Who is Prodicos of Cheos?

Who is Prodicos of Cheos?

June 25, 2021 Off By Felso

Prodikos, BC. Greek philosopher born in 470 on the island of Keos and living in Athens. Since Keos is close to Athens, Prodikos, who often goes to Athens, decides to open a rhetorical school in the city. In this context, Plato criticized him by saying that he was a knowledgeable teacher who was interested in the pleasures of language and that he was enriched financially by this school.


Prodikos traveled from city to city, giving rhetoric lessons for money. He impressed young people with his speeches. He has couriers all over Greece, tasked with bringing rich children to himself. He rarely taught the children of poor families. A drachma from the poor youth; It is said that he received 50 drachmas from rich young people. In other words, Prodikos has adjusted the fees of the courses according to the assets and work arrangement of the individuals.

Plato criticized this wage system as follows: “Had Socrates taken the lessons of the Prodicos for 50 drachmas per man, he could have said the nature of the names. However, he remained ignorant about this because he took the lessons of 1 drachma.”

The lectures of Prodicos were highly praised, especially in Thebes and Lakedaemon. People flocked to listen to him. It is even claimed that Xenophon, while imprisoned in Boeotia, paid his own bail and went to listen to him.

Philosophy of Prodikos

Prodicos, a student of Pythagoras, is one of the most important thinkers of the Greek understanding of sophism initiated by Protagoras. He is also in the school of Democritus. Cicero said that some of his teachings were destructive of all religions; Sextus Empiricus, on the other hand, said that he was an atheist.

According to Prodikos; The gods are thoughtless. It is clear, then, that they do not already exist. People mistook everything they saw as beneficial as God. Rather, the objects of nature, which had a beneficial effect on them, gave rise to the idea of ​​God and their worship in return for their good deeds. Thus; bread was named Demeter, wine Dionysus, and water Poseidon.

Prodicos, long before Epicurus, said that death was not a terrible thing; it says it’s none of our business while we’re alive or when we don’t exist. For as long as we live, there is no death to us; from the moment death comes, for death, it means we do not exist.

The worldview of Prodicos shows that he was one of the first pessimists. According to that; The evils of existence outweigh the good. However, the pessimism in his outlook on life does not aim to destroy human will and energy.

Prodicos introduced the concept of “things irrelevant to themselves”, which had an impact on the moral doctrines of the cynics and stoics. According to him, this concept; It can have meaning when used in the way the mind suggests and in moderation.

Prodicos believes that virtue can be taught. According to that; For virtuous people who know what to do with their wealth, wealth is a favor. For people who do not know this, it is evil. Everything is valued according to the usage style of the person who wants to use it.

Prodikos collected synonyms (synonyme) and distinguished the subtle differences in meaning between them clearly. Besides synonyme (synonymous but spelled differently) words, he also studied homonyme (same spelled but different meanings). Its purpose is; is to make language competent through thought.

Works of Prodikos

Among the important works of Prodikos, there are works named “About Nature” and “About Human Nature”. However, these two works have not survived to the present day.

Another important work of his is “Seasons”. The story “Heracles’ Choice” or “Heracles Between Disgrace and Virtue” in this work inspired many writers after Prodicos and even medieval Christian literature. This story is a reflection of Prodikos’ own life.

Prodikos spends the money he earns from his rhetoric lessons for pleasure. But, on the other hand, he gave speeches on virtue. Heracles, who is the subject of the story, is also provoked by the God of virtue and lust. Heracles has to choose between the oppressive and difficult path of virtue and the easy path of passions and vices. Heracles chooses the difficult virtue. This article praising virtue was liked by all antiquity and Prodikos immortalized his name.