Corax of Syracuse
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Corax or Korax (Greek: Κόραξ; fl. 5th century), along with Tisias, was one of the founders of ancient Greek rhetoric. It has sometimes been asserted that they are merely legendary personages. Other scholars contend that Corax and Tisias were the same person, described in one fragment as "Tisias, the Crow" (corax is the ancient Greek term for "crow"). Corax is said to have lived in Sicily in the 5th century BC. During his time, Thrasybulus, the tyrant of Syracuse, was overthrown and a democracy formed. Under the despot, the land and property of many common citizens had been seized; these people flooded the courts in an attempt to recover their property. Corax devised an art of rhetoric to permit ordinary men to make their cases in the courts. His chief contribution was in helping structure judicial speeches into various parts: prose, narration, statement of arguments, refutation of opposing arguments, and summary. This structure is the basis for all later rhetorical theory. His pupil, Tisias, is said to have developed legal rhetoric further, and he may have been the teacher of Isocrates. All we know of the work of Corax is from references made by later writers, such as Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero. According to Dan Harder, Shakespeare derived the name Sycorax from Corax of Syracuse.
The famous but apocryphal story of how Tisias tried to cheat his teacher is passed down in the introductions to various late rhetorical treatises (e.g. R4 in H. Rabe, Prolegomenon Sylloge, Rhetores Graeci, XIV, Teubner, Leipzig 1931). Tisias got his teacher Corax to agree that he would not pay him his teacher's fee until he won his first lawsuit. He then avoided going to court. Corax got him into court by suing him himself, for the money. He argued that if he, Corax, won the case, he would get his pay, and if he lost, he would still get it because Tisias would have won his first lawsuit, thereby fulfilling the terms of their agreement. Tisias, some versions say, retorted that if he, Tisias, lost the case, he would escape under the terms of the agreement, having lost, not won, his first lawsuit, and if he won it he should also be free, since he would be awarded the money at issue. The judge is said to have thrown both of them out of court, remarking, κακοῦ κόρακος κακὸν ᾠόν, "a bad egg from a bad crow" (Suda, #171 under "K").
- Harder, Dan (June 3, 2010). "The Origins of Sycorax". Retrieved August 25, 2010.