Prodicus (1), an Athenian philosopher of the school of the Sophists, was a contemporary of Socrates, and forerunner of the latter in the domain of philosophy, inasmuch as he prepared the way for the logical and ethical efforts of Socrates. Prodicus was a native of Sulis, in the island of Ceos. He went frequently to Athens for the purpose of transacting business on behalf of his native city, and even attracted admiration in the senate as an orator (Plato, Hipp. Maj. p. 282; comp. Philost. Vit. Soph. i, 12), although his voice was deep and apt to fall (Plato, Protag. p. 316, a; Philost. l.c.). Plutarch describes him as slender and weak (Plut. an seni ger. sit Resp. c. 15); and Plato speaks of a degree of effeminacy which resulted therefrom (Protag. p. 315, d). Philostratus is the first who taxes him with luxury and avarice (l.c.; comp. Welcker, Kleine Schriften, ii, 513, etc.). In the Protagoras of Plato, which points to the eighty-seventh Olympiad (any more exact determination is disputable) as the time at which the dialogue is supposed to take place, Prodicus is mentioned as having previously arrived in Athens. Still later, when Isocrates (born 01. 86, 1) is mentioned as his disciple (see Welcker, Prodikos von Keos, Vorgangeer des Socsrates, published first in the Rheinisches Museum der Philologie, von Welcker and Nake, i, 1-39, 533-545, afterwards in Welcker's Kleine Schriften, ii, 392-541), and in the year of the death of Socrates, Prodicus was still living (Plato, Apol. p. 19, c). The dates of his birth and death cannot be determined. The statement of Suidas (s.v.; comp. Schol. on Plato De Rep. 10:600, c) that he was condemned to the hemlock cup as a corrupter of the youth in Athens sounds very suspicious (comp. Welcker, p. 582). According to the statement of Philostratus (p. 483 — comp. p. 496, ed. Olearius), on which little more reliance can be placed, he delivered his lecture on virtue and vice in Thebes and Sparta also. The Apology of Plato unites him with Gorgias and Hippias in the statement that into whatever city they might come, they were competent to instruct the youth. Lucian (Vit. Herod. c. 3) mentions him among those who had held lectures at Olympia. In the dialogues of Plato he is mentioned or introduced, not indeed without irony, though, as compared with the other Sophists, with a certain degree of esteem (Hipp. Maj. p. 282; Thoet. p. 151, b; Phaedo, 60; Protag. p. 341, a; Charmid. p. 163, d; Meno, p. 96; Cratyl. p. 384, b; Symp. p. 177; Euthyd. p. 305). Aristophanes, in the Clouds (1. 360), deals more indulgently with him than with Socrates; and the Xenophontic Socrates, for the purpose of combating the voluptuousness of Aristippus, borrows from the book of the wise Prodicus (Πρόδ. ὁ σοφός) the story of the choice of Hercules (Memor. ii, 1, § 21, etc.). This separation of Prodicus from the other Sophists has been pointed out by Welcker in the above-quoted treatise (p. 400, etc.). Like Protagoras and others, Prodicus delivered lectures in return for the payment of contributions (ἐπιδείκνυται — Xenoph. Meme. ii, 1, § 21; comp. Philost. p. 482; Diog. Iaert. 9:50; 'ἠρανίζοντο-τιμή, Plato, Prot. 314, b) of from half a drachma to fifty drachms, probably according as the hearers limited themselves to a single lecture, or entered into an agreement for a more complete course (Axrich. 6; Cratyl. p. 384, b; Aristot. Rhet. 3, 14, § 9; Suid. s.v.; comp. Welcker, p. 414). Prodicus is said to have amassed a great amount of money (Hipp. Me(j. p. 282, d; Xenoph. Symp. 4:62; i, 5; on the practice of paying for instruction and lectures, comp. again Welcker, l.c. p. 412, etc.).
