[Back] [Blueprint] [Next]

From The Greek Orators by J. F. Dobson, M. A., London: Methuen and Co. Ltd., 1919; pp. 199-267.


By J. F. Dobson




§ 1.  Introduction

THE art of rhetoric, could go no further after Isocrates, who, in addition to possessing a style which was as perfect as technical dexterity could make it, had imparted to his numerous disciples the art of composing sonorous phrases and linking them together in elaborate periods. Any young aspirant to literary fame might now learn from him to write fluent easy prose, which would have been impossible to Thucydides or Antiphon. If the style seems on some occasions to have been so over-elaborated that the subject-matter takes a secondary place, that was the fault not so much of the artist as of the man. Isocrates never wrote at fever-heat; his greatest works come from the study; he is too reflective and dispassionate to be a really vital force.

With Demosthenes and his contemporaries it is otherwise; they are men actively engaged in politics, actuated by strong party-feeling, and swayed by personal passion. This was the outcome of the political situation: just as feeling was strong in the generation immediately succeeding the reign of the oligarchical Thirty at Athens, so now, when Athens and the whole of Greece were fighting not against oligarchy but the empire of a sovereign ruler, the depths were stirred.


A new feature in this period is the publication of political speeches. From the time of the earliest orator — Antiphon — the professional logographoi had preserved their speeches in writing. The majority of these were delivered in minor cases of only personal importance, though some orations by Lysias and others have reference indirectly to political questions.

Another class of speeches which were usually preserved is the epideictic — orations delivered for delivery at some great gathering, such as a religious festival or a public funeral. Isocrates was an innovator to the extent of writing in the form of speeches what were really political treatises; but these were only composed for the reader, and were never intended to be delivered.

Among the contemporaries of Demosthenes we find some diversity of practice. Some orators, such as Demades and Phocion never published any speeches, and seem, indeed, hardly to have prepared them before delivery. They relied upon their skill at improvisation.

Others, for instance Aeschines, Lycurgus, and Dinarchus, revised and published their judicial speeches, especially those which had a political bearing. Hyperides and Demosthenes, in addition to this, in some cases gave to the world an amended version of their public harangues. Demosthenes did not always publish such speeches; there are considerable periods of his political life which are not represented by any written work; but he seems to have wished to make a permanent record of certain utterances containing an explanation of his policy, in order that those who had not heard him speak, or not fully grasped his import, might have an opportunity for further study of his views after the ephemeral effect of his eloquence had 201 passed away. It is probable that most of the speeches so published belong to times when his party was not predominant in the State, and the opposition had to reinforce its speech by writing. The result is of importance in two ways, for the speeches are a serious contribution to literature, of great value for the study of the development of Greek prose; and they are of still greater historical value; for, though untrustworthy in some details, they provide excellent material for the understanding of the political situation, and the aims and principles of the anti-Macedonian party.

§ 2.  Life, etc.

Demosthenes the orator was born at Athens in 384 B.C. His father, Demosthenes, of the deme of Paeania, was a rich manufacturer of swords; his mother was a daughter of an Athenian named Gylon, who had left Athens, owing to a charge of treason, at the end of the Peloponnesian War, settled in the neighbourhood of the Cimmerian Bosporus (Crimea),1 and married a rich woman who was a native of that district. We know nothing more of her except that Aeschines describes her as a Scythian. She may have been of Hellenic descent; even Plutarch doubts the assertion of Aeschines that she was a barbarian; the suspicion, however, was enough for Aeschines, who is able to call his enemy a Greek-speaking Scythian.

Demosthenes the elder died, leaving his son seven years old and a daughter aged five. By his will two nephews, Aphobos and Demophon, and a friend 202 Therippides, were appointed trustees. The two former as nearest of kin, were, according to Attic custom, to marry the widow and her daughter, but these provisions were not carried out. During the years of Demosthenes’ minority his guardians ruined the sword business by their mismanagement, and squandered the accumulated profits.

At the age of eighteen Demosthenes, who had been brought up by his mother, laid claim to his father’s estate. The guardians by various devices attempted to frustrate him, and three years were spent in attempts at compromise and examinations before the arbitrators. During this time Demosthenes was studying rhetoric and judicial procedure under Isaeus, to whose methods his early speeches are so deeply indebted that a contemporary remarked ‘he had swallowed Isaeus whole.’2 At last, when he was twenty-one years old, he succeeded in bringing his wrongs before a court; thanks to the training of Isaeus he was able to plead his own case, and he won it. The ingenuity of his adversaries enabled them to involve him in further legal proceedings which lasted perhaps two years more. In the end he was victorious, but by the time he recovered his patrimony there was very little left of it.

Being forced to find a means of living he adopted the profession of a speech-writer, which he followed through the greater part of his life.3 He made speeches 203 for others to use, as his father had made swords, and he was as good a craftsman as his father. He succeeded by this new trade in repairing his damaged fortunes.

In addition to forging such weapons for the use of others, he instructed pupils in the art of rhetoric. This practice he seems to have abandoned soon after the year 345 B.C., when public affairs began to have the chief claim on his energies.4 From that time forward he wielded with distinction a sword of his own manufacture.

It is said that as a youth barely of age he made an attempt to speak in the ecclesia, and failed. His voice was too weak, his delivery imperfect, and his style unsuitable. The failure only inspired him to practise that he might overcome his natural defects. We are familiar with the legends of his declaiming with pebbles in his mouth and reciting speeches when running up hill, of his studies in a cave by the sea-shore, where he tried to make his voice heard above the thunder of the waves.

The training to which he subjected himself enabled him to overcome to a great extent whatever disabilities he may have suffered from, but he never had the advantage of a voice and delivery such as those of Aeschines. Legends current in the time of Plutarch represent him as engrossed in the study of the best prose-writers. He copied out the history of Thucydides eight times, according to one tradition. This we need not accept, but it may be taken as certain that he studied the author’s style carefully. He may not 204 have been a pupil of Isocrates or Plato, but from the former he must have learnt much in the way of prosecution and rhythm, and the latter’s works, though he dissented from the great principle of Plato that the wise man avoids the agora and the law-courts, may well have inspired him with many of the generous ideas which are the foundation of his policy. From the study of such passages as the Melian controversy and others in which the historian bases Justice upon the right of the stronger, he may have turned with relief to the nobler discussion of Justice in the Republic, and indeed, in his view of what is right and good, Demosthenes approaches much nearer to the philosopher than to the historian.

A professional speech-writer at Athens might make a speciality of some particular kind of cases, and by thus restricting his field become a real expert in one department, as Isaeus, for instance, did in the probate court; or, on the other hand, he might engage in quite general practice. A farmer might have a dispute with his neighbours about his boundaries, or damage caused by the overflow of surface water;5 a quiet citizen might seek redress from the law in a case of assault against which he was unable or unwilling to make retaliation in kind;6 an underwriter who had been defrauded in some shady marine transaction might wish to bring another knave to account.7 But besides these private cases, whether they are purely civil,8 or practically, if not technically, criminal actions, there is other work of more importance for a logographos. 205 The State may wish to prosecute an official who has abused its trust. In times when honesty is rarer than cleverness it may find the necessity of appointing a prosecutor rather for his known integrity than for his ability in the law-courts. Such a prosecutor will need professional assistance; and this need evoked some of the early political speeches of Demosthenes, Against Androtion, Timocrates, and Aristocrates (355-352 B.C.). It is noticeable that we have no trace of his work between the speeches delivered against his guardians and the first of this latter group. Probably he spent these ten years partly in study and partly in the conduct of such cases as fell to the portion of a beginner. In this time he must gradually have built up a reputation, but he may not have wished to keep any record of his first essays which, when he had arrived at his maturity as a pleader, could not, perhaps, have seemed to him worthy of his reputation.

It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of these varied activities to the career of Demosthenes. In the course of these early years he must have made himself familiar with many branches of the law; he was brought into intimate relations with individuals of all classes, and all shades of political opinion. In order to be of use vicariously in political cases he must have made a careful study of politics. Such studies were of great value in the education of a statesman, and by means of the semi-public cases in which he was engaged, though not on his own account, and perhaps not always in accordance with his convictions, his own political opinions must gradually have been formed.

In 354 B.C., the year after the trial of Androtion, 206 Demosthenes appeared in person before the dicastery on behalf of Ctesippus in an action against Leptines. This was a case of some political importance. A few months later he came forward to the assembly to deliver his speech On the Symmories, which was shortly followed by another public harangue On behalf of the people of Megapolis (353 B.C.) Two years later he came to the front not as a mere pleader, but a real counsellor of the people, and began the great series of Philippics.

His career from this point onward is divided naturally into three periods.

In the first, 351-340 B.C., he was in opposition to the party in power at Athens. The beginning of it is marked by some famous speeches, the First Philippic and the first three Olynthiac orations (351-349 B.C.). Till this time the Athenians had not realized the significance of the growth of the Macedonian power. It was only eight years since Philip, on his accession to the throne, had undertaken the great task of uniting the constituent parts of his kingdom which had long been torn by civil war, of fostering a national feeling, and creating an army. He had won incredible successes in a few years. By a combination of force and deceit he had made himself master of Amphipolis and Pydna in 357 B.C. In the following year he obtained possession of the gold mines of Mt. Pangaeus, which gave him a source of inexhaustible wealth, and enabled him to prepare more ambitious enterprises. This was an important crisis in his career: the bribery for which he was famous and in which he greatly trusted could now be practised on a large scale.

In the early speeches of Demosthenes there is little 207 reference to Philip; he is certainly not regarded as a dangerous rival of Athens. There is a passing mention of him in the Leptines (384 B.C.);9 in the Aristocrates he plays a larger part, but is treated almost contemptuously: ‘You know, of course, whom I mean by this Philip of Macedon’ (ἴστε  δήπου  Φίλιππον  τουτονὶ  τὸν  Μακεδόνα) is the form in which his name is introduced (§ 111). He is considered as an enemy, but only classed with other barbarian princes, such as Cersobleptes of Thrace.

But Philip was not content with annexing towns and districts in his own neighbourhood in whose integrity Athens was interested — Amphipolis, Pydna, Potidaea, Methone, and part of Thrace. He interfered in the affairs of Thessaly, which brought the trouble nearer home to Athens (353 B.C.) In 352 B.C. he proposed to pass through Thermopylae, and take part in the Sacred War against Phocis, but here Athens intervened for the first time and checked his progress.

After this one vigorous stroke the Athenians, in spite of Philip’s renewed activities in Thrace and on the Propontis, relapsed into an apathetic indifference, from which Demosthenes in vain tried to rouse them.

The language of the First Philippic shows that Demosthenes fully recognized the seriousness of the situation, and the imminent danger to which the complacency of his countrymen was exposing them; he wishes to make them feel that the case, though not yet desperate, is likely to become so if they persist in doing 208 nothing, while a whole-hearted effort will bring them into safety again:

§ 2.  ‘Now, first of all, Gentlemen, we must not despair about the present state of affairs, serious as it is; for our greatest weakness in the past will be our greatest strength in the future. What do I mean? I mean that you are in difficulties simply because you have never exerted yourselves to do your duty. If things were as they are in spite of serious effort on your part to act always as you should, there would be no hope of improvement. Secondly, I would have you reflect on what some of you can remember and others have been told, of the great power possessed not long ago by Sparta; yet, in face of that power you acted honourably and nobly, you in no wise detracted from your country’s dignity; you faced the war unflinchingly in a just cause. . . .’

§ 4.  ‘If any of you thinks that Philip is invincible, considering how great is the force at his disposal, and how our city has lost all these places, he has grounds for his belief; but let him consider that we once possessed Pydna, Potidaea, and Methone, and the whole of that district; and many of the tribes, now subject to him, were free and independent and better disposed to us than to Macedon. If Philip had felt as you do now, that it was a serious matter to fight against Athens because she possessed so many strongholds commanding his own country, while he was destitute of allies, he would never have won any of his present successes, or acquired the mighty power which now alarms you. But he saw clearly that these places were the prizes of war offered in open competition; that the property of an absentee goes naturally to those who are on the spot to claim it, and those who are willing to work hard and take risks may supplant those who neglect their chances.’

