Chapter 5. DEMETRIUS (perhaps 350-280 B.C.;
supreme in Athens 318-307 B.C.)
Demetrius, the son of Phanostratus, was a native
of Phalerum. He was a pupil of Theophrastus, but
by his speeches in the Athenian assembly he held
the chief power in the State for ten years and was
decreed 360 bronze statues, most of them representing him either on horseback or else driving a chariot
or a pair of horses. And these statues were completed in less than 300 days, so much was he
esteemed. He entered politics, says Demetrius of
Magnesia in his work on
Men of the Same Name,
when Harpalus, fleeing from Alexander,1
Athens. As a statesman he rendered his country
many splendid services. For he enriched the city
with revenues and buildings, though he was not of
noble birth. For he was one of Conon's household
the first book
; yet Lamia, with whom he lived,
was a citizen of noble family, as Favorinus also
states in his first book. Further, in his second book
Favorinus alleges that he suffered violence from
Cleon, while Didymus in his
a certain courtesan nicknamed him Charito-Blepharos
("having the eyelids of the Graces"), and Lampito
("of shining eyes"). He is said to have lost his sight
when in Alexandria and to have recovered it by the
gift of Sarapis; whereupon he composed the paeans
which are sung to this day.
For all his popularity with the Athenians he
nevertheless suffered eclipse through all-devouring
Having been indicted by some persons on a
capital charge, he let judgement go by default; and,
when his accusers could not get hold of his person,
they disgorged their venom on the bronze of his
statues. These they tore down from their pedestals;
some were sold, some cast into the sea, and others were
even, it is said, broken up to make bedroom-utensils.
Only one is preserved in the Acropolis. In his
Favorinus tells us that the
Athenians did this at the bidding of King Demetrius.
And in the official list the year in which he was
archon was styled "the year of lawlessness," according to this same Favorinus.
Hermippus tells us that upon the death of Casander,
being in fear of Antigonus, he fled to Ptolemy Soter.
There he spent a considerable time and advised
Ptolemy, among other things, to invest with sovereign power his children by Eurydice. To this
Ptolemy would not agree, but bestowed the diadem
on his son by Berenice, who, after Ptolemy's death,
thought fit to detain Demetrius as a prisoner in the
country until some decision should be taken concerning him. There he lived in great dejection, and
somehow, in his sleep, received an asp-bite on the
hand which proved fatal. He is buried in the district of Busiris near Diospolis.
Here are my lines upon him3
A venomous asp was the death of the wise Demetrius,
an asp withal of sticky venom, darting, not light from its
eyes, but black death.
Heraclides in his epitome of Sotion's
says that Ptolemy himself wished to transmit the kingdom to Philadelphus, but that Demetrius
tried to dissuade him, saying, "If you give it to another, you will not have it yourself." At the time
when he was being continually attacked in Athens,
Menander, the Comic poet, as I have also learnt, was
very nearly brought to trial for no other cause than
that he was a friend of Demetrius. However, Telesphorus, the nephew of Demetrius, begged him off.
In the number of his works and their total length
in lines he has surpassed almost all contemporary
Peripatetics. For in learning and versatility he has
no equal. Some of these works are historical and
others political; there are some dealing with poets,
others with rhetoric. Then there are public speeches
and reports of embassies, besides collections of
Aesop's fables and much else. He wrote:
Of Legislation at Athens, five books.
Of the Constitutions of Athens, two books.
Of Statesmanship, two books.
On Politics, two books.
Of Laws, one book.
On Rhetoric, two books.
On Military Matters, two books.
On the Iliad, two books.
On the Odyssey, four books.
And the following works, each in one book:
An Exhortation to Philosophy.
Of the Constitution.
On the ten years of his own Supremacy.
Of the Ionians.
Of the Beam in the Sky.4
A Denunciation of the Athenians.
A Sworn Assembly.
Of Old Age.
His style is philosophical, with an admixture of
rhetorical vigour and force. When he heard that
the Athenians had destroyed his statues, "That they
may do," said he, "but the merits which caused
them to be erected they cannot destroy." He used
to say that the eyebrows formed but a small part
of the face, and yet they can darken the whole of
life by the scorn they express. Again, he said that
not only was Plutus blind, but his guide, Fortune, as
well; that all that steel could achieve in war was
won in politics by eloquence. On seeing a young
dandy, "There," quoth he, "is a four-square
Hermes for you, with trailing robe, belly, beard and
When men are haughty and arrogant,
declared we should cut down their tall stature and
leave them their spirit unimpaired. Children should
honour their parents at home, out-of-doors everyone
they meet, and in solitude themselves.
friends do not leave you unless desired, whereas in
adversity they stay away of their own accord. All
these sayings seem to be set down to his credit.
There have been twenty noteworthy men called
Demetrius: (1) a rhetorician of Chalcedon, older than
Thrasymachus; (2) the subject of this notice; (3) a
Peripatetic of Byzantium; (4) one called the graphic
writer, clear in narrative; he was also a painter;
(5) a native of Aspendus, a pupil of Apollonius of
Soli; (6) a native of Callatis, who wrote a geography
of Asia and Europe in twenty books; (7) a Byzantine,
who wrote a history of the migration of the Gauls
from Europe into Asia in thirteen books, and another
work in eight books dealing with Antiochus and
Ptolemy and their settlement of Libya;
sophist who lived at Alexandria, author of handbooks of rhetoric; (9) a grammarian of Adramyttium,
surnamed Ixion because he was thought to be unjust
to Hera; (10) a grammarian of Cyrene, surnamed
Wine-jar, an eminent man; (11) a native of Scepsis,
a man of wealth and good birth, ardently devoted
to learning; he was also the means of bringing his
countryman Metrodorus into prominence; (12) a
grammarian of Erythrae enrolled as a citizen of
Mnos; (13) a Bithynian, son of Diphilus the Stoic
and pupil of Panaetius of Rhodes;
(14) a rhetorician
of Smyrna. The foregoing were prose authors. Of
poets bearing this name the first belonged to the
Old Comedy; the second was an epic poet whose
lines to the envious alone survive:
While he lives they scorn the man whom they regret when
he is gone; yet, some day, for the honour of his tomb and
lifeless image, contention seizes cities and the people set up
the third of Tarsus, writer of satires; the fourth, a
writer of lampoons, in a bitter style; the fifth, a
sculptor mentioned by Polemo; the sixth, of
Erythrae, a versatile man, who also wrote historical
and rhetorical works.