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Updated on December 1, 2016

Isocrates, Greek orator and educator. Born Athens, Greece, 436 B.C. Died Athens, 338 B.C. Isocrates is famous for his prose style, which is characterized by smoothness, balanced structure, and the use of periodic sentences. His style was imitated by many later Greek and Roman writers, notably by Cicero, and his prose has been a model for European writers since the Renaissance. In his speeches, Isocrates treated such subjects as politics, education, ethics, and literary criticism. Of his extensive writings only 21 speeches and 9 letters have survived. His most famous oration is the Panegyricus (380 B.C.). After his family lost its money in the Peloponnesian War, Isocrates had to support himself by writing speeches for clients involved in legal difficulties. In about 392 B.C. he founded a celebrated school of oratory and philosophy in Athens. A shy man with a weak voice, Isocrates rarely spoke in public. Most of his speeches were published as pamphlets to be read by others.


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