Polemon of Laodicea

Bust of Polemon, Pentelic marble, found in the Temple of Olympian Zeus (Athens)

Marcus Antonius Polemon or Antonius Polemon, also known as Polemon of Smyrna or Polemon of Laodicea (Greek: Μάρκος Ἀντώνιος Πολέμων; c. 90 – 144), was a sophist who lived in the 2nd century.

Polemon was Anatolian Greek and originally came from a family of Roman Consular rank. He was born in Laodicea on the Lycus in Phrygia (modern Turkey), however, he spent a great part of his life in Smyrna (modern İzmir, Turkey). From early manhood, he received civic honors from the citizens of Smyrna for his services to the city.

Polemon was a master of rhetoric, a prominent member of the Second Sophistic. He was favored by the Roman Emperors Trajan, Hadrian and Antoninus Pius; although there is a famous story of his arrogant behavior towards Antoninus Pius, whom he threw out of his house at midnight when Antoninus was the newly arrived Governor of Asia . Polemon gave the dedicatory oration to Hadrian's Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens.

Polemon was the head of one of the foremost schools of rhetorics of the Hellenistic Culture in Smyrna. His style of oratory was imposing rather than pleasing; however his character was haughty and reserved. The only full surviving works of Polemon, was the funeral orations of the Athenians generals Callimachus and Cynaegirus, who died at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. These orations are titled logoi epitaphioi (epitaphs). His rhetorical compositions were subjects that were taken from Athenian history. A treatise on physiognomy is preserved in a 14th-century Arabic translation (translated into Latin by G. Hoffmann, Leipzig 1893).

In his later years, Polemon suffered from gout. At the age of 65 and no longer able to stand the pain, he ordered his servants to lock him in his family tomb. There, he most likely died from either starvation or dehydration.


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