Rhetoric, truth, and the problem of 'sophistic historiography'

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  • In this paper I want to explore Cassius Dio’s response to the intellectual and cultural context of his time and the effect of that response upon the way in which he wrote history. Dio is frequently described as an exponent of the Second Sophistic, a ‘sophistic author’, or even in one extreme example from the 80s as literally a sophist as such. But if that were the case then his attitude to the Greek 'poleis' of the East would be very surprising and out of character. Brandon Jones has recently shown in an excellent paper that Dio’s παιδεία is undeniable. But his self-promotion is hardly exceptional for any Greek historian and not just of this period either. In what follows I’d like to suggest that Dio was in fact remarkably suspicious of sophistry and sophists. Using concepts borrowed from the Classical tradition and drawing from his own first-hand experience, Dio criticised the sophists of the 2nd and 3rd centuries on three bases: firstly, their ambiguous relationship with philosophy and the tension between philosophy and rhetoric; secondly, their artificial and superficial self-presentation; and thirdly, their unorthodox behaviour, including accusations of effeminacy and irrelegious practices.

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    Conference/Workshop Poster
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International