Philostratus' Lives of the Sophists (VS) is not usually understood as a text with much relevance for rhetorical theory. But this omission cedes theory to the handbooks and reinforces the dichotomy between theory and practice. I argue that Philostratus' theory of efficacious performance—implicit as it may be—has much to offer scholars of rhetoric and classical studies. I demonstrate that Philostratus prizes improvisation not only because it reveals the paideia of the orator, who becomes a cultural ideal, but also because it affords processes of mutual constitution between orator and audience. This occurs when the sophist becomes a physical manifestation of what the moment calls for, which compels recognition from the audience. In the second part of the paper, I focus on Polemo, the most improvisatory of sophists. In the scenes in which he features, Polemo repeatedly emerges as a man and, in recognizing him, spectators come to embody their own masculinity, in turn.

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