People - Ancient Greece: Demosthenes Ancient Greek statesman and orator of ancient
Demosthĕnes in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
（Δημοσθένης). (1) A celebrated Athenian orator, a native of the deme of Paeania, in the tribe Pandionis. His father, Demosthenes, was a citizen of rank and opulence, and the proprietor of a manufactory of arms; not a common blacksmith, as the language of Juvenal (x. 130) would lead us to believe. The son was born about B.C. 383, and lost his father at the early age of seven years, when he was left to the care of his mother, Cleobulé. The guardians to whom his father had intrusted the administration of a large property proving faithless to their charge and wasting a large portion of his patrimony, the orator's early studies were seriously hampered by the want of sufficient means, to say nothing of the delicate state of his own health. When Demosthenes was some sixteen years of age his curiosity was attracted by a trial in which Callistratus pleaded and won a cause of considerable importance. The eloquence which gained, and the applause which followed, his success so inflamed the ambition of the young Athenian that he determined to devote himself thenceforward to the assiduous study of oratory. He chose Isaeus as his master rather than Isocrates; from Plato, also, he imbibed much of the richness and the grandeur which characterize the writings of that philosopher. At the age of seventeen he appeared before the courts and pronounced against his faithless guardians, and against a debtor to his father's estate, five orations, which were crowned with complete success. These discourses, in all probability, had received the finishing touch from Isaeus , under whom Demosthenes continued to study for the space of four years after he had reached his majority.
An opening so successful emboldened the young orator to speak before the people in the assembly; but, when he made the attempt, his feeble and stammering voice, his interrupted respiration, his ungraceful gestures, and his ill-arranged periods, brought upon him general ridicule. Returning home in the utmost distress, he was encouraged by the kindness of the actor Satyrus, who, having requested Demosthenes to repeat some passage from a dramatic poet, pronounced the same extract after him with so much correctness of enunciation and in a manner so true to nature that it appeared to the young orator to be quite a different passage. Convinced, thereupon, how much grace and persuasive power a proper enunciation and manner add to the best oration, he resolved to correct the deficiencies of his youth, and accomplished this with a zeal and perseverance which have passed into a proverb. To free himself from stammering he spoke with pebbles in his mouth, a story resting on the authority of Demetrius Phalereus, his contemporary. It also appears that he was unable to articulate clearly the letter R; but he vanquished that difficulty most perfectly, for Cicero says that he exercitatione fecisse ut plenissime diceret. He removed the distortion of features which accompanied his utterance by watching the movements of his countenance in a mirror; and a naked sword was suspended over his left shoulder while he was declaiming in private, to prevent its rising above the level of the right. That his enunciation might be loud and full of emphasis he frequently ran up the steepest and most uneven walks, an exercise by which his voice acquired both force and energy; and on the sea-shore, when the waves were violently agitated, he declaimed aloud, to accustom himself to the noise and tumult of a public assembly. He constructed a subterranean study, where he would often stay for two or three months together, shaving one side of his head, that in case he should wish to go abroad the shame of appearing in that condition might keep him within. In this solitary retreat, by the light of his lamp, he is said to have copied and recopied, ten times at least, the orations scattered throughout the history of Thucydides, for the purpose of moulding his own style after so pure a model.
Whatever may be the truth of these stories, Demosthenes got credit for the most indefatigable labour in the acquisition of his art. His enemies, at a subsequent period of his career, attempted to ridicule this extraordinary industry, by remarking that all his arguments "smelled of the lamp," and they eagerly embraced the opportunity of denying him the possession of natural talents. This criticism of Demosthenes seems to have rested chiefly on his known reluctance to speak without preparation. The fact is, that though he could exert the talent of extemporaneous speaking, he avoided rather than sought such occasions, partly from deference to his audience and partly from apprehending the possibility of a failure. Plutarch, however, who mentions this reluctance of the orator, speaks at the same time of the great merit of his extemporaneous effusions.
Demosthenes reappeared in public at the age of twenty-five years, and pronounced two orations against Leptines, the author of a law which imposed on every citizen of Athens, except the descendants of Harmodius and Aristogiton, the exercise of certain burdensome functions. The second of these discourses, entitled "Of Immunities," is regarded as one of his happiest efforts. After this, he became much engaged in the business of the bar, and these professional labours, added to the scanty portion of his patrimony which he had recovered from his guardians, appear to have formed his only means of support. But, whatever may have been the distinction and the advantages which Demosthenes acquired by his practice at the bar, his principal glory is derived from his political discourses. At the period when he engaged in public affairs the State was a mere wreck. Public spirit was at the lowest ebb; the laws had lost their authority; the austerity of early manners had yielded to the inroads of luxury, activity to indolence, and probity to venality. Of the virtues of their fathers there remained to the Athenians little save an attachment, carried almost to enthusiasm, for their native soil. On the slightest occasion this feeling of patriotism was sure to display itself; and, thanks to this sentiment, the people of Athens were still capable of making strenuous efforts for the preservation of their freedom. No one understood better than Demosthenes the art of exciting
and keeping alive this enthusiasm. His penetration enabled him easily to divine the ambitious plans of Philip of Macedon from the very outset of that monarch's operations, and he resolved to counteract them. His whole public career, indeed, had but one object in view, and that was war with Philip. For the space of fourteen years this monarch found the Athenian orator continually in his path, and every attempt proved unavailing to corrupt so formidable an adversary. These fourteen years, which immediately preceded the fall of Grecian freedom, constitute the brightest period in the history of Demosthenes. And yet his courage was political rather than military. At Chaeronea (B.C. 338) he fled from the field of battle, though in the Athenian assembly no private apprehensions could check his eloquence or influence his conduct. But, though overpowered in the contest with the enemy of Athenian independence, he received after his defeat the most honourable recompense which, in accordance with Grecian customs, a grateful country could bestow. Athens decreed him a crown of gold. The reward was opposed by Aeschines (q.v.). The combat of eloquence which arose between the two orators attracted to Athens an immense concourse of spectators. Demosthenes triumphed, and his antagonist, not having received the fifth part of the votes, was, in conformity with the existing law, compelled to retire into exile. A short time after this splendid victory Demosthenes was condemned for having suffered himself to be bribed by Harpalus, a Macedonian governor, who, dreading the anger of Alexander, had come to Athens to hide there the fruit of his extortion and rapine, and had bargained with the popular leaders of the day for the protection of the Republic. Demosthenes, having escaped from imprisonment, fled to Aegina (B.C. 324), whence he could behold the shores of his beloved country, and earnestly and constantly protested his innocence. After the death of Alexander he was restored, and his entry into Athens was marked by every demonstration of joy. A new league was formed among the Grecian cities against the Macedonians, and Demosthenes was the soul of it. But the confederacy was broken up by Antipater, and the death of the orator was decreed. He retired, thereupon, from Athens to the island of Calauria, off the coast of Argolis, and, being still pursued by the satellites of Antipater, terminated his life there by poison, in the temple of Poseidon, at the age of about sixty years, B.C. 322.
