custom is the way we approach nature and nature is our avenue to custom; we do call one the starting point and one the result: let nature be called the leader and culture the follower. Custom never would have built walls or outfitted men against them if nature hadn’t given man hands.”

ἐμοὶ δὲ νόμος καὶ φύσις οὐ μόνον οὐκ ἐναντίω φαίνεσθον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ξυγγενεστάτω καὶ ὁμοίω καὶ διήκοντε ἀλλήλοιν· νόμος τε γὰρ παριτητέος ἐς φύσιν καὶ φύσις ἐς νόμον καὶ καλοῦμεν αὐτοῖν τὸ μὲν ἀρχήν, τὸ δ’ ἑπόμενον, κεκληρώσθω δὲ ἀρχὴν μὲν φύσις, νόμος δὲ τὸ ἕπεσθαι, οὔτε γὰρ ἂν νόμος ἐτειχοποίησεν ἢ ὑπὲρ τείχους ὥπλισεν, εἰ μὴ φύσις ἔδωκεν ἀνθρώπῳ χεῖρας….

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wall_street_of_the_tombs_sacred_way_Kerameikos_Athens.jpg

Philostratus?

Quipping At Death and Disease: The End of Polemon the Sophist

Here’s a post from Philostratus on the impoliteness of Polemon the Sophist.  Today, his death (Lives of the Sophists, 543-4)

“When the doctors administered to him often because his joints were hardening, he used to advise them to “dig and cut Polemon’s quarries”. When he wrote a letter to Herodes about his sickness, he described it thus: “I must eat, but I haven’t hands. I must walk, but I am missing feet. I must feel pain, and then I find my hands and feet.”

He died around his fifty-sixth year. This time of life which is the beginning of old age for other professions, is still youth for a sophist—this discipline increases in wisdom as it ages.”

᾿Ιατροῖς δὲ θαμὰ ὑποκείμενος λιθιώντων αὐτῷ τῶν ἄρθρων παρεκελεύετο αὐτοῖς ὀρύττειν καὶ τέμνειν τὰς Πολέμωνος λιθοτομίας. ῾Ηρώδῃ δὲ ἐπιστέλλων ὑπὲρ τῆς νόσου ταύτης ὧδε ἐπέστειλεν· „δεῖ ἐσθίειν, χεῖρας οὐκ ἔχω· δεῖ βαδίζειν, πόδες οὐκ εἰσί μοι· δεῖ ἀλγεῖν, τότε καὶ πόδες εἰσί μοι καὶ χεῖρες.”

᾿Ετελεύτα μὲν περὶ τὰ ἓξ καὶ πεντήκοντα ἔτη, τὸ δὲ μέτρον τῆς ἡλικίας τοῦτο ταῖς μὲν ἄλλαις  ἐπιστήμαις γήρως ἀρχή, σοφιστῇ δὲ νεότης ἔτι, γηράσκουσα γὰρ ἥδε ἡ ἐπιστήμη σοφίαν ἀρτύνει.

Right hand (bronze) from a statue of Dionysos. Greek, Hellenistic Period,  150–50 B.C. | Sculpture, Greek statues, Hellenistic period

The Unremarkable Life of Phoinix the Thessalian Sophist

 

From Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists 22

 

“Phoinix the Thessalian is neither worthy of admiration nor, however, of being ignored completely. He was one of the students of Philagros, and he was better at invention than investigation—for although his thought was ordered, and he never said anything inappropriate to the moment, his style of speech seemed disconnected and out of rhythm. He was considered more effective with those who were just beginning their studies than those who were already possessed of some learning, since his subjects were just left unadorned and his diction did not dress them well. He died in Athens at age seventy and was buried in a conspicuous place, since he lies near those who died in the wars, on the right side of the road toward the Academy.”