§ 8.  ‘Do not imagine that he is as a God, secure in eternal possession. There are men who hate and fear and 209 envy him, even among those who seem his closest associates. These feelings are for the present kept under, because through your slowness and your negligence they can find no opening. These habits, I say, you must break with.

§ 10.  ‘When I ask, when will you be roused to do your duty? — When the time of need comes, you say. What do you think of the present crisis? I hold that a free nation can never be in greater need than when their conduct is of a kind to shame them. Tell me, do you want to parade the streets asking each other, “Is there any news to-day?” What graver news can there be than that a Macedonian is crushing Athens and dictating the policy of Greece? “Philip is dead,” says one. “Oh no, but he is ill,” says another. What difference does it make to you? Even if anything happens to him you will very soon call into existence a second Philip if you attend to your interests as carefully as you are doing now. For it is not so much his own strength as your negligence that has raised him to power.’

The orator proceeds to give detailed advice for the conduct of the war; he asks for no ‘paper forces,’10 such as the assembly is in the habit of voting, irrespective of whether they can be obtained or not — ten or twenty thousand of mercenaries or the like. He requires a small but efficient expeditionary force, of which the backbone is to be a contingent of citizen-hoplites, one quarter of the whole; a small but efficient fleet, and money to pay both army and navy — this was a matter often overlooked by the assembly — and an Athenian general in whom the host will have confidence. The advice was moderate and sound in the extreme. Demosthenes probably knew what he was talking about when he said that two thousand hoplites, 210 two hundred cavalry, and fifty triremes were enough for the present. A resolute attack on Philip by such a force would probably have put fresh heart into the many enemies whom he had not yet completely subdued.

There is a further point which marks the difference between the present advice and that of previous counsellors. The army is not to be enlisted for a particular expedition only; it is to be maintained at its original strength as long as may be necessary.11 Soldiers will serve for a certain limited time, and at the end of their term will be replaced by fresh troops.12 The army which he suggests will not be enough to defeat Philip unaided, but enough to produce a strong impression. They might send a large force, but it would be unwieldy, and they could not maintain it.13

The First Philippic failed to produce the effect desired. The Olynthiac speeches which closely followed it were also ineffectual. In 349 B.C. Philip seized a pretext for making war on Olynthus, which appealed for help to Athens. The alliance, which had been sought in vain in 357 and 352 B.C., was now, apparently, granted with little opposition, and Chares with two thousand mercenaries sent to the help of the Olynthian league. Demosthenes tries to emphasize the importance of the situation; the aid which has been voted is not enough; they ought to act at once, sending two forces of citizens, not mercenaries; the one to protect Olynthus, the other to harass Philip elsewhere. Large 211 supplies of money are necessary, and he hints that the Athenians have such supplies ready at hand. He refers to the Festival Fund (θεωρικόν), but concerning this he is in a delicate position. The ministry of Eubulus was in power, and a law of Eubulus had pronounced any attempt to tamper with the θεωρικόν a criminal offence. Demosthenes, being one of a weak minority, could only move cautiously, suggesting that a change of administration was desirable, but not proposing a definite motion.

There is a marked difference in tone between the first two speeches and the third. In the former Demosthenes insists that everything is still to be done, but he points out that there are many weak points in Philip’s armour, and a vigorous and united policy may still defeat him. In the third he makes it clear that the opportunity is past, and the lost ground can only be recovered by desperate measures. He openly advocates the conversion of the Festival Fund into a military chest, and this is the main theme of the oration, to which every argument in turn leads up.14

The efforts of Athens were dilatory and insufficient; Olynthus and the other cities of the Chalcidian League fell in the following year (349 B.C.); they were destroyed, and all the inhabitants made slaves. Attempts to unite the Peloponnesian States against the common enemy were futile, and negotiations were begun between Philip and Athens. They were conducted at first informally by private persons, but in 347 B.C., on 212 the proposal of Philocrates, an embassy was sent to Philip. Philip’s answer, received in 346 B.C., demanded that Phocis and Halus should be excluded from the proposed treaty. Demosthenes contested this point, but Aeschines carried it. A second embassy was sent, and the discreditable Peace of Philocrates was signed. The result was the ruin of Phocis. Although Demosthenes disapproved of the peace, later in the year, in his speech On the Peace, he urged Athens to keep its conditions, arguing that to break it would bring upon them even greater disaster.

In consequence of the peace, Philip had been able to convoke the Amphictyonic Council, and pass a vote for the condemnation of Phocis. Twenty-two towns were destroyed, and the Phocian votes in the Council transferred to Philip, who was also made president of the Pythian Games. Thus the barbarian of a few years ago had received the highest religious sanction for his claim to be the leader of Greece. Athens alone, whose precedence he had usurped, refused to recognize him, and Demosthenes saw that to persist in a hostile attitude might involve all the States in a new Amphictyonic war. It was better to surrender their scruples, and to regard the convention not, indeed, as a permanent peace, but a truce during which fresh preparations might be made. Six years of nominal peace ensued, during which Philip extended his influence diplomatically. Whether from principle or policy he treated Athens with marked courtesy, and, through his agents, made vague offers of the great services which he was prepared to render. Many of the citizens believed in his sincerity, notably Isocrates, who in 346 B.C. spoke of the baseless suspicions caused by the assertions of malicious 213 persons, that Philip wished to destroy Greek freedom.15 Demosthenes was never duped by these professions. He was now a recognized leader, and was gathering to his side a powerful body of patriotic orators such as Lycurgus and Hyperides. Philip, after organizing the government of Thessaly and allying himself with Thebes, interfered in the Peloponnese by supporting Messene, Arcadia, and Argos against Sparta.

An Athenian embassy, led by Demosthenes, was sent to these states to advise them of the danger which they incurred by their new alliance. Some impression was produced, and apparently an embassy was sent by some of the states to Athens. In reply to their representations, of which no trace is preserved, Demosthenes delivered the Second Philippic. In it he exposes the king’s duplicity. ‘The means used by Athens to counteract his manœuvres are quite inadequate; we talk, but he acts. We speak to the point, but do nothing to the point. Each side is superior in the line which it follows, but his is the more effective line (§§ 1-5). Philip’s assurances of goodwill are accepted too readily. He realized that Thebes, in consideration of favours received, would further his designs. He is now showing favour to Messene and Argos from the same motive. He has paid Athens the high compliment of not offering her a disgraceful bargain (§§ 6-12). His past actions betray him; as he made the Boeotian cities subject to Thebes, he is not likely to free the Peloponnesian States from Sparta. He knows that he is really aiming at you, and that you are aware of it; that is why he is ever on the alert, and supports against you Thebans and Peloponnesians, 214 who, he thinks, are greedy enough to swallow his present offers, and too stupid to foresee the consequences’ (§§ 12-19). The epilogue contains an indictment of those whose policy is to blame for the present troubles. In accordance with Demosthenes’ general practice Aeschines and Philocrates, at whom he aims the charge, are not mentioned by name.

The anti-Macedonian party grew in strength in 343 B.C. Hyperides impeached Philocrates, who retired into exile and was condemned to death. At the same time Demosthenes himself brought into court an action against Aeschines, which had been pending for three years, for traitorous conduct in connexion with the embassy to Philip. The position was a difficult one for two reasons: his own policy in that matter could not be sharply distinguished from that of Aeschines; the accusation depended largely on discrimination of motive, and he had practically no proof of the guilt of Aeschines. Considering the technical weakness of the prosecutor’s case it is not surprising that Aeschines escaped; it is more remarkable that he was acquitted only by a small majority.

In 342 B.C. Philip, whose influence in the Peloponnese had slightly waned, began a fresh campaign in Thrace, and in 341 B.C. had reached the Chersonese. The possession of this district meant the control of the Dardanelles, and, as Athens still depended largely on the Black Sea trade for her corn supply, his progress was a menace to her existence. Diopeithes, an Athenian mercenary captain, had in 343 B.C. taken settlers to Cardia, a town in the Chersonese in nominal alliance with Macedon. Cardia was unwilling to receive them, and Philip sent help to the town. Diopeithes, 215 who, in accordance with the habit of the times, in order to support his fleet, exacted ‘benevolences’ from friends and foes impartially, happened to plunder some districts in Thrace which were subject to Macedon. Philip addressed a letter of remonstrance to Athens, and his adherents in the city demanded the recall of Diopeithes. Demosthenes in his speech On the Chersonese urged that the Chersonese should not be abandoned at such a crisis: a permanent force must be maintained there. He defends the actions of Diopeithes by an appeal to necessity. The Athenians were in the habit of voting armaments for foreign service without voting them supplies; consequently the generals had to supply themselves.

‘All the generals who have ever sailed from Athens take money from Chios, Erythrae, or from any other Asiatic city they can. Those who have one or two ships take less; those with a larger force take more. Those who give, whether in large or small amounts, are not so mad as to give them for nothing; they are purchasing protection for merchants sailing from their ports, immunity from ravages, safe convoy for their own ships and other such advantages. They will tell you that they give “Benevolences,” which is the term applied to these extortions.

‘Now in the present case, since Diopeithes has an army, it is obvious that all these people will give him money. Since he got nothing from you, and has no private means to pay his soldiers with, where else do you imagine he can get money to keep them? Will it fall from the skies? Unfortunately, no. He has to live from day to day on what he can collect and beg and borrow.’16

In addition to including a plan of campaign, the speech contains, as many of the orations do, a frank 216 statement of the position of affairs, and the usual invectives against Athenian apathy. The concluding section, however, contains a more solemn warning than is usual, showing that Demosthenes almost despairs of success.

‘If you grasp the situation as I have indicated, and cease to make light of everything, it may be, it may be that even now our affairs may take a favourable turn; but if you continue to sit still and confine your enthusiasm to expressions of applause and votes of approval, but shirk the issue when an action is required of you, I cannot conceive of any eloquence which, without performance of your duty, can guide our State to safety.’17

The Third Philippic was delivered in the same year (341 B.C.). The situation is in all essentials the same. Demosthenes again demands that help should be sent to the Chersonese and the safety of Byzantium assured; but he does not enlarge on these points, which have been treated by previous speakers.18 ‘We must help them, it is true, and take care that no harm befalls them; but our deliberations must be about the great danger which now threatens the whole of Greece.’19 It is this breadth of view which distinguishes the Third Philippic, and makes it the greatest of all the public harangues.

In the Chersonese Demosthenes had suggested the dispatch of numerous embassies; he now enlarges on this topic; the interests of Athens must be identified with those of all Greece, and all States must be made to realize this. Philip’s designs are against Greek liberty as a whole; Athens must arm and put herself at the head of a great league in the struggle for freedom.


‘I pass over Olynthus, Methone, and Apollonia, and thirty-two cities in the Thracian district, all of which he has so brutally destroyed that it is hard for a visitor to say whether they were ever inhabited. I am silent about the destruction of a great nation, the Phocians. But how fares Thessaly? Has he not deprived the cities of their governments, and established tetrarchies, in order that they may be enslaved, not only city by city, but tribe by tribe? Are not the cities of Euboea now ruled by tyrants, though that island is close on the borders of Thebes and Athens? Does he not expressly state in his letters “I am at peace with those who will obey me”? And his actions corroborate his words. He has started for the Hellespont; before that he visited Ambracia; he holds in the Peloponnese the important city of Elis; only the other day he made plots against Megara. Neither Greece nor the countries beyond it can contain his ambition.’20

This short extract is a fair example of Demosthenes’ vigorous use of historical argument, but it can give little idea of the speech as a whole. It abounds, indeed, in enumerations of recent events bearing on the case, and in contrasts between the present and the past.

This running appeal to example to a great extent takes the place of reasoned argument, but the effect of the whole, with its combined appeals to feeling and reason, is convincingly strong.

The orator himself must have attached great importance to this speech as an exposition of his policy, for he appears to have published two recensions of it. Both are preserved in different families of MSS. The shorter text contained in S (Parisinus) and L (Laurentianus) omits many phrases and even whole passages which occur in the other group. It is believed that the 218 shorter is the final form in which Demosthenes wished to preserve the speech.21

The Fourth Philippic contains the suggestion that Athens should make overtures to the Persian king for help against Philip. The speech is probably a forgery, but one of a peculiar kind. About a third of the text consists of passages taken directly from the speech On the Chersonese, and one division (§§ 35-45) is in favour of a distribution of the Theoric Fund, which is quite opposed to the policy of the Olynthiacs and the Chersonese speech. On the other hand, some passages are in a style and tone quite worthy of Demosthenes, and consistent with his views. There can be little doubt that we have here a compilation from actual speeches of Demosthenes, expanded by a certain amount of rhetorical invention. The ‘answer to Philip’s letter’ and the speech περὶ  συντάξεως are, on the other hand, simple forgeries. This concludes the list of the Philippic speeches.

