The Public Orations of Demosthenes, volume 1
by Demosthenes
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The translations included in this volume were written at various times during the last ten years for use in connexion with College Lectures, and a long holiday, for which I have to thank the Trustees of the Balliol College Endowment Fund, as well as the Master and Fellows of Balliol College, has enabled me to revise them and to furnish them with brief introductions and notes. Only those speeches are included which are generally admitted to be the work of Demosthenes, and the spurious documents contained in the MSS. of the Speech on the Crown are omitted. The speeches are arranged in chronological order, and the several introductions to them are intended to supply an outline of the history of the period, sufficient to provide a proper setting for the speeches, but not more detailed than was necessary for this purpose. No discussion of conflicting evidence has been introduced, and the views which are expressed on the character and work of Demosthenes must necessarily seem somewhat dogmatic, when given without the reasons for them. I hope, however, before long to treat the life of Demosthenes more fully in another form. The estimate here given of his character as a politician falls midway between the extreme views of Grote and Schaefer on the one hand, and Beloch and Holm on the other.

I have tried to render the speeches into such English as a political orator of the present day might use, without attempting to impart to them any antique colouring, such as the best-known English translations either had from the first or have acquired by lapse of time. It is of the essence of political oratory that it is addressed to contemporaries, and the translation of it should therefore be into contemporary English; though the necessity of retaining some of the modes of expression which are peculiar to Greek oratory and political life makes it impossible to produce completely the appearance of an English orator's work. The qualities of Demosthenes' eloquence sometimes suggest rather the oratory of the pulpit than that of the hustings or that of Parliament and of the law-courts. I cannot hope to have wholly succeeded in my task; but it seemed to be worth undertaking, and I hope that the work will not prove to have been altogether useless.

I have made very little use of other translations; but I must acknowledge a debt to Lord Brougham's version of the Speeches on the Chersonese and on the Crown, which, though often defective from the point of view of scholarship and based on faulty texts, are (together with his notes) very inspiring. I have also, at one time or another, consulted most of the standard German, French, and English editions of Demosthenes. I cannot now distinguish how much I owe to each; but I am conscious of a special debt to the editions of the late Professor Henri Weil, and of Sir J.E. Sandys, and (in the Speech on the Crown) to that of Professor W.W. Goodwin. I also owe a few phrases in the earliest speeches to Professor W.R. Hardie, whose lectures on Demosthenes I attended twenty years ago. My special thanks are due to my friend Mr. P.E. Matheson of New College, for his kindness in reading the proof-sheets, and making a number of suggestions, which have been of great assistance to me.

The text employed has been throughout that of the late Mr. S.H. Butcher in the Bibliotheca Classica Oxoniensis. Any deviations from this are noted in their place.





NOTES ii. 149


Demosthenes, the son of Demosthenes of Paeania in Attica, a rich and highly respected factory-owner, was born in or about the year 384 B.C. He was early left an orphan; his guardians mismanaged his property for their own advantage; and although, soon after coming of age in 366, he took proceedings against them and was victorious in the law-courts, he appears to have recovered comparatively little from them. In preparing for these proceedings he had the assistance of Isaeus, a teacher and writer of speeches who was remarkable for his knowledge of law, his complete mastery of all the aspects of any case with which he had to do, and his skill in dealing with questions of ownership and inheritance. Demosthenes' speeches against his guardians show plainly the influence of Isaeus, and the teacher may have developed in his pupil the thoroughness and the ingenuity in handling legal arguments which afterwards became characteristic of his work.

Apart from this litigation with his guardians, we know little of Demosthenes' youth and early manhood. Various stories have come down to us (for the most part not on the best authority), of his having been inspired to aim at an orator's career by the eloquence and fame of Callistratus; of his having overcome serious physical defects by assiduous practice; of his having failed, nevertheless, owing to imperfections of delivery, in his early appearances before the people, and having been enabled to remedy these by the instruction of the celebrated actor Satyrus; and of his close study of the History of Thucydides. Upon the latter point the evidence of his early style leaves no room for doubt, and the same studies may have contributed to the skill and impressiveness with which, in nearly every oration, he appeals to the events of the past, and sums up the lessons of history. Whether he came personally under the influence either of Plato, the philosopher, or of Isocrates, the greatest rhetorical teacher of his time, and a political pamphleteer of high principles but little practical insight, is much more doubtful. The two men were almost as different in temperament and aims as it was possible to be, but Demosthenes' familiarity with the published speeches of Isocrates, and with the rhetorical principles which Isocrates taught and followed, can scarcely be questioned.

In the early years of his manhood, Demosthenes undertook the composition of speeches for others who were engaged in litigation. This task required not only a very thorough knowledge of law, but the power of assuming, as it were, the character of each separate client, and writing in a tone appropriate to it; and, not less, the ability to interest and to rouse the active sympathy of juries, with whom feeling was perhaps as influential as legal justification. This part, however, of Demosthenes' career only concerns us here in so far as it was an admirable training for his later work in the larger sphere of politics, in which the same qualities of adaptability and of power both to argue cogently and to appeal to the emotions effectively were required in an even higher degree.

At the time when Demosthenes' interest in public affairs was beginning to take an active form, Athens was suffering from the recent loss of some of her most powerful allies. In the year 358 B.C. she had counted within the sphere of her influence not only the islands of Lemnos, Imbros, and Scyros (which had been guaranteed to her by the Peace of Antalcidas in 387), but also the chief cities of Euboea, the islands of Chios, Cos, Rhodes, and Samos, Mytilene in Lesbos, the towns of the Chersonese, Byzantium (a city of the greatest commercial importance), and a number of stations on the south coast of Thrace, as well as Pydna, Potidaea, Methone, and the greater part of the country bordering upon the Thermaic Gulf. But her failure to observe the terms of alliance, laid down when the new league was founded in 378, had led to a revolt, which ended in 355 or 354 in the loss to her of Chios, Cos, Rhodes, and Byzantium, and of some of the ablest of her own commanders, and left her treasury almost empty. About the same time Mytilene and Corcyra also took the opportunity to break with her. Moreover, her position in the Thermaic region was threatened first by Olynthus, at the head of the Chalcidic League, which included over thirty towns; and secondly by Philip, the newly-established King of Macedonia, who seemed likely to displace both Olynthus and Athens from their positions of commanding influence.[1]

Nevertheless, Athens, though unable to face a strong combination, was probably the most powerful single state in Greece. In her equipment and capacity for naval warfare she had no rival, and certainly no other state could vie with her in commercial activity and prosperity. The power of Sparta in the Peloponnese had declined greatly. The establishment of Megalopolis as the centre of a confederacy of Arcadian tribes, and of Messene as an independent city commanding a region once entirely subject to Sparta, had seriously weakened her position; while at the same time her ambition to recover her supremacy kept alive a feeling of unrest throughout the Peloponnese. Of the other states of South Greece, Argos was hostile to Sparta, Elis to the Arcadians; Corinth and other less important cities were not definitely attached to any alliance, but were not powerful enough to carry out any serious movement alone. In North Greece, Thebes, though she lacked great leaders, was still a great power, whose authority throughout Boeotia had been strengthened by the complete or partial annihilation of Platacae, Thespiae, Orchomenus,[2] and Coroneia. In Athens the ill feeling against Thebes was strong, owing to the occupation by the Thebans of Oropus,[2] a frontier town which Athens claimed, and their treatment of the towns just mentioned, towards which the Athenians were kindly disposed. The Phocians, who had until recently been unwilling allies of Thebes, were now hostile and not insignificant neighbours, and about this time entered into relations with both Sparta and Athens. The subject of contention was the possession or control of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, which the Phocians had recently taken by force from the Delphians, who were supported by Thebes; and in the 'Sacred War' to which this act (which was considered to be sacrilege) gave rise in 355 B.C., the Thebans and Locrians fought against the Phocians in the name of the Amphictyonic Council, a body (composed of representatives of tribes and states of very unequal importance[3]) to which the control of the temple traditionally belonged. Thessaly appears to have been at this time more or less under Theban influence, but was immediately dominated by the tyrants of Pherae, though the several cities seem each to have possessed a nominally independent government. The Greek peoples were disunited in fact and unfitted for union by temperament. The twofold desire, felt by almost all the more advanced Greek peoples, for independence on the one hand, and for 'hegemony' or leadership among other peoples, on the other, rendered any effective combination impossible, and made the relations of states to one another uncertain and inconstant. While each people paid respect to the spirit of autonomy, when their own autonomy was in question, they were ready to violate it without scruple when they saw their way to securing a predominant position among their neighbours; and although the ideal of Panhellenic unity had been put before Greece by Gorgias and Isocrates, its realization did not go further than the formation of leagues of an unstable character, each subject, as a rule, to the more or less tyrannical domination of some one member.

