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Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers, by Kathleen Freeman, [1948], at

p. 141


Thrasymachus of Chalcêdôn was active in the latter half of the fifth century B.C.

He left a large number of writings: a Great Text-book; Subjects for Oratory; Prooemia; Preponderances; and other works connected with Rhetoric. One long example of his style is preserved from one of his 'public orations', written as an exercise.

1. I could wish, men of Athens, to have belonged to that long-past time when the young were content to remain silent unless events compelled them to speak, and while the older men were correctly supervising affairs of State. But since Fate has so far advanced us in time that we must obey others as rulers but must suffer the consequences ourselves; and when the worst results are not the work of Heaven or Fate but of our administrators, then it is necessary to speak. A man either has no feeling, or has too much patience, if he is willing to go on offering himself up to whoever wishes as the object of their mistakes, and is ready to take on himself the blame for the guile and wickedness of others.

No, the past is enough for us—that we have exchanged peace for war, reaching the present through dangers, so that we regard the past with affection and the future with fear; and that we have sacrificed concord for enmity and internal disturbance. Others are driven to excesses and civil strife through a surfeit of prosperity; but we behaved soberly in our prosperity. We were seized with madness at a time of adversity, which usually makes others act soberly. Why then should anyone delay to say what he knows, if he happens to feel grief at the present state of affairs, and to believe that he has a means of bringing this to an end?

First of all, therefore, I shall prove in my speech that those of the orators and others who are at variance are mutually experiencing something that is bound to befall those who engage in senseless rivalry: believing that they are expressing opposite views, they fail to perceive that their actions are the same, and that the theory of the opposite party is inherent in their own theory. For consider from the beginning what each party is seeking.

In the first place, the 'ancestral constitution' is a cause of dissension between them, though it is easiest to grasp and is

p. 142

the common property of all citizens. Whatever lies outside our knowledge must necessarily be learnt from earlier generations, but whatever the elder generation has itself witnessed, we can find out from those who know.

2. (From a speech 'On behalf of the people of Larissa'): Shall we who are Greeks be the slaves of Archelaus a barbarian?

3. (Title: 'The Great Text-book').

4. (From the 'Prooemia': Timocreon1 entertained by the Great King, ate so much that the King inquired his purpose; Timocreon replied, 'To thrash innumerable Persians'. Next day, having beaten numbers of them one after another, he went on to shadowboxing; asked why, he said that these were the blows left over for any fresh competitor).

5. (Thrasymachus in his 'Appeals to Compassion' wrote on the art of delivery).

6. (Plato, Phaedrus 267C: Thrasymachus claimed to be able to arouse anger in many, and then allay their anger with charms and incantations).

6a. (Plato, Republic 338C: Thrasymachus speaking): Justice is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger.

7. (Title: 'Preponderant Arguments').

7a. (Thrasymachus and others mistakenly believed that they possessed the art of political and public oratory).

From unspecified writing

8. The gods do not see human affairs; otherwise they would not have overlooked the greatest of all blessings among mankind, Justice—for we see mankind not using this virtue.


142:1 Lyric poet of Rhodes, sixth-fifth centuries B.C., famous for large appetite, great strength, and invective.

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