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Gorgias on Magic

From: Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft
Volume 8, Number 2, Winter 2013
pp. 119-131 | 10.1353/mrw.2013.0029



Contemporary scholars tend to speak of Gorgias’ logos as human, secular, and rational; the fact that the power of logos is manifest in mageia and goēteia demystifies magic. Based on a reading of Gorgias’ Encomium of Helen, this essay argues rather that Gorgias divinizes logic than rationalizes magic. For Gorgias in the Helen, logos is, like Helen herself, both human and divine. It is self-evident to Gorgias as well that rhetoric serves the good; thus he clearly wishes to ascribe a divine potency to rhetoric. His conviction that there is something divine about logos helps to explain why, in the Helen, part of Gorgias’ amusement (paignion) derived from his attempt to elevate logos to the level of the gods, rather than to drag magic down to earth.

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