Probably the power which was most generally feared in the Greek world was that of the King of Persia. Several times in recent years (and particularly in 387 and 367) he had been requested to make and enforce a general settlement of Hellenic affairs. The settlement of 387 (called the King's Peace, or the Peace of Antalcidas, after the Spartan officer who negotiated it) had ordained the independence of the Greek cities, small and great, with the exception of those in Asia Minor, which were to form part of the Persian Empire, and of Lemnos, Imbros, and Scyros, which were to belong to Athens as before. The attempt to give effect to the arrangement negotiated in 367 failed, and the terms of the Peace of Antalcidas, though it was still appealed to, when convenient, as a charter of liberty, also came to be disregarded. But there was always a sense of the possibility or the danger of provoking the great king to exert his strength, or at least to use his wealth, to the detriment of some or all of the Greek states; though at the moment of which we are speaking (about 355) the Persian Empire itself was suffering from recent disorders and revolutions, and the king had little leisure for interfering in the affairs of Greece.

It was to the department of foreign and inter-Hellenic affairs that Demosthenes principally devoted himself. His earliest political speeches, however, were composed and delivered in furtherance of prosecutions for the crime of proposing illegal legislation. These were the speeches against Androtion (spoken by Diodorus in 355) and against Leptines (in 354). Both these were written to denounce measures which Demosthenes regarded as dishonest or unworthy of Athenian traditions. In the former he displays that desire for clean-handed administration which is so prominent in some of his later speeches; and in the prosecution of Leptines he shows his anxiety that Athens should retain her reputation for good faith. Both speeches, like those of the year 352 against Timocrates (spoken by Diodorus), and against Aristocrates (spoken by Euthycles), are remarkable for thoroughness of argument and for the skill which is displayed in handling legal and political questions, though, like almost all Athenian forensic orations, they are sometimes sophistical in argument.

The first speech which is directly devoted to questions of external policy is that on the Naval Boards in 354; and this is followed within the next two years by speeches delivered in support of appeals made to Athens by the people of Megalopolis and by the exiled democratic party of Rhodes. From these speeches it appears that the general lines of Demosthenes' policy were already determined. He was in opposition to Eubulus, who, after the disastrous termination of the war with the allies, had become the leading statesman in Athens. The strength of Eubulus lay in his freedom from all illusion as to the position in which Athens stood, in his ability as a financier, and in his readiness to take any measures which would enable him to carry out his policy. He saw that the prime necessity of the moment was to recruit the financial and material strength of the city; that until this should be effected, she was quite incapable of carrying on war with any other power; and that she could only recover her strength through peace. In this policy he had the support of the well-to-do classes, who suffered heavily in time of war from taxation and the disturbance of trade. On the other hand, the sentiments of the masses were imperialistic and militant. We gather that there were plenty of orators who made a practice of appealing to the glorious traditions of the past and the claim always made by Athens to leadership among the Greek states. To buy off the opposition which his policy might be expected to encounter, Eubulus distributed funds freely to the people, in the shape of 'Festival-money', adopting the methods employed before him by demagogues, very different from himself, in order that he might override the real sentiments of the democracy; and in spite of the large amounts thus spent he did in fact succeed, in the course of a few years, in collecting a considerable sum without resorting to extraordinary taxation, in greatly increasing the navy and in enlarging the dockyards. For the success of this policy it was absolutely necessary to avoid all entanglement in war, except under the strongest compulsion. The appeals of the Megalopolitans and the Rhodians, to yield to which would probably have meant war with Sparta and with Persia, must be rejected. Even in dealing with Philip, who was making himself master of the Athenian allies on the Thermaic coast, the fact of the weakness of Athens must be recognized, and all idea of a great expedition against Philip must be abandoned for the present. At the same time, some necessary measures of precaution were not neglected. It was essential to secure the route to the Euxine, over which the Athenian corn-trade passed, if corn was not to be sold at famine prices. For this purpose, therefore, alliance was made with the Thracian prince, Cersobleptes; and when Philip threatened Heraeon Teichos on the Propontis, an expedition was prepared, and was only abandoned because Philip himself was forced to desist from his attempt by illness. Similarly, when Philip appeared likely to cross the Pass of Thermopylae in 352, an Athenian force was sent (on the proposal of Diophantus, a supporter of Eubulus) to prevent him. The failure of Eubulus and his party to give effective aid to Olynthus against Philip was due to the more pressing necessity of attempting to recover control of Euboea: it had clearly been their intention to save Olynthus, if possible. But when this had proved impossible, and the attempt to form a Hellenic league against Philip had also failed, facts had once more to be recognized; and, since Athens was now virtually isolated, peace must be made with Philip on the only terms which he would accept—that each side should keep what it de facto possessed at the time.

Demosthenes was generally in opposition to Eubulus and his party, of which Aeschines (once an actor and afterwards a clerk, but a man of education and great natural gifts) was one of the ablest members. Demosthenes was inspired by the traditions of the past, but had a much less vague conception of the moral to be drawn from them than had the multitude. Athens, for him as for them, was to be the first state in Hellas; she was above all to be the protectress of democracy everywhere, against both absolutism and oligarchy, and the leader of the Hellenes in resistance to foreign aggression. But, unlike the multitude, Demosthenes saw that this policy required the greatest personal effort and readiness for sacrifice on the part of every individual; and he devotes his utmost energies to the task of arousing his countrymen to the necessary pitch of enthusiasm, and of effecting such reforms in administration and finance as, in his opinion, would make the realization of his ideal for Athens possible. In the speeches for the Megalopolitans and the Rhodians, the nature of this ideal is already becoming clear both in its Athenian and in its Panhellenic aspects. But so soon as it appeared that Philip, at the head of the half-barbarian Macedonians, and not Athens, was likely to become the predominant power in the Hellenic world, it was against Philip that all his efforts were directed; and although in 346 he is practically at one with the party of Eubulus in his recognition of the necessity of peace, he is eager, when the opportunity seems once more to offer itself, to resume the conflict, and, when it is resumed, to carry it through to the end.

We have then before us the sharp antagonism of two types of statesmanship. The strength of the one lies in the recognition of actual facts, and the avoidance of all projects which seem likely, under existing circumstances, to fail. The other is of a more sanguine type, and believes in the power of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice to transform the existing facts into something better, and to win success against all odds. Statesmen of the former type are always attacked as unpatriotic and mean-spirited; those of the latter, as unpractical and reckless. There is truth and falsehood in both accusations: but since no statesman has ever combined all the elements of statesmanship in a perfect and just proportion, and since neither prudence and clear-sightedness, nor enthusiastic and generous sentiment, can ever be dispensed with in the conduct of affairs without loss, a larger view will attach little discredit to either type. While, therefore, we may view with regret some of the methods which both Demosthenes and Aeschines at times condescended to use in their conflicts with one another, and with no less regret the disastrous result of the policy which ultimately carried the day, we need not hesitate to give their due to both of the contending parties: nor, while we recognize that Eubulus and Phocion (his sturdiest supporter in the field and in counsel) took the truer view of the situation, and of the character of the Athenians as they were, need we (as it is now fashionable to do) denounce the orator who strove with unstinting personal effort and self-sacrifice to rouse the Athenians into a mood in which they could and would realize the ideal to which they, no less than he, professed their devotion.

