Demosthĕnes（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
|Demosthenes. (Vatican Museum, Rome.)|
- 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.
I. Deliberative discourses (λόγοι συμβουλεύτικοιOf 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.
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.