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This word admits at least two distinct senses.

Antiphon was an orator and statesman who took up rhetoric as a profession. He was a Sophist and a contemporary of Socrates. These definite assertions are, however, disputed by some historians. The problem seems to revolve round whether there was one Sophist philosopher named Antiphon who lived around this time or whether there are two, or as some experts claim, three distinct Antiphons.

He took an active part in political affairs at Athens, and, as a zealous supporter of the Oligarchical party, was largely responsible for the establishment of the Four Hundred in 411 (see Theramenes; on the restoration the democracy he was accused of treason and condemned to death. Thucydides (viii. 68) expresses a very high opinion of him.

Antiphon may be regarded as the founder of political oratory, but he never addressed the people himself except on the occasion of his trial. Fragments of his speech then, delivered in defence of his policy have been edited by J Nicole (5907) from an Egyptian papyrus.

His chief business was that of a professional speech-writer for those who felt incompetent to conduct their own cases--all disputants were obliged to do so--without expert assistance. Fifteen of Antiphon's speeches are extant: twelve are mere school exercises on fictitious cases, divided into tetralogies, each conting of two speeches for prosecution and defence--accusation, fence, reply, counter-reply; three refer to actual legal processes.

He maintains that the decrees of nature are something necessary to mankind that have come about naturally, while the decrees of laws are something extra to mankind that are added because the general public has agreed on them. He also thinks that the social laws that have been set up are things that inhibit the person from following the decrees of nature.

Some of the material in this article were originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.