But the difficulties in the way of such a realization were wellnigh insuperable. Neither the political nor the military system of Athens was adapted to such a policy. The Sovereign Assembly, though capable of sensible and energetic action at moments of special danger, was more likely to be moved by feeling and prejudice than by businesslike argument, particularly at a time when the tendency of the best educated and most intelligent men was to withdraw from participation in public life; and meeting, as the Assembly did (unless specially summoned), only at stated intervals, it was incapable of taking such rapid, well-timed, and decisive action as Philip could take, simply because he was a single man, sole master of his own policy, and personally in command of his own forces. The publicity which necessarily attached to the discussions of the Assembly was a disadvantage at a time when many plans would better have been kept secret; and rapid modifications of policy, to suit sudden changes in the situation, were almost impossible. Again, while no subjects are so unsuited under any circumstances for popular discussion as foreign and military affairs, the absence in Athens of a responsible ministry greatly increased the difficulties of her position. It is true that the Controller of the Festival Fund (whose office gradually became more and more important) was now appointed for four years at a time, while all other offices were annual; and that he and his friends, and their regular opponents, were generally ready to take the lead in making proposals to the Council or the Assembly. But if they chose to remain silent, they could do so;[4] no one was bound to make any proposal at all; and, on the other hand, any one might do so. With such a want of system, far too much was left to chance or to the designs of interested persons. Moreover, the Assembly felt itself under no obligation to follow for any length of time any lead which might be given to it, or to maintain any continuity or consistency between its own decrees. In modern times, a minister, brought into power by the will of the majority of the people, can reckon for a considerable period upon the more or less loyal support of the majority for himself and his official colleagues. In Athens the leader of the moment had to be perpetually adapting himself afresh to the mood of the Assembly, and even to deceive it, in order that he might lead at all, or carry out the policy which, in his opinion, his country's need required. It is therefore a remarkable thing that both Eubulus and Demosthenes succeeded for many years in maintaining a line of action as consistent as that taken by practical men can ever be.

The fact that the Council of Five Hundred, which acted as a standing committee of the people, and prepared business for the Assembly and was responsible for the details of measures passed by the Assembly in general form, was chosen by lot and changed annually, as did practically all the civil and the military officials (though the latter might be re-elected), was all against efficiency and continuity of policy.[5] After the system of election by lot, the most characteristic feature of the Athenian democracy was the responsibility of statesmen and generals to the law-courts.[6] Any citizen might accuse them upon charges nominally limited in scope, but often serving in reality to bring their whole career into question. Had it been certain that the courts would only punish incompetence or misconduct, and not failure as such, little harm would have resulted. But although there were very many acquittals in political trials, the uncertainty of the issue was so great, and the sentences inflicted upon the condemned so severe (commonly involving banishment at least), that the liability to trial as a criminal must often have deterred the statesman and the general from taking the most necessary risks; while the condemnation of the accused had usually the result of driving a really able man out of the country, and depriving his fellow countrymen of services which might be urgently required when they were no longer available.

The financial system was also ill adapted for the purposes of a people constantly liable to war. The funds required for the bare needs of a time of peace seem indeed to have been sufficiently provided from permanent sources of income (such as the silver mines, the rent of public lands, court fees and fines, and various indirect taxes): but those needed for war had to be met by a direct tax upon property, levied ad hoc whenever the necessity arose, and not collected without delays and difficulties. And although the equipment of ships for service was systematically managed under the trierarchic laws,[7] it was still subject to delays no less serious. There was no regular system of contribution to State funds, and no systematic accumulation of a reserve to meet military needs. The raising of money by means of loans at interest to the State was only adopted in Greece in a few isolated instances:[8] and the practice of annually distributing surplus funds to the people,[9] however necessary or excusable under the circumstances, was wholly contrary to sound finance.

An even greater evil was the dependence of the city upon mercenary forces and generals, whose allegiance was often at the call of the highest bidder, and in consequence was seldom reliable. There is no demand which Demosthenes makes with greater insistence, than the demand that the citizens themselves shall serve with the army. At a moment of supreme danger, they might do so. But in fact Athens had become more and more an industrial state, and men were not willing to leave their business to take care of itself for considerable periods, in order to go out and fight, unless the danger was very urgent, or the interests at stake of vital importance; particularly now that the length of campaigns had become greater and the seasons exempted from military operations shorter. In many minds the spread of culture, and of the ideal of self-culture, had produced a type of individualism indifferent to public concerns, and contemptuous of political and military ambitions. Moreover, the methods of warfare had undergone great improvement; in most branches of the army the trained skill of the professional soldier was really necessary; and it was not possible to leave the olive-yard or the counting-house and become an efficient fighter without more ado. But the expensiveness of the mercenary forces; the violent methods by which they obtained supplies from friends and neutrals, as well as foes, if, as often happened, their pay was in arrear; and the dependence of the city upon the goodwill of generals and soldiers who could without much difficulty find employment under other masters, were evils which were bound to hamper any attempt to give effect to a well-planned and far-sighted scheme of action.

It also resulted from the Athenian system of government that the general, while obviously better informed of the facts of the military situation than any one else could be, and at the same time always liable to be brought to trial in case of failure, had little influence upon policy, unless he could find an effective speaker to represent him. In the Assembly and in the law-courts (where the juries were large enough to be treated in the same manner as the Assembly itself) the orator who could win the people's ear was all powerful, and expert knowledge could only make itself felt through the medium of oratory.

A constitution which gave so much power to the orator had grave disadvantages. The temptation to work upon the feelings rather than to appeal to the reason of the audience was very strong, and no charge is more commonly made by one orator against another than that of deceiving or attempting to deceive the people. It is, indeed, very difficult to judge how far an Athenian Assembly was really taken in by sophistical or dishonest arguments: but it is quite certain that such arguments were continually addressed to it; and the main body of the citizens can scarcely have had that first-hand knowledge of facts, which would enable them to criticize the orator's statements. Again, the oration appealed to the people as a performance, no less than as a piece of reasoning. Ancient political oratory resembled the oratory of the pulpit at the present day, not only because it appealed perpetually to the moral sense, and was in fact a kind of preaching; but also because the main difficulty of the ancient orator and the modern preacher was the same: for the Athenians liked being preached at, as the modern congregation 'enjoys' a good sermon, and were, therefore, almost equally immune against conversion. The conflicts of rival orators were regarded mainly as an entertainment. The speaker who was most likely to carry the voting (except when a great crisis had roused the Assembly to seriousness) was the one who found specious and apparently moral reasons for doing what would give the audience least trouble; and consequently one who, like Demosthenes, desired to stir them up to action and personal sacrifices, had always an uphill fight: and if he also at times 'deceived the people' or employed sophistical arguments in order to secure results which he believed to be for their good, we must remember the difficulty (which, in spite of the wide circulation of authentic information, is at least equally great at the present day) of putting the true reasons for or against a policy, before those who, whether from want of education or from lack of training in the subordination of feeling to thought, are not likely to understand or to listen to them. Nor, if we grant the genuineness of Demosthenes' conviction as to the desirability of the end for which he contended, can many statesmen be pointed out, who have not been at least as guilty as he in their choice of means. That he did not solve the problem, how to lead a democracy by wholly honest means, is the less to his discredit, in that the problem still remains unsolved.

It should be added that with an audience like the Athenian, whose aesthetic sensitiveness was doubtless far greater than that of any modern assembly, delivery counted for much. Aeschines' fine voice was a real danger to Demosthenes, and Demosthenes himself spoke of delivery, or the skilled acting of his part, as the all-important condition of an orator's success. But it is clear that this can have been no advantage from the standpoint of the public interest.

