Antiphon the Sophist

From Everything Shii Knows, the only reliable source

This website is an archive. It ran from 2006-2010. Virtually everything on here is outdated or inaccurate.

While compiling my article on Time I noticed there was no English listing of the extant quotes of Antiphon the Sophist. You can read Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker online, but all those Greek letters... kind of overwhelming!


Biography... or rather, biographies

The only thing we can say for sure about Antiphon is that he lived in the 5th century B.C.E and his writings seem to come from 420-400 BCE.

The first biography of Antiphon the Sophist was written by Caecilius of Calacte in the first century B.C.E. Caecilius conflated him with two other Antiphons: one the son of Lysonidas, the other a tragic poet. Caecilius' shoddily researched biography included a story from a satirical stage-play. The trouble is conflated by the fact Caecilius is no longer extant but survives through the redactions of Photius, Philostratus, and a pseudo-Plutarch.

Photius divided up Antiphon into the "so-called diviner and interpreter of dreams" who wrote philosophical works, and another Antiphon who wrote some political speeches. 300 years later, another writer named Hermogenes was on the fence over Photius' theory. There is no satisfactory conclusion over whether Photius was correct.

Paraphrased from The Older Sophists by Sprague.

Sources describing his life [from FdV + Sprague]

  1. Suda
  2. Hermogenes, De Ideis II. 2nd century CE: already, Antiphon the historical person is known only through old books. Hermogenes is trying to figure out if there were indeed two Antiphons in the 5th century BCE, and decides that there were.
  3. Plutarch, Vitae X orat. 1
  4. Photius, Bibliotheca 259. 25 "spurious" writings and 35 "genuine" ones were extant in Photius' time.
  5. Genos of Antiphon
  6. Antiphon as Teacher: Plato Menexenus, Cicero Brutus, Galen's Glossary,
  7. Xenophon, Memorabilia I
  8. Aristotle fr. 75 Rose in Diogenes Laertius II 76
  9. Antiphon the Speech Writer: Clement Miscellanies I 79, Quintillian III 1, Ammianus Marcellinus XXX 4, Plato Comus, Typhon, Dionysius of Halicarnassus
  10. Antiphon the Politician: Aristophanes Wasps 1267-71, Thucydides VIII 68, Plutarch Nicias 6, Aristotle's Constitution XXXII 2, Eudemian Ethics III 5, Lysias 12
  11. Lucian, True Story. II 33: Antiphon the Interpreter of Dreams lives on the Island of Dreams
    Clement, Miscellanies VII 24: A man took it as an omen when a sow ate her litter. Antiphon noticed the owner was starving the sow for lack of regular feed and said, "Be of good cheer at this omen. In her hunger she might have eaten your children."
    Gnomologium Vindobonense 50: What is divination? "A wise man's guess."
  12. Athenaeus summarizes some literature written about Antiphon by the 3rd century, mentioning Adrastus the Peripatetic and Hephaestion.

Extant Speeches [Sprague]

  1. Prosecution for poisoning against the stepmother
  2. First Tetralogy
  3. Second Tetralogy
  4. Third Tetralogy
  5. On the murder of Herodes
  6. On the Chorus-boy

These are all ancient speeches used by defendants in court.

List of fragmentary/named works [Spague]

  1. On the tribute of the Lindians
  2. On the tribute of the Samothracians
  3. On the Revolution
  4. Defense against the indictment of Demosthenes
  5. Defense against the writ of Callias
  6. Against Nicocles about boundaries
  7. Prosecution for an unconstitutional proposal "to order the marines to be summoned before this court on the charge of accepting bribes" [Suidas II 27]
  8. Against Philinus
  9. Agains the president (possibly pseudo-Antiphon)
  10. On enslavement
  11. In a case of [assault] upon a boy of free parentage
  12. Prosecution of Timocrates in a guardianship suit
  13. Prosecution of Erasistratus in a case about peacocks
  14. Prosecution of Hippocrates
  15. Prosecution of Laispodias
  16. In defense of Myrrhus
  17. Prosecution of Polyeuctes
  18. On Truth
    • Quoting Spague directly: The central argument of Book 1 seems to have bee nas follows. Mind rules the body, but needs a starting point. This starting point is in the senses. We believe our eyes moreso than abstractions. But when we speak there is no permanent reality behind our words, nothing in fact comparable to the results of seeing and knowing. Antiphon gives at least five examples of this last assertion:
      • Time has no reality.
      • A circle is an infinitely-sided polygon.
      • [corrected from Sprague] A wooden bed, if buried in the ground, can grow into a tree.
      • Justice may be injustice.
      • There is no real distinction between Greek and barbarian.
    • Nevertheless, although words are deceptive, there is a right and wrong way of knowing things. Antiphon also denied there is design in nature.
    • Book 2: Cosmogony and Zoogony
  19. On Concord
    • Education, psychology, and sociology
  20. Politikos
  21. On the Interpretation of Dreams
  22. Invective against Alcibiades
  23. Introductions
  24. The Art of Speaking, books I, II, and III

