Il discorso e l’occasione

il kairos nella retorica greca tra il V e il IV secolo a. C.


  • Silvia Gastaldi University of Pavia



kairos, Greek rhetoric, Gorgias, Alcidamas, Isocrates, Demosthenes, Aristotle, Plato


This article analyses the role of the kairos in Greek rhetoric between the 5th and 4th centuries BC. The kairos is a complex and elusive notion. It is first and foremost the right time to deliver a speech, but the term also indicates the appropriateness of the arrangement of a speech and its brilliant style, which is achieved through the careful search for words, choosing them for their phonic and rhythmic pleasantness. The investigation starts with the Sophists and especially Gorgias and then analyses how the kairos is understood and used by 4th century rhetoricians such as Alcidamas, Isocrates, and Demosthenes. The survey ends with Aristotle and Plato. Aristotle, in the Rhetoric, does not explicitly formulate a theory of kairos but underlines the importance of both the choice of the appropriate time to deliver a speech and the use of proper language. Finally, the paper analyses the concept of rhetoric as psychagogy in Plato's Phaedrus: in his theory of philosophical rhetoric, the kairos indicates the right time and also the best ways with which discourse addresses different types of souls to direct them to virtue.