In the law-courts the drawbacks to which the commanding influence of oratory was liable were intensified. In the Assembly a certain amount of reticence and self- restraint was imposed by custom: an opponent could not be attacked by name or on purely personal grounds; and an appearance of impartiality was commonly assumed. But in the courts much greater play was allowed to feeling; and the arguments were often much more disingenuous, not only because the personal interests at stake made the speaker more unscrupulous, but also, perhaps, because the juries ordinarily included a larger proportion of the poorer, the idler, and the less- educated citizens than the Assembly. The legal question was often that to which the jury were encouraged to pay least attention, and the condemnation or acquittal of the accused was demanded upon grounds quite extraneous to the indictment. (The two court-speeches contained in these volumes afford abundant illustrations of this.) Personalities were freely admitted, of a kind which it is difficult to excuse and impossible to justify. To attempt to blacken the personal character of an opponent by false stories about his parentage and his youth, and by the ascription to him and his relations of nameless immoralities, is a very different thing from the assignment of wrong motives for his political actions, though even in purely political controversy the ancients far exceeded the utmost limits of modern invective. And this both Demosthenes and Aeschines do freely. There is also reason to suspect that some of the tales which each tells of the other's conduct, both while serving as ambassadors and on other occasions, may be fabrications. The descriptive passages for which such falsehoods gave an opening had doubtless their dramatic value in the oratorical performance: possibly they were even expected by the listeners; but their presence in the speeches does not increase our admiration either for the speaker or for his audience.

All the force of Demosthenes' oratory was unable to defeat the great antagonist of his country. To Philip of Macedon failure was an inconceivable idea. Resident during three impressionable years of his youth at Thebes, he had there learned, from the example of Epaminondas, what a single man could do: and he proceeded to each of the three great tasks of his life—the welding of the rough Macedonians into one great engine of war, the unification of Greece under his own leadership, and the preparation for the conquest of the East by a united Greece and Macedonia—without either faltering in face of difficulties, or hesitating, out of any scrupulosity, to use the most effective means towards the end which he wished at the moment to achieve; though in fact the charges of bad faith made against him by Demosthenes are found to be exaggerated, when they are impartially examined. Philip intended to become master of Greece: Demosthenes realized this early, and, with all the Hellenic detestation of a master, resolved to oppose him to the end. Philip was, indeed, in spite of the barbarous traits which revealed themselves in him at times, not only gracious and courteous by nature, but a sincere admirer of Hellenic—in other words, of Athenian—culture; the relations between his house and the people of Athens had generally been friendly; and there was little reason to suppose that, if he conquered Athens, he would treat her less handsomely than in fact he did. Yet this could not justify one who regarded freedom as Demosthenes regarded it, in making any concession not extorted by the necessities of the situation: his duty and his country's duty, as he conceived it, was to defeat the enemy of Hellenic independence or to fall in the attempt. Nor was it for him to consider (as Isocrates might) whether or no Philip's plans had now developed into, or could be transformed into, a beneficent scheme for the conquest of the barbarian world by a united Hellas, if the union was to be achieved at the price of Athenian liberty. It is because, in spite of errors and of the questionable methods to which he sometimes stooped, Demosthenes devoted himself unflinchingly to the cause of freedom, for Athens and for the Hellenes as a whole, that he is entitled, not merely as an orator but as a politician, to the admiration which posterity has generally accorded him. It is, above all, by the second part of his career, when his policy of antagonism to Philip had been accepted by the people, and he was no longer in opposition but, as it were, in office, that Demosthenes himself claims to be justified; and Aeschines' attempt to invalidate the claim is for the most part unconvincing.

It is not easy to describe in a few paragraphs the characteristics of Demosthenes as an orator. That he stands on the highest eminence that an orator has ever reached is generally admitted. But this is not to say that he was wholly free from faults. His contemporaries, as well as later Greek critics, were conscious of a certain artificiality in his eloquence. It was, indeed, the general custom of Athenian orators to prepare their speeches with great care: the speakers who, like Aeschines and Demades, were able to produce a great effect without preparation, and the rhetoricians who, like Alcidamas, thought of the studied oration as but a poor imitation of true eloquence, were only a small minority; and in general, not only was the arrangement of topics carefully planned, but the greatest attention was paid to the sound and rhythm of the sentences, and to the appropriateness and order of the words. The orator had also his collections of passages on themes which were likely to recur constantly, and of arguments on either side of many questions; and from these he selected such passages as he required, and adapted them to his particular purpose. The rhetorical teachers appear to have supplied their pupils with such collections; we find a number of instances of the repetition of the same passage in different speeches, and an abundance of arguments formed exactly on the model of the precepts contained in rhetorical handbooks.[10] Yet with all this art nothing was more necessary than that a speech should appear to be spontaneous and innocent of guile. There was a general mistrust of the 'clever speaker', who by study or rhetorical training had learned the art of arguing to any point, and making the worse cause appear the better. To have studied his part too carefully—even to have worked up illustrations from history and poetry—might expose the orator to suspicion.[11] Demosthenes, in spite of his frequent attempts to deprecate such suspicion, did not succeed wholly in keeping on the safe side. Aeschines describes him as a wizard and a sophist, who enjoyed deceiving the people or the jury. Another of his opponents levelled at him the taunt that his speeches 'smelt of the lamp'. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, one of the best of the ancient critics, says that the artificiality of Demosthenes and his master Isaeus was apt to excite suspicion, even when they had a good case. Nor can a modern reader altogether escape the same impression. Sometimes, especially in the earlier speeches to the Assembly, the argument seems unreal, the joints between the previously prepared commonplaces or illustrations and their application to the matter in hand are too visible, the language is artificially phrased, and wanting in spontaneity and ease. There are also parts of the court speeches in which the orator seems to have calculated out all the possible methods of meeting a particular case, and to be applying them in turn with more ingenuity than convincingness. An appearance of unreality also arises at times (again principally in the earlier speeches) from a certain want of imagination. He attributes feelings and motives to others, which they were really most unlikely to have entertained, and argues from them. Some of the sentiments which he expects Artaxerxes or Artemisia to feel (in the Speeches on the Naval Boards and for the Rhodians) were certainly not to be looked for in them. Similar misconceptions of the actual or possible sentiments of the Spartans appear in the Speech for the Megalopolitans, and of those of the Thebans in the Third Olynthiac (Sec. 15). The early orations against Philip also show some misunderstanding of his character. And if, in fact, Demosthenes lived his early years largely in solitary studiousness and was unsociable by disposition, this lack of a quick grasp of human nature and motives is quite intelligible. But this defect grew less conspicuous as his experience increased; and though even to the end there remained something of the sophist about him, as about all the disciples of the ancient rhetoric, the greatness of his best work is not seriously affected by this. For, in his greatest speeches, and in the greatest parts of nearly all his speeches, the orator is white-hot with genuine passion and earnestness; and all his study and preparation resulted, for the most part, not in an artificial product, but in the most convincing expression of his real feeling and belief; so that it was the man himself, and not the rhetorical practitioner that spoke.

The lighter virtues of the orator are not to be sought for in him. In gracefulness and humour he is deficient: his humour, indeed, generally takes the grim forms of irony and satire, or verges on personality and bad taste. Few of his sentences can be imagined to have been delivered with a smile; and something like ferocity is generally not far below the surface. Pathos is seldom in him unmixed with sterner qualities, and is usually lost in indignation. But of almost every other variety of tone he has a complete command. The essential parts of his reasoning (even when it is logically or morally defective) are couched, as a rule, in a forcible and cogent form;[12] and he has a striking power of close, sustained, and at the same time lucid argumentation. His matter is commonly disposed with such skill that each topic occurs where it will tell most powerfully; and while one portion of a speech affords relief to another (where relief is needed, and particularly in the longer orations) all alike bear on the main issue or strengthen the orator's position with his audience. Historical allusions are not (as they often are by Aeschines and Isocrates) enlarged out of proportion to their importance, but are limited to what is necessary, in order to illustrate the orator's point or drive his lesson home. Add to these qualities his combination of political idealism with absolute mastery of minute detail; the intensity of his appeal to the moral sense and patriotism of his hearers; the impressiveness of his denunciation of political wrong; the vividness of his narrative, the rapid succession of his impassioned phrases, and some part of the secret of his power will be explained. For the rest, while there is in his writing every degree of fullness or brevity, there is no waste of words, no 'fine language' out of place. His language, indeed, is ordinarily simple—sometimes even colloquial; though in the arrangement of his words in their most telling order he shows consummate art, and his metaphors are often bold and sometimes even violent. In the use of the 'figures of speech' he excels; above all, in the use of antitheses (whether for the purpose of vivid contrast or of precise logical expression), and of the rhetorical question, used now in indignation, now in irony, now in triumphant conclusion of an argument: and at times there are master-strokes of genius, which defy all analysis, such as the great appeal to the men of Marathon in the Speech on the Crown.[13] He does not as a rule (and this is particularly true of the Speech on the Crown) cover the whole of the ground with the same adequacy; but so concentrates all his forces upon certain points as to be irresistible, and thus 'with thunder and lightning confounds'[14] the orators who oppose him. It is no wonder that some of the greatest of English orators, and notably of those of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, borrow from him not only words and phrases, but inspiration and confidence in their cause, and look upon him as a model whom they may emulate, but cannot excel.


