Prodicus of Ceos

Prodicus was a philosopher, and forerunner of Socrates. He was born in Ioulis on the island of Ceos in 465 B.C., and died in 395 B.C., at the age of 70. He was a contemporary of Socrates, Democritus and Gorgias, and a disciple of Protagoras.

Plato reports that Prodicus often went to Athens as an ambassador from Ceos, and like Gorgias, he took the opportunity to earn some money by reciting his compositions, and teaching the young people of the city.

Prodicus was part of the first generation of sophists, and was considered an excellent teacher and master of the art of oratory. He was known in antiquity for his fine linguistic distinctions and his concern for the correctness of the meanings of words, serving as an inspiration to Socrates.

His teachings were mainly focused on ethics and rhetoric.


There is little information about the works written by Prodicus; the ancient philosophers attributed to him 3 works called:

  • On Nature;
  • On the Nature of Man;
  • Horai (The seasons);

Some scholars believe that the first two works mentioned above are actually just one, but under different names.


Prodicus is known for the technique of synonymy, which consists in distinguishing the various synonyms of a word in order to determine the nuances of its meaning. This technique influenced the philosophical method of maieutics, developed by Socrates.

In Plato’s dialogues, for example, Prodicus is described several times as a philosopher whose main concern is the correct use of words and their meanings.

In Plato’s Euthydemus, Socrates tells Clias that he is listening to the preliminary discourse of the Sophistical Mysteries, the first point of which is, according to Prodicus: “you must learn about the correctness of names.


In the ethical field, Prodicus reinterpreted the myth of Hercules at the crossroads to teach about the choice between vice and virtue.

In this interpretation, Prodicus teaches that virtue is the best way to achieve true advantage and true utility.

In a pseudo-Platonic work called Eryxias, Prodicus’ ethics are described in relativistic terms. What is good for one man, may not be for another, and so there would be no absolute criterion for judging something ethically.

About the Gods

Prodicus interpreted the Greek gods in a rather original and critical way.

For him, the gods are hypostatization of the useful and the advantageous. This means that men considered the sun, the moon, and all other natural phenomena that benefit us, that is, that are useful to us, to be gods.

With this, he was classified as an atheist, although it is likely that he only offered an explanation of the origin of the concepts of gods, but not with the intention of denying them.

Cite This Work

Vieira, S. (2021, December 07). Prodicus of Ceos. Filosofia do Início. Retrieved from

Vieira, Sadoque. “Prodicus of Ceos.” Filosofia do Início, December 7, 2021.

Vieira, Sadoque. “Prodicus of Ceos.” Filosofia do Início, 7 Dec. 2021,


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