Before the time of Demosthenes there existed three distinct styles of eloquence: that of Lysias, mild and persuasive, which quietly engaged the attention and won the assent of an audience; that of Thucydides, bold and animated, which awakened the feelings and powerfully forced conviction on the mind; while that of Isocrates was, as it were, a combination of the two former. Demosthenes can scarcely be said to have adopted any individual as a model, although he bestowed so much untiring labour on the historian of the Peloponnesian War. He rather culled all that was valuable from the various styles of his great predecessors, working them up and blending them into one harmonious whole. In the general structure of many of his sentences he resembles Thucydides, but is simpler and more perspicuous and better calculated to be quickly comprehended by an audience. On the other hand, his clearness in narration and his elegance and purity of diction remind the reader of Lysias. But the argumentative parts of the speeches of Lysias are often deficient in vigour; whereas earnestness, power, zeal, rapidity, and passion, all exemplified in plain, unornamented language and a strain of close, business-like reasoning, are the distinctive characteristics of Demosthenes. The general tone of his oratory, indeed, was admirably adapted to an Athenian audience, constituted as it was of those whose habits of life were mechanical, and of those whom ambition or taste had led to the cultivation of literature. The former were captivated by strong good sense, urged with masculine force and inextinguishable spirit, and by the forcible application of plain truths; while there was enough of grace and variety to please more learned and fastidious auditors. Another very remarkable excellence of Demosthenes is the collocation of his words. The arrangement of sentences in such a manner that their cadences should be harmonious, and to a certain degree rhythmical, was a study much in vogue among the great masters of Grecian composition. See Colon.
The question has often been raised as to the secret of the success of Demosthenes. The universal approbation will appear the more extraordinary to a reader who for the first time peruses the orations. They do not exhibit any of that declamation on which loosely hangs the fame of so many aspirants to eloquence. There appears no deep reflection to indicate a more than ordinary penetration, or any philosophical remarks to prove the extent of his acquaintance with the great moral writers of his country. He affects no learning; he aims at no elegance; he seeks no glaring ornaments; he rarely touches the heart with a soft or melting appeal, and when he does, it is only with an effect in which a third-rate speaker would have surpassed him. He had no wit, no humour, no vivacity, in our acceptance of these terms. The secret of his power is simple, for it lies essentially in this, that his political principles were interwoven with his very spirit; they were not assumed to serve an interested purpose, to be laid aside when he descended from the bema and resumed when he sought to accomplish an object, but were deeply seated in his heart and emanated from its profoundest depths. The more his country was environed by dangers, the more steady was his resolution. Nothing ever impaired the truth and integrity of his feelings or weakened his generous conviction. It was his undeviating firmness, his disdain of all compromise, that made him the first of statesmen and orators; in this lay the substance of his power, the primary foundation of his superiority; the rest was merely secondary. The mystery of his influence, then, lay in his honesty; and it is this that gave warmth and tone to his feelings, energy to his language, and an impression to his manner before which every imputation of insincerity must have immediately vanished. We may thus perceive the meaning of Demosthenes himself, when, to one who asked him what was the first requisite in an orator, he merely replied, "Delivery" (ὑπόκρισις); and when asked what were the second and third requisites, gave the same answer as at first (Vit. X. Orat.). His meaning was this: a lifeless manner on the part of a public speaker shows that his own feelings are not enlisted in the cause which he is advocating, and it is idle for him, therefore, to seek to make converts of others when he has failed in making one of himself. On the other hand, when the tone of voice, the gesture, the look, the whole manner of the orator, display the powerful feelings that agitate him, his emotion is communicated to his hearers, and success is inevitable. Cf. Quintil. Inst. Or. xi. 3 init.
Of the orations we have sixty-one (half of them spurious), and fifty-six Introductions, or προοίμια δημηγορικά. In confining ourselves to the classification adopted by the ancient rhetoricians, we may arrange all these discourses under one of three heads.
* I. Deliberative discourses (λόγοι συμβουλεύτικοι), treating of political topics, and delivered either before the Senate or the assembly of the people.
* II. Judicial speeches (λόγοι δικάνικοι), having for their object accusation or defence.
* III. Studied or set speeches (λόγοι ἐπιδείκτικοι), intended to censure or praise.
Seventeen of the orations of Demosthenes belong to the first of these classes, forty-two to the second, and two to the third.
I. Deliberative discourses (λόγοι συμβουλεύτικοι
Of the seventeen discourses which compose the first class, five treat of various subjects connected with the Republic, and twelve of the quarrels between the State and Philip. Our limits allow an examination of only a few of these that are most important in their character. Of the twelve harangues that turn upon the quarrels of the Republic with Philip, the first was pronounced in B.C. 351; the second, third, and fourth in B.C. 349; the fifth in B.C. 347; the sixth in B.C. 346; the seventh in B.C. 344; the eighth in B.C. 343; the ninth in B.C. 342; the tenth and eleventh in B.C. 341; and the twelfth in B.C. 340. The order here given is that of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, but no manuscript and no editions observe it. The manuscripts give the First, Second, Tenth, and Eleventh Philippics of Dionysius by name, and regard his fifth as forming the conclusion of the first. They give the title of Second, Third, and First Olynthiacs to his Second, Third, and Fourth. The remaining four (Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, Twelfth) have the following titles: "Of Peace," "Of Halonesus," "Of the Chersonesus," and "On the Letter of Philip." We shall now speak of them in chronological order.
* The (1 and 2) Πρὸς Φιλίππον λόγος πρῶτος, the First Philippic. Demosthenes here exhorts his fellow-citizens to prosecute the war with the greatest vigour against Philip. This monarch had, after the defeat of the Phocians, assumed a threatening attitude, as if wishing to establish himself in their country. The discourse we are now considering has been divided into two parts, which, according to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, were pronounced at different times; but this opinion is contradicted by most critics.
* (3, 4, 5) Ὀλυνθιακός Α, Β, Γ-The three Olynthiacs. Their object is to stimulate the Athenians to succour Olynthus and prevent its falling into the hands of Philip.
* (6) Περὶ τῆς εἰρήνης, "Of the Peace." Philip having obtained a seat in the council of the Amphictyons, Demosthenes advises his countrymen to preserve the peace with this prince. Libanius thinks that this discourse, though written by Demosthenes, was never delivered. Modern scholars are, however, of a different opinion.
* (7) Κατὰ Φιλίππου λόγος Β, the Second Philippic, pronounced after the return of Demosthenes from the Peloponnesus, where he had negotiated a peace between Sparta and Messenia.
* (8) Περὶ τῆς Ἁλονήσου, "Of Halonesus," or, rather, of a letter of Philip's, by which he makes a present to the Athenians of the island of Halonesus, which he had taken from the pirates, and demands of the Athenians to share with them the office of protecting the seas. Demosthenes strenuously opposes so insulting an offer; it is, however, far from certain whether he ever pronounced such a discourse as this. Libanius says that the ancient critics ascribed it to Hegesippus, the friend of Demosthenes. Suidas and the author of the Etymologicum Magnum agree with him.
* (9) Περὶ τῶν ἐν Χερρονήσῳ πραγμάτων, ἤ ὁ περὶ Διοπείθεους, "Of the events in the Chersonesus, or of Diopithes." That general, sent at the head of a colony into the Chersonesus, had committed hostilities against the city of Cardia, the only one which Philip had reserved for himself in the conditions of peace. Diopithes had even made an inroad into Macedonia. Philip insisted on his being punished. Demosthenes undertakes in this oration to justify the conduct of the Athenian commander.
