Demosthenes
Posted by Admin on November 22 2012 02:13:04

DEMOSTHENES

 

DEMOSTHENESDemosthenes, the celebrated Athenian orator and statesman, perhaps the greatest orator that ever lived,was a son of Demosthenes, acutlerand opulent citizen of Athens,and was born about 384 B.C.When he was but seven years old his father died,and his guardians converted to their own use a large part of his patrimony.Though his constitution was delicate and his voice feeble, he cherished, at an early age,an ambition to be all orator. He studied rhetoric with Isreus,and from Plato he imbibed much of the richness and grandeur which characterized the writings of that mighty master. But his rascally guardiaus defrauded his tutors of their salaries.On attaining his freedom,about the age of eighteen, he prosecuted his guardians, denouncing them in five orations,and gained his cause,but did not recover all his patrimony.

 

His attempts at public political specches were less successful, bringing on him ridicule for his stammering voice and ungraceful gestures. To remedy his defects he adopted heroic remedies; to cure his stammering he spoke with pebbles in bis mouth; to become long-winded, he practiced running up his and to accustom himself to the turbulence of the noisy assembly of the people, he declaimed on the seashore. Nor was this all his peculiar regimen. He built a subterranean study, in which he made strenuous and persistent efforts toimprove his oratorical action and acquire a distinct and orotund utterance. To perfect his style he copied many times the History of Thucydides, which abounds in terse orations. The great statesman, Pericles, was his model in action and delivery.

 

When Demosthenes emerged from the obscurity of his cell and bis genius began to attract public attention, one of his rivals uttered the tauut that all his arguments smelled of the lamp. Demosthenes retorted, Yes, indeed; but your lamp and mine are not conscious of the same labors." He practiced in the courts as all advocate, and in 350 .B.C. He achieved a decided success by an oration against Leptines. His principal fame was derived from his political orations, which form a glorious protest against the moral decadence and pervading corruption of the times.

 

The chief aim of his public career was to resist and defeat the ambitions schemes and aggressive operations of Philip of Macedon. Against that crafty and resolute king Demosthenes, almost single-handed, undertook to defend the cause of Grecian democracy. He proved himself a champion worthy of the momeutous charge, and won the respect of the opponcnts of thc bold truths which he uttered. But he never oblaiucd any eminent position; nor did he lead against Philip those armies which his eloquence had raised. Between 352 and 340 B.C. he delivered eleven orations against Philip, and four of these have acquired special fame as Philippics. Having persuaded the Athenians of their duty to resist the schemes of the Macedonian king, he next went as an ambassador lo olher Hellenic States, and persuaded nearly all to join in a league against the common enemy. But Philip, with his well· drilled Macedonian phalanx, gained at Chreronea in 338 D.C. the decisive victory which was fatal to the liberty and independence of Athens. Demosthenes was there, but if we are to believe Plutarch, "he performed nothing worthy of the glorious things he had spoken. He quitted his post; he threw away his arms.

 

Yet after this crushing defeat the orator, whose true vocation was to arouse and stimulate patriotism, contiuued to bethe foremost man in the State. In 336 B.C. Ctesiphon proposed that Demosthenes should receive a golden crown from the city as a reward for his public services, as had been done to other benefactors. His rival, Aeschines, opposed this measure as unconstitutional, and the trial of this celebrated cause before the assembly of the people was postponed until 330. The oration of Demosthenes, "On the Crown," which was really a defence of his entire public career, is undoubtedly his masterpiece, and the most perfect specimen of eloquence that was ever produced. Demosthenes triumphed, and Aeschines was banished. More than four-fifths of the numerous judges in this trial voted against .AEschines.

 

In the year 324 the incorruptible patriot was accused of receiving a bribe from Hurpalus, a defaulting steward of Alexander the Great, with whom he had had some dealings. Strange to say, he was convicted and fined fifty talents; but he avoided the payment of the fine by going into exile. Modern historical critics doubt the truth of this charge and the justice of the penalty, and attribute the conviction to political rancor. When Demosthenes quitted his native city in disgrace and bitterness of soul, he li fted tip his hauds toward the Acropolis and said, Athene, goddess of those towers, why dost thon delight in three snch monsters as an owl, a dragon, 3nd the people?" Soon after the death of Alexander, in 323 B.C., Demosthelles was recalled and returned in triumph. But his exultation was of short duration, and his death having been decreed by Antipater, now King of Macedon, he ended his life by poison in 322 B.C.

 

About sixty of his orations are extant. "His style," says Hume, "is rapid harmony exactly adjusted to the sense; it is vehement reasoning without any appearance of art; it is disdain, anger) boldness, freedom, involved ill a continued stream of argument.» He affects no learning, exhibits no ostenta· tious declamatioll, seeks no glaring ornaments. Yet by the power of his unadorned eloquence, he wielded against the most powerful king of the time the fierce and turbulent democracy. In his person were united the ardent patriot, the far-seeing statesman, with the consummate and unapproach. able artist.

 

DEMOSTHBNES AGAINST PHILIP.
When you hear described, men of Athens! the continual hostilities by which Philip violates the peace, I observe that you approve the equity aud patriotism of those who support the rights of the Republic but while nothing is done, on account of which it is worth while to listen to such speeches, our affairs are brought to such a pass that the more clearly we convict Philip of perfidy towards you, and of hostile designs against Greece, the more difficult it is to propose any seasonable advice.The cause of this difficulty is, that the encroachments of ambition must be repelled, not by words, but by deeds. If speeches and reasonings sufficed, we should long ere now have prevailed over our adversary. But Philip excels in actions as much as we do in arguments; and both of us obtain the superiority in what forms respectively the
chief object of our study and concern i we in our assemblies, Philip in the field.

