Summer 2007, 37:3, pages 275 - 305
Athens, the Unjust Student of Rhetoric: A Dramatic Historical Interpretation of Plato's Gorgias
At a time when Athenians were still trying to explain the loss of their empire, Plato's Gorgias -- through its dramatic structure and themes, its allusions to critical moments in the Peloponnesian War, and its literary engagements with Thucydides, Isocrates, and Polycrates -- challenged both the actuality and legitimacy of that power as well as the rhetoric with which democratic Athenians continued to rationalize their former tyranny. By portraying imperial Athens as an unjust student of sophistic rhetoric, an immoderate practitioner of opportunistic reasoning, Plato offers an instructive explanation for its defeat. Interpreted in its historical contexts, his Gorgias has new relevance.