How, then, some one might say, could Aeschines call him a man of the most astonishing boldness in his speeches?1
And how was it that, when Python of Byzantium2
was inveighing with much boldness and a great torrent of words against the Athenians, Demosthenes alone rose up and spoke against him? Or how did it happen that, when Lamachus the Myrinaean had written an encomium on Kings Philip and Alexander, in which many injurious things were said of Thebes and Olynthus,
and while he was reading it aloud at Olympia,3
Demosthenes came forward and rehearsed with historical proofs all the benefits which the peoples of Thebes and Chalcidice had conferred upon Greece, and, on the other hand, all the evils of which the flatterers of the Macedonians had been the cause, and thereby so turned the minds of the audience that the sophist was terrified at the outcry against him and slunk away from the festival assemblage?
But although Demosthenes, as it would appear, did not regard the other characteristics of Pericles as suitable for himself, he admired and sought to imitate the formality of his speech and bearing, as well as his refusal to speak suddenly or on every subject that might present itself, as if his greatness was due to these things; but he by no means sought the reputation which is won in a sudden emergency, nor did he often of his own free will stake his influence upon chance.
However, those orations which were spoken off-hand by him had more courage and boldness than those which he wrote out, if we are to put any confidence in Eratosthenes, Demetrius the Phalerian, and the comic poets. Of these, Eratosthenes says that often in his speeches Demosthenes was like one frenzied, and the Phalerean says that once, as if under inspiration, he swore the famous metrical oath to the people:—
By earth, by springs, by rivers, and by streams.
Of the comic poets, one calls him a
‘rhopoperperethras,’ or trumpery-braggart
and another, ridiculing his use of the antithesis, says this:—
(First slave) ‘My master, as he took, retook.’
(Second slave (?)) ‘Demosthenes would have been delighted to take over this phrase.’
Unless, indeed, this, too, was a jest of Antiphanes upon the speech of Demosthenes concerning Halonnesus,7
in which the orator counselled the Athenians not to take the island from Philip, but to retake it.