As Prodicus and others maintained with regard to themselves that they stood equally on the confines of philosophy and politics (Euthyd. p. 305, c), so Plato represents his instructions as chiefly ethical (Meno, p. 96, d; comp. De Rep. 10:p. 600, e), and gives the preference to his distinction of ideas — as of those of courage, rashness, boldness — over similar attempts of other Sophists (Lach. p. 197. c). What pertained to this point was probably only contained in individual show-orations (Biog. Laert., Philost. 11. cc.), which he usually declined (Philost. p. 482). Though known to Callimachus, they do not appear to have been much longer preserved (Welcker, p. 465, etc.). In contrast with Gorgias and others, who boasted of possessing the art of making the small appear great, the great small, and of expatiating in long or short speeches, Prodicus required that the speech should be neither long nor short, but of the proper measure (Plato, Phoed. p. 267, a; comp. Gorg. p. 449, c; Prot. p. 334, e, 335, b, 338, d; Aristot. Rhet. 3, 17), and it is only as associated with other Sophists that he is charged with endeavoring to make the weaker cause strong by means of his rhetoric (Cicero, Brut. c. 8). He paid especial attention to the correct use of words (Plato, Euthyd. p. 187, e; Cratyl. p. 384, b; comp. Galen, In Hippocr. de Articul. 4:p. 461, 1), and the distinction of expressions related in sense (Lach. p. 197, d; Prot. p. 340, a, 341, a; Charmid. p. 163, d; Meno, p. 75, c; comp. Themist. Orat. 4:p. 113). But he deserves greater remembrance for his parenetical discourses on moral subjects, among which one of the best known is Hercules at the Cross Roads (Philost. p. 496; Xenophon, Mem. ii, 1, § 21, only quotes the σύγγραμμα περὶ τοῦ ῾Ηρακλέους). It was entitled Ωραι (Suid. s.v. Ωραι and Πρόδ).; Schol. ad Aristoph. Nub. 1.360. Respecting the different explanations of this title, see Welcker, p. 466, etc., who refers it to the youthful bloom of Hercules). To Hercules, as he was on the point, at his entrance on the age of youth, of deciding for one of the two paths of life — that of virtue and that of vice — there appear two women, the one of dignified beauty, adorned with purity, modesty, and discretion, the other of a voluptuous form and meretricious look and dress. The latter promises to lead him by the shortest road, without any toil, to the enjoyment of every pleasure. The other, while she reminds him of his progenitors and his noble nature, does not conceal from him that the gods have not granted what is really beautiful and good apart from trouble and careful striving. The one seeks to deter him from the path of virtue by urging the difficulty of it; the other calls attention to the unnatural character of enjoyment which anticipates the need of it, its want of the highest joy, that arising from noble deeds, and the consequences of a life of voluptuousness, and how she herself, honored by gods and men, leads to all noble works, and to true well-being in all circumstances of life. Hercules decides for virtue. This outline in Xenophon probably represents, in a very abbreviated form, and with the omission of all collateral references, the leading ideas of the original, of which no fragments remain (comp. Welcker, p. 469, etc., who also shows that the amplifications in Dio Chysostomus and Themistius belong to these rhetoricians, and are not derived from the Horce of Prodicus, p. 488, etc. Respecting the numerous imitations of this narrative in poets, philosophers, rhetoricians, and in works of art, see, in like manner, Welcker, p. 467, etc.). In another speech, which treated of riches, and the substance of which is reproduced in the dialogue Eryxias, Prodicus undertook to show that the value of external goods depends simply upon the use which is made of them, and that virtue must be learned. (Welcker endeavors to point out the coincidence of the former doctrine with that of Socrates and Antisthenes, p. 493, etc.) Similar sentiments were expressed in Prodicus's Praise of Agriculture (Themist. Orat. 30, p. 349; comp. Weicker, p. 496, etc.). His views respecting the worthlessness of earthly life in different ages and callings, and how we must long after freedom from connection with the body in the heavenly and cognate eather, are found represented in the dialogue Axiochus, from a lecture by Prodicus; as also his doctrine that death is not to be feared, as it affects neither the living nor the departed (comp. Stob. Serm. 20:35). Whether the appended arguments for immortality are borrowed from him, as Welcker (p. 500) endeavors to show, is doubtful. The gods he regarded as personifications of the sun, moon, rivers, fountains, and whatever else contributes to the comfort of our life (Sext. Emp. Adv. Math. i, 52; Cicero, De Nat. Deor. i, 42), and he is therefore, though hastily, charged with atheism (ibid. 55). Prodicus declared death to be desirable as an escape from the evils of life. His moral consciousness therefore certainly lacked philosophical basis and depth. See, besides the authorities already quoted, Hummel, De Prodico Sophista (Leyden, 1847); Cougny, De Prodico Ceio, Socratis magistro (Paris, 1858); Diemer, De Prod. Ceio (Corbach, 1859); Kramer, Die Allegorie des Prodikos u. der Traunt des Lukianos, in the Neue JahrbiicherJuir Phil. u. Padagogik, 94 (1866), 439-443; Blass, Die alte Beredsanzkeit (Leips. 1868), p. 29 sq.; Ueberweg, Hist. of Philosophy, i, 78; Smith, Dict. of Greek and Roman Biog. and Mythol. s.v.