Fragments [FdV + Freeman's Ancilla + 1949 JHS review]

I am aware there are better translations but I can't be arsed to do an inter-library loan. Boohoo.

  1. [From "Truth"] If you realize these things, you will know there exists for it [the mind] no single thing of those things which the person who sees farthest sees with vision, nor of those things which the person whose knowledge goes furthest knows with his mind.
    • Galen Commentary - "Critias speaks opposing the cognitive mind to the senses as Antiphon does in the first of the two books of the Truth. 'When a man speaks he expresses no single thing or single meaning, indeed the subject of his speech is not any single thing either of the things which the most powerful beholder sees with his sight or of the things which the most powerful knower knows with his mind.
      I think, generally speaking, theat there is no such thing as If you realize these things, you will know there exists for it [the mind] no single thing of those things which the person who sees farthest sees with vision, nor of those things which the person whose knowledge goes furthest knows with his mind.' ... 'I think, generally speaking, that there is no such thing as a nonexistent science. Indeed, it is absurd to think of one of the things which exist as nonexisstent. If some things actually did not exist how could someone look at them as existing and say that they did not exist. Indeed, if you can actually see what does not exist, just as much as what does exist, I cannot see how anyone could believe that they do not exist, particularly if you can see them with your eyes and know them with your mind as existing. No, this cannot be so...'"
  2. In all men, the mind has the leadership of the body towards both health and disease and everything else.
  3. Pollux VI 143: Antiphon uses the expression "with unprepared mind" in the books On Truth...
  4. [Unusual Greek word]
  5. [Greek]
  6. [Greek]
  7. [Greek]
  8. [Greek]
  9. Time is a thought or a measure, not a substance. [Whatever this means-- and it seems to mean very little-- it is "probably an anachronism", according to Gerard J. Pendrick-- ISBN 0521651611 p.256]
  10. [From "Truth"] Hence He [God] needs nothing and receives no addition from anywhere, but is infinite and lacking nothing.
  11. [Greek]
  12. [Greek]
  13. [Squaring of the circle by means of the inscription of triangles; Aristotle, phys. A]
  14. [From "Truth"] [Nature] if stripped of her resources (άφορμή; primal mish-mash) would have arranged many excellent things badly.
  15. [From "Truth"] If one buried a bed, and the rotting wood obtained life, it would not become a bed, but wood.
  16. [Greek]
  17. [Greek]
  18. [Greek]
  19. [Greek]
  20. [Greek]
  21. [Greek]
  22. [Greek]
  23. [Greek]
  24. [Greek]
  25. By an eddy.
  26. [The sun is a fire which feeds on damp air around the earth]
  27. [The moon has its own light]
  28. [Eclipses of the moon caused by its own revolution]
  29. When therefore in the air showers and contrary winds occur together, the water is then compressed and condensed to a large extent; and whichever of the colliding factors is overpowered is condensed and compressed [into hail] by being squeezed together by the wind and its force.
  30. [Fire] by heating the earth and melting it, makes it corrugated.
  31. [Earthquakes are] corrugation
  32. [The sea is] sweat, made salt [by heating]
  33. [Greek]
  34. [Greek]
  35. [Greek]
  36. [Greek]
  37. Naval expedition
  38. Abortion
  39. Mutilated things
  40. Tempering of bronze and iron
  41. Skilled at maintaining life
  42. [Greek]
  43. [Greek]
  44. [Oxyrhynchus 1364] [Those born of illustrious fa]thers we respect and honour, whereas those who come from an undistinguished house we neither respect nor honour. In this we behave like barbarians towards one another . For by nature we all equally, both barbarians and Greeks, have an entirely similar origin: for it is fitting to fulfil the natural satisfactions which are necessary to all men: all have the ability to fulfil these in the same way, and in all this none of us is different either as barbarian or as Greek; for we all breathe into the air with mouth and nostrils...
  45. Shadowfeet
  46. Longheads
  47. Dwellers-underground
  48. Man, who, they say, is the most divine of all animals.
  49. Now let life proceed, and let him desire marriage and a wife... [Stob. III 68]
  50. Life is like a brief vigil, and the duration of life is like one day, as it were, in which, having seen the light, we pass on the watch (i.e., the vigil) to the next generation.
  51. The whole of life is wonderfully open to complaint, my friend; it has nothing remarkable, great or noble, but all is petty, feeble, brief-lasting, and mingled with sorrows.
  52. It is not possible to rearrange one's [past] life, like pieces on a checkerboard.
