Abstract Sophokles' Philoktetes is a response to the oligarchic takeover and restoration of democracy in Athens in 411––10 BC. The play explores the grounds, strengths, and weaknesses of democratic discourse, and measures it against alternatives. The final agon between Neoptolemos and Philoktetes defines a model of legitimate persuasion (logos) that can replace Odysseus' sophistic and oligarchic modes of interacting with others. The deus ex machina, in turn, brings in an authoritative aristocratic discourse (muthos) that is superior even to democratic deliberation.

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