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Gorgias Rhetoric in the Encomium of Helen

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In the Encomium of Helen, Gorgias attempts to prove Helen's innocence since she is blamed to be the cause of the Trojan War. Gorgias uses rhetoric to persuade listeners to believe why there are only four reasons to explain why Helen was driven to Troy. All of which he will argue were not her fault. Fate was the first cause, followed by force. Gorgias then seems to focus the most on the power of Logos, or words. Finally he explains how she could have been compelled by love (82B116).

I will assume Fate was pretty explanatory when Gorgias wrote the Encomium of Helen since he does not delve deep into his reasons like he later does for Logos. He mentions that a human cannot obstruct the will of God, or Fate, because humans are weak and God is stronger. Helen was a mere human so she could no way stand in the way of Fate. Gorgias concludes that Helen is not to blame in this case (82B116).

Force was also not mentioned a great deal by Gorgias. He says that if she was taken by force then it is clearly her abductor's fault and not hers. Gorgias states that the abductor, or barbarian, that committed this act should receive the blame and punishment. After all, Helen is being robbed of her home and friends, and therefore should be pitied and not blamed (Freeman).

The majority of the Encomium of Helen is Gorgias trying to explain that Logos in its many forms could have caused Helen to venture to Troy. Speech, poetry, wizardry, and persuasion by lies are all forms of Logos that are very powerful. Gorgias goes on to explain three different occupations that use Logos to gain acceptance of opinions. Ultimately, Gorgias finishes comparing Logos to the effects of a drug (Freeman).

Gorgias argues that speech or Logos can achieve many marvelous achievements by the means of the smallest form. Logos "can even put a stop to fear, remove grief, create joy, and increase pity" (Freeman). Gorgias continues by trying to prove the power of Logos.

Poetry is a form of Logos. Gorgias defines poetry as speech in meter. Since speech causes many things like he explained before, then poetry must be speech in meter because it can cause the listener to "shudder in terror, shed tears in pity, and yearn with sad longing" (Freeman). Through this poetry, the hearer's soul will begin to feel the same way (82B119).

Wizardry and witchcraft are another way Logos can be used. Special incantations can bring pleasure and also avert grief. These incantations can unite with the soul, persuade, and then change it with witchcraft (82B1110). Gorgias says that two types of witchcraft have been invented. One is through the errors of the soul. The other is from deceptions in the mind (Freeman).

Persuasion through lies is another way Gorgias says Logos can be used. He says that if everyone remembered everything in the past, knowledge of the present, and foreknowledge of the future, then someone could not use lies to persuade them otherwise. However, since this is not the case with most humans, deception is easy (Freeman). Most people will listen to an opinion that is persuasive. But Gorgias argues that an opinion is unreliable and those who make use of it are fallible (82B1111).

Gorgias then relates how Logos could be similar to force. He says that Helen could have come under the influence of Logos against her will, just as she could have been abducted with force (82B1112). Therefore, the persuader should be blamed for his actions and not Helen.

Gorgias goes on

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