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Aristophanes Frogs and the sophists

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Abi Birks

on 6 November 2012

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Transcript of Aristophanes Frogs and the sophists

Did Aristophanes include
Sophist ideas in Frogs? Sophist ideas in Frogs When did it first start? Background to the sophist movement Sophist beliefs and teachings Were there any? Sophists ideas in Frogs Overall Aristophanes gives his opinion on the Sophist movement throughout the play through characters like the Chorus leader and Dionysus.

It is clear to the audience that Aristophanes does not support the Sophist movement. Did he support the ideas or oppose them? Which characters (if any) portrayed these ideas? In sixth Century B.C. in Ionia people started looking for explanations for the universe. They were called Presocrates Member Member Member Member (cc) photo by theaucitron on Flickr (cc) photo by theaucitron on Flickr In Ionian Miletus there were three presocratic philosophers called Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes also known as the "Milesians".They were interested in Hoi Physikoi- nature (physics) as well as ethics and the criticism of contemporary religion. Big and.... ... small Sophists were traveling teachers that influenced people and ideas at around 5th century B.C. They were Intellectual descendants from the preseocratic philosophers although instead of focusing on natural sciences they looked at human affairs and improving human life.
They started questioning whether divine causation by the God were the reasons for natural phenomena and human actions. Sophists were often non-Athenians who attracted a following of young Athenians. They charged large fees for teachings of "arete" excellence in managing one's own affairs as well as the cities. Before the sophist movement it was thought arete was inbred and only the aristocratic could excel at politics. The Sophists taught that it could be learnt and claimed to teach a set of of practical skills especially rhetoric (persuasion) as the ability to speak to the ekklesia or council in Athens is how you did well in politics. They proved that with education any citizen could improve his status in society. These ideas were developed in Ionia and Sicily by Heraclitus, Pythagoras and other presocrates at the time. Anaxagoras eventually brought the movement to Athens when he went there in the the 5th centuary B.C. The end All Sophists taught students to be skeptical (a doubtful state of mind) and that truth was not absolute but relative as it depends on the individual and situation.
The sophist teacher Proagorass taught his students to argue on both sides of the question as because the truth is relative its not whether what you are saying is right or wrong but how well you can argue your point, that matters. The Sophists also looked at Nomos vs Physis, are whether our actions were caused by nature and the rules are unchangeable (Physis) or only changeable human conventions (Nomos)
It used to be thought that the Gods made the rules, institutions and put people in their place. but after interacting with different cultures they began to see how other cultures were different to their own, they realized that societies themselves create their own customs depending on their needs.

The sophists viewed the Gods, society and the class system of humans the in same way as a man made creation for a specific purpose. They were agnostic or atheists and didn't believe in anthropomorphic human shaped Gods or divine causation but instead in nature causing phenomena.

However the sophists were the minority and citizens regarded them as impious and distrustful. What was the sophist movement? The topic of the Sophists comes up repeatedly in the play Frogs, The sophists are referred to in both a joking and a serious way throughout.
An undercurrent in the play Frogs, is the battle between new and old ways of thinking, and which of of these ways would help save the city.

The characters of Aeschylus and Euripides disagree on everything. from which was the best playwright, to how to think and teach the audience moral lessons.
The competition between the two represents more than who should return to the world above but which way of thinking is right. We can tell how Aristophanes feels on the Sophist movement by the winner of the competition. Sophist ideas in Frogs
He is described throughout as a new thinker, and a man that will talk to everyone "Euripides came along and started showing off to all these other people...beggars, slaves " This quote mirrors the Sophist idea that you can train anyone to think or appreciate art.
He also boasts about teaching the audience to think for themselves. "I taught them to observe...to suspect the worse" This reflects the sophists teachings of skepticism to the Athenian youth and how Euripides agreed with it.

He also doesn't pray to the Gods like Aeschylus does showing him to be less pious "Hail of my tongue.. sentient nostrils" Instead of of leaving it to the Gods to settle he depends on himself to win the competition. This is a sophist idea that people should not rely on the Gods but their own skills.
Euripides also doesn't avoid controversial topics in his play, instead he questions things like the Sophists, " little finely chopped rational thought" This is what the Sophists movement was based on and Euripides tried to incorporate logic into his plays.

Euripides when asked about whether he wants Alcibiades back, he replies with " I loathe a man who.." He doesn't think Alcibiades cares about Athens as much as he does himself so they should not bring him back This could also show that like the Sophists he doesn't want to go back to Alcibiades but is forward thinking.
Over all in the play Frogs through his ideas on both poetry and how to save Athens, I thnk Euripides is the character who represents the Sophist movement. Sophist ideas in Frogs
Aeschylus The playwright Aeschylus represents the opposite of Euripides does in the play Frogs. " Huge are the words he wields" His plays were known for being dramatic and where Euripides tried to add some realism and logic to his plays Aeschylus did the opposite by elevating heroes and Gods to above mortals. "If your characters are demigods they should sound like demigods"
Unlike the Sophists who questioned Gods and Hero's Aeschylus used them to teach citizens a lesson.
Aeschylus is shown to be old fashioned in his way of thinking such as not wanting people to change their position in society. "Even sailors argue with their officers" This shows that Aeschylus obviously finds the Sophist way of thinking wrong and that citizens should stay in their place.
His ideas of priorities for the city and it's youth were also different to Euripides as shown by the quote " There's not a decent athlete left in the whole city" basically he thought spending time in discussion was a waste of time, unlike physical training.
He also made a joke at the Sophists by saying " practice the art of debating- and that's not all they practice either" This joke as well as making the audience laugh makes the audience question the establishments
His views on how to save the city state of Athens are traditional and differ from the Sophist view. He describes Did Aristophanes Support the Sophist movement? We can see that Aristophanes didn't support the Sophists because he chooses Aeschylus to be the winner. By doing this he is also choosing the old traditional ways over the new Sophist way of thinking.
Throughout the play remarks made by the other characters like Dionysus show that Aristophanes does not Support the Sophist movement.

The chorus are the moral voice of the play and try to teach the audience a lesson. They say things like "The time has come to forgive and forget" this shows Aristophanes wants to go back to the old ways.
" The noble dramacha which of old.......ceased to circulate"
He doesn't trust the new ways of thinking and would rather go back to the old families of Athens.

Dionysus himself is a God, so obviously his character would prefer the more pious Aeschylus. He says that " persuasion is hollow" This is relevant to the Sophits because they learn the art of persuasion He is implying that their ideas may look good but wont help Athens.

He also reminisces about the good old days when people were silent, this is obviously a reference to the Sophists and how he wishes they wouldn't question the Gods.
At the end of the play, the chorus's last message is what the audience take home with them and remember, "Quibbling and pretentious talk" This is referring to the Sophists who spend all day discussing and thinking.

. The sophist movement continued
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