The earliest record of the term “kommōtikē,” commonly translated as “cosmetics” or “self-adornment,” occurs in the “most famous passage” of Plato's dialogue Gorgias (Kennedy 1994, 37). There, Socrates compares rhetoric to cookery and sophistry to “kommōtikē” (464b–66a). This marks a decisive moment in the Platonic corpus, a moment when rhetoric and sophistry are associated with seeming and appearance and therefore distanced from being and reality. I outline the reasons why this translation is incomplete if not misleading. I propose an adjustment that pulls both the analogy and the dialogue away from a Platonist distinction between seeming and being and toward a distinction between foreign profligacy and domestic austerity. This transformation discharges the vulgarization of appearance as mere appearance and mere seeming that has long infected and hampered both our understanding of Plato's thought and of early rhetoric.

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