* (10) Κατὰ Φιλίππου λόγος Γ, the Third Philippic. The progress which Philip had made in Thrace, where he was preparing to lay siege to the cities of Perinthus and Byzantium, form the subject of this harangue.
* (11) Κατὰ Φιλίππου λόγος Δ, the Fourth Philippic, pronounced at the time when Philip had raised the siege of Perinthus, in order to fall upon Byzantium. Valckenaer (Or. De Phil. p. 250), Wolf (Ad Lept. Proleg. p. lx.), and Bekker do not acknowledge this as a production of Demosthenes.
* (12) Ὁ πρὸς τὴν ἐπιστολὴν Φιλίππου λόγος, "On the Letter of Philip." The letter of the king, to which this harangue refers, still exists. It contains many complaints, but no declaration of war. Taylor, Reiske, Valckenaer, and Bekker consider this letter to be spurious.
II. Judicial speeches (λόγοι δικάνικοι）
We come now to the second class of the orations of Demosthenes, namely, those of a judicial nature; and here a distinction must be made between those which refer to affairs connected with the State and those which relate to individual interests: in the former case, the procedure was called κατηγορία; in the second, δίκη-words which may be translated by "accusation" and "pleadings." Of the first species we have twelve harangues remaining, the most important one of which is that entitled Περὶ Στεφάνου, "On the Crown." Demosthenes had been twice crowned in the theatre during the Dionysiac festival: the first time after the expulsion of the Macedonian garrisons from the island of Euboea, and again after the alliance with the Thebans. In the year B.C. 338, Ctesiphon, who was then president of the Senate, had a decree passed by this body that, if the people approved, Demosthenes should be crowned at the approaching Dionysiac festival, in the public theatre, as a recompense for the disinterested manner in which he had filled various offices, and for the services which he had never for a moment ceased to render the State. This matter had to be confirmed by a ψήφισμα, or decree of the people; but, before it was brought before them, Aeschines presented himself as the accuser of Ctesiphon. He charged him with having violated the laws in proposing to crown a public functionary before the latter had given an account of the manner in which he had discharged his office; and to crown him, too, in the theatre, instead of the senate-house or the Pnyx, where this could alone be done; finally, in having alleged what was false, for the purpose of favouring Demosthenes. He concluded by demanding that a fine of fifty talents be imposed upon Ctesiphon. The matter remained for some time pending, in consequence of the troubles that followed the battle of Chaeronea. When, however, the influence of the Macedonian party had, through the exertions of Antipater, gained the ascendency in Athens, Aeschines believed it to be a favourable moment for the revival of his accusation. It was brought forward, therefore, again, in B.C. 330, or eight years after the proposition of Ctesiphon had been made. Aeschines thereupon pronounced his famous harangue, to which Demosthenes replied. This speech of Demosthenes is regarded, and justly so, not only as his masterpiece, but as the most perfect specimen that eloquence has ever produced. It is said that after this discourse Demosthenes no longer appeared as a public speaker. Ulpian, in his commentary on the oration De Corona, relates an anecdote which has been often cited. Demosthenes is endeavouring to fix the charge of bribery on Aeschines, whom he represents as corrupted by Philip and by Alexander, and consequently their hireling and not their friend or guest. Of this assertion he declares his willingness to submit the truth to the judgment of the assembly. "I call thee," says the orator, "the hireling, first of Philip and now of Alexander; and all these who are here present agree in opinion with me. If thou disbelievest it, ask them the question; but no, I will ask them myself. Athenians, does Aeschines appear to you in the light of a hireling or a friend of Alexander's?" In putting this question, Demosthenes purposely commits a fault of accentuation: he places the accent improperly on the antepenultima, instead of the last syllable, of μισθωτός-in the words of Ulpian, ἑκὼν ἐβαρβάρισεν-in order to draw the attention of the people from the question to the pronunciation. This had the desired effect: the accurate ears of the Athenians were struck with the mistake; to correct it, they called out μισθωτός, μισθωτός, "a hireling! a hireling!" from every part of the assembly. Pretending to receive the word as the expression of their sentiments on the guilt of Aeschines, he cried out, "Dost thou hear what they say?"
The simple pleadings (δίκαι) relative to matters of private interest, constitute the second class of judicial actions. Of these we have thirty remaining, which are as follows:
* 1. Discourses having relation to the proceedings instituted by Demosthenes against his guardians. They are five in number: of these, two are against Aphobus, and two against Onetor, his brother.
* 2. Λόγοι παραγράφικοι, or, as Cicero (De Invent. 1, 8) calls them, constitutiones translativae. We have seven discourses of this class from the pen of Demosthenes, viz.: against Zenothemis, against Apaturius, against Lacritus, against Phormion, against Pantaenetus, against Nausimachus, and Xenopithaea.
* 3. Discourses relative to the rights of succession and to questions of dower. These are four in number: against Macartatus, against Leochares, against Spudias, against Boeotus for his mother's dowry.
* 4. Discourses in matters of commerce and of debt. These are three in number: against Calippus, against Nicostratus, against Timotheus.
* 5. Actions for indemnity and for damages (βλάβη, αἰκία). The discourses under this head are five in number: against Boeotus, against Olympiodorus, against Conon, against Dionysiodorus, against Callicles.
* 6. Actions for perjury: two discourses against Stephanus, and one against Euergus and Mnesibulus.
* 7. Three discourses on the subject of the ἀντίδοσις (q. v.), or exchange of estates. The discourses under this head are the following: against Phoenippus, against Polycles, and respecting the crown of the trierarchia. It is unnecessary to speak of each of these thirty pleadings; a few remarks on some of them must suffice.
The five discourses which Demosthenes pronounced against his guardians contain valuable details respecting his youth, his fortune, and the Athenian laws. Aphobus, one of the guardians, was condemned to pay Demosthenes the sum of ten talents. It does not appear whether he brought the two other guardians to trial or not. These discourses have some resemblance to those of Isaeus, his master. The παραγραφή for Phormio against Apollodorus has furnished occasion for a reproach to the memory of Demosthenes. We are told by Plutarch that Demosthenes "wrote an oration for Apollodorus, by which he carried his cause against the general Timotheus, in an action for debt to the public treasury; as also those others against Phormio and Stephanus, which formed a just exception against his character. For he composed likewise the oration which Phormio had pronounced against Apollodorus. This, therefore, was like furnishing the enemies with weapons out of the same shop."
The discourse against Macartatus, respecting the succession of Hagnias, is interesting from the circumstance of our having the defence of Macartatus by Isaeus , and from our being thus able to compare the pupil with his former master.
III. Studied or set speeches (λόγοι ἐπιδείκτικοι
It remains to speak of the third class of Demosthenes's orations, the λόγοι ἐπιδεικτικοί, "studied or set speeches." We have only two remaining, and these, very probably, are spurious. The one, ἐπιτάφιος λόγος, is a eulogy on the Athenians who had perished at Chaeronea; the other, ἐρωτικός λόγος, is written in praise of the beauty of the young Epicrates.
There are also six letters ascribed to Demosthenes; five of them are addressed to the people of Athens. All, however, are forgeries.
