Nor is it possible to accept the statements that “the splendid genius, the lasting influence, and the reiterated polemics of Plato have stamped the name sophist upon the men against whom he wrote as if it were their recognized, legitimate and peculiar designation,” and that “Plato not only stole the name out of general circulation, in order to fasten it specially upon his opponents the paid teachers, but also connected with it express discreditable attributes which formed no part of its primitive and recognized meaning and were altogether distinct from, though grafted upon, the vague sentiment of dislike associated with it.” That is to say, Grote supposes that for at least eight and forty years, from 447 to 399, the paid professors had no professional title; that, this period having elapsed, a youthful opponent succeeded in fastening an uncomplimentary title not only upon the contemporary teachers, but also, retrospectively, upon their predecessors; and that, artfully enhancing the indignity of the title affixed, he thus obscured, perverted and effaced the records and the memories of the past. Manifestly all three propositions are antecedently improbable. But more than this: whereas in the nomenclature of Plato's contemporaries Protagoras, Gorgias, Socrates, Dionysodorus and Isocrates were all of them sophists, Plato himself, in his careful investigation summarized above, limits the meaning of the term so that it shall include the humanists and the eristics only. Now, if his use of the term was stricter than the customary use, he can hardly be held answerable for the latter.
Nor is Grote altogether just in his account of Plato's attitude towards the several sophists, or altogether judicious in his appreciation of Plato's testimony. However contemptuous in his portraiture of Hippias and Dionysodorus, however severe in his polemic against Isocrates, Plato regards Protagoras with admiration and Gorgias with respect. While he emphasizes in the later sophists the consequences of the fundamental error of sophistry—its indifference to truth—he does honour to the genius and the originality of the leaders of the movement. Indeed, the author of this article finds in the writings of Plato a grave and discriminating study of the several forms of sophistry, and no trace whatsoever of that blind hostility which should warrant us in neglecting his clear and precise evidence.
In a word, the present writer agrees with Grote that the sophists were not a sect or school with common doctrine or method; that their theoretical and practical morality was neither above nor below that of their age, being, in fact, determined by it; and that Plato and his followers are not to be regarded as the authorized teachers of the Greek nation, nor the sophists as the dissenters, but vice versa. At the same time, in opposition to Grote, he maintains that the appearance of the sophists marked a new departure, in so far as they were the first professors of “higher education” as such; that they agreed in the rejection of “philosophy”; that the education which they severally gave was open to criticism, inasmuch as, with the exception of Socrates, they attached too much importance to the form, too little to the matter, of their discourses and arguments; that humanism, rhetoric, politic and disputation were characteristic not of all sophists collectively, but of sections of the profession; that Plato was not the first to give a special meaning to the term “sophist” and to affix it upon the professors of education; and, finally, that Plato's evidence is in all essentials trustworthy.
SOPHOCLES (495-406 B.C.), Greek tragic poet, was born at Colonus in the neighbourhood of Athens. His father's name was Sophillus; and the family burial-place, is said to have been about a mile and a half from the city on the Decelean Way. The date assigned for the poet's birth is in accordance with the tale that young Sophocles, then a pupil of the musician Lamprus, was chosen to lead the chorus of boys in the celebration of the victory of Salamis (480 B.C.). The time of his death is fixed by the allusions to it in the Frogs of Aristophanes and in the Muses, a lost play of Phrynichus, the comic poet, which were both produced in 405 B.C., shortly before the capture of Athens. And the legend which implies that Lysander allowed him funeral honours is one of those which, like the story of Alexander and Pindar's house at Thebes, we can at least wish to be founded on fact, though we should probably substitute Agis for Lysander. Apart from tragic victories, the event of Sophocles' life most fully authenticated is his appointment at the age of fifty-five as one of the generals who served with Pericles in the Samian War (440-439 B.C.). Conjecture has been rife as to the possibility of his here improving acquaintance with Herodotus, whom he probably met some years earlier at Athens. But the distich quoted by Plutarch—
Ὠιδὴν Ἡροδότῳ τεῦξεν Σοφοκλής ἐτέων ὢν
Πέντ’ ἐπὶ πεντήκοντα—
is a slight ground on which to reject the stronger tradition according to which Herodotus was ere this established at Thurii;