In order to found his new academy upon a firm basis Cosimo resolved not only to assemble men of letters for the purpose of Platonic disputation at certain regular intervals, but also to appoint a hierophant and official expositor of Platonic doctrine.
Reinach (Revue des etudes grecques, xix., 1906), who draws special attention to the similar formation "hierophant," the sycophant was an official connected with the cult of the Phytalidae, whose eponymus Phytalus was rewarded with a fig-tree by the wandering Demeter in return for his hospitality.
The final act of the cult, the "exaltation" of the fig, with which Reinach compares the "exaltation" of the ear of corn by the hierophant at the Eleusinian mysteries, was performed by the sycophant.
Again, like the hierophant, the sycophant publicly pronounced the formula of exclusion of certain unworthy persons from the celebration of the mysteries of the fig.
He acted up to his famous saying that "the philosopher should be the hierophant of the whole world" by celebrating Egyptian and Chaldaean as well as Greek festivals, and on certain days performing sacred rites in honour of all the dead.