Our record of Demosthenes’ public speeches ceases with the Third Philippic, at the moment when his eloquence had reached its greatest height. The great speeches belong to the years of opposition; now, after 219 eleven years of combat, he had established himself as chief leader of the assembly. He spoke, no doubt, frequently and impressively, but, engaged in important administrative work, he had no leisure or need for writing.

The years 340-338 B.C. were a time of vigorous revival for Athens. For a short but brilliant period it seemed that the city-state might emerge triumphant from the struggle against monarchy. Enthusiasm inspired the patriotic party to noble efforts. Euboea was removed from Philip’s influence, and Athens inaugurated a new league, including Acarnania, Achaea, Corcyra, Corinth, Euboea, and Megara. Philip himself suffered a check before Byzantium, which had appealed to Athens for help, and had not called in vain.

In internal affairs, a new trierarchic law not only increased the efficiency of the fleet, but abolished a great social grievance by making the burden of trierarchy fall on all classes in just proportion to their means, whereas hitherto the poorer citizens had suffered unduly. A still greater reform was the execution of the project, so long cherished, for applying the Theoric Fund to the expenses of war (339 B.C.). In 338 B.C. Lycurgus was appointed to the Ministry of Finance, an office which he was to fill with exceptional efficiency for twelve years to come.

But Philip held many strings, and was most dangerous when he seemed to turn his back on his enemies. Unsuccessful on the Hellespont, he withdrew his fleet and undertook an expedition by land against a Scythian prince who had offended him. This journey had no direct relation to his greater designs and Athens was pleased to think that he might be defeated or even 220 killed. He was, indeed, wounded, but he returned to Macedonia in 339 B.C., having accomplished what was probably his chief object, to restore the confidence of his soldiers after their reverses in recent encounters with the Greeks.

Meanwhile events in Greece, which perhaps were partly directed by his influence, pursued a course favourable to his plans.

In 340 B.C. two enemies of Demosthenes, Midias and Aeschines, represented Athens as pylagorae at the Amphictyonic Council. Aeschines describes how, apparently from no political motive but for the satisfaction of a personal grudge, he himself inflamed the passions of the Amphictyons to the point of declaring a sacred war against the Locrians of Amphissa. Any war between Greeks was to Philip’s advantage. The Amphictyonic War was carried on in a dilatory way, and in the autumn of 339 B.C. the Council, still under the influence of Aeschines, nominated Philip to carry the affair to a conclusion. The king had recovered quickly from his wound, and eagerly embraced the sacred mission which allowed him to pass through Thessaly and Thermopylae unmolested. On reaching Elatea, once the principal town of Phocis, but now desolate, he halted and began to put the place in a state of defence. The news was received at Athens with great consternation, as Demosthenes vividly describes.22 An assembly was hastily summoned, and Demosthenes explained the full import of this action. It was a threat to Athens and Thebes alike. All the masterly eloquence of the great statesman was exerted to the utmost of his powers to induce Athens to forget 221 long-standing enmities and offer to Thebes the help of her entire fighting force freely and unconditionally. It was probably the greatest triumph of eloquence ever known that Demosthenes was successful in his plea. War was inevitable sooner or later, and it is greatly to his credit that he brought about the Theban alliance, though it ended disastrously for all the Greeks concerned in the battle of Chaeronea (338 B.C.).

Henceforward the influence of Athens on external affairs was strictly limited, though she retained her independence, for Philip was a generous foe.23 Demosthenes busied himself with internal matters; to him was committed the repair of the fortifications, to the expense of which he gave a contribution of 100 minae. For this act Ctesiphon proposed in 337 B.C. that he should be rewarded with a gold crown. Aeschines indicted Ctesiphon for an illegal motion, and the famous case of The Crown, which produced great speeches from both the rivals, was the result. The case, however, was not heard till six years later.

In 336 B.C. Philip was murdered. Demosthenes set the example of rejoicing by appearing in public crowned with flowers, though he was in mourning for his daughter at the time. The great hopes which the city-states had entertained were dashed to the ground by the energy of Alexander, who, though only twenty years old, proved himself an even greater general and statesman than his father.

Thebes was induced to revolt by Demosthenes, who was supported by Persian gold, but Alexander crushed 222 and destroyed Thebes before help could reach it, and sent an ultimatum to Athens. He demanded the surrender of Demosthenes, Lycurgus, and eight other orators of their party. They were saved, it appears, by the intervention of Demades.24

Alexander departed for Asia, and Athenian statesmen were left to quarrel about the politics of their city. It was now that the great case in which Demosthenes and Aeschines were concerned came up for trial. The matter nominally in dispute was only a pretext; it was really a question of reviewing and passing judgment on the political life of the two great antagonists for the last twenty years.

The charges of illegality brought against Ctesiphon were three: (1) That the decree, falsely asserting that Demosthenes had done good service to the state, involved the insertion of a lie into the public records. (2) That it was illegal to crown an official who, like Demosthenes, was still subject to audit. (3) That proclamation of the crowning in the theatre was illegal.

On (2) and (3), the technical points, the prosecutor had a strong case, but the first section was the only one of real importance, since the process was really aimed at Demosthenes. The main part of the speech of Aeschines against Ctesiphon is accordingly devoted to an indictment of the public life of Demosthenes. Four periods are taken: (1) From the war about Amphipolis to the peace of Philocrates (357-346 B.C.). (2) The years of peace (346-340 B.C.). (3) The ministry of Demosthenes (340-338 B.C.). (4) The years after Chaeronea (338-330 B.C.).

The reply of Demosthenes (de Corona) is mainly concerned 223 with a defence of his own policy, the technical points on which the issue nominally depended being kept very much in the background. It is remarkable that in dealing with the early years he makes no attempt to take credit for the great speeches by which in that time he attempted to influence his country — the First Philippic and the three Olynthiacs. He discusses chiefly the peace negotiations. He speaks more fully of the second period, and lays the greatest stress on the third — the years during which he was the acknowledged leader of the people, so that an eulogy of the national policy must involve a tribute to his own patriotism. Only short allusions are made to the last period, the years since the battle of Chaeronea.

The order is not chronological, and the structure is not apparently systematic; nevertheless the De Corona is the greatest of all Athenian speeches.

The speech cannot be represented by extracts; it must be read as a whole to be appreciated. All that a summary can do is to draw attention to the peculiarities of structure, which are possibly due in some measure to the length of the speech and the variety of the subjects which have to be treated:25

1.  §§ 1-8.  The conventional exordium, in this case both introduced and finished by a solemn prayer.

2.  §§ 9-52.  Refutation of the calumnies uttered by Aeschines. This section consists chiefly of Demosthenes’ own version of the negotiations for the peace of 346 B.C., showing that Aeschines and his associates were really guilty of treason in their dealings with Philip.


3.  §§ 53-125.  Defence of Ctesiphon — Demosthenes undertakes to prove (a) that he deserved to receive a crown, (b) that on the legal point Ctesiphon is not to blame. (a) He summarizes the condition of Greece during the years of peace, and immediately after it records his own public services and justifies his policy. (b) He examines the question of legality, and proves that Ctesiphon is on the right side of the law.

4.  §§ 126-159.  Invective against Aeschines. This might be called a pseudo-epilogue, but is really an interlude. It deals with (a) the birth and life of his rival, and (b) in particular, his action which kindled an Amphictyonic war.

5.  §§ 160-251.  Demosthenes continues the discussion of his past policy, in regard to the Theban alliance and the last war with Philip.

6.  §§ 252-324.  An epilogue of exceptional length, mainly devoted to a comparison between Demosthenes and Aeschines. The speaker closely identifies himself with the city, whose policy he has shaped; so that in attacking him, Aeschines attacks Athens. The speech ends, as it began, with a prayer.

§ 3

For the next few years Demosthenes probably spent some of his time in composing speeches for others, though the extant speeches of this period are mostly of doubtful authenticity. He also remained as a prominent figure in Athenian politics. He had not changed his views, but he seems to have been deposed from the leadership of the patriotic party by 225 others whose patriotism was of a more violent type than his, so that he must be now counted as a moderate in opinion. It may have been this position which brought him into danger in 324 B.C.

Harpalus, who had been left as Alexander’s governor at Babylon, on receipt of a rumour of his master’s death in India, made off with the royal treasure, and, accompanied by a force of six thousand men, took ship and sailed for Greece. He appeared off Piraeus, and the fervid patriots proposed that Athens should welcome him and use his treasure and his men to help them in a revolt.

Demosthenes opposed an open breach with Alexander, and on his motion admission was refused to the flotilla. Harpalus came a second time without his army, and was admitted. Close on his heels came messengers from Alexander to demand his surrender, but this was resisted by Demosthenes and Phocion. On the motion of Demosthenes it was decided to temporize; Harpalus was to be treated as a prisoner, and the treasure deposited in the Parthenon. The amount of the treasure was declared by Harpalus as 720 talents, but it soon became known that only 350 talents had been lodged in the Acropolis. Harpalus in the meantime had escaped from prison and disappeared, and suspicion was roused against all who had had any kind of dealings with him. To allay the public excitement Demosthenes proposed that the Council of the Areopagus should investigate the mystery of the lost talents. Six months later the Council gave its report, issuing a list of nine public men whom it declared guilty of receiving part of the lost money. The name of Demosthenes himself headed the list; he 226 was charged with having received twenty talents for helping Harpalus to escape. This declaration did not constitute a judicial sentence, but in consequence of it prosecutions were instituted, ten public prosecutors were appointed, and Demosthenes was found guilty. He was condemned to pay a fine of fifty talents, and being unable to raise the money he was cast into prison. He soon escaped, and fled first to Aegina and then to Troezen, where, according to Plutarch, he sat daily by the sea, watching with sad eyes the distant shores of Attica.

The whole affair is obscure; we do not know how Demosthenes defended himself, but we possess two of the speeches for the prosecution, by Hyperides and Dinarchus. Neither is explicit. The report of the Areopagus was held to have established the facts, so that no further evidence was required; it was the business of the court only to interpret motives and decide the degree of each defendant’s guilt.

Hyperides26 affirms that Demosthenes began by admitting the receipt of the money; but he afterwards denied it, declaring that he was ready to suffer death if it could be proved that he had received it.27 It was certainly Demosthenes who proposed that the Areopagus should investigate the affair.

Two details in the case give rise to perplexity: the fine inflicted — two and a half times the amount involved — was light, considering that the law demanded ten-fold restitution; secondly, it is difficult to see when Demosthenes can have received the money. Harpalus could not pay him at the time of his escape, 227 or indeed at any time subsequent to his arrest, for he did not take the money to prison with him. It seems improbable that the money should have been paid earlier, for Demosthenes was acting against Harpalus all the time. Professor Butcher supposed that payment might have been made when Demosthenes resisted the surrender of Harpalus to Alexander.28

Two theories have been proposed with a view to the complete or partial exculpation of the orator — one, that he was absolutely innocent, but became the victim of a combination of his political enemies, the extreme patriots, who were dissatisfied with his moderate policy, and his ancient foes the Macedonian party. The other view is that he received the money and spent it, or intended to spend it, on secret service of the kind on which every State spends money, though it is generally impossible to give a detailed account of such expenses. Even if he could not prove such a use, the offence of receiving bribes was a venial one, as even his prosecutor Hyperides admits, if they were not received against the interests of the State. In Demosthenes’ favour we have the late evidence of Pausanias, who affirms that an agent of Harpalus, when examined by Alexander with regard to this affair, divulged a list of names which did not contain that of Demosthenes.

A minor charge of bribery is brought by Dinarchus, who asserts that Demosthenes received 300 talents from the Great King to save Thebes in 335 B.C., but sacrificed Thebes to his own avarice because he wished to keep ten talents which had been promised to the Arcadians for their assistance. The story is ridiculous.


