For his bodily deficiencies he adopted the exercises which I shall describe, as Demetrius the Phalerian tells us, who says he heard about them from Demosthenes himself, now grown old. The indistinctness and lisping1
in his speech he used to correct and drive away by taking pebbles in his mouth and then reciting speeches.
His voice he used to exercise by discoursing while running or going up steep places, and by reciting speeches or verses at a single breath. Moreover, he had in his house a large looking-glass, and in front of this he used to stand and go through his exercises in declamation.
A story is told of a man coming to him and begging his services as advocate, and telling at great length how he had been assaulted and beaten by some one.
‘But certainly,’ said Demosthenes,
‘you got none of the hurts which you describe.’
Then the man raised his voice and shouted:
‘I, Demosthenes, no hurts?’
‘Now, indeed,’ said Demosthenes,
‘I hear the voice of one who is wronged and hurt.’ So important in winning credence did he consider the tone and action of the speaker. Accordingly, his own action in speaking was astonishingly pleasing to most men, but men of refinement, like Demetrius the Phalerian, thought his manner low, ignoble, and weak.
And Hermippus tells us that Aesion,2
when asked his opinion of the ancient orators as compared with those of his own time, said that one would have listened with admiration when the older orators discoursed to the people decorously and in the grand manner, but that the speeches of Demosthenes, when read aloud, were far superior in point of arrangement and power. Now, it is needless to remark that his written speeches have much in them that is harsh and bitter; but in his extempore rejoinders he was also humorous.
For instance, when Demades said:
‘Demosthenes teach me! As well might the sow teach Athena.’
‘It was this Athena,’ said Demosthenes,
‘that was lately found playing the harlot in Collytus.’ And to the thief nicknamed Brazen, who attempted to make fun of him for his late hours and his writing at night,
‘I know,’ he said,
‘that I annoy you with my lighted lamp.
But you, men of Athens, must not wonder at the thefts that are committed, when we have thieves of brass, but house-walls of clay.’ However, though I have still more to say on this head, I shall stop here; the other traits of his character, and his disposition, should be surveyed in connection with his achievements as a statesman.