κβ′. Φοῖνιξ δὲ ὁ Θετταλὸς οὐδὲ θαυμάσαι ἄξιος, οὐδὲ αὖ διαβαλεῖν πάντα. ἦν μὲν γὰρ τῶν Φιλάγρῳ πεφοιτηκότων, γνῶναι δὲ ἀμείνων ἢ ἑρμηνεῦσαι, τάξιν τε γὰρ τὸ νοηθὲν εἶχε καὶ οὐθὲν ἔξω καιροῦ ἐνοεῖτο, ἡ δὲ ἑρμηνεία διεσπάσθαι τε ἐδόκει καὶ ῥυθμοῦ ἀφεστηκέναι. ἐδόκει δὲ ἐπιτηδειότερος γεγονέναι τοῖς ἀρχομένοις τῶν νέων ἢ τοῖς ἕξιν τινὰ ἤδη κεκτημένοις, τὰ γὰρ πράγματα γυμνὰ ἐξέκειτο καὶ οὐ περιήμπισχεν αὐτὰ ἡ λέξις. ἑβδομηκοντούτης δὲ ἀποθανὼν ᾿Αθήνησιν ἐτάφη οὐκ ἀφανῶς, κεῖται γὰρ πρὸς τοῖς ἐκ τῶν πολέμων ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς ᾿Ακαδημίανδε καθόδου.

Pro-Tip: The Difference between a Sophist and a Philosopher is Swagger

Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists 1.480-481: 

“It is necessary to consider the ancient sophistic art as a kind of rhetoric. For it presents discourses on the same things philosophers cover, but where the philosophers, in setting forth questions and in making small advances on their objects of investigations, assert that they still do not know anything, the ancient sophist claims that he does know the things he describes. At least, he recites as a beginning of his discourse phrases like “I know”, “I recognize”, and “I have noticed for some time,” or “Nothing is certain for man”. This species of introduction furnishes a sense of nobility and certainty to a speech along with implying a clear sense of what is real.”

Τὴν ἀρχαίαν σοφιστικὴν ῥητορικὴν ἡγεῖσθαι χρὴ φιλοσοφοῦσαν• διαλέγεται μὲν γὰρ ὑπὲρ ὧν οἱ φιλοσοφοῦντες, ἃ δὲ ἐκεῖνοι τὰς ἐρωτήσεις ὑποκαθήμενοι καὶ τὰ σμικρὰ τῶν ζητουμένων προβιβάζοντες οὔπω φασὶ γιγνώσκειν, ταῦτα ὁ παλαιὸς σοφιστὴς ὡς εἰδὼς λέγει. προοίμια γοῦν ποιεῖται τῶν λόγων τὸ „οἶδα” καὶ τὸ „γιγνώσκω” καὶ „πάλαι διέσκεμμαι” καὶ „βέβαιον ἀνθρώπῳ οὐδέν”. ἡ δὲ τοιαύτη ἰδέα τῶν προοιμίων εὐγένειάν τε προηχεῖ τῶν λόγων καὶ φρόνημα καὶ κατάληψιν
σαφῆ τοῦ ὄντος.

Loving the Lotus: Addicted to Hearing Homer

From Philostratus’ Heroicus 43.1

The Phoenician Says to the Vinedresser

“If those who ate the lotus leaf in Homer desired the plant so eagerly that they completely forgot about their homes, don’t doubt that I am addicted to your tale, just like the lotus. Instead of leaving here willingly, I would practically have to be carried off to a ship and tied to it while weeping and I’d continue mourning the fact that I hadn’t had enough of your tale.

You have already convinced me concerning the poems of Homer, to believe now that they are divine and clearly beyond human ability. And now I am surprised more not at the poetry alone nor even at the pleasure that comes from it, but much more at the names of the heroes and their heritages and, by Zeus!, how each one was fated to kill someone or be killed by another.”