In 323 B.C. Alexander died; the hope of freedom revived, and Demosthenes started at once on a tour of the Peloponnese to urge on the cities the need of joint action. He was reconciled with the party of Hyperides and recalled from exile. He was fetched home in a trireme, and a procession escorted him from the harbour to the city. By a straining of the law, the public paid his fine. The Lamian war opened successfully under Leosthenes, but at the battle of Crannon Antipater crushed the Greek forces. Athens was forced to receive a Macedonian garrison, to lose her democratic constitution, and to give up her leaders to the conqueror’s vengeance. Demades carried a decree for the death of Demosthenes and Hyperides. Demosthenes had already escaped and taken sanctuary in the temple of Posidon on the island of Calauria. Here he was pursued by an agent of Antipater, one Archias, known as the exile-hunter, who had been an actor. This man tried to entice him forth by generous promises, but Demosthenes answered, ‘Your acting never carried conviction, and your promises are equally unconvincing.’ Archias then resorted to threats, but was met by the calm retort, ‘Now you speak like a Macedonian oracle; you were only acting before; only wait a little, so that I may write a few lines home.’ While pretending to write he sucked poison from the end of his pen, and then let his head sink on his hands, as if in thought. When Archias approached again he looked him in the face and said, ‘It is time for you to play the part of Creon, and cast out this body unburied. Now, adored Posidon, I leave thy precinct while yet alive; but Antipater and his Macedonians have left not even thy shrine undefiled.’ He essayed 229 to walk out, but fell and died upon the steps of the altar.29

Lucian, in his Encomium of Demosthenes, has given a fanciful account of Antipater receiving the news from Archias; these are the concluding words:

‘So he is gone, either to live with the heroes in the Isles of the Blest or along the path of those souls that climb to Heaven, to be an attendant spirit on Zeus the giver of Freedom; but his body we will send to Athens, as a nobler memorial for that land than are the bodies of those who fell at Marathon.’30

§ 4.  Literary Reputation

The verdict of antiquity, which has generally been accepted in modern times, ranked Demosthenes as the greatest of orators. In his own age he had rivals: Aeschines, as we have seen already, is in many respects worthy of comparison with him; of his other contemporaries Phocion was impressive by his dignity, sincerity, and brevity — ‘he could say more in fewer words’; the vigorous extemporizations of Demades were sometimes more effective than the polished subtleties of Demosthenes; Aeschines claims to prefer the speaking of Leodamas of Acharnae, but the tone in which he says so is almost apologetic, and the laboured criticism to which Aeschines constantly subjects his rival practically takes it for granted that the latter was reckoned the foremost speaker of the time.

Later Greek authorities, who are far enough removed to see in proper perspective the orators of the pre-Macedonian times, have an ungrudging admiration for Demosthenes. The author of The Sublime saw in him 230 many faults, and admitted that in many details Hyperides excelled him.31 Nevertheless he finds in Demosthenes certain divine gifts which put him apart from the others in a class by himself; he surpasses the orators of all generations; his thunders and lightnings shake down and scorch up all the opposition; it is impossible to face his dazzling brilliancy without flinching. But Hyperides never made anybody tremble.

In later times we find Demosthenes styled ‘The Orator,’ just as Homer is ‘The Poet.’ Lucian, whose literary appreciations are always worthy of attention, wrote an Encomium of Demosthenes, containing an imaginary dialogue, in which Antipater is the chief speaker. He pays a generous tribute to his dead enemy, who ‘woke his compatriots from their drugged sleep’;32 the Philippics are compared to battering-rams and catapults, and Philip is reported to have rejoiced that Demosthenes was never elected general, for the orator’s speeches shook the king’s throne, and his actions, if he had been given the opportunity, would have overturned it.

Of Roman critics, Cicero in many passages in the Brutus and Orator expresses extreme admiration for the excellence of Demosthenes in every style of oratory; he regards him as far outstripping all others, though failing in some details to attain perfection. Quintilian’s praise is discriminating but sincere; in fact we may say that the Greek and Roman worlds were practically unanimous about the orator’s merits.

It is difficult to take a general view of the style of Demosthenes, from the mere fact that it is extremely 231 varied; the three classes of speeches — the forensic speeches in private and public suits, and the public harangues addressed to the assembly, all have their particular features; nevertheless there are certain characteristics which may be distinguished in all classes.

First of these is his great care in composition. Isocrates is known to have spent years in polishing the essays which he intended as permanent contributions to the science of politics; Plato wrote and erased and wrote again before he was satisfied with the form in which his philosophy was to be given to the world; Demosthenes, without years of toil, could produce for definite occasions speeches whose finished brilliancy made them worthy to be ranked as great literature quite apart from their merits as contributions to practical policy.

It is a well-known jest against him that his speeches smelt of midnight oil, but he must have had a remarkable natural fluency to be able to compose so many speeches so well. It is quite possible, on the other hand, that the speeches which survive are not altogether in the form in which they were delivered. It seems to have been a habit among orators of this time to edit for publication their speeches delivered in important cases, in order that a larger audience might have an opportunity of reading a permanent record of the speakers’ views on political or legal questions which had more than a transitory interest.

We have indirect evidence that Demosthenes was in the habit of introducing corrections into his text. Aeschines quotes and derides certain expressions, mostly exaggerated metaphors, which do not occur in 232 the speeches as extant to us, though some of them evidently should, if the text had not been submitted to a recension.33 We may note the remark of Eratosthenes34 that while speaking he sometimes lost control of himself, and talked like a man possessed, and that of Demetrius of Phaleron, that on one occasion he offended against good taste by quoting a metrical oath which bears the stamp of comedy:

‘By earth and fountains, rivulets and streams.’35

This quotation is not to be found in any extant speech, but it is noticeable that formulae of the kind, typically represented by the familiar ὦ  γῆ  καὶ  θεοί — ‘Ye Earth and Gods’ — are commonly affected by Demosthenes, as indeed they are to be found in his contemporary Aeschines.

Evidently the Attic taste was undergoing a modification; such expressions are foreign to the dignified harmonies of Isocrates and of rare occurrence in the restrained style of Lysias; but they begin to appear more frequently in Isaeus, whose style was the model for the early speeches of Demosthenes. Certain other expressions belonging to the popular speech, and probably avoided by Isocrates as being too colloquial, are found in Demosthenes’ public speeches — e.g. ὁ  δεῖνα and ὤ  τᾶν.

Under the same heading must come the use of coarse expressions and terms of personal abuse. In many of the speeches relating to public law-suits Demosthenes allows himself all the latitude which was 233 sanctioned by the taste of his times. In the actual use of abusive epithets — θηρίον, κατάρατος, and the like — he does not go beyond the common practice of Aeschines, and is even outstripped by Dinarchus; but in the accumulation of offensive references to the supposed private character of his political opponents he condescends to such excesses that we wonder how a decent audience can ever have tolerated him.36 Evidently an Athenian audience loved vulgarity for its own sake, apart from humour.

In the private speeches there is at times a certain coarseness — inevitably, since police-court cases are often concerned with sordid details. Offensive actions sometimes have to be described;37 but this is a very different matter from the irrelevant introduction of offensive matter.

In the speeches delivered before the ecclesia Demosthenes set himself a higher ideal. Into questions of public policy, private animosities should not be allowed to intrude, and throughout the Philippics and Olynthiacs Demosthenes observes this rule. Under no stress of excitement does he sink to personalities; his political opponents for the time being are not abused, not even mentioned by name. The courtesies of debate are fully and justly maintained.


§ 5.  Style and Composition

Though Demosthenes wrote in pure Attic Greek, it is to Lysias and Isocrates rather than to him that Dionysius assigns praise for the most perfect purity of language. It is probable that Demosthenes was nearer to the living speech. Even in his deliberative speeches he can use such familiar expressions as ὦ  τᾶν, ὁ  δεῖνα and such expletives as νὴ  Δία, the frequent use of which would have seemed to Isocrates to belong to the vocabulary of Comedy. The epideictic style would also have shunned such vigorous touches as λαγὼ  βίον  ἔζης — ‘you lived a hare’s life,’ or, to give the proper equivalent, ‘a dog’s life,’38 or the famous κακῶν  λιάς — ‘Twenty-four books of misery.’39 Colloquial vigour is apparent in some metaphorical uses of single words, e.g. ἕωλα  καὶ  ψυχρά — ‘stale and cold’ (applied to crimes),40 προσηλῶσθαι — ‘to be pinned down,’41 or the succession of crude metaphors in the account of how Aristogiton, in prison, picked a quarrel with a newcomer; ‘he being newly caught and fresh, was getting the better of Aristogiton, who had got into the net some time ago and been long in pickle; so finding himself getting the worst of it, he ate off the man’s nose.’42 There is bold personification of abstractions in ‘Peace, which has destroyed the walls of your allies and is now building houses for your ambassadors,43 and such phrases as τεθνᾶσι  τῷ  δέει  τοὺς  τοιούτους  ἀποστόλους — 235 ‘they are frightened to death of so and so,’ are more vigorous than literary.44

Demosthenes seems to discard metaphor in his most solemn moments. In a spirit of sarcasm he can use such expressions as those quoted above about the disorderly scene in prison, and in an outburst of indignation he can speak of rival politicians as ‘Fiends, who have mutilated the corpses of their fatherlands, and made a birthday present of their liberty first to Philip, and now again to Alexander; who measure happiness by their belly and their basest pleasures’;45 but on grave occasions, whether in narrative or in counsel, he reverts to a simplicity equal to that of Lysias. The plainness of the language in which he describes the excitement caused by the news of Philip’s occupation of Elatea is proverbial;46 and the closing sentences of the Third Philippic afford another good example:

‘If everybody is going to sit still, hoping to get what he wants, and seeking to do nothing for it himself, in the first place he will never find anybody to do it for him, and secondly, I am afraid that we shall be forced to do everything that we do not want. This is what I tell you, this is what I propose; and I believe that if this is done our affairs may even yet be set straight again. If anybody can offer anything better, let him name it and urge it; and whatever you decide, I pray to heaven it may be for the best.’

The simplicity of the language is only equalled by the sobriety of tone. The simplest words, if properly used, can produce a great effect, which is sometimes heightened by repetition, a device which Demosthenes 236 finds useful on occasion — ἀλλ’  οὐκ  ἔστιν, οὐκ  ἔστιν  ὅπως  ἡμάρτετε — ‘But surely, surely you were not wrong.’47 We realize a slight raising of the voice as the word comes in for the second time. Dinarchus, an imitator of Demosthenes, copies him in the use of this ‘figure,’ but uses it too much and inappropriately. In this, as in other details, his style is an unsuccessful parody of the great orator.

Dionysius compares Demosthenes to several other writers in turn. He finds passages, for instance, which recall the style of Thucydides.48 He quotes the first section from the Third Philippic, and by an ingenious analysis shows the points of resemblance. The chief characteristic noticed by the critic is that the writer does not introduce his thoughts in any natural or conventional sequence, but employs an affected order of words which arrests the attention by its avoidance of simplicity.

Thus, a parenthetical relative clause intrudes between the subject and the verb of the chief relative clause, while we are kept in long suspense as to what the verbs are to be, both in relative clauses and in the main clause itself. The peculiar effects which he notices cannot be reproduced in a non-inflexional language such as English.

