The Ancient Library
 
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THE PARASITE PARASITIC AN ART

Ludwig Radermacher has shown that The Parasite owes its being to the age-long war of words between philosophy and rhetoric, and should be read in the light of contro­versial tracts such as the Rhetoric of Philodemus. Ever since the time of Plato and Isocrates, the two systems of education had been fighting for pupils, and philosophy had found it well worth her while to test the pretensions of her rival by investigating the nature and value of rhetoric. As usual, her schools did not agree in their results. The Stoics found rhetoric fruitful in her promise if cultivated under proper management; but most of the other schools would have naught of her. The leading voice of the opposi­tion was that of Critolaus, the Peripatetic, who, debating against Diogenes the Stoic, tested rhetoric by the Stoic de­finition of an "art," and demonstrated to his own satisfaction that it was none.

The author of The Parasite makes fun of the question, still very much alive in his time, and of both parties to it by arguing that Parasitic is an art by the terms of the Stoic definition, and a better one than either rhetoric or philosophy. No other pursuit could have served his turn better than that of the parasite, who made a business of sponging, who, along with the cook, had been a standing butt of the New Comedy, and now had become the rival of the philosopher and the rhetorician for the favour of rich patrons.

The author of this clever comparison had the same stand­point as Lucian with reference to philosophy and rhetoric; he knows Lucian's writings ; and the name of Tychiades is one of Lucian's masks. He is either Lucian himself or a con­scious imitator. But the vocabtilarj7, syntax, and style are so dissimilar as to seem another's, and even the humour has a different quality, for instance; "Aristotle only made a beginning in Parasitic, as in every other art!" Possibly Lucian wrote the piece in his extreme old age ; but to my mind it is more likely to be the work of someone else. It is certainly prior to the Ungrammatical Man, which satirizes many words and expressions that occur in it. The text has come down to us through a single channel, and is ex­ceptionally corrupt.

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