 

Immediately after the peace, the King of Macedon became master of Phocis and Thermopylre, and made such use of these acquisitions as suited the interest of Thebes, not of Athens. Upon what principle did he act thus? Because, govemed in all his proceedings, not by the love of peace and justicc, but by an insatiable lust of power, he saw the impossibility of bending the Athenians to his selfish and tyrannical purposes. He knew that the loftiness of their character would never stoop to private considerations, but prefer to auy advantage that he might offer them, the dictates of justice aod of honor i and that neither their penetration, nor their dignity,
could ever be prevailed on to sacrifice to a partial and temporary interest, the general safety of Greece i but that they would fight for each member of the Confederacy with the same ardor as for their own walls. The Thebans he judged (and he judged aright) to be more assailable; he knew their folly and their meanness to be such, that provided he heaped benefits on themselves, they would assist him to enslave their neighbors. Upon the same principle he now cultivates, in preference to yours, the friendship of the Mes5Cllians and Argives; a circumstance, Athenians! which highly redounds to your honor, since Philip thus declares his persuasion that you alone have wisdom to uuderstand, and virtue to oppose his designs; that you foresee the drift of all his negotiations and wars, and are determined to be the incorruptible defenders
of the common cause. Nor is it without good grounds that he entertains such an honorable opinion of you, and the contrary of the Thebans and Argives. When the liberties of Greece were threatened by Persia, as they now are by Macedon, the Thebans basely followed the standard of the invaders; the Argives did not oppose their artist while the magnanimous patriots, from whom you are descended, spurned offers, highly advantageous, made them by Alexander of Macedon, the ancestor of Philip, who acted as the ambassador of Persia. Your fathers, preferring the public iuterest to their own, provoked the devastation of their land and the destruction of their
capital, and performed, in defence of Greece, those unrivalled exploits ofheroisl1l which call never be celebrated with due praise. For snch reasons, Philip chooses for his allics 'I'hebes, Argos, and Messene, ralher than Athens and Sparta. The former States possess not greater strength, wealth, fleets, harbors, and armies; they have not more prrdJer, but less virtue. Nor can Philip plead the meri ts of their cause; since, if Chreronea and Orchomenns are justly subject to Thebes, Argos and Messene are justly subject to Lacedremon; liar could it be equitable to euslave the inferior cities of Breotia, and at the same time to teach those of Peloponnesus to rebel.

 

But Philip was compelled to this conduct (for this is the only remainiug argument that can be alleged in his defence). "Surrounded by the 1'hessalial1 cavalry and ;rheball infantry, he was obliged to assist allies whom he distrusted, and to concur with measures which he disapproved. Hence the ,severe treatment of Phocis, hence the cruel ,servitude of Orchomenes and Chreronea. The King of Macedon, being now at liberty to consult the dictates of his own humanity and justice, is desirous to re-establish the Republic of Phocis i and, in order to bridle the insolence of Thebes, actually meditates the fortifying of Elatea." This, indeed, he meditates, and will
meditate long. But he does not meditate the destruction of Lacedremoll. For this purpose he has remitted money, he has sent his mercenaries, he is prepared, himself, to march at the head of a powerful army. His present transactiolls sufficiently explain the motives of bis conduct. It is evident that he acts fr0111 system, and that his principal batteries are erected against Athens itself. How can it be otherwise? He is ambitions to rule Greece; you alone are capable to thwart his measures. He has long treated you unworthily  and he is conscious of his injustice. He is actually contriving your destruction, and he is sensible that you see through his designs. For all these reasons he knows that you detest him, and that should he not anticipate your hostility, he must fall a victim to your just vengeance. Hence he is ever active and
alert, watching a favorable moment of assault, and practicing on the stupidity and selfishness of the Thebans and Pe1oponnesians; for if they were not stupid and blind, they might perceive the fatal aim of the Macedonian policy. I once spoke no this subject before the Messenians and Argives; my discourse, which was useless to them, may, perhaps not unseasonably, be repeated to you.

 

Men of Argos and Messene! you remember the time when Philip caressed the Olynthians, as he now does you; how highly, do you think, that infatuated people would have been offended, had any man talked against the benefactor who had generously bestowed on them Anthemus and Potidaea? Had any man warned them aga inst the dangerous artifices of Philip, would they have listened to his advice? Yet, after enjoying for a moment the territories of their neighbors, they were forever despoiled of their own. Inglorious was their fall j not conquered only, but betrayed and sold by one another. Turn your eyes to the Thesalians.When Philip expelled their tyrants, could the Thessalians ever COlljecture that the same prince would subject them to the creatures of Macedon, still more tyrannical and oppressive? When
he restored them to their seat and suffrage in the Amphictyonic Council, could they have been persuaded that he would one day deprive them of the management of their own revenues? As to you, Messellians and Argives! you have beheld Philip smiling and deceiving i but beware! pmy to heaven, that you may never behold him insulting, threatening and destroying Various are the contrivances which communities have discovered for their defence; walls, ramparts, battlements, all of which are raised by the labor of man, and snpported by continual expense and toil. But there is one common bulwark, which only the prudent employ, though alike useful to all,
especially to free cities against tyrants. What is that? Distrust. Of this be mindful; to this adhere; preserve this carefully, and no calamity can befall you. From the SECOND PHILIPPIC.

 

Demosthenes