At other times, especially in narrative, Demosthenes emulates the lucidity of Lysias at his best. Dionysius quotes with well-deserved approval the vivid presentment of the story on which the accusation against Conon is based. As the speech gives us an excellent picture of the camp life of an undisciplined militia, it will be worth while here to quote some extracts:


‘Two years ago, having been detailed for garrison-duty, we went out to Panactum. Conon’s sons occupied a tent near us; I wish it had been otherwise, for this was the primary cause of our enmity and the collisions between us. You shall hear how it arose. They used to drink every day and all day long, beginning immediately after breakfast, and this custom they maintained all the time that we were in garrison. My brothers and I, on the contrary, lived out there just as we were in the habit of living at home. So by the time which the rest of us had fixed for dinner, they were invariably playing drunken tricks, first on our servants, and finally on ourselves. For because they said that the servants sent the smoke in their faces while cooking, or were uncivil to them, or what not, they used to beat them and empty the slops over their heads . . . and in every way behaved brutally and disgustingly. We saw this and took offence, and first of all remonstrated with them; but as they jeered at us and would not stop, we all went and reported the occurrence to the general — not I alone, but the whole of the mess. He reprimanded them severely, not only for their offensive behaviour to us, but for their general conduct in camp; however, they were so far from stopping or feeling any shame that, as soon as it was dark that evening, they made a rush on us, and first abused us and then beat me, and made such a disturbance and uproar round the tent that the general and his staff and some of the other soldiers came out, and prevented them from doing us any serious harm, and us from retaliating on their drunken violence.’49

Another passage quoted from the same speech gives a companion picture of the defendant’s behaviour in civil life:

‘When we met them, one of the party, whom I cannot identify, fell upon Phanostratus and held him tight, while 238 the defendant Conon and his son and the son of Andromenes fell upon me, and first tripped me, and then tripped me up, and dashed me down in the mud. There they jumped upon me and beat me, and so mishandled me that they cut my lip right through, and closed up both my eyes. They left me in such a weak state that I could neither get up nor speak, and as I lay on the ground I heard them uttering floods of abominable language. What they said was vilely slanderous, and some of it I should shrink from repeating, but I will mention one thing which is an example of Conon’s brutality, and proves that he was responsible for the whole incident — he began to crow like a game-cock after a victory, and the others told him to flap his arms against his sides in triumph. After this I was carried home naked by some passers-by, while the defendants made off with my coat.’50

Dionysius observes that the ecclesia and the courts were composed of mixed elements;51 not all were clever and subtle in intellect; the majority were farmers, merchants, and artisans, who were more likely to be pleased by simple speech; anything of an unusual flavour would turn their stomachs: a smaller number, a mere fraction of the whole, were men of high education, to whom you could not speak as you would to the multitude; and the orator could not afford to neglect either section. He must therefore aim at satisfying both, and consequently he should steer a middle course, avoiding extremes in either direction.

In the opinion of Dionysius both Isocrates and Plato give good examples of this middle style, attaining a seeming simplicity intelligible to all, combined with a subtlety which could be appreciated only by the expert; but Demosthenes surpassed them both in the 239 perfection of this art. To prove his case he quotes first the passage from The Peace which Isocrates himself selected for quotation, as a favourable example of his own style, in the speech on the Antidosis. With this extract a passage from the third Olynthiac is contrasted, greatly to the advantage of Demosthenes, who is found to be nobler, more majestic, more forcible, and to have avoided the frigidity of excessive refinement with which Isocrates is charged.

The criticism professes to be based on an accumulation of small details, but there is no doubt that Dionysius depended, in the main, not upon analysis, but upon subjective impressions. After enumerating the points in which either of the writers excels or falls short, he describes his own feelings:

‘When I read a speech of Isocrates, I become sober and serious, as if I were listening to solemn music; but when I take up a speech of Demosthenes, I am beside myself, I am led this way and that, I am moved by one passion after another: suspicion, distress, fear, contempt, hate, pity, kindliness, anger, envy — passing successively through all the passions which can obtain a mastery over the human mind; . . . and I have sometimes thought to myself, what must have been the impression which he made on those who were fortunate enough to hear him? For where we, who are so far removed in time and in no way interested in the actual events, are led away and overpowered, and made to follow wherever the speech leads us, how must the Athenians and other Greeks have been led by the speaker himself when the cases in which he spoke had a living interest and concerned them nearly? . . . .’52

Dionysius, as we know from many of his criticisms, had a remarkably acute sense of style; he had also a 240 strong imagination. In this same treatise he recounts how the forms of the sentences themselves suggest to him the tone in which the words were uttered, the very gestures with which they were accompanied.53

Though we modern students cannot expect to rival him in these peculiar gifts, it is still possible for us to sympathize with his feelings. We cannot fail, in reading a speech like the Third Philippic, for instance, to appreciate how fully Demosthenes realizes the Platonic ideal, expressed in the Gorgias, that rhetoric is the art of persuasion. We need not pause to analyse the means by which he attains his end; he may resemble Lysias at one moment in a simple piece of narrative, at another he may be as involved and antithetical as Thucydides, or even florid like Gorgias; he can be a very Proteus, as Dionysius says, in his changes of form; but in whatever shape he appears, naïve, subtle, pathetic, indignant, sarcastic, he is convincing. The reason is simple: he has a single purpose always present to his mind, namely, to make his audience feel as he feels. Readers of Isocrates were expected, while they followed the exposition of the subject-matter, to regard the beauties of the form in which it was expressed; in Demosthenes there is no idea of such display. A good speech was to him a successful speech, not one which might be admired by critics as a piece of literature. It is only incidental that his speeches have a literary quality which ranks him among the foremost writers of Attic prose; as an orator he was independent of this quality.


The strong practical sense of Demosthenes refused to be confined by any theoretical rules of scholastic rhetoricians. He does not aspire to the complexity of periods which makes the style of Isocrates monotonous in spite of the writer’s wonderful ingenuity. Long and short, complex and simple sentences, are used in turn, and with no systematic order, so that we cannot call any one kind characteristic; the form of the sentence, like the language, is subordinate to its purpose.54

He was moderately careful in the avoidance of hiatus between words, but in this matter he modified the rule of Isocrates to suit the requirements of speech; he was guided by ear, not by eye; thus we find that hiatus is frequently omitted between the cola or sections of a period; in fact any pause in the utterance is enough to justify the non-elision of an open vowel before the pause. Isocrates, on the contrary, usually avoids even the appearance of hiatus in such cases.

There is one other formal rule of composition which Demosthenes follows with some strictness; this is the avoidance of a succession of short syllables. It is notable that he very seldom admits a tribrach (three short syllables) where a little care can avoid it, while instances of more than three short vowels in succession are very exceptional.55 An unusual order of 242 words may often be explained by reference to this practice.56

We know from Aristotle and other critics that earlier writers of artistic prose, from Thrasymachus onwards, had paid some attention to the metrical form of words and certain combinations of long and short syllables. Thrasymachus in particular studied the use of the paeonius (image of scansion macron breve breve breve. or image of scansion breve breve breve macron.) at the beginning and end of a sentence.57

The effect of increasing the number of short syllables, whether in verse or prose, is to make the movement of the line or period more rapid. The frequent use of tribrachs by Euripides constantly produces this impression, and an extreme case is the structure of the Galliambic metre, as seen, for instance, in the Attis of Catullus.58 Conversely the multiplication of long syllables makes the movement slow, and produces an effect of solemnity.59

Demosthenes seems to have been the first prose-writer to pay attention to the avoidance of the tribrach; Plato seems to have consciously preferred a succession of short syllables where it was possible. The difference between the two points of view is probably this — that Plato aimed at reproducing the natural rapidity of conversation, Demosthenes aimed 243 at a more solemn and dignified style appropriate to impressive utterance before a large assembly.

This is the only metrical rule which Demosthenes ever observed, and one of the soundest of modern critics believe that even this observance was instinctive rather than conscious.60 He never affected any metrical formula for the end of sentences comparable to Cicero’s famous esse videatur, or the double trochee (image of scansion macron breve macron breve.) at the beginning of a sentence, approved by later writers. An examination shows that he has an almost infinite variety both in the opening and the close of his sentences. He seems never to follow any mechanical system.

Much labour has been expended, especially in Germany, on the analysis of the rhythmical element in Demosthenes’ style. There is no doubt that many orators, from Gorgias onwards, laboured to produce approximate correspondence between parallel or contrasted sections of their periods. In some cases we find an equal number of syllables in two clauses, and even a more or less complete rhythmical correspondence. Such devices serve to emphasize the peculiar figures of speech in which Gorgias delighted, and may have been appropriate to the class of oratory intended primarily for display, but it is hard to believe that such elaboration was ever consciously carried through a long forensic speech.

The appendix to the third volume of Blass’ Attic oratory is a monumental piece of work. It consists of an analysis of the first seventeen sections of the de Corona, and the whole of the First Olynthiac and Third Philippic speeches, and conveys the impression that 244 this Demosthenic prose may be scanned with almost as much certainty as a comparatively simple form of composition like a Pindaric ode. It is hard to pronounce on such a matter without a very long and careful study of this difficult subject; but the theory of rhythmical correspondence seems to have been worked out far too minutely. In many cases emendation is required; we have to divide words in the middle, and clauses are split up in an arbitrary and unnatural way. I am far from believing that analysis can justifiably be carried to this extent; it is more reasonable to suppose that Demosthenes had a naturally acute ear, and that practice so developed his faculty that a certain rhythm was natural to all his speech. I am not convinced that all his effects were designed.61

§ 6.  Rhetorical Devices

Isaeus, the teacher of Demosthenes, was a master of reasoning and demonstration; Demosthenes in his earliest speeches shows strong traces of the influence of Isaeus, but in his later work he has developed varied gifts which enable him to surpass his master. Realizing the insufficiency, for a popular audience, of mere reasoning, he reinforced his logic by adventitious aids, appealing in numerous indirect ways to feeling and prejudice. One valuable method of awakening interest was his striking use of paradox:

‘On the question of resources of money at present at our disposal, what I have to say will, I know, appear paradoxical, but I must say it; for I am confident that, considered in the proper light, my proposal will appear to be the only true and right one. I tell you that we need not raise the question of money at all: we have great resources 245 which we may fairly and honourably use if we need them. If we look for them now, we shall imagine that they never will be at our disposal, so far shall we be from willingness to dispose of them at present; but if we let matters wait, we shall have them. What, then, are these resources which do not exist at present, but will be to hand later on? It looks like a riddle. I will explain. Consider this city of ours as a whole. It contains almost as much money as all other cities taken together; but those individuals who possess it are so apathetic that if all the orators tried to terrify them by saying that the king is coming, that he is near, that invasion is inevitable, and even if the orators were reinforced by an equal number of soothsayers, they would not only refuse to contribute; they would refuse even to declare or admit the possession of their wealth. But suppose that the horrors which we now talk about were actually realized, they are none of them so foolish that they would not readily offer and make contributions. . . . So I tell you that we have money ready for the time of urgent need, but not before.’62

Similarly in the Third Olynthiac he rouses the curiosity of the audience by propounding a riddle, of which, after some suspense, he himself gives the answer. The matter under discussion is the necessity of sending help to Olynthus. There is, as usual, a difficulty about money.

‘ “Very well,” you may say; “we have all decided that we must send help; and send help we will; but how are we to do it; tell me that?” Now, Gentlemen, do not be astonished if what I say comes as a surprise to most of you. Appoint a legislative board. Instruct this board not to pass any law (you have enough already), but to repeal the laws which are injurious under present conditions. I refer to the laws about the Theoric Fund.’63


This mention of the Festival Fund suggests some reflections on the orator’s tenacity and perseverance. He is not content to say once what he has to propose, and leave his words to sink in by their own weight. Like a careful lecturer he repeats his statement, emphasizing it in various ways, until he perceives that his audience has really grasped its importance. The walls which he is attacking will not fall flat at the sound of the trumpet; his persistent battering-rams must make a breach, his catapults must drive the defenders from their positions. Such is the meaning of Lucian’s comment in the words attributed to Philip.64

The speech On the Chersonese, for instance, may be divided into three parts, dealing successively with the treatment of Diopeithes, the supineness of Athens, and the guilt of the partisans of Philip; but in all parts we find emphatically stated the need for energetic action. This is really the theme of the speech; the rest is important only in so far as it substantiates the main thesis.

The extract last given65 shows with what adroitness he introduces dialogues, in which he questions or answers an imaginary critic. This is a device frequently employed with considerable effect. The following shows a rather different type:

‘If Philip captures Olynthus, who will prevent him from marching on us? The Thebans? It is an unpleasant thing to say, but they will eagerly join him in the invasion. Or the Phocians? — when they cannot even protect their own land, unless you help them. Can you think of any one else? — “My dear fellow, he won’t want to attack us.” It would indeed be the greatest surprise in the world if he 247 did not do it when he got the chance; since even now he is fool enough to declare his intentions.’66

Narrative, too, can take the place of argument; a recital of Philip’s misdeeds during the last few years may do far more to convince the Athenians of the necessity for action than any argument about the case of a particular ally who chances to be threatened at the moment.67

Demosthenes’ knowledge of history was deep and broad. The superiority of his attainments to those of Aeschines is shown in the more philosophic use which he makes of his appeals to precedent; his examples are apposite and not far-fetched; he can illuminate the present not only by references to ancient facts, but by a keen insight into the spirit which animated the men of old times.68

The examples already quoted of rhetorical dialogue with imaginary opponents will have given some idea of his use of a sarcastic tone. Sarcasm thinly concealed may at times run through a passage of considerable length, as in the anecdote which follows. We may note in passing that he is usually sparing in the use of anecdote, which is never employed without good reason. Here it may be excused by the fact that it figures as an historical precedent of a procedure which he ironically recommends to his contemporaries.