Φ. Εἰ οἱ τοῦ λωτοῦ παρ’ ῾Ομήρῳ φαγόντες, ὦ ἀμπελουργέ, προθύμως οὕτως προσέκειντο τῇ πόᾳ, ὡς ἐκλελῆσθαι τῶν οἴκοι, μὴ ἀπίστει κἀμὲ προσ-
κεῖσθαι τῷ λόγῳ, καθάπερ τῷ λωτῷ, καὶ μήτ’ ἂν ἑκόντα ἀπελθεῖν ἐνθένδε, ἀπαχθηναί τε μόγις ἂν ἐπὶ τὴν ναῦν καὶ δεθῆναι δ’ αὖ ἐν αὐτῇ κλάοντα καὶ ὀλοφυρόμενον ἐπὶ τῷ μὴ ἐμπίπλασθαι τοῦ λόγου.

καὶ γάρ με καὶ πρὸς τὰ τοῦ ῾Ομήρου ποιήματα οὕτω διατέθεικας, ὡς θεῖά τε αὐτὰ ἡγούμενον καὶ (οἷα) πέρα ἀνθρώπου δόξαι νῦν ἐκπεπλῆχθαι μᾶλλον οὐκ ἐπὶ τῇ ἐποποιίᾳ μόνον, οὐδ’ εἴ τις ἡδονὴ διήκει σφῶν, ἀλλὰ πολλῷ μᾶλλον ἐπί τε τοῖς ὀνόμασι τῶν ἡρώων ἐπί τε τοῖς γένεσι καί, νὴ Δί’, ὡς ἕκαστος αὐτῶν ἔλαχε τοῦ κτεῖναί τινα ἢ ἀποθανεῖν ὑφ’ ἑτέρου.

My students do not say such things to me…

The Life of the Sophist Aelian: Writer, Coward, Homebody

We’ve quoted a lot on this site from the Varia Historia of Claudius Aelianus. Here’s the mixed praise delivered in his honor.

Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists 31

“Aelian was a Roman, but he used Attic just as well as the Athenians in the middle of the region. This man seems to me to be worthy of praise, first because he toiled to achieve a pure version of Greek even though he lived in a city that spoke a different language, and second because, although he was called sophist by those who flatter in this way, he did not believe them and he neither kept the same opinion of himself nor was inflated by the title—even though it is impressive—but once he examined himself well as unsuited for public speeches, he set himself to writing and earned wide respect from this. Simplicity is the overwhelming nature of the style, at times nearing the attractions of Nikostratos, at others he favors Dio and his tone.

Once Philostratos of Lemnos* met him when he had a book in hand and was reading it aloud with anger and a striking voice—he asked Aelian what he was pursuing and he answered “I have written a condemnation of Gynnis*, for that’s what I call the tyrant who has just been killed, since he shamed the Roman Empire with every type of disgusting behavior.” And Philostratus answered, “I would be more impressed if you had condemned him when he was alive!” For it takes a brave man to stand up to a living tyrant, while anyone can attack him when he’s dead.

Aelian used to say  that he had never traveled abroad anywhere outside of the Italian peninsula, and that he had never stepped on a ship or got to know the sea—for this reason he was praised in Rome on the grounds that he valued their lifestyle. He was a student of Pausanias but he respected Herodes the most varied of sophists. He lived until he was sixty years old and without children, for he avoided child-rearing by never marrying. Whether this is a blessing or a curse it is not the right time to consider.”

*Likely a relative of the Philostratus writing this Vita.

*”Womanly-Man”, for the Emperor Heliogabulus who was assassinated in 222 (and ascended to power at age 14!).