[1] See Introduction to First Philippic.

[2] See notes on Speech for the Megalopolitans.

[3] See note on Speech on the Crown, Sec. 140.

[4] See Speech on the Crown, Sec.Sec. 170 ff.

[5] See Zimmern, The Greek Commonwealth, pp. 159 ff., for an excellent short account of the constitution and functions of the Council. That the councillors themselves sat (for administrative purposes) in relays, changing ten times a year, was also against continuity.

[6] See Speech on Embassy, Sec. 2 n.

[7] See Introduction to Speech on Naval Boards, and Philippic I, Sec.Sec. 36, 37.

[8] See Zimmern, The Greek Commonwealth, p. 205.

[9] See Zimmern, The Greek Commonwealth, p. 205.

[10] The 'Art' of Anaximenes is an interesting extant example of a fourth- century handbook for practical orators. The Rhetoric of Aristotle stands on a higher plane, but probably follows the lines laid down by custom in the rhetorical schools.

[11] See Speech on Embassy, Sec. 246, and note.

[12] He is especially fond of the dilemma, which is not indeed cogent in strict logic, but is peculiarly telling and effective in producing conviction in large audiences.

[13] See [Longinus] 'On the Sublime', especially chap, xvi-xviii (English translation by A. O. Prickard in this series). This treatise should be read by all students of Demosthenes, especially chap. xii, xvi-xviii, xxxii, xxxiv, xxxix.

[14] 'On the Sublime', chap. xxxiv.

[TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: The text for all notes marked [n] will be found at the end of the second volume.]


[Introduction. The speech was delivered in 354 B.C. News had been brought to Athens that the Persian King Artaxerxes Ochus was making great military and naval preparations, and though these were, in fact, directed against his own rebellious subjects in Egypt, Phoenicia, and Cyprus, the Athenians had some ground for alarm: for, two years before this, Chares, in command of an Athenian fleet, had given assistance to Artabazus, Satrap of Ionia, who was in revolt against the king. The king had made a protest, and (late in 355) Athens had ordered Chares to withdraw his aid from Artabazus. A party in Athens now wished to declare war on Persia, and appealed strongly to Athenian traditions in favour of the proposal. Demosthenes opposes them, on the ground that it was not certain that the king was aiming at Athens at all, and that the disunion of the Hellenic peoples would render any such action unsafe: Athens had more dangerous enemies nearer home, and her finances were not in a condition for such a campaign. But he takes advantage of the interest aroused, to propose a reform of the trierarchic system, designed to secure a more efficient navy, and to remedy certain abuses in the existing method of equipping vessels for service.

In earlier times, the duty of equipping and commanding each trireme was laid upon single citizens of means, the hull and certain fittings being found by the state. When, early in the fourth century, the number of wealthy men had diminished, each ship might be shared by two citizens, who commanded in turn. In 357 a law was passed, on the proposal of Periander, transferring the responsibility from individuals to 'Symmories' or Boards. (The system had been instituted in a slightly different form for the collection of the war-tax in the archonship of Nausinicus, 378-7 B.C.) The collection of the sums required became the work of twenty Boards, formed by the subdivision of the 1,200 richest citizens: each contributor, whatever his property, paid the same share. The richer men thus got off with the loss of a very small proportion of their income, as compared with the poorer members of the Boards,[1] and in managing the business of the Boards they sometimes contrived to exact the whole sum from their colleagues, and to escape payment themselves. At the same time the duties of the several Boards and their members were not allocated with sufficient precision to enable the responsibility to be brought home in case of default; and the nominal Twelve Hundred had fallen to a much smaller number, on whom the burden accordingly fell with undue weight. Demosthenes' proposal provided for the distribution of the responsibility of equipping the vessels and providing the funds, in the most detailed manner, with a view to preventing all evasion; but it was not carried. In fact, it was not until 340 that he succeeded in reforming the trierarchy, and he then made the burden vary strictly with property. The proposal, however, to declare war upon Persia went no further.

While, in this speech, Demosthenes is in accord with the policy of Eubulus, so far as concerns the avoidance of war with Persia, his proposals of financial reform would not be viewed with favour by the wealthy men who were Eubulus' firm supporters. Some of the themes which recur continually in later speeches are prominent in this—the futility of rhetorical appeals to past glories, without readiness for personal service, and the need of a thorough organization of the forces. While the speech shows rather too strongly the marks of careful preparation, and seldom rises to eloquence—the style, indeed, is often rather cramped and stiff, and the sentiments, especially at the beginning, artificially phrased—it is moderate and practical in tone, and shows a characteristic mastery of minute detail.]

{1} Those who praise your forefathers,[n] men of Athens, desire, no doubt, to gratify you by their speeches; and yet I do not think that they are acting in the interests of those whom they praise. For the subject on which they attempt to speak is one to which no words can do justice; and so, although they thus win for themselves the reputation of capable speakers, the impression which they convey to their hearers of the merit of our forefathers is not adequate to our conception of it. For my part I believe that their highest praise is constituted by Time: for the time that has passed has been long, and still no generation has arisen, whose achievements could be compared with advantage to theirs. {2} As for myself, I shall attempt to point out the way in which, in my opinion, you can best make your preparations. For the truth is, that if all of us who propose to address you were to succeed in proving to you our rhetorical skill, there would not be the slightest improvement in your condition—I am sure of it; but if a single speaker were to come forward, whoever he might be, who could instruct and convince you as to the nature of the preparations which would meet the city's need, as to their extent, and the resources upon which we can draw for them, your present fears would instantly be dissolved. This I will attempt to do—if indeed it is in my power. But first I must briefly express my views as to our relations with the king.

