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.


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.

Money’s No Good Unless You Use It for Good: The Life of Herodes the Sophist

On the Wealth of Herodes the Athenian (Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists, 547)

“[Herodes] used his wealth in the best way of all men. We do not, however, believe that this was the easiest thing to do, but instead that it was wholly difficult and unpleasant.  For men who are drunk with wealth usually afflict other people with insults. In addition, they make the specious claim that wealth is blind—but even if wealth appears rightly blind at other times, it looked upon Herodes: it gazed upon his friends, his cities, and whole nations since the man was able to keep a watch over them all and make a storehouse of his riches in the opinions of the men with whom he shared them.

For he used to say indeed that it was necessary for the man who would use wealth correctly to provide it to those who need it so that they may not be in need and also to those who didn’t need it, so that they might not become impoverished. He used to call wealth that was not used and was hoarded up by envy “corpse wealth” and the storehouses of those who hoarded their riches “prisons of wealth. He mocked those who believed it was right to sacrifice to their accumulated riches “Aloadae” because [Otos and Ephialtes] had sacrificed to Ares after they imprisoned him.”*

῎Αριστα δὲ ἀνθρώπων πλούτῳ ἐχρήσατο. τουτὶ δὲ μὴ τῶν εὐμεταχειρίστων ἡγώμεθα, ἀλλὰ τῶν παγχαλέπων τε καὶ δυσκόλων, οἱ γὰρ πλούτῳ μεθύοντες  ὕβριν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ἐπαντλοῦσιν. προσδιαβάλλουσι δὲ ὡς καὶ τυφλὸν τὸν πλοῦτον, ὃς εἰ καὶ τὸν ἄλλον χρόνον ἐδόκει τυφλός, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ ῾Ηρώδου ἀνέβλεψεν, ἔβλεψε μὲν γὰρ ἐς φίλους, ἔβλεψε δὲ ἐς πόλεις, ἔβλεψε δὲ ἐς ἔθνη, πάντων περιωπὴν ἔχοντος τοῦ ἀνδρὸς καὶ θησαυρίζοντος τὸν πλοῦτον ἐν ταῖς τῶν μετεχόντων αὐτοῦ γνώμαις. ἔλεγε γὰρ δή, ὡς προσήκοι τὸν ὀρθῶς πλούτῳ χρώμενον τοῖς μὲν δεομένοις ἐπαρκεῖν, ἵνα μὴ δέωνται, τοῖς δὲ μὴ δεομένοις, ἵνα μὴ δεηθῶσιν, ἐκάλει τε τὸν μὲν ἀσύμβολον πλοῦτον καὶ φειδοῖ κεκολασμένον νεκρὸν πλοῦτον, τοὺς δὲ θησαυρούς, ἐς οὓς ἀποτίθενται τὰ χρήματαἔνιοι, πλούτου δεσμωτήρια, τοὺς δὲ καὶ θύειν ἀξιοῦντας ἀποθέτοις χρήμασιν ᾿Αλωάδας ἐπωνόμαζε θύοντας ῎Αρει μετὰ τὸ δῆσαι αὐτόν.

*This story is told in the Iliad 5.385 as part of Dione’s catalogue of mortals who caused the gods harm.  Otus and Ephialtes captured Ares and put him in a bronze jar.

Polemon The Sophist Was Rather Impolite (Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists 535)

“Once when an actor of tragedy from the Olympian games in Asia presided over by Polemon, promised to sue him because he had kicked him out at the beginning of his play, the Emperor [Marcus Aurelius] asked the actor what time it was when this happed. When the actor said that it occurred around midday, the Emperor responded wittily: “Well he kicked me out of his house in the middle of the night and I didn’t sue him.”

Let these details be a clear sign of both a mild emperor and an arrogant man. Polemon was so conceited that he talked to cities as if they were beneath him, to rulers as if they were not above him and to gods as if an equal.

When he gave a performance of improvised speeches to the Athenians upon his first visit to the city, he did not deign to offer praise for the city even though there are many things which one might say on Athens’ behalf. Nor did he expatiate on his own fame, even though this approach often benefitted sophists in their performances. No, because he knew well that it was natural for Athenians to need to be restrained rather than be encouraged, he spoke as follows: “They say that you, Athenians, are wise audiences of speeches. I will test this.”