Good manuscripts of Demosthenes are rare, but several of them are as old as the eleventh century, and most of them contain a very large portion, if not the whole, of the extant works. In all, there are some 170 MSS. They are divided by editors into three groups, of which the first is headed by a Codex Parisinus (S or Σ) of the tenth or eleventh century, distinguished by remarkable omissions in the text; the second is headed by a Marcianus Venetus (F) and another Codex Parisinus (γ), both of the eleventh century; the third by a Codex Monacensis (A), also of the eleventh century, distinguished by curious simplifications of hard passages. Editors are not entirely agreed as to the value of S or Σ, some maintaining that it gives the authentic text, others believing that it gives an edition by a clever scholar. The scholia on Demosthenes are inferior, the best being those in C. Müller (Paris, 1846-47) and Scholia Graeca in Demosth. (Oxford, 1851). On the MSS. see Vömel's Prolegomena Critica to his edition (Halle, 1856-57).
For the life of Demosthenes, the reader is referred to Schäfer's Demosthenes und seine Zeit (2d ed. Berlin, 1882); and for an exhaustive literary criticism, to Blass's Attische Beredsamkeit (1880). Butcher's Introduction to the Study of Demosthenes (London, 1881) and Brodribb's (1877) are useful. See also Croiset, Des Idées Morales dans l'Eloquence Politique de Démosthène (1871). The standard texts are those of Bekker (1866) and of L. Dindorf (Leip. 1878; rev. by Blass). For critical study of Demosthenes, the Apparatus Criticus of Schäfer in 5 vols. (London, 1824) is valuable, as are also the three volumes of Annotationes Interpretum of Dindorf (Oxford, 1849). The editio princeps of Demosthenes was that of Aldus (Venice, 1504). Good editions of the various orations with notes are as follows: De Corona, T. K. Arnold (London, 1860), Holmes (London, 1871), Drake (London, 1866), Simcox (Oxford, 1873), containing also the oration of Aeschines, D'Ooge (Chicago, 1875), Blass (Leipzig, 1890); De Falsa Legatione, Shilleto (London, 1874); Contra Leptinem, Beatson (London, 1864), King (London, 1880), and especially Sandys (Cambridge, 1890); In Midiam, Holmes (Buttmann), (London, 1868); of the Olynthiacs, Wilkins (London, 1860), T. K. Arnold (London, 1877); of the Philippics, Heslop (London, 1868), T. K. Arnold (London, 1868), Westermann (1825); of the First Philippic, Gwatkin (Rehdantz), (London, 1883); Adv. Timocratem, etc., Wayte (Camb. 1883); collections of Select Private Orations, Penrose (London, 1853), Sandys and Paley, in 2 pts., 9 orations (Camb. 1874-75), with French notes, Weil (Paris, 1877). See also Baiter and Sauppe's Oratores Attici, 8 vols. or one large quarto (1850); Bekker, 10 vols. with indices (Oxford, 1828); Dobson with variorum notes (London, 1828); and Jebb (London, 1882). Useful is Mitchell's Index Graecitatis, 3 vols. (London, 1828); and Westermann's Geschichte d. Beredsamkeit (1835) is to be commended for a general conspectus. The best translation into English is that of Kennedy in 5 vols. (London, 1852-63).
Demosthenes in Wikipedia
Demosthenes (English pronunciation: /dɪˈmɒs.θəniːz/, Greek: Δημοσθένης, Dēmosthénēs, /dɛːmostʰénɛːs/), (384–322 BC), was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BC. Demosthenes learned rhetoric by studying the speeches of previous great orators. He delivered his first judicial speeches at the age of 20, in which he argued effectively to gain from his guardians what was left of his inheritance. For a time, Demosthenes made his living as a professional speech-writer (logographer) and a lawyer, writing speeches for use in private legal suits.
Demosthenes grew interested in politics during his time as a logographer, and in 354 BC he gave his first public political speeches. He went on to devote his most productive years to opposing Macedon's expansion. He idealized his city and strove throughout his life to restore Athens' supremacy and motivate his compatriots against Philip II of Macedon. He sought to preserve his city's freedom and to establish an alliance against Macedon, in an unsuccessful attempt to impede Philip's plans to expand his influence southwards by conquering all the Greek states. After Philip's death, Demosthenes played a leading part in his city's uprising against the new King of Macedon, Alexander the Great. However, his efforts failed and the revolt was met with a harsh Macedonian reaction. To prevent a similar revolt against his own rule, Alexander's successor in this region, Antipater, sent his men to track Demosthenes down. Demosthenes took his own life, in order to avoid being arrested by Archias, Antipater's confidant.
The Alexandrian Canon compiled by Aristophanes of Byzantium and Aristarchus of Samothrace recognized Demosthenes as one of the ten greatest Attic orators and logographers. According to Longinus, Demosthenes "perfected to the utmost the tone of lofty speech, living passions, copiousness, readiness, speed". Cicero acclaimed him as "the perfect orator" who lacked nothing, and Quintilian extolled him as lex orandi ("the standard of oratory") and that inter omnes unus excellat ("he stands alone among all the orators").
Early years (384–355 BC)
Family, education and personal life
Demosthenes was born in 384 BC, during the last year of the 98th Olympiad or the first year of the 99th Olympiad. His father-also named Demosthenes-who belonged to the local tribe, Pandionis, and lived in the deme of Paeania in the Athenian countryside, was a wealthy sword-maker. Aeschines, Demosthenes' greatest political rival, maintained that his mother Kleoboule was a Scythian by blood-an allegation disputed by some modern scholars.[a] Demosthenes was orphaned at the age of seven. Although his father provided well for him, his legal guardians, Aphobus, Demophon and Therippides, mishandled his inheritance.
As soon as Demosthenes came of age in 366 BC, he demanded they render an account of their management. According to Demosthenes, the account revealed the misappropriation of his property. Although his father left an estate of nearly fourteen talents, (very roughly 11,700 troy ounces in silver or 150,000 current United States dollars) Demosthenes asserted his guardians had left nothing "except the house, and fourteen slaves and thirty silver minae" (30 minae = ½ talent). At the age of 20 Demosthenes sued his trustees in order to recover his patrimony and delivered five orations: three Against Aphobus during 363 BC and 362 BC and two Against Ontenor during 362 and 361 BC. The courts fixed Demosthenes' damages at ten talents. When all the trials came to an end,[b] he only succeeded in retrieving a portion of his inheritance.
Between his coming of age in 366 BC and the trials that took place in 364 BC, Demosthenes and his guardians negotiated acrimoniously but were unable to reach an agreement, for neither side was willing to make concessions. At the same time, Demosthenes prepared himself for the trials and improved his oratory skill. As an adolescent, his curiosity had been noticed by the orator Callistratus, who was then at the height of his reputation, having just won a case of considerable importance. According to Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philologist and philosopher, and Constantine Paparregopoulus, a major Greek historian, Demosthenes was a student of Isocrates; according to Cicero, Quintillian and the Roman biographer Hermippus, he was a student of Plato. Lucian, a Roman-Syrian rhetorician and satirist, lists the philosophers Aristotle, Theophrastus and Xenocrates among his teachers. These claims are nowadays disputed.[c] According to Plutarch, Demosthenes employed Isaeus as his master in Rhetoric, even though Isocrates was then teaching this subject, either because he could not pay Isocrates the prescribed fee or because Demosthenes believed Isaeus' style better suited a vigorous and astute orator such as himself . Curtius, a German archaeologist and historian, likened the relation between Isaeus and Demosthenes to "an intellectual armed alliance".