{3} I hold the king to be the common enemy of all the Hellenes; and yet I should not on that account urge you, alone and unsupported, to raise war against him. For I observe that there is no common or mutual friendship even among the Hellenes themselves: some have more faith in the king than in some other Hellenes. When such are the conditions, your interest requires you, I believe, to see to it that you only begin war from a fair and just cause, and to make all proper preparations: this should be the basis of your policy. {4} For I believe, men of Athens, that if it were made plain to the eyes and understandings of the Hellenes, that the king was making an attempt upon them, they would both fight in alliance with those who undertook the defence for them and with them, and would feel very grateful to them. But if we quarrel with him prematurely, while his intentions are still uncertain, I am afraid, men of Athens, that we may be forced to fight not only against the king, but also against those for whose benefit we are exercising such forethought. {5} For he will pause in the execution of his project, if indeed he has really resolved to attack the Hellenes, and will bribe some of them with money and offers of friendship; while they, desirous of bringing their private wars to a successful end, and animated only by such a spirit, will disregard the common safety of all. I urge you then, not to hurl the city needlessly into the midst of any such chaos of selfish passions. {6} Moreover, I see that the question of the policy to be adopted towards the king does not even stand on the same footing for the other Hellenes as for you. It is open, I think, to many of them to manage certain of their own interests as they please, and to disregard the rest of the Hellenes. But for you it is not honourable, even if you are the injured party, and are dealing with those who have injured you, to punish them so severely as to leave some of them to fall under the domination of the foreigner: {7} and this being so, we must take care, first, that we do not find ourselves involved in an unequal war, and secondly, that he, whom we believe to be plotting against the Hellenes, does not gain credit from the supposition that he is their friend. How then can this be achieved? It will be achieved if it is manifest to all that the forces of Athens have been overhauled and put in readiness, and if her intentions in regard to their use are plainly righteous. {8} But to those who take a bold line, and urge you, without any hesitation whatever, to go to war, my reply is this—that it is not difficult to win a reputation for bravery, when the occasion calls for deliberation; nor to prove yourself an accomplished orator, when danger is at the door: but to display your courage in the hour of danger, and, in debate, to have wiser advice to offer than others—that is the hard thing, and that is what is required of you. {9} For my part, men of Athens, I consider that the proposed war with the king would be a difficult undertaking for the city; while the decisive conflict in which the war would result would be an easier matter, and for this reason. Every war, I suppose, necessarily requires ships and money and the command of positions. All such advantages the king, I find, possesses more abundantly than we. But a conflict of forces requires nothing so much as brave men; and of these, I believe, the larger number is with us, and with those who share our danger. {10} For this reason I exhort you not to be the first, in any way whatever, to take up the war; but for the decisive struggle I think you ought to be ready and your preparations made. And further, if the forces[n] with which foreigners and Hellenes could respectively be repelled were really different in kind, the fact that we were arraying our forces against the king would naturally, it may be, admit of no concealment. {11} But since all military preparations are of the same character, and the main points of a force must always be the same—the means to repel enemies, to help allies, and to retain existing advantages—why, when we have our acknowledged foes,[n] do we seek to procure others? Let us rather prepare ourselves to meet the enemies whom we have, and we shall then repel the king also, if he takes the aggressive against us. {12} Suppose that you yourselves summon the Hellenes to your side now. If, when the attitude of some of them towards you is so disagreeable, you do not fulfil their demands, how can you expect that any one will listen to you? 'Why,' you say, 'we shall tell them that the king is plotting against them.' Good Heavens! Do you imagine that they do not foresee this themselves? Of course they do. But their fear of this does not yet outweigh the quarrels which some of them have against you and against each other. And so the tour of your envoys will end in nothing but their own rhapsodies.[n] {13} But if you wait, then, if the design which we now suspect is really on foot, there is not one of the Hellenes who stands so much upon his dignity that he will not come and beg for your aid, when he sees that you have a thousand cavalry, and infantry as many as any one can desire, and three hundred ships: for he will know that in these lies his surest hope of deliverance. Appeal to them now, and we shall be suppliants, and, if unsuccessful, rejected suppliants. Make your own preparations and wait, and then they will be the suppliants and we their deliverers; and we may rest assured that they will all come to us for help.

{14} In thinking out these points and others like them, men of Athens, my object was not to devise a bold speech,[n] prolonged to no purpose: but I took the greatest pains to discover the means by which our preparations could be most effectively and quickly made; and therefore, if my proposal meets with your approval, when you have heard it, you ought, I think, to pass it. Now the first element in our preparation, men of Athens (and it is the most important), must be this: your minds must be so disposed, that every one of you will perform willingly and heartily any service that is required of him. {15} For you see, men of Athens, that whenever you have unanimously desired any object, and the desire has been followed by a feeling on the part of every individual, that the practical steps towards it were for himself to take, the object has never yet slipped from your grasp: but whenever the wish has had no further result than that each man has looked to his neighbour, expecting his neighbour to act while he himself does nothing, the object has never yet been attained. {16} But supposing you to be filled with the keenness that I have described, I am of opinion that we should make up the Twelve Hundred to their full number, and increase it to 2,000, by the addition of 800. For if you can display this total, then, when you have allowed for the unmarried heiresses and orphans,[n] for property outside Attica,[n] or held in partnership, and for any persons who may be unable to contribute,[n] you will, I believe, actually have the full 1,200 persons available. {17} These you must divide into twenty boards, as at present, with sixty persons to each board; and each of these boards you must divide into five sections of twelve persons each, taking care in every case to associate with the richest man the poorest men,[n] to maintain the balance. Such is the arrangement of persons which I recommend, and my reason you will know when you have heard the nature of the entire system. {18} I pass to the distribution of the ships. You must provide a total complement of 300 ships, forming twenty divisions of fifteen ships apiece, and including in each division five of the first hundred vessels,[n] five of the second hundred, and five of the third hundred. Next, you must assign by lot[n] to each board of persons its fifteen ships, and each board must assign three ships to each of its sections. {19} This done, in order that you may have the payments also systematically arranged, you must divide the 6,000 talents (for that is the taxable capital[n] of the country) into 100 parts of sixty talents each. Five of each of these parts you must allot to each of the larger boards—the twenty—and each board must assign one of these sums of sixty talents to each of its sections; {20} in order that, if you need 100 ships,[n] there may be sixty talents to be taxed for the expense of each ship, and twelve persons responsible for it; if 200, thirty talents will be taxed to make up the cost, and six persons will be responsible; if 300, then twenty talents must be taxed to defray the expense, and four persons will be responsible. {21} In the same way, men of Athens, I bid you make a valuation according to the register of all those fittings of the ships which are in arrear,[n] divide them into twenty parts, and allot to each of the large boards one-twentieth of the debtors: these must then be assigned by each board in equal numbers to each of its sections, and the twelve persons composing each section must call up their share of the arrears, and provide, ready-equipped, the ships which fall to them. {22} Such is the plan by which, in my opinion, the expense, the ships, the trierarchs, and the recovery of the fittings could best be provided for and put into working order. I proceed to describe a simple and easy scheme for the manning of the vessels. I recommend that the generals should divide the whole space of the dockyards into ten, taking care to have in each space thirty slips for single vessels close together. This done they should apportion to each space two of the boards and thirty ships; and should then assign a tribe to each space by lot. {23} Each captain should divide into three parts the space which falls to his tribe, with the corresponding ships, and should allot these among the three wards[n] of each tribe, in such a way that if each tribe has one division of the entire docks, each ward will have a third of one of these divisions; and you will know, in case of need, first the position assigned to the tribe; next, that of the ward; and then the names of the trierarchs and their ships; each tribe will be answerable for thirty, and each ward for ten ships. If this system is put in train, circumstances as they arise will provide for anything that I may have overlooked to-day (for perhaps it is difficult to think of everything), and there will be a single organization for the whole fleet and every part of it.

