Prodikos from Keos

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Prodikos von Keos ( ancient Greek Πρόδικος Pródikos , Latinized Prodicus ; * probably between 470 and 460 BC in Iulis on the island of Kea ; † after 399 BC) was an ancient Greek sophist and rhetorician .

The writings of Prodikos are lost; only testimony (ancient accounts of life and teaching) are preserved. As a conversation partner, he appears in the Platonic dialogue Protagoras .


In the Suda it is stated that Prodikos was a student of Protagoras , in Plato it is only stated that he was a younger contemporary of the same. Probably Prodikos had a personal relationship with Socrates . According to Plato , he traveled to different cities in order to earn money from teaching; in any case, he has often stayed in Athens , where he also took on official functions for his home island of Kea.

Some ancient authors, including the sophist opponent Plato, report that Prodikos gave both cheap and relatively expensive lessons, especially in rhetoric (0.5 to 50 drachmas). In the Platonic dialogue Protagoras , Prodikos helps with the precise distinction of the meanings of different terms. That Prodikos is said to have been sentenced to death in Athens is probably untrue.

Thucydides , Euripides and Isocrates are said to have been students of Prodikos, you can also find typical delimitations of terms like those made by Prodikos and his scientifically precise use of language. As Xenophon reports in his banquet , the rich Athenian politician Callias also took lessons from him.

Prodikos finds negative mention in two comedies by the poet Aristophanes . In 423 BC Piece Chr. Mentioned the clouds , he is called "Meteorosophist", in The Birds His teachings are discarded. A mockery of the Prodikos contains a preserved fragment of Aeschines' from Sphettos .


Philosophy of language

Prodikos is assigned a linguistic-philosophical method with the help of which it is possible to distinguish words with similar meanings from one another. Friends should "quarrel" with one another, while enemies should "quarrel" with one another. Prodikos' method is called synonymics , but was also referred to as "delimitation of terms " ( onomaton diairesis ), Plato names the "correctness of words" ( orthotes onomaton ) as the goal of the method . Prodikos, who was probably interested in the fact that each word only describes exactly one thing, has therefore also occasionally criticized the ambiguous and vague everyday language use, for which the delimitation of "argue" and "quarrel" can also serve as an example. Modern researchers suspect that Prodikos did not explain his method theoretically, but mainly demonstrated it in practical examples. Heinrich Gomperz wrote about the effect of Prodikos' method : “The conceptual philosophy of Socrates grew out of the meaning theory of Prodikos.” If that is true, then Prodikos can be seen as a pioneer of the logic established by Aristotle .

Rationalistic explanation of the origin of religion

According to Prodikos, people are said to have begun to divine useful things at some point, for example bread became the goddess Demeter . Later special people are said to have been raised to the status of gods. In ancient times he was therefore often counted among the atheists .


Some ancient authors mention that Prodikos wrote about the Greek hero Heracles ; it is believed that this happened in the context of a scripture called Horen ( horai ). Xenophon reports the parableHeracles at the crossroads ”. On the threshold of growing up, Heracles appears two women, "vice" ( kakia ) and "virtue" ( arete ), who want to win him over to two opposite forms of life. “Vice” suggests a life of pleasurable idleness, “Virtue” a laborious and busy but glorious life. Prodikos favored the latter.

Medicine, natural philosophy and pessimism

According to Galenos , Prodikos has also written about medical topics, according to Galen and Cicero also about natural philosophy. According to uncertain evidence, Prodikos is also assigned a pessimistic view of life.

Tradition and ancient reception

In his early dialogue Protagoras, Plato goes into Prodikos' synonymy, which he depicts as operating with arbitrary conceptual distinctions. The Platonic Socrates describes himself - ironically - as a pupil of Prodikos. Whether Prodikos' synonymy had any influence on the development of the Platonic dialectic and Dihairesis is debatable.

Source collections


Overview representations

Investigations on Prodikos and Hercules

  • Vana Nicolaïdou-Kyrianidou: Prodicos et Xénophon ou le choix d'Héraclès entre la tyrannie et la loyauté. In: Lina G. Mendoni, Alexander Mazarakis Ainian (ed.): Kea – Kythnos: History and Archeology. Proceedings of an International Symposium Kea-Kythnos, 22-25 June 1994. (= Meletemata. Vol. 27). Athens 1998, pp. 81-98.
  • Franz Siepe : Wieland and the Prodikeean Hercules. In: Yearbook of the German Schiller Society. 45 (2001), pp. 73-96.
  • Alonso Tordesillas: Socrate et Prodicos dans les Mémorables de Xénophon . In: M. Narcy & A. Tordesillas (eds.): Xénophon et Socrate. Actes du colloque d'Aix-en-Provence (3–6 November 2003). Librairie Philosophique Vrin, Paris 2008, ISBN 978-2-7116-1987-0 , pp. 87-110.


  1. Suda , keyword Πρόδικος , Adler number: pi 2365 , Suda-Online = Hermann Diels, Walther Kranz (ed.): Fragments of the pre-Socratics 77A1.
  2. Plato, Protagoras 317c = Hermann Diels, Walther Kranz (ed.): Fragments of the pre-Socratics 80A5.
  3. a b c d e f g George B. Kerferd, Hellmut Flashar: Prodikos from Keos . In: Hellmut Flashar (ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy. The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 2/1, Basel 1998, pp. 58–63.
  4. Plato, Apology 19e-20a = Hermann Diels, Walther Kranz (ed.): Fragments of the pre-Socratics 84A4.
  5. Plato, Hippias maior 282c = Hermann Diels, Walther Kranz (Ed.): Fragments of the pre-Socratics 84A3.
  6. Aristophanes, Die Wolken 360 = Hermann Diels, Walther Kranz (Ed.): Fragments of the pre-Socratics 84A1.
  7. Aristophanes, The Birds 689-692.
  8. ^ Heinrich Gomperz: Sophistics and Rhetoric. 1912, p. 126.
  9. Xenophon, Memorabilia , 2,1,21-2,1,34.
  10. ^ Galenos, de naturalibus facultatibus 2.9.
  11. ^ Galen, de elementis ex Hippocrate 1.9.
  12. Cicero, De oratore 3,32,128.
  13. ^ Hartmut Westermann: Prodikos of Eos . In: Kai Brodersen, Bernhard Zimmermann (ed.): Metzler Lexikon Antike , Stuttgart 2000, p. 492.