It has also been said that Demosthenes paid Isaeus 10,000 drachmae (somewhat over 1.5 talents) on the condition that Isaeus should withdraw from a school of Rhetoric which he had opened, and should devote himself wholly to Demosthenes, his new pupil. Another version credits Isaeus with having taught Demosthenes without charge. According to Sir Richard C. Jebb, a British classical scholar, "the intercourse between Isaeus and Demosthenes as teacher and learner can scarcely have been either very intimate or of very long duration". Konstantinos Tsatsos, a Greek professor and academician, believes that Isaeus helped Demosthenes edit his initial judicial orations against his guardians. Demosthenes is also said to have admired the historian Thucydides. In the Illiterate Book-Fancier, Lucian mentions eight beautiful copies of Thucydides made by Demosthenes, all in Demosthenes' own handwriting. These references hint at his respect for a historian he must have assiduously studied.
According to Pseudo-Plutarch, Demosthenes was married once. The only information about his wife, whose name is unknown, is that she was the daughter of Heliodorus, a prominent citizen. Demosthenes also had a daughter, "the only one who ever called him father", according to Aeschines' in a trenchant remark. His daughter died young and unmarried a few days before Philip's death.
Accusations concerning personal life
In his speeches, Aeschines often uses the pederastic relations of Demosthenes to attack him. The essence of these attacks was not that Demosthenes had relations with boys, but that he had been an inadequate pederast, one whose attentions did not benefit the boys, as would have been expected, but harmed them instead. In the case of Aristion, a youth from Plataea who lived for a long time in Demosthenes' house, Aeschines mocked him for lack of sexual restraint and possibly effeminate behavior: "Allegations about what [Aristion] was undergoing there, or doing what, vary, and it would be most unseemly for me to talk about it." Another relationship which Aeschines brings up is that with Cnosion. His allegation, in this case, was also of a sexual nature. This time, however, he blamed Demosthenes for involving his wife by putting her in bed with the youth so as to get children by him. Athenaeus, however, presents matters in a different light, claiming that his wife bedded the boy in a fit of jealousy.
Aeschines often asserted that Demosthenes made money out of young rich men. He claimed that he deluded Aristarchus, the son of Moschus, with the pretence that he could make him a great orator. Apparently, while still under Demosthenes' tutelage, Aristarchus killed and mutilated a certain Nicodemus of Aphidna, gouging out his eyes and tongue. Aeschines accused Demosthenes of complicity in the murder, pointing out that Nicodemus had once pressed a lawsuit accusing Demosthenes of desertion. He also accused Demosthenes of having been such a bad erastes to Aristarchus so as not even to deserve the name. His crime, according to Aeschines, was to have betrayed his eromenos by pillaging his estate, allegedly pretending to be in love with the youth so as to get his hands on the boy's inheritance. This he is said to have squandered, having taken three talents upon Aristarchus' fleeing into exile so as to avoid a trial. Thus, in payment for the trust that Aristarchus and his family put in him, "You entered a happy home [...] you ruined it." Nevertheless, the story of Demosthenes' relations with Aristarchus is still regarded as more than doubtful, and no other pupil of Demosthenes is known by name.
Career as logographer
To make his living, Demosthenes became a professional litigant and logographer, writing speeches for use in private legal suits. He was so successful that he soon acquired wealthy and powerful clients. The Athenian logographer could remain anonymous, allowing him to serve personal interests, even if it prejudiced the client. Aeschines accused Demosthenes of unethically disclosing his clients' arguments to their opponents. He queried of Demosthenes: "And the born traitor-how shall we recognize him? Will he not imitate you, Demosthenes, in his treatment of those whom chance throws in his way and who have trusted him? Will he not take pay for writing speeches for them to deliver in the courts, and then reveal the contents of these speeches to their opponents?"
As an example, Aeschines accused Demosthenes of writing a speech for Phormion, a wealthy banker, and then communicating it to Apollodorus, who was bringing a capital charge against Phormion. Plutarch supported this accusation, stating that Demosthenes "was thought to have acted dishonorably".
Early politics (354 BC–350 BC)
Even before he turned 21-years-old in 363 BC, Demosthenes had already demonstrated an interest in politics. In 363, 359, and 357 BC, he assumed the office of the trierarch, being responsible for the outfitting and maintenance of a trireme. In 348 BC, he became a choregos, paying the expenses of a theatrical production.
Although Demosthenes said he never pleaded a single private case, it remains unclear when and if Demosthenes abandoned the profitable but not so prestigious profession of logography.[d] According to Plutarch, when Demosthenes first addressed himself to the people, he was derided for his strange and uncouth style, "which was cumbered with long sentences and tortured with formal arguments to a most harsh and disagreeable excess".
Some citizens however discerned his talent. When he first left the ecclesia (the Athenian Assembly) disheartened, an old man named Eunomus encouraged him, saying his diction was very much like that of Pericles. Another time, after the ecclesia had refused to hear him and he was going home dejected, an actor named Satyrus followed him and entered into a friendly conversation with him.
As a boy Demosthenes had a speech impediment: an inarticulate and stammering pronunciation. Aeschines taunted him and referred to him in his speeches by the nickname "Batalus",[e] apparently invented by Demosthenes' pedagogues or by the little boys with whom he was playing. According to Plutarch, he had a weakness in his voice of "a perplexed and indistinct utterance and a shortness of breath, which, by breaking and disjointing his sentences much obscured the sense and meaning of what he spoke." Demosthenes soon undertook a disciplined program to overcome these shortcomings and improve his elocution. He worked on his diction, his voice and his gestures. His zeal and perseverance have passed into proverb. It is however unknown whether these vignettes are factual accounts of events in Demosthenes' life or merely anecdotes used to illustrate his perseverance and determination.
Increased political activity
Between 354 and 350 BC, Demosthenes continued practicing law privately while he was becoming increasingly interested in public affairs. He mostly remained a judicial orator, but started participating in the politics of the Athenian democracy. In 355 BC he wrote Against Androtion and in 354 BC Against Leptines, two fierce attacks on individuals who attempted to repeal certain tax exemptions. In Against Timocrates and Against Aristocrates he advocated eliminating corruption. Demosthenes denounced measures regarded as dishonest or unworthy of Athenian traditions. All these speeches offer early glimpses of his general principles on foreign policy, such as the importance of the navy, of alliances and of national honor.
In 354 BC, Demosthenes delivered his first political oration, On the Navy, in which he espoused moderation and proposed the reform of "symmories"(boards) as a source of funding for the Athenian fleet. In 352 BC, he delivered For the Megalopolitans and, in 351 BC, On the Liberty of the Rhodians. In both speeches he opposed Eubulus, the most powerful Athenian statesman of the period 355 to 342 BC, who was against any intervention in the internal affairs of the other Greek cities.
Although none of his early orations were successful, Demosthenes established himself as an important political personality and broke with Eubulus' faction, a prominent member of which was Aeschines. He laid the foundations for his future political successes and for becoming the leader of his own party. His arguments revealed his desire to articulate Athens' needs and interests.