{24} But what of funds? What resources have we immediately at our command? The statement which I am about to make on this subject will no doubt be astonishing; but I will make it nevertheless; for I am convinced that upon a correct view of the facts, this statement alone will be proved true, and will be justified by the event. I say then, that this is not the time to discuss the financial question. We have large resources upon which, in case of necessity, we may honourably and rightly draw: but if we inquire for them now, we shall not believe that we can rely upon them even against the hour of need; so far shall we be from supplying them now. 'What then,' you will ask me, 'are these resources, which are non-existent now, but will be ours then? This is really like a riddle.' I will tell you. {25} Men of Athens, you see all this great city.[n] In this city there is wealth which will compare, I had almost said, with the united wealth of all other cities. But such is the disposition of those who own it, that if all your orators were to raise the alarm that the king was coming—that he was at the doors—that there was no possible escape; and if with the orators an equal number of prophets foretold the same thing; even then, far from contributing funds, they would show no sign[2] [and make no acknowledgement] of their possession of them. {26} If, however, they were to see in course of actual realization all the terrors with which at present we are only threatened in speeches, not one of them is so blind that he would not both offer his contribution, and be among the first to pay the tax. For who will prefer to lose his life and property, rather than contribute a part of his substance to save himself and the remainder of it? Funds, then, we can command, I am certain, if there is a genuine need of them, and not before; and accordingly I urge you not even to look for them now. For all that you would provide now, if you decided upon a levy, would be more ludicrous than nothing at all. {27} Suppose that we are told to pay 1 per cent. now; that gives you sixty talents. Two per cent. then—double the amount; that makes 120 talents. And what is that to the 1,200 camels which (as these gentlemen tell us) are bringing the king's money for him? Or would you have me assume a payment of one-twelfth, 500 talents? Why, you would never submit to this; and if you paid the money down, it would not be adequate to the war. {28} You must, therefore, make all your other preparations, but allow your funds to remain for the present in the hands of their owners—they could nowhere be more safely kept for the use of the State; and then, if ever the threatened crisis arises, you will receive them as the voluntary gift of their possessors. This, men of Athens, is not only a possible course of action, but a dignified and a politic one. It is a course of action which is worthy to be reported to the ears of the king, and which would inspire him with no slight apprehension. {29} For he well knows that by two hundred ships, of which one hundred were Athenian,[n] his ancestors were deprived of one thousand; and he will hear that Athens alone has now equipped three hundred; so that, however great his infatuation, he could certainly not imagine it a light thing to make this country his foe. But if it is his wealth that suggests proud thoughts to his mind, he will find that in this respect too his resources are weaker than ours. {30} It is true that he is said to be bringing a great quantity of gold with him. But if he distributes this, he must look for more: for just so it is the way of springs and wells to give out, if large quantities are drawn from them all at once; whereas we possess, as he will hear, in the taxable capital of the country, resources which we defend against attack in a way of which those ancestors of his who sleep at Marathon can best tell him: and so long as we are masters of the country there is no risk of our resources being exhausted.

{31} Nor again can I see any grounds for the fear, which some feel, lest his wealth should enable him to collect a large mercenary force. It may be that many of the Hellenes would be glad to serve under him against Egypt,[n] against Orontas,[n] or against certain other foreign powers—not from a wish that the king should conquer any such enemies, but because each desires individually to obtain some private means to relieve his present poverty. But I cannot believe that any Hellene would march against Hellas. Whither will he turn afterwards? Will he go to Phrygia and be a slave? {32} For the war with the foreigner is a war for no other stake than our country, our life, our habits, our freedom, and all that we value. Where is the wretch who would sacrifice self, parents, sepulchres, fatherland, for the sake of some short-lived gain? I do not believe that he exists. And indeed it is not even to the king's own interest to conquer the Hellenes with a mercenary force; for an army which has conquered us is, even more certainly,[n] stronger than he; and his intention is not to destroy us only that he may fall into the power of others: he wishes to rule, if it may be, over all the world; but if not, at least over those who are already his slaves.

{33} It may be supposed that the Thebans will be on the king's side. Now this subject is one upon which it is hard to address you. For such is your hatred of them, that you cannot hear a good word about them, however true, without displeasure. And yet those who have grave questions to consider must not on any pretext pass over any profitable line of argument. {34} I believe, then, that so far are the Thebans from being likely ever to march with him against the Hellenes, that they would give a great deal, if they had it to give, for an opportunity of cancelling their former sins against Hellas.[n] But if any one does believe that the Thebans are so unhappily constituted, at least you are all aware, I presume, that if the Thebans take the part of the king, their enemies must necessarily take the part of the Hellenes.

{35} My own belief is that our cause, the cause of justice, and its supporters, will prove stronger in every emergency than the traitor and the foreigner. And therefore I say that we need feel no excessive apprehension, and that we must not be led on into taking the first step towards war. Indeed, I cannot even see that any of the other Hellenes has reason to dread this war. {36} Are they not all aware, that so long as they thought of the king as their common foe, and were at unity with one another, they were secure in their prosperity; but that ever since they imagined that they could count upon the king as their friend, and fell to quarrelling over their private interests, they have suffered such evils as no malediction could have devised for them? Must we then dread a man whose friendship, thanks to Fortune and Heaven, has proved so unprofitable, and his enmity so advantageous? By no means! Let us not, however, commit any aggression, in view of our own interests, and of the disturbed and mistrustful spirit which prevails among the rest of the Hellenes. {37} Were it possible, indeed, to join forces with them all, and with one accord to attack the king in his isolation, I should have counted it no wrong even were we to take the aggressive. But since this is impossible, we must be careful to give the king no pretext for trying to enforce the claims of the other Hellenes against us. If you keep the peace, any such step on his part would arouse suspicion; but if you are the first to begin war, his hostility to you would make his desire to befriend your rivals appear natural enough. {38} Do not then lay bare the evil condition of Hellas, by calling the powers together when they will not obey, or undertaking a war which you will be unable to carry on. Keep the peace; take courage, and make your preparations. Resolve that the news which the king hears of you shall certainly not be that all Hellas, and Athens with it, in distress or panic or confusion. Far from it! {39} Let him rather know that if falsehood and perjury were not as disgraceful in Hellenic eyes as they are honourable in his, you would long ago have been on the march against him: and that though, as it is, your regard for yourselves forbids you to act thus, you are praying to all the gods that the same madness may seize him as once seized his ancestors. And if it occurs to him to reflect upon this, he will find that your deliberations are not conducted in any careless spirit. {40} He at least shares the knowledge that it was your wars with his own ancestors that raised Athens to the summit of prosperity and greatness; while the peaceful policy which she previously pursued never gave her such a superiority as she now enjoys over any single state in Hellas. Aye, and he sees that the Hellenes are in need of one who, whether intentionally or not, will reconcile them one to another; and he knows that if he were to stir up war, he himself would assume that character in relation to them; so that the news which he will hear of you will be intelligible and credible to him.

{41} But I do not wish to trouble you, men of Athens, by unduly prolonging my speech. I will therefore recapitulate my advice and retire. I bid you prepare your forces with a view to the enemies whom you have. If the king or any other power attempts to do you injury, you must defend yourselves with these same forces. But you must not take the aggressive by word or deed; and you must take care that it is your deeds, and not your platform speeches, that are worthy of your forefathers. If you act thus, you will be consulting both your own interests and those of the speakers who are opposing me; since you will have no cause to be angry with them afterwards, because you have decided wrongly to-day.


[1] See Speech on Crown, Sec.Sec. 102 ff. and notes.

[2] See Speech on Crown, Sec.Sec. 102 ff. and notes.


[Introduction. In 371 B.C. the Thebans under Epaminondas defeated the Spartans at Leuctra, and, assisted by Thebes, the Arcadians and Messenians threw off the Spartan yoke. The former founded Megalopolis as their common centre, the latter Messene. But after the death of Epaminondas in 362, Thebes was left without a leader; and when, in 355, she became involved in the 'Sacred War' with the Phocians, the new Peloponnesian states turned towards Athens, and Messene received a solemn promise of Athenian assistance, if ever she was attacked by Sparta. In 353 Thebes was suffering considerably from the Sacred War, and the Spartans made an ingenious attempt to recover their power, in the form of a proposal for the restoration of territory to its original owners. This meant that Athens would recover Oropus, which had been in the hands of Thebes since 366, and had previously been the subject of a long-standing dispute; that Orchomenus, Thespiae, and Plataeae, which had all been overthrown by Thebes, would be restored; and that Elis and Phlius would also recover certain lost possessions. All these states would then be morally bound (so the Spartans thought) to help Sparta to reconquer Arcadia and Messenia.

On the occasion of this speech (delivered in 353) the Megalopolitans had appealed to Athens, and an Arcadian and a Spartan embassy had each had an audience of the Assembly, and had each received strong support from Athenian speakers. The principal motives of the supporters of Sparta were their hostility to Thebes, and their desire not to break with the Spartans, whom Athens had assisted at Mantineia in 362 against the Thebans and Megalopolitans. Demosthenes supports the Arcadians, and lays great stress on the desirability of maintaining a balance of power between Sparta and Thebes, so that neither might become too strong. To allow Sparta to reconquer Arcadia, and, as the next step, Messenia, would be to render her too formidable; and to reject the proposal of Sparta would not preclude Athens from recovering Oropus and demanding the restoration of the Boeotian towns. But the promise of assistance to the Arcadians should be accompanied by a request for the termination of their alliance with Thebes.