Inveighing against the reckless procedure of the Athenian politicians, who propose laws for their own benefit almost every month,69 he recounts the customs of the Locrians, and, with an assumption of seriousness, implies a wish that similar restrictions could be imposed at Athens:

‘I should like to tell you, Gentlemen, how legislation is conducted among the Locrians. It will do you no harm to have an example before you, especially the example of a well-governed Sate. There men are so convinced that they ought to keep the established laws and cherish their traditions, and not legislate to suit their fancy, or to help a criminal to escape, that any man who wishes to pass a new law must have a rope round his neck while he proposes it. If they think that the law is a good and useful one, the proposer lives and goes on his way; if not, they pull the rope and there is an end of him. For they cannot bear to pass new laws, but they rigorously observe the old ones. We are told that only one new law has been enacted in very many years. Whereas there was a law that if a man knocked out another man’s eye, he should submit to having his own knocked out in return, and no monetary compensation was provided, a certain man threatened his enemy, who had already lost an eye, to knock out the one eye he had left. The one-eyed man, alarmed by the threat, and thinking that life would not be worth living if it were put into execution, ventured to propose a law that if a man knocks out the eye of a man who has only one, he shall submit to having both his own knocked out in return, so that both may suffer alike. We are told that this is the only law which the Locrians have passed in upwards of two hundred years.70

This, however, occurs in a speech before the law-courts; 249 it is excellent in its place, but would have been unsuitable to the more dignified and solemn style in which he addresses the assembly. Equally unsuitable to his public harangues would be anything like the virulent satire which he admits into the de Corona, the vulgar personalities of abuse and gross caricatures of Aeschines and his antecedents.71 For these the only excuse is that, though meant maliciously, they are so exaggerated as to be quite incredible. They may be compared to Aristophanes’ satire of Cleon in the Knights, which was coarse enough, but cannot have done Cleon any serious harm. Demosthenes indeed becomes truly Aristophanic when he talks about Aeschines’ acting:

‘When in the course of time you were relieved of these duties, having yourself committed all the offences of which you accuse others, I vow that your subsequent life did not fall short of your earlier promise. You engaged yourself to the players Simylus and Socrates, the “Bellowers,” as they were called, to play minor parts, and gathered a harvest of figs, grapes, and olives, like a fruiterer getting his stock from other people’s orchards; and you made more from this source than from your plays, which you played in dead earnest at the risk of your lives; for there was a truceless and merciless war between you and the spectators, from whom you received so many wounds that you naturally mock at the cowardice of those who have never had that great experience.72

He is generally described as deficient in wit, and he seems in this point to have been inferior to Aeschines, 250 though on one or two occasions he could make a neat repartee.73 As Dionysius says:

‘Not on all men is every gift bestowed.’74

If, as his critic affirms,75 he was in danger of turning the laugh against himself, he had serious gifts which more than compensated this deficiency.

It must not be supposed that he was entirely free from sophistry. Like many good orators in good or bad causes he laboured from time to time to make a weak case appear strong, and in this effort was often absolutely disingenuous. The whole of the de Corona is an attempt to throw the judges off the scent by leading them on to false trails. It may be urged in his defence that on this occasion he had justice really on his side, but finding that Aeschines on legal grounds was occupying an impregnable position, he practically threw over the discussion of legality and turned the course of the trail towards different issues altogether. In this case, admittedly, the technical points were merely an excuse for the bringing of the case, and were probably of little importance to the court. The trial was really concerned with the political principles and actions of the two great opponents, while Ctesiphon was only a catspaw. But a study of other speeches results in the discovery of many minor points in which, accurately gauging the intelligence of his audience, he has intentionally misled them. Thus, his own knowledge of history was profound; but experience has proved that the knowledge possessed by any audience 251 of the history of its own generation is likely to be sketchy and inaccurate. Events have not settled down into their proper perspective; we must rely either on our own memories, which may be distorted by prejudice, or on the statements of historians who stand too near in time to be able to get a fair view. This gives the politician his opportunity of so grouping or misrepresenting facts as to give a wrong impression.

Instances of such bad faith on the part of Demosthenes are probably numerous, even if unimportant.

In the speech on the Embassy76 he asserts that Aeschines, far from opposing Philip’s pretension to be recognized as an Amphictyon, was the only man who spoke in favour of it; yet Demosthenes himself had counselled submission. In the speech Against Timocrates there are obvious exaggerations to the detriment of the defendant. Timocrates had proposed that certain debtors should be given time to pay their debts; Demosthenes asserts that he restored them to their full civic rights without payment.77 Towards the end of the speech a statement is made which conflicts with one on the same subject in the exordium.78

But such rhetorical devices are only trivial faults to which most politicians are liable.79 The orator himself 252 would probably feel that even more doubtful actions were justifiable for the sake of the cause which he championed. We must remember that all the really important cases in which he took part had their origin on political grounds, and during his public career he never relaxed his efforts for the maintenance of those principles which he expounded in his public harangues. Until the end he had hopes for Greek freedom, freedom for Athens, not based on any unworthy compromise, but dependent on a new birth of the old Athenian spirit. The regeneration which he pictured would be due to a revival of the spirit of personal self-sacrifice. Every man must be made to realize first that the city had a glorious mission, being destined to fulfil an ideal of liberty based on principles of justice; secondly that, to attain this end, each must live not for himself or hi party but wholly for the city. It is the consciousness that Demosthenes has these enlightened ideas always present in his mind which makes us set him apart from other orators. Lycurgus, a second-rate orator, becomes impressive through his sincerity and incorruptibility; Demosthenes, great among orators, stands out from the crowd still more eminently by the nobleness of his aspirations.

§ 7.  Structure of Speeches

The structure of the speeches will give us a last example of the versatility of the composer and his freedom from conventional form.

We find, indeed, that he regularly has some kind of exordium and epilogue, but in the arrangement of other divisions of the speech he allows himself perfect freedom; we cannot reckon on finding a statement of the 253 case in one place, followed regularly by evidence, by refutation of the opponent’s arguments, and so forth. All elements may be interspersed, since he marshals his arguments not in chronological nor even, necessarily, in logical order, but in such an arrangement as seems to him most decisive. He is bound by no conventional rules of warfare, and may leave his flanks unprotected while he delivers a crushing attack on the centre. In some cases it is almost impossible to make regular divisions by technical rule; thus, in the de Corona there is matter for dispute as to where the epilogue really begins.80

The majority of the speeches actually end, according to the Attic convention which governed both Tragedy and Oratory, in a few sentences of moderate tone contrasting with the previous excitement; a calm succeeds to the storm of passions. In the forensic speeches there is usually at the very end some appeal for a just verdict, or a statement of the speaker’s conviction that the case may now be safely left to the court’s decision; thus the Leptines ends with a simplicity worthy of Lysias:

‘I cannot see that I need say any more; for I conceive there is no point on which you are not sufficiently instructed’; the Midias more solemnly, ‘On account of all that I have laid before you, and particularly to show respect to the god whose festival Midias is proved to have profaned, 254 punish him by rendering a verdict in accordance with piety and justice.’

In the de Falsa Legatione there is more personal feeling: ‘You must not let him go, but make his punishment an example to all Athens and all Greece.’ The Timocrates is rather similar: ‘Mercy under these circumstances is out of place; to pass a light sentence means to habituate and educate in wrong-doing as many of you as possible.’ The Androtion ends with a personal opinion on the aspect of the offence, and the Aristocrates is in a similar tone. The (first) speech against Aristogiton appeals directly to the personal interests of all the jurors: ‘His offence touches every one, every one of you: and all of you desire to be quit of his wickedness and see him punished.’

The de Corona is remarkable in every way; this great speech, which, arising from causes almost trivial, abandons the slighter issues, and is transformed into a magnificent defence of the patriotic policy, begins with a solemn invocation: ‘I begin, men of Athens, with a prayer to all the gods and goddesses that you may show me in this case as much good-will as I have shown and still show to Athens and to all of you.’ It ends in an unique way with an appeal, not to the court but to a higher tribunal, an appeal which is all the more impressive as its language recalls the sacred formulas of religious utterance. ‘Never, ye gods of heaven, never may you give their conduct your sanction; but, if it be possible, may you impart even to my enemies a sounder mind and heart. But if they are beyond remedy, hurl them to utter and absolute destruction by land and sea; and to the rest of us 255 grant, as quickly as may be, release from the terrors which hang over us, and salvation unshakable.’

The speeches before the assembly are naturally different in their endings from the judicial speeches; there is no criminal to attack, and no crime to stigmatize; the hearers themselves are, as it were, on their defence, and Demosthenes freely points out their faults, but as has been noticed, individual opponents escape; if there have been evil counsellors, the responsibility for following bad advice rests with the public, and they can only be exhorted to follow a better course. The speeches on the Symmories and on Megalopolis end with a summary of the speaker’s advice. So, too, does that On the Freedom of Rhodes, the last words containing a fine appeal to the lesson of antiquity. ‘Consider that your forefathers dedicated these trophies not in order that you might gaze in admiration upon them, but in the hope that you might imitate the virtues of those who dedicated them.’

Several of the speeches dealing with the Macedonian question end with a short prayer for guidance: thus, the First Philippic, ‘May that counsel prevail which is likely to be to the advantage of all’; the First Olynthiac, ‘May your decision be a sound one, for all your sakes’; the Third Philippic, ‘Whatever you decide, I pray to heaven it may be to your advantage’; the Third Olynthiac, ‘I have told you what I think is to your advantage, and I pray that you may choose what is likely to be of advantage to the State and all yourselves.’

Sometimes there is a greater show of confidence, as in the Second Olynthiac: ‘If you act thus, you will not only commend your present counsellor, but you will 256 have cause to commend your own conduct later on, when you find a general improvement in your prospects.’

The Second Philippic ends with a prayer rather similar to that in the de Corona, though less emphatic; the speech On the Chersonese with a reproof and a warning.81 The Peace contains no epilogue at all, but breaks off with a sarcasm.

An indication of the nature of the subjects of the genuine speeches may be useful for reference. They may be taken in their three groups: A. Private, B. Public, C. Deliberative Speeches.

Against Aphobus, i. and ii., 363 B.C., delivered in the action which Demosthenes brought against his guardian for the recovery of his property.

For Phanos against Aphobus, 363 B.C. Aphobus, convicted in the former case, accused a witness, Phanos, of perjury: Demosthenes defends the latter.

Against Onetor, i. and ii., 362 B.C. Another case arising out of the guardianship. When Aphobus was convicted it was found that he had made over some of the property to his father-in-law Onetor, against whom Demosthenes was forced to bring a δίκη  ἑξούλης.

On the Trierarchic Crown, 361-357 B.C. Apollodorus, having been awarded the crown given each year to the trierarch who first had his ship in commission, claims a second crown for having given the best equipped ship.

Against Spudias (date unknown). One Polyeuctus died, leaving his property equally to his two daughters. The husband of the elder claims that the dowry promised with her was never paid in full, and that Spudias, 257 the husband of the younger daughter, has consequently no right to half of the gross estate. The debt to the complainant should be discharged first.

Against Callicles (date unknown). Callicles, a farmer, alleges that the defendant’s father built a wall stopping a water-course; consequently the plaintiff’s land was flooded in rainy weather. The defendant denies the charge, and ridicules it on the ground that the high-road was the natural water-course.82

Against Conon (possibly 341 B.C., see Paley and Sandys’ edition). Ariston prosecutes Conon for assault. The quarrel dated from a time when the two parties were on garrison duty, and Conon and his sons deliberately annoyed Ariston and his friends. Subsequently the defendant, aide by his sons and others, members of a disreputable ‘Mohock’ club called the ‘Triballi,’ violently assaulted the speaker.83

For Phormio, 350 B.C. Phormio, chief clerk to Pasion, the famous Athenian banker, succeeded him in the business. Some years later Apollodorus, Pasion’s elder son, claimed a sum of money said to be due to him under his father’s will; Phormio, however, proved that a compromise had been made which rendered the present action invalid.

