1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gorgias

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GORGIAS (c. 483–375 B.C.), Greek sophist and rhetorician, was a native of Leontini in Sicily. In 427 he was sent by his fellow-citizens at the head of an embassy to ask Athenian protection against the aggression of the Syracusans. He subsequently settled in Athens, and supported himself by the practice of oratory and by teaching rhetoric. He died at Larissa in Thessaly. His chief claim to recognition consists in the fact that he transplanted rhetoric to Greece, and contributed to the diffusion of the Attic dialect as the language of literary prose. He was the author of a lost work On Nature or the Non-existent (Περὶ τοῦ μῂ ὄντος ἢ περὶ φύσεως, fragments edited by M. C. Valeton, 1876), the substance of which may be gathered from the writings of Sextus Empiricus, and also from the treatise (ascribed to Theophrastus) De Melisso, Xenophane, Gorgia. Gorgias is the central figure in the Platonic dialogue Gorgias. The genuineness of two rhetorical exercises (The Encomium of Helen and The Defence of Palamedes, edited with Antiphon by F. Blass in the Teubner series, 1881), which have come down under his name, is disputed.

For his philosophical opinions see Sophists and Scepticism. See also Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, Eng. trans. vol. i. bk. iii. chap. vii.; Jebb's Attic Orators, introd. to vol. i. (1893); F. Blass, Die attische Beredsamkeit, i. (1887); and article Rhetoric.