Elagabalus
Yo, Aelian…

λα′. Αἰλιανὸς δὲ ῾Ρωμαῖος μὲν ἦν, ἠττίκιζε δέ, ὥσπερ οἱ ἐν τῇ μεσογείᾳ ᾿Αθηναῖοι. ἐπαίνου μοι δοκεῖ ἄξιος ὁ ἀνὴρ οὗτος, πρῶτον μέν, ἐπειδὴ καθαρὰν φωνὴν ἐξεπόνησε πόλιν οἰκῶν ἑτέρᾳ φωνῇ χρωμένην, ἔπειθ’, ὅτι προσρηθεὶς σοφιστὴς ὑπὸ τῶν χαριζομένων τὰ τοιαῦτα οὐκ ἐπίστευσεν, οὐδὲ ἐκολάκευσε τὴν ἑαυτοῦ γνώμην, οὐδὲ ἐπήρθη ὑπὸ τοῦ ὀνόματος οὕτω μεγάλου ὄντος, ἀλλ’ ἑαυτὸν εὖ διασκεψάμενος ὡς μελέτῃ οὐκ ἐπιτήδειον τῷ ξυγγράφειν ἐπέθετο καὶ ἐθαυμάσθη ἐκ τούτου. ἡ μὲν ἐπίπαν ἰδέα τοῦ ἀνδρὸς ἀφέλεια προσβάλλουσά τι τῆς Νικοστράτου ὥρας, ἡ δὲ ἐνίοτε, πρὸς Δίωνα ὁρᾷ καὶ τὸν ἐκείνου τόνον.

᾿Εντυχὼν δέ ποτε αὐτῷ Φιλόστρατος ὁ Λήμνιος  βιβλίον ἔτι πρόχειρον ἔχοντι καὶ ἀναγιγνώσκοντιαὐτὸ σὺν ὀργῇ καὶ ἐπιτάσει τοῦ φθέγματος ἤρετο αὐτόν, ὅ τι σπουδάζοι, καὶ ὃς „ἐκπεπόνηταί μοι” ἔφη „κατηγορία τοῦ Γύννιδος, καλῶ γὰρ οὕτω τὸν ἄρτι καθῃρημένον τύραννον, ἐπειδὴ ἀσελγείᾳ πάσῃ τὰ ῾Ρωμαίων ᾔσχυνε.” καὶ ὁ Φιλόστρατος „ἐγώ σε” εἶπεν „ἐθαύμαζον ἄν, εἰ ζῶντος κατηγόρησας”. εἶναι γὰρ δὴ τὸ μὲν ζῶντα τύραννον ἐπικόπτειν ἀνδρός, τὸ δὲ ἐπεμβαίνειν κειμένῳ παντός.

῎Εφασκε δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ οὗτος μηδ’ ἀποδεδημηκέναι ποι τῆς γῆς ὑπὲρ τὴν ᾿Ιταλῶν χώραν, μηδὲ ἐμβῆναι ναῦν, μηδὲ γνῶναι θάλατταν, ὅθεν καὶ λόγου πλείνος κατὰ τὴν ῾Ρώμην ἠξιοῦτο ὡς τιμῶν τὰ ἤθη. Παυσανίου μὲν οὖν ἀκροατὴς ἐγένετο, ἐθαύμαζε δὲ τὸν ῾Ηρώδην ὡς ποικιλώτατον ῥητόρων. ἐβίω δὲ ὑπὲρ τὰ ἑξήκοντα ἔτη καὶ ἐτελεύτα οὐκ ἐπὶ παισίν,  παιδοποιίαν γὰρ παρῃτήσατο τῷ μὴ γῆμαί ποτε. τοῦτο δὲ εἴτε εὔδαιμον εἴτε ἄθλιον οὐ τοῦ παρόντος καιροῦ φιλοσοφῆσαι.

When He Studied Philosophy, He Dressed Like a Slob—Philostratus, V.S. 567

 

From the Lives of the Sophists (Aristocles of Pergamum)

“Aristocles of Pergamum was famous among sophists—I will relate as much as I have heard about him from older men. This man came from a consular rank; although from the time of childhood through adolescence he studied the work of the Peripatetic school, he moved on to the sophists and frequented Herodes’ lectures on extemporaneous speech in Rome. As a student of philosophy,  he was coarse and heedless in appearance, and his clothing was squalid; but as a sophist, he took delicate care—he reformed his squalid ways and introduced into his house the pleasures of the lyre, pipes, and voices as if he had heard them knocking at his door. Although in earlier days he had been rather restrained, now he frequently went to the theater and its great noise.