Demosthenes' advice was not followed. In fact Athens was hardly in a position to risk becoming entangled in a war with Sparta, particularly in view of the danger to her northern possessions from Philip. She therefore remained neutral, while the Thebans, relieved from the pressure of the Sacred War owing to the defeat of the Phocian leader Onomarchus by Philip, were able to send aid to Megalopolis. A truce between Sparta and Megalopolis was made about 350. It was, however, a result of the neutrality of Athens, that she was unable, a few years later, to secure the support of the Arcadians against Philip, whose allies they subsequently became.

Lord Brougham describes the oration as 'one of extraordinary subtlety and address in handling delicate topics'; and, after quoting the passage in which Demosthenes urges the necessity of maintaining a balance of power between rival states, adds that 'this is precisely the language of modern policy'. At the same time, the speech has in places a somewhat academic and theoretical air: it is much occupied with the weighing of hypothetical considerations and obligations against one another: and though it enunciates some plain and reasonable political principles, and makes an honest attempt to satisfy those who wished to help the Arcadians, but at the same time desired to regain ground against Thebes, it is not always convincing, and the tone is more frankly opportunist than is usually the case with Demosthenes.]

{1} I think, men of Athens, that those who have spoken on the Arcadian side and those who have spoken on the Spartan, are alike making a mistake. For their mutual accusations and their attacks upon one another would suggest that they are not, like yourselves, Athenians, receiving the two embassies, but actually delegates of the two states. Such attacks it was for the two deputations to make. The duty of those who claim to advise you here was to discuss the situation impartially, and to inquire, in an uncontentious spirit, what course is best in your interests. {2} As it is, if one could alter the fact that they are known to us, and that they speak the dialect of Attica, I believe that many would imagine that those on the one side actually were Arcadians, and those on the other, Spartans. For my part, I see plainly enough the difficulty of offering the best advice. For you, like them, are deluded, in your desire for one extreme or the other: and one who endeavours to propose an intermediate course, which you will not have the patience to understand, will satisfy neither side and will forfeit the confidence of both. {3} But in spite of this, I shall prefer, for my own part, to risk being regarded as an idle chatterer (if such is really to be my lot), rather than to abandon my conviction as to what is best for Athens, and leave you to the mercy of those who would deceive you. And while I shall deal with all other points later, by your leave, I shall take for my starting-point, in explaining the course which I believe to be best, those principles which are admitted by all.

{4} There can be no possible question that it is to the interest of the city that both the Spartans and these Thebans should be weak; and the present situation, if one may judge at all from what has constantly been asserted in your presence, is such, that if Orchomenus, Thespiae, and Plataeae[n] are re- established, Thebes becomes weak; and that if the Spartans can reduce Arcadia to subjection and destroy Megalopolis, Sparta will recover her former strength. {5} We must, therefore, take care not to allow the Spartans to attain a formidable degree of strength, before the Thebans have become insignificant, lest there should take place, unobserved by us, such an increase in the power of Sparta as would be out of proportion to the decrease in the power of Thebes which our interests demand. For it is, of course, out of the question that we should desire merely to substitute the rivalry of Sparta for that of Thebes: that is not the object upon which we are bent. Our object is rather that neither people shall be capable of doing us any injury. That is what will best enable us to live in security.

{6} But, granted that this is what ought to be, still, we are told, it is a scandalous thing to choose for our allies the men against whom we were arrayed at Mantineia, and further, to help them against those whose perils we shared that day. I agree; but I think that we need to insert the condition, 'provided that the two parties are willing to act rightly.' {7} For if all alike prove willing to keep the peace, we shall not go to the aid of the Megalopolitans, since there will be no need to do so; and so there will be no hostility whatever on our part towards our former comrades in battle. They are already our allies, as they tell us; and now the Arcadians will become our allies as well. What more could we desire? {8} But suppose they act wrongfully and think fit to make war. In that case, if the question before us is whether we are to abandon Megalopolis to Sparta or not, then I say that, wrong though it is, I will acquiesce in our permitting this, and declining to oppose our former companions in danger. But if you all know that, after capturing Megalopolis, they will march against Messene, let me ask any of those who are now so harshly disposed towards Megalopolis to say what action he will then advise. No answer will be given. {9} In fact you all know that, whether they advise it or not, we must then go to the rescue, both because of the oath which we have sworn to the Messenians, and because our interests demand the continued existence of that city. Ask yourselves, then, on which occasion you can most honourably and generously interpose to check the aggressions of Sparta—in defence of Megalopolis, or in defence of Messene? {10} On the present occasion it will be understood that you are succouring the Arcadians, and are anxious that the Peace, which you fought for and risked your lives to win, may be secure. But if you wait, all the world will see plainly that it is not in the name of right that you desire the existence of Messene, but because you are afraid of Sparta. And while we should always seek and do the right, we should at the same time take good care that what is right shall also be advantageous.

{11} Now an argument is used by speakers on the other side to the effect that we ought to attempt to recover Oropus,[n] and that if we make enemies of those who might come to our assistance against it we shall have no allies. I too say that we should try to recover Oropus. But the argument that the Spartans will be our enemies now, if we make alliance with those Arcadians who desire our friendship, is an argument which no one has less right even to mention, than those who induced you to help the Spartans when they were in danger. {12} Such was not their argument, when all the Peloponnesians came to you,[n] entreating you to support them in their campaign against Sparta, and they persuaded you to reject the entreaty, with the result that the Peloponnesians took the only remaining course and applied to Thebes—when they bade you contribute funds and imperil your lives for the deliverance of the Spartans. Nor, I presume, would you have been willing to protect them, had they warned you that you must expect no gratitude for their deliverance, unless, after saving them, you allowed them once more to do as they pleased and commit fresh aggressions. {13} And further, however antagonistic it may be to the designs of the Spartans, that we should make the Arcadians our allies, they are surely bound to feel a gratitude towards us for saving them when they were in the utmost extremity, which will outweigh their vexation at our preventing their present wrongdoing. Must they not then either assist us to recover Oropus, or else be regarded as the basest of mankind? For, by Heaven, I can see no other alternative.

{14} I am astonished, also, to hear it argued that if we make the Arcadians our allies, and carry out my advice, it will seem as though Athens were changing her policy, and were utterly unreliable. I believe that the exact reverse of this is the case, men of Athens, and I will tell you why. I suppose that no one in the world can deny that when this city saved the Spartans,[n] and before them the Thebans,[n] and finally the Euboeans,[n] and subsequently made them her allies, she had one and the same end always in view. {15} And what was this? It was to deliver the victims of aggression. And if this is so, it is not we that should be changing, but those who refuse to adhere to the right; and it will be manifest that, although circumstances change from time to time with the ambitious designs of others, Athens does not change.

{16} I believe that the Spartans are playing a very unscrupulous part. At present they tell us that the Eleans are to recover part of Triphylia,[n] and the Phliasians, Tricaranum;[n] other Arcadians are to recover their own possessions, and we ourselves are to recover Oropus—not that they have any desire to see every state enjoying its own—far from it!— such generosity on their part would be late indeed in showing itself. {17} They wish rather to present the appearance of co-operating with each separate state in the recovery of the territory that it claims, in order that when they themselves march against Messene, all may take the field with them, and give them their hearty assistance, on pain of seeming to act unfairly, in refusing to return an equivalent for the support which each of them received from Sparta in regard to their own several claims. {18} My own view is that, even without the tacit surrender of some of the Arcadians to Sparta, we can recover Oropus, aided not only by the Spartans, if they are ready to act honourably, but by all who disapprove of allowing Thebes to retain what is not her own. But even if it were made quite plain to us, that without allowing Sparta to subdue the Peloponnese, we should not be able to take Oropus, I should still think it preferable, if I may dare to say so, to let Oropus go, rather than sacrifice Messene and the Peloponnese to Sparta. For our quarrel with them would not, I believe, be confined to this; since—I will not say what occurs to me; but there are many risks which we should run.

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