Abstract: Gorgias's Encomium to Helen presumes a similarity between verbal and visual art. Where language, envisaged as masculine, attempts a logical persuasion, the visual image, seen as feminine and disruptive, overwhelms the beholder and leads the mind astray. Gorgias's account of Helen takes as its starting point an interpretation of her role which originates in book three of the Iliad, where her beauty is seen as causing the Trojan war and inspiring Homer's epic. The tragic poets identify her with destruction. Gorgias proves her innocence, but only by transforming her from a volimtary subject to a passive object. Because Helen was overcome by eros caused by visual stimuli she cannot be held responsible for the consequences of her actions. In this assertion Gorgias has used verbal logic to delimit and overcome the emotional force of previous images of Helen.
- Copyright 1998, The International Society for the History of Rhetoric