When he was becoming well-known in Pergamum and all of Greece nearby was fixated with him, Herodes traveled to Pergamum and sent his own students to him—he raised up Aristocles as a vote from Athena would.  His fashion of speech was clear and Attic, but it was readier for set-debate than forensic use—for his speech had no anger or sudden breaks; and his Atticism, if it were to be weighed against Herodes’ speech, would seem rather slight and to lack in weight and sound. Aristocles died when his hair was half-grey, when he was just starting to get old.”

 

γ′. ᾿Ονομαστὸς ἐν σοφισταῖς καὶ ᾿Αριστοκλῆς ὁ ἐκ τοῦ Περγάμου, ὑπὲρ οὗ δηλώσω, ὁπόσα τῶν πρεσβυτέρων ἤκουον· ἐτέλει μὲν γὰρ ἐς ὑπάτους ὁ ἀνὴρ οὗτος, τὸν δὲ ἐκ παίδων ἐς ἥβην χρόνον τοὺς ἀπὸ τοῦ Περιπάτου φιλοσοφήσας λόγους ἐς τοὺς σοφιστὰς μετερρύη θαμίζων ἐν τῇ ῾Ρώμῃ τῷ ῾Ηρώδῃ διατιθεμένῳ σχεδίους λόγους. ὃν δὲ ἐφιλοσόφει χρόνον αὐχμηρὸς δοκῶν καὶ τραχὺς τὸ εἶδος καὶ δυσπινὴς τὴν ἐσθῆτα ἥβρυνε καὶ τὸν αὐχμὸν ἀπετρίψατο ἡδονάς τε, ὁπόσαι λυρῶν τε καὶ αὐλῶν καὶ εὐφωνίας εἰσί, πάσας ἐσηγάγετο ἐπὶ τὴν δίαιταν, ὥσπερ ἐπὶ θύρας αὐτῷ ἡκούσας, τὸν γὰρ πρὸ τοῦ χρόνον οὕτω κεκολασμένος ἀτάκτως ἐς τὰ θέατρα ἐφοίτα καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν τούτων ἠχώ. εὐδοκιμοῦντι δὲ αὐτῷ κατὰ τὸ Πέργαμον κἀξηρτημένῳ πᾶν τὸ ἐκείνῃ ῾Ελληνικὸν ἐξελαύνων ὁ ῾Ηρώδης ἐς Πέργαμον ἔπεμψε τοὺς ἑαυτοῦ ὁμιλητὰς πάντας καὶ τὸν ᾿Αριστοκλέα ἦρεν, ὥσπερ τις ᾿Αθηνᾶς ψῆφος. ἡ δὲ ἰδέα τοῦ λόγου διαυγὴς μὲν καὶ ἀττικίζουσα, διαλέγεσθαι δὲ ἐπιτηδεία μᾶλλον ἢ ἀγωνίζεσθαι, χολή τε γὰρ ἄπεστι τοῦ λόγου καὶ ὁρμαὶ πρὸς βραχὺ αὐτή τε ἡ ἀττίκισις, εἰ παρὰ τὴν τοῦ ῾Ηρώδου γλῶτταν βασανίζοιτο, λεπτολογεῖσθαι δόξει μᾶλλον ἢ κρότου τε καὶ ἠχοῦς ξυγκεῖσθαι. ἐτελεύτα δὲ ὁ ᾿Αριστοκλῆς μεσαιπόλιος, ἄρτι προσβαίνων τῷ γηράσκειν.