In 351 BC, Demosthenes felt strong enough to express his view concerning the most important foreign policy issue facing Athens at that time: the stance his city should take towards Philip II of Macedon. According to Jacqueline de Romilly, a French philologist and member of the Académie française, the threat of Philip would give Demosthenes' stances a focus and a raison d'être. Henceforth, Demosthenes' career is virtually the history of Athenian foreign policy.
Confrontation with Philip II
First Philippic and the Olynthiacs (351–349 BC)
Most of Demosthenes' major orations were directed against the growing power of King Philip II of Macedon. Since 357 BC, when Philip seized Amphipolis and Pydna, Athens had been formally at war with the Macedonians. In 352 BC, Demosthenes characterized Philip as the very worst enemy of his city; his speech presaged the fierce attacks that Demosthenes would launch against the Macedonian king over the ensuing years. A year later he criticized those dismissing Philip as a person of no account and warned that he was as dangerous as the King of Persia.
In 352 BC, Athenian troops successfully opposed Philip at Thermopylae, but the Macedonian victory over the Phocians at the Battle of Crocus Field shook Demosthenes. The theme of the First Philippic (351–350 BC) was preparedness and the reform of the theoric fund,[f] a mainstay of Eubulus' policy. In his rousing call for resistance, Demosthenes asked his countrymen to take the necessary action and asserted that "for a free people there can be no greater compulsion than shame for their position".
From this moment until 341 BC, all of Demosthenes' speeches referred to the same issue, the struggle against Philip. In 349 BC, Philip attacked Olynthus, an ally of Athens. In the three Olynthiacs, Demosthenes criticized his compatriots for being idle and urged Athens to help Olynthus. He also insulted Philip by calling him a "barbarian".[g] Despite Demosthenes' warnings, the Athenians engaged in a useless war in Euboea and offered no military support to Olynthus.
Case of Meidias (348 BC)
In 348 BC a peculiar event occurred: Meidias, a wealthy Athenian, publicly slapped Demosthenes, who was at the time a choregos at the Greater Dionysia, a large religious festival in honour of the god Dionysus. Meidias was a friend of Eubulus and supporter of the unsuccessful excursion in Euboea. He also was an old enemy of Demosthenes; in 361 BC he had broken violently into his house, with his brother Thrasylochus, to take possession of it.
Demosthenes decided to prosecute his wealthy opponent and wrote the judicial oration Against Meidias. This speech gives valuable information about Athenian law at the time and especially about the Greek concept of hybris (aggravated assault), which was regarded as a crime not only against the city but against society as a whole. He stated that a democratic state perishes if the rule of law is undermined by wealthy and unscrupulous men, and that the citizens acquire power and authority in all state affairs due "to the strength of the laws". According to philologist Henri Weil, Demosthenes dropped the charges for political reasons and never delivered Against Meidias, although Aeschines maintained that Demosthenes was bribed.
Peace of Philocrates (347–345 BC)
In 348 BC, Philip conquered Olynthus and razed it to the ground; then conquered the entire Chalcidice and all the states of the Chalcidic federation that Olynthus had once led. After these Macedonian victories, Athens sued for peace with Macedon. Demosthenes was among those who favored compromise. In 347 BC, an Athenian delegation, comprising Demosthenes, Aeschines and Philocrates, was officially sent to Pella to negotiate a peace treaty. In his first encounter with Philip, Demosthenes is said to have collapsed from fright.
The ecclesia officially accepted the harsh terms Phillip imposed. However, when an Athenian delegation arrived at Pella to put Phillip under oath, which was required to conclude the treaty, he was campaigning abroad. He expected that he would hold safely any Athenian possessions which he might seize before the ratification. Being very anxious about the delay, Demosthenes insisted that the embassy should travel to the place where they would find Philip and swear him in without delay. Despite his suggestions, the Athenian envoys, including himself and Aeschines, remained in Pella, until Philip successfully concluded his campaign in Thrace.
Finally, peace was sworn at Pherae, but Demosthenes accused the other envoys of venality. Just after the conclusion of the Peace of Philocrates, Philip passed Thermopylae, and subdued Phocis; Athens made no move to support the Phocians. Supported by Thebes and Thessaly, Macedon took control of Phocis' votes in the Amphictyonic League, a Greek religious organization formed to support the greater temples of Apollo and Demeter. Despite some reluctance on the part of the Athenian leaders, Athens finally accepted Philip's entry into the Council of the League. Demosthenes was among those who recommended this stance in his oration On the Peace.
Second and Third Philippics (344–341 BC)
For more details on this topic, see Second Philippic, On the Chersonese, Third Philippic
In 344 BC Demosthenes travelled to the Peloponnese, in order to detach as many cities as possible from Macedon's influence, but his efforts were generally unsuccessful. Most of the Peloponnesians saw Philip as the guarantor of their freedom and sent a joint embassy to Athens to express their grievances against Demosthenes' activities. In response, Demosthenes delivered the Second Philippic, a vehement attack against Philip. In 343 BC Demosthenes delivered On the False Embassy against Aeschines, who was facing a charge of high treason. Nonetheless, Aeschines was acquitted by the narrow margin of thirty votes by a jury which may have numbered as many as 1,501.
In 343 BC, Macedonian forces were conducting campaigns in Epirus and, in 342 BC, Philip campaigned in Thrace. He also negotiated with the Athenians an amendment to the Peace of Philocrates. When the Macedonian army approached Chersonese (now known as the Gallipoli Peninsula), an Athenian general named Diopeithes ravaged the maritime district of Thrace, thereby inciting Philip's rage. Because of this turbulence, the Athenian Assembly convened. Demosthenes delivered On the Chersonese and convinced the Athenians not to recall Diopeithes. Also in 342 BC, he delivered the Third Philippic, which is considered to be the best of his political orations. Using all the power of his eloquence, he demanded resolute action against Philip and called for a burst of energy from the Athenian people. He told them that it would be "better to die a thousand times than pay court to Philip". Demosthenes now dominated Athenian politics and was able to considerably weaken the pro-Macedonian faction of Aeschines.
Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC)
In 341 BC Demosthenes was sent to Byzantium, where he sought to renew its alliance with Athens. Thanks to Demosthenes' diplomatic manoeuvres Abydos also entered into an alliance with Athens. These developments worried Philip and increased his anger at Demosthenes. The Athenian Assembly, however, laid aside Philip's grievances against Demosthenes' conduct and denounced the peace treaty; so doing, in effect, amounted to an official declaration of war. In 339 BC Philip made his last and most effective bid to conquer southern Greece, assisted by Aeschines' stance in the Amphictyonic Council. During a meeting of the Council, Philip accused the Amfissian Locrians of intruding on consecrated ground. The presiding officer of the Council, a Thessalian named Cottyphus, proposed the convocation of an Amphictyonic Congress to inflict a harsh punishment upon the Locrians. Aeschines agreed with this proposition and maintained that the Athenians should participate in the Congress. Demosthenes however reversed Aeschines' initiatives and Athens finally abstained. After the failure of a first military excursion against the Locrians, the summer session of the Amphictyonic Council gave command of the league's forces to Philip and asked him to lead a second excursion. Philip decided to act at once; in the winter of 339–338 BC, he passed through Thermopylae, entered Amfissa and defeated the Locrians. After this significant victory, Philip swiftly entered Phocis in 338 BC. He then turned south-east down the Cephissus valley, seized Elateia, and restored the fortifications of the city.
