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The Agora

Updated on March 21, 2010

The Agora

The Agora

The Agora in ancient Athens constituted a 30-acre marketplace that sat below the Acropolis. It is still visible today but is now a park with some old stone left behind that may have been from that time period. 2400 years ago, it was the intellectual center of the world, where rhetoric was discussed by great men who debated such ideas as beaut, love and truth.

Socrates had trained here as a stone masonĀ  and was not a man who sought fame and recognition. He was seemingly uninterested in politics and rarely spoke at civic occassions initially. Eventually, he found his way to this very public marketplace -- chatting, teaching, and seeking doalogue with the people. Outside the Agora Socrates sought out the ruins of Simon the Cobbler's shop, and it was there he taught his younger pupils, because only adults could enter the Agora.

Socrates was the teacher of Plato, who wrote down many of the things Socrates said, before he was convicted of corrupting the youth of Athens and sentenced to drink hemlock, which ended his life.

Plato became the teacher of Aristotle, and Aristotle taught the young Alexander the Great. The great ideas did not die with Socrates, they germinated and took to seed, continuing to grow to this day. It is here we will hold our own Agora and discuss the thoughts of our course on Rhetoric. This is your invitation to think, to agree and to disagree. Welcome to the Agora.


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    • Aley Martin profile image

      Alice Lee Martin 8 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

      Interesting comments here! Thanks

    • HubCrafter profile image

      HubCrafter 8 years ago from Arizona

      Hello Aley:

      Continuing along your timeline; four hundred years past the days of Socrates, comes another man to the Agora.

      Paul of Tarsus.

      He's invited to speak before the philosophers and the sophisticates in the marketplace of Athens, the Agora.

      And as he raises his arm to speak, Paul begins: I see that you are very religious. You even have a place to worship a god who has no name. He said he had come to tell them about the god they did not know. And so this is how Paul begins the introduction of the Athenians to the gospel of Jesus Christ. And this is where he failed so utterly to make a beginning for Christianity in Athens.

      Why, is a debatable point. Paul used the very means that these sophisticated men used as they would carry on in their everyday debates. He used the same rhetoric he'd learned at the feet of Gamaliel, his mentor in Judaism. He used all the wit and acumen he'd acquired from years of rigorous training to finally become one of the leading Pharisees of his day. And still he failed. Why?

      Why didn't his oratory win in the marketplace at Athens?

      When Paul left Athens, he never again would use the great rhetorical abilities he was capable least not when addressing people in person. From Athens on, Paul would speak the simple direct truth. No garnishing or quotation would fall from his lips. It was Christ crucified..that was the message.

      This message appalled the Athenians. When Paul departed, he left with two, or at best, three converts. The sophisticated men of Athens would have nothing to do with dead men who rise again..or Jews who've declared the Messiah has come.

      As for Paul, never again would he use the sophisticated language of the rhetorician to make his case for faith in Jesus Christ.

      The cause of Christ and the work of faith could not depend upon the wit of a man or the wisdom of smooth words. Instead, Paul was given another way. He spoke in simple terms and the convincing was left alone. Paul trusted in God to do His part. Of this, Paul said, I have learned that when I am weak...He is strong (meaning God).

      Paul was a man of great abilities and tremendous will power. During his lifetime as a christian leader, he suffered enormously...shipwrecked three times and lost at sea, terrorized by robbers and countymen, beaten with rods, stoned by a mob and left for dead.

      Why did he continue? Would you? I'm glad Paul did persevere. I heard the gospel...2,000 years later...because this man and others just like him...they believed a simple story about the One who died so that others could live.

      I came to hear that story, that good news when I was 24 years old. It changed my life.



    • Aley Martin profile image

      Alice Lee Martin 8 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

      First class: What is Rhetoric? Read: Gorgias: pp 117-201 and Introduction to Rhetoric Chapter 1 and 2. Take a deep breath and research for clarity online if confused.

      Persuasion is a key element in rhetorical discussion: it has influence in Power, Truth, Ethics, and the Audience addressed to, and society. In reading Gorgias, look for key discussion points that being these elements into focus. Think about the modern day arguments and the ways our politicians try to influence their constituency with their rhetorical precision. Identify how they work to sway their audience. How important is the audience? Finally, think of the appeals one may use in their argument. Emotions? Logical? Ethical?