Dionysius of Miletus and the Memory-Men: Learning by Nature, Not Magic

Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists, 521-522

“Consider it immaterial whether Dionysius of Miletus was, as some claim, born from famous forebears or whether, as others maintain, he was a child of freedmen, since he became well-known through his own efforts. For emphasis on one’s ancestors is a trait of those with no chance of praise earned on their own.

523-524

These foregoing details provide a general sense of Dionysius, and how it was his custom to consider the matter of his speeches as long as [his teacher] Isaios would. Concerning the story circulating about Dionysius, that he trained his students in mnemonic practice using the Chaldean arts*, I will attempt to show its origins. There are no special arts of memory, nor could there be. For, since memory teaches us the arts, it is unteachable itself; there is no method of gaining it since it is a present from nature or a portion of the immortal soul. For, it shouldn’t be credited that human beings are mortal, nor could any of the things we have learned be taught unless memory itself lived alongside men. Whether it is right to call her the mother of time or her child, I will not quibble with the poets—let it be whatever they want.

In addition to this, who canonized among the wise would be so heedless of his own reputation as to slander what has actually been taught correctly by using witchcraft with his students? Where, then, does the mnemonic skill of his followers come from? The speeches of Dionysius provided such pleasure to them that they compelled him to repeat them often, and he would—since he could sense their delight in hearing them. The students who learned more easily used to imprint them on their thoughts and they used to recite them to others once they had fully retained them by practice rather than memory.  This is why the used to be called “memory-men” and made this technique their art. In addition, this is why some criticize the speeches of Dionysius as bits collected from here and there, since they claim that where Dionysius was brief, others have added much.”

*i.e., Some type of magic

κβ′. Διονύσιος δὲ ὁ Μιλήσιος εἴθ’, ὡς ἔνιοί φασι, πατέρων ἐπιφανεστάτων ἐγένετο, εἴθ’, ὥς τινες, αὐτὸ τοῦτο ἐλευθέρων, ἀφείσθω τούτου τοῦ μέρους, ἐπειδὴ οἰκείᾳ ἀρετῇ ἐλαμπρύνετο, τὸ γὰρ καταφεύγειν ἐς τοὺς ἄνω ἀποβεβληκότων ἐστὶ τὸν ἐφ’ ἑαυτῶν ἔπαινον.

Τοιάδε μὲν ἡ ἐπίπαν ἰδέα τοῦ Διονυσίου, καθ’ ἣν τὰ τῆς μελέτης αὐτῷ προὔβαινεν ἐπισκοπουμένῳ καιρόν, ὅσονπερ ὁ ᾿Ισαῖος, ὁ δὲ λόγος ὁ περὶ τοῦ Διονυσίου λεγόμενος, ὡς Χαλδαίοις τέχναις τοὺς ὁμιλητὰς τὸ μνημονικὸν ἀναπαιδεύοντος πόθεν εἴρηται, ἐγὼ δηλώσω· τέχναι μνήμης οὔτε εἰσὶν οὔτ’ ἂν γένοιντο, μνήμη μὲν γὰρ δίδωσι τέχνας, αὐτὴ δὲ ἀδίδακτος καὶ οὐδεμιᾷ τέχνῃ ἁλωτός, ἔστι γὰρ πλεονέκτημα φύσεως ἢ τῆς ἀθανάτου ψυχῆς μοῖρα. οὐ γὰρ ἄν ποτε θνητὰ νομισθείη τὰ ἀνθρώπεια, οὐδὲ διδακτά, ἃ ἐμάθομεν, εἰ μνήμη συνεπολιτεύετο ἀνθρώποις, ἣν εἴτε μητέρα δεῖ χρόνου καλεῖν, εἴτε παῖδα, μὴ διαφερώμεθα πρὸς τοὺς ποιητάς, ἀλλ’ ἔστω, ὅ τι βούλονται. πρὸς δὲ τούτοις τίς οὕτως εὐήθης κατὰ τῆς ἑαυτοῦ δόξης ἐν σοφοῖς γραφόμενος, ὡς γοητεύων ἐν μειρακίοις διαβάλλειν καὶ ἃ ὀρθῶς ἐπαιδεύθη; πόθεν οὖν τὸ μνημονικὸν τοῖς ἀκροωμένοις; ἄπληστα τὴν ἡδονὴν ἐδόκει τὰ τοῦ Διονυσίου καὶ πολλάκις ἐπαναλαμβάνειν αὐτὰ ἠναγκάζετο, ἐπειδὴ ξυνίει σφῶν χαιρόντων τῇ ἀκροάσει. οἱ δὴ εὐμαθέστεροι τῶν νέων ἐνετυποῦντο αὐτὰ ταῖς γνώμαις καὶ ἀπήγγελλον ἑτέροις μελέτῃ μᾶλλον ἢ μνήμῃ ξυνειληφότες, ὅθεν μνημονικοί τε ὠνομάζοντο καὶ τέχνην αὐτὸ πεποιημένοι. ἔνθεν ὁρμώμενοί τινες τὰς τοῦ Διονυσίου μελέτας ἐσπερματολογῆσθαί φασιν, ὡς δὴ ἄλλο ἄλλου ξυνενεγκόντων ἐς αὐτάς, ἐν ᾧ ἐβραχυλόγησεν.