  53. Those who work and save and suffer and lay money by enjoy the sort of pleasure one can imagine. But when they take away from it and use it, they suffer pain as if tearing off their own flesh.
    53a. There are some who do not live the present life, but prepare with great diligence as if they were going to live another life, not the present one. Meanwhile time, being neglected, deserts them.
  54. There is a story that a man seeing another man earning much money begged him to lend him a sum at interest. The other refused; and being of a mistrustful nature, unwilling to help anyone, he carried it off and hid it somewhere. Another man, observing him, filched it. Later, the man who had hidden it returning, could not find it; and being very grieved at the disaster—especially that he had not lent to the man who had asked him, because then it would have been safe and would have earned increment—he went to see the man who had asked for a loan, and bewailed his misfortune, saying that he had done wrong and was sorry not to have granted his request but to have refused it, as his money was completely lost. The other man told him to hide a stone in the same place, and think of his money as his and not lost: 'For even when you had it you completely failed to use it; so that now too you can think you have lost nothing.' For when a person has not used and will not use anything, it makes no difference to him either whether he has it or not. For when God does not wish to give a man complete good fortune--when he has given him material wealth but made him poor in right thinking--in taking away one he has deprived him of both.
  55. To hesitate where there is no point for hesitation.
  56. He is cowardly who is bold on speech concerning absent and future dangers, and hurries on in resolve, but shrinks back when the fact is before him.
  57. "Illness is a holiday for cowards," for they do not march into action.
  58. Whoever, when going against his neighbor with the mention of harming him, is afraid lest by failing to achieve his wishes he may get what he does not wish, is wiser. For his fear earns hesitation, and his hesitation means an interval in which often his mind is deflected from his purpose. There can be no reversal of a thing that has happened: it is possible only for that is in the future not to happen. Whoever thinks he will ill treat his neighbors and not suffer himself is unwise. Hopes are not altogether a good thing; such hopes have flung down many into intolerable disaster, and what they thought to inflict on their neighbors, they have suffered themselves for all to see. Prudence in another man can be judged correctly by no one more than he who fortifies his soul against immediate pleasures and can conquer himself. But whoever wishes to gratify his soul immediately, wishes the worse instead of the better.
  59. Whoever has not desired and touched the base and the bad, is not self-restrained; for there is nothing over which he has gained the mastery and proved himself well-behaved.
  60. The first thing, I believe, for mankind is education. For whenever anyone does the beginning of anything correctly, it is likely that the end will also be right. As one sows, so can one expect to reap. And if in a young body one sows a noble education, this lives and flourishes through the whole of his life, and neither rain nor drought destroys it.
  61. Nothing is worth for mankind than anarchy. Hence our forefathers instilled obedience into their children, so that when grown up they might not be overcome by any great change.
  62. One's character must necessarily grow like that with which one spends the greater part of the day.
  63. When they understand the arrangement, they listen.
  64. [From "On Concord"] New friendships are close, but old ones are closer.
  65. Many who have friends do not know it, but choose as companions admirers of their wealth and flatterers of their good fortune.
  66. The care of old age is like the care of children.
  67. [Greek]
  68. [Greek]
  69. [Greek]
  70. [Greek]
  71. [Greek]
  72. [Greek]
  73. [from "The Statesman"] When anyone has "breakfasted away" his or his friends' property...
  74. [Greek]
  75. [Greek]
  76. [Greek]
  77. To spend the most costly commodity, time. [Plutarch, Marc Antony, 28]
  78. [Greek]
  79. [Cicero: Antiphon a dream interpreter who went against natural]
  80. [Cicero: Antiphon gives unlikely interpretations of dreams]
  81. [Seneca: Books not written by Antiphon, but thought to be, because there was so much about dreams in them]
    81a. [Malampus: Antiphon on eyelid twitchings]
  82. 82-117, various words

Fragments not in FdV [Sprague]

Essay about Antiphon

Retrieved from ""

This page has been accessed 6,482 times. This page was last modified on 30 May 2008, at 05:26. Content is available under Attribution 2.5 .