Not long afterwards Harpalus1
came out of Asia to Athens. He had run away from Alexander, because he was conscious that his prodigality had led him into criminal practices, and because he was afraid of his master, who was now become harsh to his friends. But after he had taken refuge with the Athenian people and put himself in their hands with his ships and his treasures, the other orators at once fixed their longing eyes upon his wealth, came to his aid, and tried to persuade the Athenians to receive and save the suppliant.
But Demosthenes, in the beginning, counselled them to drive Harpalus away, and to beware lest they plunge the city into war upon an unnecessary and unjust ground; a few days afterwards, however, while they were making an inventory of the treasure, Harpalus saw that Demosthenes was eyeing with pleasure a cup of barbarian make, with a keen appreciation of its fashion and of the ornamental work upon it. He therefore bade him poise it in his hand and see how heavy the gold was.
And when Demosthenes was amazed at its weight and asked how much it would amount to, Harpalus smiled and said,
‘For you it will amount to twenty talents;’ and as soon as night was come he sent him the cup with the twenty talents. Now, Harpalus was skilful in detecting the character of a man who had a passion for gold, by means of the look that spread over his face and the glances of his eyes.
For Demosthenes could not resist, but was overcome by the bribe, and now that he had, as it were, admitted a garrison into his house, promptly went over to the side of Harpalus. Next day, after swathing his neck carefully in woollen bandages, he went forth into the assembly; and when he was urged to rise and speak, he made signs that his voice was ruined.
The wits, however, by way of raillery, declared that the orator had been seized overnight, not with an ordinary quinsy, but with a silver quinsy. And afterwards, when the whole people learned that he had been bribed, and would not permit him, when he wished it, to have a hearing and make his defence, but were angry and raised a tumult against him, someone rose and said jokingly:
‘Men of Athens, will you not listen to the man who holds the cup?’
At that time, then, they sent Harpalus away from the city, and fearing lest they should be called to account for the moneys which the orators had seized, they made a zealous search for it, and went round to their houses on the quest, except that of Callicles the son of Arrhenides. For his house was the only one which they would not allow to be searched, since he was newly married and his bride was within, as Theopompus relates.