At the same time, Athens orchestrated the creation of an alliance with Euboea, Megara, Achaea, Corinth, Acarnania and other states in the Peloponnese. However the most desirable ally for Athens was Thebes. To secure their allegiance, Demosthenes was sent, by Athens, to the Boeotian city; Philip also sent a deputation, but Demosthenes succeeded in securing Thebes' allegiance. Demosthenes' oration before the Theban people is not extant and, therefore, the arguments he used to convince the Thebans remain unknown. In any case, the alliance came at a price: Thebes' control of Boeotia was recognized, Thebes was to command solely on land and jointly at sea, and Athens was to pay two thirds of the campaign's cost.
While the Athenians and the Thebans were preparing themselves for war, Philip made a final attempt to appease his enemies, proposing in vain a new peace treaty. After a few trivial encounters between the two sides, which resulted in minor Athenian victories, Philip drew the phalanx of the Athenian and Theban confederates into a plain near Chaeronea, where he defeated them. Demosthenes fought as a mere hoplite.[h] Such was Philip's hatred for Demosthenes that, according to Diodorus Siculus, the King after his victory sneered at the misfortunes of the Athenian statesman. However, the Athenian orator and statesman Demades is said to have remarked: "O King, when Fortune has cast you in the role of Agamemnon, are you not ashamed to act the part of Thersites? [an obscene soldier of the Greek army during the Trojan War]" Stung by these words, Philip immediately altered his demeanour.
Last political initiatives and death
Confrontation with Alexander
After Chaeronea, Philip inflicted a harsh punishment upon Thebes, but made peace with Athens on very lenient terms. Demosthenes encouraged the fortification of Athens and was chosen by the ecclesia to deliver the Funeral Oration. In 337 BC, Philip created the League of Corinth, a confederation of Greek states under his leadership, and returned to Pella. In 336 BC, Philip was assassinated at the wedding of his daughter, Cleopatra of Macedonia, to King Alexander of Epirus. After Philip's death, the army proclaimed Alexander, then aged twenty, as the new King of Macedon. Greek cities like Athens and Thebes saw in this change of leadership an opportunity to regain their full independence. Demosthenes celebrated Philip's assassination and played a leading part in his city's uprising. According to Aeschines, "it was but the seventh day after the death of his daughter, and though the ceremonies of mourning were not yet completed, he put a garland on his head and white raiment on his body, and there he stood making thank-offerings, violating all decency." Demosthenes also sent envoys to Attalus, whom he considered to be an internal opponent of Alexander. Nonetheless, Alexander moved swiftly to Thebes, which submitted shortly after his appearance at its gates. When the Athenians learned that Alexander had moved quickly to Boeotia, they panicked and begged the new King of Macedon for mercy. Alexander admonished them but imposed no punishment.
In 335 BC Alexander felt free to engage the Thracians and the Illyrians. While he was campaigning in the north, the Thebans and the Athenians rebelled once again, believing rumors that Alexander was dead. Darius III of Persia financed the Greek cities that rose up against Macedon, and Demosthenes is said to have received about 300 talents on behalf of Athens and to have faced accusations of embezzlement.[i] Alexander reacted immediately and razed Thebes to the ground. He did not attack Athens, but demanded the exile of all anti-Macedonian politicians, Demosthenes first of all. According to Plutarch, a special Athenian embassy led by Phocion, an opponent of the anti-Macedonian faction, was able to persuade Alexander to relent.
Delivery of On the Crown
Despite the unsuccessful ventures against Philip and Alexander, the Athenians still respected Demosthenes. In 336 BC, the orator Ctesiphon proposed that Athens honor Demosthenes for his services to the city by presenting him, according to custom, with a golden crown. This proposal became a political issue and, in 330 BC, Aeschines prosecuted Ctesiphon on charges of legal irregularities. In his most brilliant speech, On the Crown, Demosthenes effectively defended Ctesiphon and vehemently attacked those who would have preferred peace with Macedon. He was unrepentant about his past actions and policies and insisted that, when in power, the constant aim of his policies was the honor and the ascendancy of his country; and on every occasion and in all business he preserved his loyalty to Athens. He finally defeated Aeschines, although his enemy's objections to the crowning were arguably valid from a legal point of view.
Case of Harpalus
In 324 BC Harpalus, to whom Alexander had entrusted huge treasures, absconded and sought refuge in Athens. Demosthenes, at first, advised that he be chased out of the city. Finally, Harpalus was imprisoned despite the dissent of Hypereides, an anti-Macedonian statesman and former ally of Demosthenes. The ecclesia, after a proposal of Demosthenes, decided to take control of Harpalus' money, which was entrusted to a committee presided over by Demosthenes. When the committee counted the treasure, they found they only had half the money Harpalus had declared he had. Nevertheless, they decided not to disclose the deficit. When Harpalus escaped, the Areopagus conducted an inquiry and charged Demosthenes with mishandling twenty talents. During Demosthenes' trial, Hypereides argued that he did not disclose the huge deficit, because he was bribed by Harpalus. Demosthenes was fined and imprisoned, but he soon escaped. It remains unclear whether the accusations against him were just or not.[j] In any case, the Athenians soon repealed the sentence.
After Alexander's death in 323 BC, Demosthenes again urged the Athenians to seek independence from Macedonia in what became known as the Lamian War. However, Antipater, Alexander's successor, quelled all opposition and demanded that the Athenians turn over Demosthenes and Hypereides, among others. Following his request, the ecclesia adopted a decree condemning the most prominent anti-Macedonian agitators to death. Demosthenes escaped to a sanctuary on the island of Calauria (modern-day Poros), where he was later discovered by Archias, a confidant of Antipater. He committed suicide before his capture by taking poison out of a reed, pretending he wanted to write a letter to his family. When Demosthenes felt that the poison was working on his body, he said to Archias: "Now, as soon as you please you may commence the part of Creon in the tragedy, and cast out this body of mine unburied. But, O gracious Neptune, I, for my part, while I am yet alive, arise up and depart out of this sacred place; though Antipater and the Macedonians have not left so much as the temple unpolluted." After saying these words, he passed by the altar, fell down and died. Years after Demosthenes' suicide, the Athenians erected a statue to honor him and decreed that the state should provide meals to his descendants in the Prytaneum.
