Demosthenes and His Time: A Study in Defeat

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Sixty-one orations, six letters, and a book of 54 proems have been attributed to Demosthenes, though all are certainly not genuine. Private law court speeches include those against Aphobus and Onetor , "Against Dionysodorus" , "For Phormio" , and the first "Against Stephanus" The subjects cover guardianship, inheritance, loans, mining rights, and forgery, among others. Topics covered include abolition of immunity from taxation for public-spirited citizens, embezzlement, assaulting a public official, bribery, and the private lives of Demosthenes and Aeschines.

The six "Letters" have been reinvestigated recently and the majority of them may be genuine. Both domestic Greek history and politics and foreign affairs are involved. Demosthenes is generally acknowledged to be Greece's greatest orator, though he never lacked for rivals in his lifetime. It has been said that he united in himself the excellences of his contemporaries and predecessors. More than a master of rhetorical form, Demosthenes was a man of superior moral and intellectual qualities who knew how to use language for its best effects. Perhaps most significant of all was Demosthenes's ability to see the implications of the rise of Macedonian political and military power and to become the staunchest and most persistent defender of individual Greek freedom against the new power; but he was not farsighted enough to see that the Greek city-state was no longer a viable political unit and that it would be replaced by the Hellenistic imperial state.

Books on Demosthenes appear less frequently than they did in the past. A number of older works are still worth consulting: Samuel H. Butcher, Demosthenes ; Arthur W. Pickard-Cambridge, Demosthenes ; Charles D. Jonathan Goldstein, The Letters of Demosthenes , provides a fascinating investigation into the question of the historical value and authenticity of the six letters attributed to Demosthenes. Sentences Sentence examples. By continuing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

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People will see it as Author Name with your public flash cards. Early Career Though a sickly child, Demosthenes was determined to obtain redress from his guardians. Opponent of Macedon The year marks a turning point in Demosthenes's career since in a series of nine orations he began his famous "Philippics" , warning Athens of the threatening danger of an ever expanding Macedon and an ever imperialistically encroaching Philip.

His Works Sixty-one orations, six letters, and a book of 54 proems have been attributed to Demosthenes, though all are certainly not genuine. His Significance Demosthenes is generally acknowledged to be Greece's greatest orator, though he never lacked for rivals in his lifetime. Further Reading on Demosthenes Books on Demosthenes appear less frequently than they did in the past. Encyclopedia of World Biography. Copyright The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


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Link to this page. MLA Style "Demosthenes. In YourDictionary. Demosthenes Images. Home Reference Biography Demosthenes. Sentence Examples. Also Mentioned In. Rufus Choate Rhetoric and Rhetorical Devices. In Demosthenes' time, different political goals developed around personalities. Instead of electioneering, Athenian politicians used litigation and defamation to remove rivals from government processes.

The rancorous and often hilariously exaggerated accusations, satirised by Old Comedy , were sustained by innuendo, inferences about motives, and a complete absence of proof; as J. Vince states "there was no room for chivalry in Athenian political life". The latter was no pacifist but came to eschew a policy of aggressive interventionism in the internal affairs of the other Greek cities.

Demosthenes, Chaeronea, and the Rhetoric of Defeat

Although his early orations were unsuccessful and reveal a lack of real conviction and of coherent strategic and political prioritisation, [59] Demosthenes established himself as an important political personality and broke with Eubulus's faction, a prominent member of which was Aeschines. In the three Olynthiacs , Demosthenes criticised his compatriots for being idle and urged Athens to help Olynthus.

Almost simultaneously, probably on Eubulus's recommendation, they engaged in a war in Euboea against Philip, which ended in stalemate. 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. Demosthenes was among those who favoured compromise. In his first encounter with Philip, Demosthenes is said to have collapsed from fright.

The ecclesia officially accepted Philip's harsh terms, including the renouncement of their claim to Amphipolis.

Early Career

However, when an Athenian delegation arrived at Pella to put Philip under oath, which was required to conclude the treaty, he was campaigning abroad. Philip swore to the treaty, but he delayed the departure of the Athenian envoys, who had yet to receive the oaths from Macedon's allies in Thessaly and elsewhere.

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Finally, peace was sworn at Pherae , where Philip accompanied the Athenian delegation, after he had completed his military preparations to move south. Demosthenes accused the other envoys of venality and of facilitating Philip's plans with their stance. For Edmund M. Nonetheless, Aeschines was acquitted by the narrow margin of thirty votes by a jury which may have numbered as many as 1, Because of this turbulence, the Athenian Assembly convened.

Demosthenes delivered On the Chersonese and convinced the Athenians not to recall Diopeithes.


  • Demosthenes as speech writer.
  • Multinational Enterprises from the Netherlands (Routledge Studies in International Business and the World Economy8).
  • Demosthenes as speech writer.
  • He told them that it would be "better to die a thousand times than pay court to Philip". Thanks to Demosthenes' diplomatic manoeuvres, Abydos also entered into an alliance with Athens. These developments worried Philip and increased his anger at Demosthenes.

    The 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. 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.

    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's allegiance.

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    In any case, the alliance came at a price: Thebes's control of Boeotia was recognised, 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. Demosthenes fought as a mere hoplite. 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?

    After Chaeronea, Philip inflicted a harsh punishment upon Thebes, but made peace with Athens on very lenient terms.