Against Stephanus, i., 349 or 348 B.C. Apollodorus accuses Stephanus, a witness for Phormio in the previous case, of perjury. It is noticeable that Demosthenes, the professional speech-writer, has now changed sides, an action of rather dubious morality if judged by strict standards.


Against Boeotus, i., 348 B.C. Mantias, an Athenian politician, had three sons, Mantitheus (legitimate), and Boeotus and another illegitimate. Boeotus laid claim to the name Mantitheus, and the true Mantitheus brought an action to restrain him from using the name.

Against Pantaenetus, 346 B.C. A plea (παραγραφή) by one Nicobulus against Pantaenetus, who had charged the former with damaging his mining property. The case is hard to follow, since the mine in question was held in succession by no less than six different parties, whether as owners, mortgagees, or lessees.

Against Nausimachus (about 346 B.C.). Nausimachus and Xenopeithes, orphans, brought an action against their guardian Aristaechmus with regard to their estate, but agreed to compromise for three talents, which was duly paid. After his death they brought an action against his four sons, renewing their original claim. The sons put in a παραγραφή to stop the action on the ground of the compromise.

Against Eubulides, 345 B.C. Euxitheus, who has been ‘objected to’ at the revision of the list of citizens, claims that he is a citizen by rights, but has been removed from the roll maliciously by Eubulides. The present case is his appeal (ἔφεσις) to the court against the decision.

The remaining private speeches were quite possibly not composed by Demosthenes, though proof is generally impossible. They seem, however, to be genuine speeches, composed for delivery by some author or authors of the Demosthenic period, and are of extreme interest and importance to all students of private life at Athens.

Against Callippus, 369 B.C. An ἔφεσις or appeal 259 to a court from an arbitration which, according to the plaintiff Apollodorus, Pasion’s son, was informal, as the arbitrator had not taken the oath. The case arises from a claim made by Callippus for money deposited with the banker Pasion, and by him paid out to one Cephisiades.

Against Nicostratus, 368-365 B.C. Apollodorus had declared that Arethusius, a debtor to the State, possessed two slaves, who were liable to be confiscated in payment of the debt. Nicostratus, brother of Arethusius, declared that the slaves were his. Apollodorus in this speech has to prove that the claim is false.

Against Timotheus, 362 B.C. Apollodorus claims from Timotheus money which, he affirms, the latter borrowed from Pasion.

Against Polycles, 358 B.C. Apollodorus was forced to act as trierarch beyond the appointed time, as Polycles, his successor, was not ready to take over the duty. The former claims damages.

Against Stephanus, ii. See Against Stephanus, i., to which this is a supplement.

Against Euergus and Mnesibulus, 356-353 B.C. A prosecution for perjury of witnesses in a case of ex-trierarchs who are state-debtors.

Against Zenothemis, date unknown. An intricate story of fraud and collusion in connexion with money borrowed on the security of a ship and an attempt to scuttle the ship.

Against Boeotus, ii., 348-346 B.C. (see the first speech Against Boeotus). Mantitheus claims from his brothers the payment of his mother’s dowry in addition to his share of his father’s inheritance.


Against Macartatus, c. 341 B.C. A case dealing with a forged will and conflicting claims to an inheritance.

Against Olympiodorus, c. 341 B.C. Olympiodorus and Callistratus, brothers-in-law, obtained the inheritance of Conon. Their title being questioned, judgment went against them by default. They brought a fresh action, Olympiodorus claiming the whole and Callistratus half, but they had secretly agreed to divide the booty equally. Olympiodorus was awarded the whole, and kept it, so Callistratus brought an action on the ground of their agreement.

Against Lacritus, date unknown. Lacritus disclaims responsibility for the debts of his brother Artemon, whose property he has inherited.

Against Phaenippus, 330 B.C. (?). the petitioner, chosen for the trierarchy, claimed that Phaenippus was better able to afford it, and should submit to antidosis, or exchange of property. He accuses Phaenippus of making a false declaration.

Against Leochares, date unknown; another case of disputed inheritance.

Against Apaturius, 341 B.C. (?). Apaturius claims that the speaker has certain liabilities towards him in accordance with an agreement which he has lost. The speaker affirms in a παραγραφή that the contract was fulfilled some time ago and the document torn up.

Against Phormio, c. 326 B.C. Phormio having borrowed money on the security of a ship’s cargo in a voyage to the Bosporus and back, shipped no cargo on the return journey, but as the ship was lost, evaded his liabilities. When Chrysippus, the debtor, 261 claimed repayment, Phormio put in a παραγραφή stating that he had fulfilled his contract.

Against Dionysodorus, 323-322 B.C. Another action for breach of contract in a similar case.

Against Androtion, 355 B.C., written for Diodorus. Androtion had proposed the bestowal of a golden grown on the Boulé for their services during the year. Euctemon and Diodorus attacked the proposal as illegal because the navy had not been increased during the year. Demosthenes in this speech attacks the retrograde naval policy, pointing out by historical argument the importance of the navy, and inveighs generally against the corruptness of the party which Androtion represents, as well as his personal character.

Against Leptines, 354 B.C. This is the first appearance of Demosthenes in a public court. Leptines had proposed the abolition of hereditary immunities from taxation (ἀτέλειαι) granted to public benefactors. It was a salutary measure in view of the existing financial embarrassment, but Demosthenes opposed it as being a breach of faith. ‘You must take care not to be found guilty of doing, as a State, the sort of thing that you would shrink from as individuals.’84 This debasement of the State is compared to a debasement of the coinage,85 which is a capital offence.85

Against Timocrates, 353 B.C. Another speech written for Diodorus, contains several passages repeated from the Androtion. This man and others, having failed to repay certain moneys which they had embezzled, were liable to imprisonment. Timocrates proposed 262 an extension of the time within which they might pay. Demosthenes maintains that the law was informally passed and was unconstitutional. Many of the arguments are sophistical or trivial, but some are weighty, and on general grounds, that retrospective legislation in the interests of individuals is bad, this speech is very sound. The peroration contains an eulogy on the laws of Athens.86

Against Aristocrates, 352 B.C., is an important authority for the Athenian law of homicide. Aristocrates had carried a resolution making the person of Charidemus inviolable. This man an Euboean by birth, was a mercenary leader, who having helped to lose Amphipolis, was now proposing to recover it. He was at present commanding the forces of the Thracian chief Cersobleptes. Demosthenes wrote this speech for Euthycles, who impeached the proposal. It contains an unusually careful arrangement in three divisions: (1) The proposal is illegal, (2) it is against our interest, (3) Charidemus is an unworthy person. Demosthenes is seen at his best in his appeal to legislative principle, his use of historical argument, and his description of the conditions of mercenary service and the politics of the barbarian fringe. The case against Charidemus is strong; he has been in the service of Athens, Olynthus, Asia, and Thrace, and has played fast and loose with all.

Against Midias, 347 B.C. A fine speech on a trivial subject, which all the eloquence of Demosthenes cannot dignify. Strong emotion is evident all through, the tone is exalted, there are pathetic and humorous passages, and all about a box on the ear!


Midias, who had a long-standing personal grudge against Demosthenes, was also his political opponent. When Demosthenes undertook to furnish the chorus for his tribe at the greater Dionysia in 348 B.C., Midias did all that he could to ruin the performance. On the day itself he slapped Demosthenes in the face in the presence of the whole people in the theatre.87 Demosthenes laid a complaint, and Midias was declared guilty of ‘contempt’ in a religious sense (ἀδικεῖν  περὶ  τὴν  ἑορτήν). This preliminary vote involved no penalty, and Demosthenes was determined to push the case to extremes. Midias, having assaulted an official in discharge of his duty, and, further, committed sacrilege in so doing, might be condemned to death or confiscation of property. In the end, however, as we learn from Aeschines,88 a compromise was made, and Demosthenes accepted half a talent as compensation for his injuries. This sum was quite inadequate, but there is good reason to believe that Demosthenes gave way for political reasons, since at the end of this year we find there is an understanding between him and the party of Eubulus, to which Midias belonged.

On the Embassy (de Falsa Legatione), 344 B.C.

We come now to the two great speeches arising out of the political hostility of Demosthenes and Aeschines, the speeches On the Embassy, 344 B.C., and On the Crown, 330 B.C. The history of the quarrel has been given in earlier chapters, and the speeches themselves to some extent described, since an account of the lives of the two orators must have been very incomplete without a full reference to their antagonism.89 A few supplementary remarks may, however, be in place here.


In the Embassy Demosthenes has to fight an uphill fight; he accuses Aeschines of having, from corrupt motives, concluded a dishonourable and fatal peace. He can bring no direct evidence of the guilt of his rival, but his presumptive evidence is strong. He has one undisputed fact to work upon: Aeschines, on his return from the second embassy, made certain statements and promises which misled the people, and resulted in the occupation of Thermopylae and the ruin of Phocis. Aeschines himself must either have been duped or bribed by Philip, and as he has never admitted that he was a fool, it becomes certain that he was a knave. A long section of the speech (§§ 29-97) is devoted to a description of the effects of Aeschines’ policy, and another (§§ 98-149) infers his guilt on the lines indicated and from other incidents in his career. A presumption of guilt had already been reached in the opening sections (§§ 9-28) where the sudden change of front of Aeschines is described. The impression is strengthened by a review of the events of the second embassy (§§ 150-178). The charge has now been established as far as circumstances permit; the remainder of the speech, almost as long as this first part, is really a supplement. It is more discursive, and in some places, by its enunciation of general principles, recalls the tone of deliberative oratory.

The speech On the Crown,90 330 B.C., surpasses even the preceding speech in the appearance of disorder, which is probably due to deep design. The unity and consistency of the whole is preserved by the thought, which pervades every section, that the speaker must identify himself with the city; his policy has been 265 hers; personal interests are merged in those of the community, and he case is to be won not on technical points of law but by a justification of the broader principles which have underlain all actions of the State.

The speeches Against Aristogiton, 325-4 B.C.,91 are generally considered spurious; Weil, however, defends the authenticity of the first, while abandoning the second. The process is an attempt to crush a malicious and dangerous sycophant.

Two more public speeches by contemporary writers are included wrongly in editions of Demosthenes: Against Neaera, written for Apollodorus between 343 and 339 B.C., on a question of the legal status of a hetaira, and Against Theocrines, about 340 B.C. Theocrines was another sycophant, whom Demosthenes branded for ever by using his name as a term of abuse, referring to Aeschines’ as ‘a Theocrines with the bearing of a tragic actor.’92

On the Symmories, 354 B.C., deals with a rumour that Persia intended to invade Greece. Demosthenes points out that this apprehension is unfounded, and discourages any rash steps; but admits that trouble is to be anticipated in the future, and so finds an opportunity for introducing a scheme of naval reform. The money could be obtained when the danger was imminent;93 it was necessary now to perfect the machinery. The style is Thucydidean.


For the people of Megalopolis, 353 B.C. Megalopolis, the city of the Arcadian league, instituted by Epaminondas, was threatened with disruption by Sparta, and appealed to Athens. Sparta sent an embassy at the same time. Demosthenes, professing neutrality, really supported the Arcadians, wishing to preserve their integrity for the sake of the balance of power. He failed in his object.

First Philippic, 351 B.C., vide supra, pp. 206-210.

For the Liberty of the Rhodians, 351 B.C., supports the claim of the islanders against oppression by Artemisia, widow of Mausolus of Caria. Demosthenes failed again, chiefly through the prejudice against Rhodes, which had revolted against Athens in 357 B.C.

On the Peace, 346 B.C., vide supra, p. 212.

Second Philippic, 344 B.C., vide supra, pp. 213-214.

On the Chersonese, 341 B.C., vide supra, pp. 215-216.

Third Philippic, 341 B.C., vide supra, pp. 216-218.

The spurious Fourth Philippic (341-340 B.C.) has been discussed (supra, p. 218). The speech on Halonnesus (342 B.C.) is attributed to Hegesippus. It is a reply to an offer on the part of Philip to present to Athens the island of Halonnesus which he had seized, after clearing out the pirate who occupied it.94


On the Treaty with Alexander, date uncertain, probably 335 B.C., is also by a contemporary of Demosthenes. The theme is, — Treaties should be observed by all, but Macedon has broken promises, so this is an opportunity for Athens to recover her freedom.