Philagros’ Anger and Self-Loathing: Or, Why A Sophist Might Make a Bad Parent

Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists, 581

“Philagros was shorter than average, his brow was harsh, and his eye watchful. He was quick to get fall into a rage, but he wasn’t ignorant of his own character. When one of his friends asked him why he didn’t enjoy raising children, he said “Because I don’t even enjoy myself.” Some say he died on the sea; others report that he reached the first part of old age in Italy.”

Μέγεθος μὲν οὖν ὁ Φίλαγρος μετρίου μείων, τὴν δὲ ὀφρὺν πικρὸς καὶ τὸ ὄμμα ἕτοιμος καὶ ἐς ὀργὴν ἐκκληθῆναι πρόθυμος, καὶ τὸ ἐν αὐτῷ δύστροπον οὐδ’ αὐτὸς ἠγνόει· ἐρομένου γοῦν αὐτὸν ἑνὸς τῶν ἑταίρων, τί μαθὼν παιδοτροφίᾳ οὐ χαίροι, „ὅτι” ἔφη „οὐδ’ ἐμαυτῷ χαίρω.” ἀποθανεῖν δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ μὲν ἐν τῇ θαλάττῃ, οἱ δὲ ἐν ᾿Ιταλίᾳ περὶ πρῶτον γῆρας.

This Vita seems a bit strange in its characterization. Here’s the introductory segment (578):

“Philagros of Cilicia, a student of Lollianos, was the most volatile and irascible of the sophists.  There’s a story that when a member of his audience dozed off, he struck him with an open hand. He made a start on fame when he was young and did not let off even as he grew old—he achieved enough that he was considered a model of a teacher. After living among many different nations and becoming famous for his management of arguments, he could not control his own anger well in Athens where he fell into a fight with Herodes as if he had come there for that reason.”

η′. Φίλαγρος δὲ ὁ Κίλιξ Λολλιανοῦ μὲν ἀκροατὴς ἐγένετο, σοφιστῶν δὲ θερμότατος καὶ ἐπιχολώτατος, λέγεται γὰρ δὴ νυστάζοντά ποτε ἀκροατὴν καὶ ἐπὶ κόρρης πλῆξαι, καὶ ὁρμῇ δὲ λαμπρᾷ ἐκ μειρακίου χρησάμενος οὐκ ἀπελείφθη αὐτῆς οὐδ’ ὁπότε ἐγήρασκεν, ἀλλ’ οὕτω τι ἐπέδωκεν, ὡς καὶ σχῆμα τοῦ διδασκάλου νομισθῆναι. πλείστοις δὲ ἐπιμίξας ἔθνεσι καὶ δοκῶν ἄριστα μεταχειρίζεσθαι τὰς ὑποθέσεις οὐ μετεχειρίσατο ᾿Αθήνησιν εὖ τὴν αὑτοῦ  χολήν, ἀλλ’ ἐς ἀπέχθειαν ῾Ηρώδῃ κατέστησεν ἑαυτόν, καθάπερ τούτου ἀφιγμένος ἕνεκα.