And when a man, who ruled the Bosporus and was outfitted with all types of Greek learning, came to Smyrna to learn about Ionia, Polemon not only failed to take his place among the attendants, but he put the man off frequently even when he requested an audience until he forced the lord to come to his own house carrying a payment of ten talents.

When he arrived in Pergamon, because he was sick in his joints, he convalesced in a temple. When Asclepius appeared to him and advised him to refrain from cold drinks, Polemon said, “Dear man, what if you were tending to a cow?”

ὑποκριτοῦ δὲ τραγῳδίας ἀπὸ τῶν κατὰ τὴν ᾿Ασίαν ᾿Ολυμπίων, οἷς ἐπεστάτει ὁ Πολέμων, ἐφιέναι φήσαντος, ἐξελαθῆναι γὰρ παρ’ αὐτοῦ κατ’ ἀρχὰς τοῦ δράματος, ἤρετο ὁ αὐτοκράτωρ τὸν ὑποκριτήν, πηνίκα εἴη, ὅτε τῆς σκηνῆς ἠλάθη, τοῦ δὲ εἰπόντος, ὡς μεσημβρία τυγχάνοι οὖσα, μάλα ἀστείως ὁ αὐτοκράτωρ „ἐμὲ δὲ” εἶπεν „ἀμφὶ μέσας νύκτας ἐξήλασε τῆς οἰκίας, καὶ οὐκ ἐφῆκα.”

᾿Εχέτω μοι [καὶ] ταῦτα δήλωσιν βασιλέως τε πρᾴου καὶ ἀνδρὸς ὑπέρφρονος. ὑπέρφρων γὰρ δὴ οὕτω τι ὁ Πολέμων, ὡς πόλεσι μὲν ἀπὸ τοῦ προὔχοντος, δυνασταῖς δὲ ἀπὸ τοῦ μὴ ὑφειμένου, θεοῖς δὲ ἀπὸ τοῦ ἴσου διαλέγεσθαι. ᾿Αθηναίοις μὲν γὰρ ἐπιδεικνύμενος αὐτοσχεδίους λόγους, ὅτε καὶ πρῶτον ᾿Αθήναζε ἀφίκετο, οὐκ ἐς ἐγκώμια κατέστησεν ἑαυτὸν τοῦ ἄστεος, τοσούτων ὄντων, ἅ τις ὑπὲρ ᾿Αθηναίων ἂν εἴποι, οὐδ’ ὑπὲρ τῆς ἑαυτοῦ δόξης ἐμακρηγόρησε, καίτοι καὶ τῆς τοιᾶσδε ἰδέας ὠφελούσης τοὺς σοφιστὰς ἐν ταῖς ἐπιδείξεσιν, ἀλλ’ εὖ γιγνώσκων, ὅτι τὰς ᾿Αθηναίων φύσεις ἐπικόπτειν χρὴ μᾶλλον ἢ ἐπαίρειν διελέχθη ὧδε· „φασὶν ὑμᾶς, ὦ ᾿Αθηναῖοι, σοφοὺς εἶναι ἀκροατὰς λόγων· εἴσομαι.” ἀνδρὸς δέ, ὃς ἦρχε μὲν Βοσπόρου, πᾶσαν δὲ ῾Ελληνικὴν παίδευσιν ἥρμοστο, καθ’ ἱστορίαν τῆς ᾿Ιωνίας ἐς τὴν Σμύρναν ἥκοντος οὐ μόνον οὐκ ἔταξεν ἑαυτὸν ἐν τοῖς θεραπεύουσιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ δεομένου ξυνεῖναί οἱ θαμὰ ἀνεβάλλετο, ἕως ἠνάγκασε τὸν βασιλέα ἐπὶ θύρας ἀφικέσθαι ἀπάγοντα μισθοῦ δέκα τάλαντα. ἥκων δὲ ἐς τὸ Πέργαμον, ὅτε δὴ τὰ ἄρθρα ἐνόσει, κατέδαρθε μὲν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ, ἐπιστάντος δὲ αὐτῷ τοῦ ᾿Ασκληπιοῦ καὶ προειπόντος ἀπέχεσθαι ψυχροῦ ποτοῦ ὁ Πολέμων „βέλτιστε,” εἶπεν „εἰ δὲ βοῦν ἐθεράπευες;”

I must confess that I couldn’t convey Polemo’s nastiness to the Athenians well enough in the translation. In addition, I really don’t know what is going on with his comments to Asclepius.