The Answer to Philip’s Letter and the speech περὶ  συντάξεως (on financial organization) are generally regarded as rhetorical forgeries.

Two epideictic speeches, the Epitaphius and Eroticus, are almost certainly not by Demosthenes, and the six Letters are doubtful. The fifty-six prooemia, or introduction to speeches, are probably genuine exercises of the orator’s early days.


 1  Aesch., (Ctes., § 171) says only ἀφικνεῖται  εἰς  Βόσπορον, which is ambiguous, as there were several Βόσποροι. The fact that he calls the woman Σκυθίς seems to prove that he meant the Crimea.

 2  Pytheas, quoted by Dionysius.

 3  The last private speeches of which the genuineness is undoubted are dated about 346 and 345 B.C., but others e.g. Against Phormio, of which the authenticity was not questioned in ancient times, go down to 326 B.C. or even later. The genuineness of the Phormio is at least probable.

 4  Aesch., (in 345 B.C.) in the Timarchus, §§ 117, 170-175, refers to him as a teacher. In the Embassy (343 B.C.) there is no reference to this profession.

 5  Against Callicles.

 6  Against Conon.

 7  The speeches Against Zenothemis, Lacritus, Dionysodorus, and Phormio.

 8  E.g. Against Boeotus.

 9  § 61. ‘Pydna and Potidaea, which are subject to Philip and hostile to you.’ Also § 69.

10  ἐπιστολιμαίους  δυνάμεις. § 19.

11  § 19, δύναμιν . . . ἣ  συνεχῶς  πολεμήσει . . .

12  § 21, χρόνον  τακτὸν  στρατευομένους, μὴ  μακρὸν  τοῦτον, ἀλλ’  ὅσον  ἂν  δοκῇ  καλῶς  ἔχειν, ἐκ  διαδοχῆς  ἀλλήλοις.

13  § 23, οὐ  τοίνυν  ὑπέρογκον  αὐτήν (οὐ  γὰρ  ἔστι  μισθὸς  οὐδὲ  τροφή), οὐδὲ  παντελῶς  ταπεινὴν  εἶναι  δεῖ.

14  I have assumed the traditional order of the Olynthiac speeches to be the correct one. The question is much disputed, and is lucidly discussed by M. Weil in his introductions to the speeches (Les Harangues de Démosthène).

15  Isocr., Philippus, § 73-74.

16  Chers., §§ 24-26.

17  § 77.

18  § 19.

19  § 20.

20  §§ 26-27.

21  The subject is admirably discussed by M. Weil Les Harangues de Démosthène (2me éd.), pp. 312-316). His argument should be carefully read by those interested in the subject. I quote only his conclusions: ‘Nous avons déjà vu que plusieurs passages, qui manquent dans S et L, ne pouvaient guère émaner que de Démosthène lui-même’ (p. 314). ‘Le résultat de cet examen, c’est que nous nous trouvons en présence de deux textes également autorisés, et que les additions et les modifications qui distinguent l’un de l’autre doivent être attribuées à l’orateur lui-même . . . .’ (p. 315). These conclusions are adopted by Blass (Att. Bered., 1893) and Sandys (1900), who, however, considers that the shorter version was the orator’s first draft. Butcher (Demosthenes, 3rd ed., 1911) considers that the shorter text represents ’the maturer correction of the orator.’

22  de Cor., §§ 169-170.

23  Philip seems to have had a genuine admiration for Athens, and always treated her with extraordinary consideration. For a full appreciation of this attitude see Hogarth, Philip and Alexander.

24  Plut., Dem., ch. xxiii.

25  See also infra, p. 253, note 1, and p. 254.

26  Hyp., Against Dem., fr. 3, col. xiii.

27  Dinarchus, Against Dem., § 1.

28  Butcher, Dem., pp. 124-127.

29  This account is taken from Plutarch (Dem., ch. xxix.).

30  Lucian, Dem. Enc., § 50.

31  de Sublimi, ch. xxxiv.

32  § 36, οἶον  ἐκ  μανδραγόρου  καθεύδοντας.

33  Aesch., Ctes., §§ 72, 166; de Leg., § 21; Ctes., §§ 84, 209.

34  Plut., Dem., ch. ix., παράβακχον.

35  ἐνθουσιῶντα. Cf. Aristophanes, Clouds, 194:

μὰ  γῆν, μὰ  παγίδας, μὰ  νεφέλας, μὰ  δίκτυα.

36  Notably the caricatures of Aeschines‘ private life and family history in the de Corona, §§ 129-130, 260. Mr. Pickard-Cambridge makes it clear that the habitual members of the law-0courts would be of a lower average socially than the ecclesia. The pay in either case was not enough to attract any but the unemployed, but whereas member of the leisured classes would have sufficient motives for attending the ecclesia, and well-to-do business-men might sacrifice valuable time unselfishly for the good of the State, there would be little inducement to such people to endure the wearisome routine of the law-courts (see Demosthenes, ch. iii.).

37  E.g. Conon, § 4.

38  de Cor., § 263.

39  de Falsa Leg., § 148.

40  Midias, § 91.

41  Ibid., § 105.

42  On the other hand he often apologizes for metaphors by ὥσπερ or οἶον — ἧν  τοῦθ’  ὥσπερ  ἐμπόδισμά  τι  τῷ  Φιλίππῳ — though ἐμπόδισμα is probably as natural a form of expression as our ‘obstacle.’

43  de Falsa Leg., § 275.

44  I Phil., § 45; cf. τεθνάναι   τῷ  φόβῳ  Θηβαίους, de Falsa Leg., § 81.

45  de Cor., § 296.

46  de Cor., § 169.

47  de Cor., § 208.

48  de Thucyd., ch. 53.

49  Against Conon, §§ 3-5.

50  Against Conon, §§ 8-9.

51  de Demos., ch. xv.

52  Demos., ch. xxii.

53  Demos., chs. liii, liv. So Aeschines, after reading aloud some extracts from Demosthenes, and observing their effect on his hearers, exclaimed, ‘But what if you had heard the brute himself?’

54  de Chersoneso, §§ 69-71, gives an example of a sentence of about twenty-seven lines in the Teubner edition.

55  Timocrates, § 217, οὐδ’  ὁτιοῦν  ἂν  ὄφελος  εἴν is a case in point — (SCANSION); in this instance no other arrangement of the words was possible; οὐδ’  ὁτιοῦν  ἂν  εἴν  ὄφελος would give a harsh hiatus. Cf. also First Olynthiac, § 27, ἡλίκα  γ’  ἐστὶ  τὰ  διάφορ’  ἐνθάδ’  ἢ  ἐκεῖ  πολεμεῖν, where five shorts appear in sequence.

56  E.g. de Falsa Leg., § 11, διεξιὼν  ἡλίκα  τὴν  λλαδα  πᾶσαν, οὐχὶ  τὰς  ἰδίας  ἀδικοῦσι  μόνον  πατρίδας  οἱ  δωροδοκοῦντες. The position of ἀδικοῦσι is peculiar, but the sentence already contains a preponderance of short syllables, and any other arrangement would give more of them together: e.g. the more natural orders τὰς  ἰδίας  μόνον  πατρίδας  ἀδικοῦσι (image of scansion macron breve macron breve.) or ἰδίας  μόνον  ἀδικοῦσι  πατρίδας (image of scansion breve.image of scansion breve breve macron breve breve breve breve macron breve breve-with-macron breve breve.).

57  Arist., Rhet., iii. 8. 4.

58  Super alta vectus Attis celeri rate maria, etc. The ending with five short syllables gives an impression of headlong speed.

59  Cf. the ‘spondaic’ hymn, Ζεῦ  πάντων  ἀρχά, πάντων  ἄγητορ, Ζεῦ  σοὶ  σπένδω  ταύταν  μνων  ἀρχάν.

60  Croiset, Hist. de la Litt. Gr., tome iv., pp. 552-553.

61  See ad hoc, Croiset, iv. 553. 1.

62  de Symmor., §§ 24-26.

63  Third Olynthiac, §§ 10-11.

64  Quoted above, p. 230.

65  Supra, p. 245.

66  First Olynthiac, §§ 25-26.

67  Chersonese, §§ 61-67. The recital of the present condition of Phocis is a simple but impressive piece of argument by description: ‘It was a terrible sight, Gentlemen, and a sad one; when we were lately on our way to Delphi we were compelled to see it all, houses in ruins, walls demolished, the country empty of men of military age; only a few poor women and little children and old men in pitiable state — words cannot describe the depth of the misery in which they are now sunk’ (de Falsa Leg., § 65).

68  Cf. Third Olynthiac, §§ 24-26.

69  Viz., on every meeting of the ecclesia at which legislation was possible.

70  Timocrates, §§ 139 sqq.

71  In particular de Corona, §§ 129-130, 258-262. Cf. Vide supra, p. 164.

72  de Corona, §§ 261-262.

73  Vide supra, pp. 170, 177

74  οὐ  γὰρ  πως  ἅμα  πάντα  θεοὶ  δόσαν  ἀνθρώποισι.

75  de Sublimi, ch. xxxiv.

76  de Falsa Leg., §§ 112-113, with Weil’s note.

77  § 90.

78  §§ 9, 196. Weil remarks truly, ‘Les orateurs ne se piquent pas d’être exacts : ils usent largement de l’hyperbole mensongère.’

79  Mr. Pickard-Cambridge (Demos., p. 80) observes: ‘Men who are assembled in a crowd do not think. . . . The orator has often to use arguments which no logic can defend, and to employ methods of persuasion upon a crowd which he would be ashamed to use if he were dealing with a personal friend.’ This is partly true, but should be accepted with reservations. The arguments in the harangues of Demosthenes will generally bear the light, and the public speeches by distinguished statesmen of this country on the causes of the Great War have frequently appealed to the higher nature of their audience.

80  There is a pseudo-epilogue, §§ 126-150, devoted chiefly to the birth and life of Aeschines. Here the speech might have ended, but the orator reverts in § 160 to an examination and defence of his own political life. The real epilogue is contained in §§ 252-324. The disorder is undoubtedly due in part to the peculiar facts of the case, namely, that the issues of the trial were much wider than might have appeared. Demosthenes is not so much concerned to prove the legality of Ctesiphon’s decree as to offer an apologia of his own political conduct during many years.

81  Quoted supra, p. 216.

82  A plausible answer. In Greece at the present day water-courses are used as roads, and the same is true of the south of Spain. At Malaga, a few years ago, the tram-line actually crossed the river-bed.

83  Vide supra, p. 237.

84  § 136.

85  § 167.

86  §§ 210 sqq. ‘A State’s character is reflected in its laws’ (νόμους . . . ὑπείληφασι . . . πρόπους  τῆς  πόλεως.).

87  Vide supra, p. 190.

88  Ctes., § 52.

89  Vide supra, pp. 168, 194, 223.

90  Cf. supra, p. 223.

91  We know from Dinarchus, Aristogiton, § 13, that this trial shortly preceded the affair of Harpalus.

92  de Cor., § 313, τραγικος  Θεοκρίνης.

93  Vide supra, pp. 244-245.

94  This Hegesippus, an orator of secondary importance, was an ardent supporter of the patriotic party. In 357 B.C. he had brought an accusation against one Callippus in connexion with the affairs of Cardia (de Halon., § 43, and the hypothesis to the speech). In 343 B.C. he was one of an embassy sent to Philip (Demos., de Falsa Leg., § 331). He was still alive in 325 B.C. (Croiset, vol. iv. p. 621). The extant speech consists of a clear and straightforward discussion of the various points in Philip’s proposal; the style is easy, but without distinction, and Dionysius, who did not doubt that it was the work of Demosthenes, remarks that the orator has reverted to the style of Lysias (de Demos., ch. ix.). Hiatus is frequent and there are some monotonous repetitions. Critics were somewhat shocked by the concluding phrase of § 45 — ‘If you carry your brains in your heads, and not in your heels so as to walk on them.’ Aeschines calls the orator κρώβυλος, from his affected way of wearing his hair in a ‘bun’ on the top of his head.

[Back] [Blueprint] [Next]