Plutarch lauds Demosthenes for not being of a fickle disposition. Rebutting historian Theopompus, the biographer insists that for "the same party and post in politics which he held from the beginning, to these he kept constant to the end; and was so far from leaving them while he lived, that he chose rather to forsake his life than his purpose". On the other hand, Polybius, a Greek historian of the Mediterranean world, was highly critical of Demosthenes' policies. Polybius accused him of having launched unjustified verbal attacks on great men of other cities, branding them unjustly as traitors to the Greeks. The historian maintains that Demosthenes measured everything by the interests of his own city, imagining that all the Greeks ought to have their eyes fixed upon Athens. According to Polybius, the only thing the Athenians eventually got by their opposition to Philip was the defeat at Chaeronea. "And had it not been for the king's magnanimity and regard for his own reputation, their misfortunes would have gone even further, thanks to the policy of Demosthenes".[10
Paparregopoulus extols Demosthenes' patriotism, but criticizes him as being short-sighted. According to this critique, Demosthenes should have understood that the ancient Greek states could only survive unified under the leadership of Macedon. Therefore, Demosthenes is accused of misjudging events, opponents and opportunities and of being unable to foresee Philip's inevitable triumph. He is criticized for having overrated Athens' capacity to revive and challenge Macedon. His city had lost most of its Aegean allies, whereas Philip had consolidated his hold over Macedonia and was master of enormous mineral wealth. Chris Carey, a professor of Greek in UCL, concludes that Demosthenes was a better orator and political operator than strategist. Nevertheless, the same scholar underscores that "pragmatists" like Aeschines or Phocion had no inspiring vision to rival that of Demosthenes. The orator asked the Athenians to choose that which is just and honorable, before their own safety and preservation. The people preferred Demosthenes' activism and even the bitter defeat at Chaeronea was regarded as a price worth paying in the attempt to retain freedom and influence. According to Professor of Greek Arthur Wallace Pickard-Cambridge, success may be a poor criterion for judging the actions of people like Demosthenes, who were motivated by the ideal of political liberty. Athens was asked by Philip to sacrifice its freedom and its democracy, while Demosthenes longed for the city's brilliance. He endeavored to revive its imperilled values and, thus, he became an "educator of the people" (in the words of Werner Jaeger).
The fact that Demosthenes fought at the battle of Chaeronea as a hoplite indicates that he lacked any military skills. According to historian Thomas Babington Macaulay, in his time the division between political and military offices was beginning to be strongly marked. Almost no politician, with the exception of Phocion, was at the same time an apt orator and a competent general. Demosthenes dealt in policies and ideas, and war was not his business. This contrast between Demosthenes' intellectual prowess and his deficiencies in terms of vigor, stamina, military skill and strategic vision is illustrated by the inscription his countrymen engraved on the base of his statue:
" Had you for Greece been strong, as wise you were,
The Macedonian had not conquered her.
According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a Greek historian and teacher of rhetoric, Demosthenes represented the final stage in the development of Attic prose. Dionysius asserts that Demosthenes brought together the best features of the basic types of style; he used the middle or normal type style ordinarily and applied the archaic type and the type of plain elegance where they were fitting. In each one of the three types he was better than its special masters. He is, therefore, regarded as a consummate orator, adept in the techniques of oratory, which are brought together in his work. In his initial judicial orations, the influence of both Lysias and Isaeus is obvious, but his marked, original style is already revealed.
According to the classical scholar Harry Thurston Peck, Demosthenes "affects no learning; he aims at no elegance; he seeks no glaring ornaments; he rarely touches the heart with a soft or melting appeal, and when he does, it is only with an effect in which a third-rate speaker would have surpassed him. He had no wit, no humour, no vivacity, in our acceptance of these terms. The secret of his power is simple, for it lies essentially in the fact that his political principles were interwoven with his very spirit." In this judgement, Peck agrees with Jaeger, who said that the imminent political decision imbued the Demosthenes' speech with a fascinating artistic power. Demosthenes was apt at combining abruptness with the extended period, brevity with breadth. Hence, his style harmonizes with his fervent commitment. His language is simple and natural, never far-fetched or artificial. According to Jebb, Demosthenes was a true artist who could make his art obey him. For his part, Aeschines stigmatized his intensity, attributing to his rival strings of absurd and incoherent images. Dionysius stated that Demosthenes' only shortcoming is the lack of humor, although Quintilian regards this deficiency as a virtue. The main criticism of Demosthenes' art, however, seems to have rested chiefly on his known reluctance to speak extempore; he often declined to comment on subjects he had not studied beforehand. However, he gave the most elaborate preparation to all his speeches and, therefore, his arguments were the products of careful study. He was also famous for his caustic wit.
According to Cicero, Demosthenes regarded "delivery" (gestures, voice etc.) as more important than style. Although he lacked Aeschines' charming voice and Demades's skill at improvisation, he made efficient use of his body to accentuate his words. Thus he managed to project his ideas and arguments much more forcefully. Nonetheless, his delivery was not accepted by everybody in antiquity: Demetrius Phalereus and the comedians ridiculed Demosthenes' "theatricality", whilst Aeschines regarded Leodamas of Acharnae as superior to him.
Demosthenes' fame continued down the ages. The scholars at the Library of Alexandria carefully edited the manuscripts of his speeches, and Roman schoolboys studied his art as part of their own oratorical training. Juvenal acclaimed him as "largus et exundans ingenii fons" (a large and overflowing fountain of genius), and he inspired Cicero's speeches against Mark Antony, also called the Philippics. Plutarch drew attention in his Life of Demosthenes to the strong similarities between the personalities and careers of Demosthenes and Marcus Tullius Cicero:
" The divine power seems originally to have designed Demosthenes and Cicero upon the same plan, giving them many similarities in their natural characters, as their passion for distinction and their love of liberty in civil life, and their want of courage in dangers and war, and at the same time also to have added many accidental resemblances. I think there can hardly be found two other orators, who, from small and obscure beginnings, became so great and mighty; who both contested with kings and tyrants; both lost their daughters, were driven out of their country, and returned with honor; who, flying from thence again, were both seized upon by their enemies, and at last ended their lives with the liberty of their countrymen. "
During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Demosthenes had a reputation for eloquence. He was read more than any other ancient orator; only Cicero offered any real competition. French author and lawyer Guillaume du Vair praises his speeches for their artful arrangement and elegant style; John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury, and Jacques Amyot, a French Renaissance writer and translator, regard Demosthenes as a great or even the "supreme" orator.
In modern history, orators such as Henry Clay would mimic Demosthenes' technique. His ideas and principles survived, influencing prominent politicians and movements of our times. Hence, he constituted a source of inspiration for the authors of the Federalist Papers (series of 85 articles arguing for the ratification of the United States Constitution) and for the major orators of the French Revolution. French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau was among those who idealized Demosthenes and wrote a book about him. For his part, Friedrich Nietzsche often composed his sentences according to the paradigms of Demosthenes, whose style he admired. During World War II, the fighters of the French Resistance identified themselves with Demosthenes, and Adolf Hitler with Philip.
Advertising executive David Ogilvy frequently cited Demosthenes as a model for creating persuasive advertising, saying, "When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.’"
The Demosthenian Literary Society at The University of Georgia is named after Demosthenes, as a tribute to his oratorical ability and the manner in which he improved his speaking ability.
It seems that Demosthenes published many or all of his orations. After his death, texts of his speeches survived in Athens and the Library of Alexandria. In Alexandria these texts were incorporated into the body of classical Greek literature that was preserved, catalogued and studied by scholars of the Hellenistic period. From then until the 4th century AD, copies of his orations multiplied and they were in a relatively good position to survive the tense period from the 6th until the 9th century AD. In the end, sixty-one of Demosthenes' orations survived till the present day. Friedrich Blass, a German classical scholar, believes that nine more speeches were recorded by the orator, but they are not extant. Modern editions of these speeches are based on four manuscripts of the 10th and 11th centuries AD. The authorship of at least nine of the sixty-one orations is disputed.[k]
Fifty-six prologues and six letters are also extant. The prologues were openings of Demosthenes's speeches. They were collected for the Library of Alexandria by Callimachus, who believed that Demosthenes composed them. Modern scholars are divided: some of them reject them, while others, such as Blass, believe they are genuine. The letters are written under Demosthenes's name, but their authorship has been fiercely debated.[l]