The Curious Case of Hermogenes of Tarsus: Philostratus on the Aphastic Aging Philosopher

from Philostratus’ Lives of the Philosophers, 577

“Hermogenes, whom the Tarsians produced, had advanced to so great a reputation among the sophists by the time he was fifteen years old that even Marcus [Aurelius] the Emperor had to hear him speak. So, Marcus went to listen to him and was delighted by his discourse, though he was amazed when he spoke extemporaneously and gave him valuable gifts.

But when Hermogenes reached adulthood, he lost his abilities without the cause of any obvious affliction—and this provided those who had envied him material for mockery. They used to say that words were simply “winged”, taking this up from Homer, and that Hermogenes had shed them like feathers. And Antiochus the sophist, once when he was insulting him, said “This Hermogenes was an elder among the boys, but is a child among the old men.”

Here is an example of the speech which he once cultivated. When he was speaking before Marcus, he said, “Look, I come before you, king, a speaker lacking a teacher, an orator waiting to come of age”. He said many other things in the same satirical manner. He died at an extreme old age, but was considered one of the masses, since they held him in contempt after his skill abandoned him.”

ζ′. ῾Ερμογένης δέ, ὃν Ταρσοὶ ἤνεγκαν, πεντεκαίδεκα ἔτη γεγονὼς ἐφ’ οὕτω μέγα προὔβη τῆς τῶν σοφιστῶν δόξης, ὡς καὶ Μάρκῳ βασιλεῖ παρασχεῖν ἔρωτα ἀκροάσεως· ἐβάδιζε γοῦν ἐπὶ τὴν ἀκρόασιν αὐτοῦ ὁ Μάρκος καὶ ἥσθη μὲν διαλεγομένου, ἐθαύμαζε δὲ σχεδιάζοντος, δωρεὰς δὲ λαμπρὰς ἔδωκεν. ἐς δὲ ἄνδρας ἥκων ἀφῃρέθη τὴν ἕξιν ὑπ’ οὐδεμιᾶς φανερᾶς νόσου, ὅθεν ἀστεισμοῦ λόγον παρέδωκε τοῖς βασκάνοις, ἔφασαν γὰρ τοὺς λόγους ἀτεχνῶς καθ’ ῞Ομηρον πτερόεντας εἶναι, ἀποβεβληκέναι γὰρ αὐτοὺς τὸν ῾Ερμογένην καθάπερ πτερά. καὶ ᾿Αντίοχος δὲ ὁ σοφιστὴς ἀποσκώπτων ποτὲ ἐς αὐτὸν „οὗτος” ἔφη „῾Ερμογένης, ὁ ἐν παισὶ μὲν γέρων, ἐν δὲ γηράσκουσι παῖς.” ἡ δὲ ἰδέα τοῦ λόγου, ἣν ἐπετήδευε, τοιάδε τις ἦν· ἐπὶ γὰρ τοῦ Μάρκου διαλεγόμενος „ἰδοὺ ἥκω σοι”, ἔφη „βασιλεῦ, ῥήτωρ παιδαγωγοῦ δεόμενος, ῥήτωρ ἡλικίαν περιμένων” καὶ πλείω ἕτερα διελέχθη καὶ ὧδε βωμόλοχα. ἐτελεύτα μὲν οὖν ἐν βαθεῖ γήρᾳ, εἷς δὲ τῶν πολλῶν νομιζόμενος, κατεφρονήθη γὰρ ἀπολιπούσης αὐτὸν τῆς τέχνης.