Corax & Tisias:  (Translated from Greek, "The Raven and the Crow")

The First Rhetoricians  (circa fifth century B.C.E.)

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The Raven and the Crow

 

 Image © Tim Avery



The Story of Corax & Tisias
 
In early Greece, the study of rhetoric sprang from the practice of law.  Corax of Syracuse elaborated the earliest known method of developing an argument for the courts.
 
In a story that may be apocryphal, Corax and his student Tisias engaged in a dispute over whether Corax should be paid for teaching Tisias the art of rhetoric.  Tisias argued that Corax should sue him if he wanted payment, and if Tisias were unable to defend himself, Corax had taught him nothing and should not be paid.  And obviously, if Tisias were to win, Corax would still get nothing.  
 
Corax argued that he had taught Tisias everything he knew about the rhetorical arts, and it could not be Corax's fault if Tisias were too unintelligent to make proper use of that knowledge;  therefore, Corax should be paid.  If, however, the court were to find in Tisias's favor, that should be sufficient evidence that Tisias had learned his lessons well, and thus, Corax should also receive proper payment.

The judge could find no fault with the logic of either party and was forced to dismiss the case.

No writings of either Tisias or Corax have survived, although by some accounts Tisias was the teacher of Isocrates.  Some believe that the story is only a legend, observing that Corax means "raven" and Tisias means "crow" - two birds that are often identified interchangably.