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Concerning His Own Restoration

1 Demosthenes to the Council and the Assembly sends greeting

I used to believe, because of my conduct in public life, that, as one who was guilty of no wrong toward you, I should not only never meet with such treatment as this2 but, even if I should have committed some slight offence, that I might meet with forgiveness. Since, however, it has turned out as it has, so long as I observed you, without any manifest proof or even a scrutiny of evidence on the part of the Council,3 condemning all the accused on the strength of the unrevealed information of that body, I chose to make the best of it, thinking that you were surrendering rights no less valuable than those of which I was being deprived. Because, for the jurors under oath to assent to whatever the Council should declare, without any proof having been cited, that was a surrender of a constitutional right. [2] Since, however, you have happily become aware of the undue ascendancy. which certain members of the Council were contriving for themselves and since you are now deciding the cases in the light of the proofs and have found the secretiveness of these men deserving of censure, I think it is my right, with your consent, to enjoy the same acquittal as those who have incurred the like accusations, and not to be the only one to be deprived on a false charge of his fatherland, his property, and the company of those who are nearest and dearest to him. [3]

And you would have good reason, men of Athens, to be concerned about my deliverance, not only for the reason that I have been outrageously treated, though guilty of doing you no wrong, but also for the sake of your good name abroad. For you must not imagine, just because no one reminds you of those times and occasions upon which I was of the greatest service to the city, [4] that the rest of the Greeks are not aware of them or have forgotten what I have accomplished in your behalf. At the present moment I hesitate to write of these services in detail for two reasons; one reason is that I am afraid of jealousy, in the face of which it is useless to speak the truth; the second is this, that because of the cowardice of the rest of Greece we are now compelled to do many things that are below the standard of those services of mine. [5] In brief, however, the record upon which I passed scrutiny as your servant was of such a kind as to make you envied by all because of it and myself confident in the greatest rewards from you. And when Fortune, as irresistible as she was unkind, decided as she pleased, and not according to justice, the struggle4 for the liberty of Greece in which you engaged, [6] not even in the times that followed did I retreat from my loyalty toward you, nor did I bargain for anything in place of it, no man's favour, no hopes of preferment, nor wealth, nor power, nor personal safety. Yet I observed that all these prizes were accruing to those who chose to play the game of politics to your detriment. [7]

Now one fact which is especially significant—although there are many significant facts which, it occurs to me, would justify me in speaking frankly—I shall not refrain from writing to you: although of men who are mentioned in history in all time, Philip had the most uncanny ability of all, whether through personal contact to persuade men to pay heed to his wishes or to corrupt with bribes the notable men in every one of the Greek cities, [8] I was the only man who did not fall a victim to either of these methods, a fact that brings to you also cause for pride, and although I met Philip often and parleyed with him on those matters on which you sent me as envoy,5 yet I kept my hands off the substantial sums he offered me, as many men are aware who still live. Just ponder what opinion these men may reasonably entertain of you, for to have dealt this treatment to such a man, while for myself I am sure it would seem a misfortune, though no conviction of vice, yet on your part it would seem defiance of justice.6 I beg of you to change your verdict and cancel this imputation. [9]

All the considerations which I have mentioned above, however, I consider of less importance than my conduct from first to last and every day in public life, in which I showed myself in action to be a statesman, never encouraging any nursing of a grudge or a feud or the grasping for unfair advantage, whether shared or for myself, never preferring false charges against either citizen or alien, never being over-clever to work in secret against your interests but always working for them, if occasion should arise, and above board, subject to public approval. [10] The older men would know—and in all fairness you ought to inform the younger ones—of the hearing granted Python7 of Byzantium before the Assembly when he arrived with the envoys from the Greeks, expecting to show that the city was acting unjustly, but went away with the tables turned against him after I, alone of those who spoke on that occasion, had brought out the rights of the matter in your defence. I forbear to mention all the embassies upon which I served in support of your interests, in which you were never worsted even in a single instance; [11] for I shaped my policy, men of Athens, not with an eye to helping you get the better of one another, nor whetting the State against itself, but furthering measures from which I thought a reputation for magnanimity would redound to you. With such aspirations you should all be delighted, and especially the younger men, not looking for someone who will always play the lackey to win your favour in his public conduct—for of this type there will never be a dearth—but for one who, actuated by loyalty, will even rebuke you for your errors of judgement. [12]

Now I pass over many other considerations, on the strength of which a different kind of a man and with no other service to his credit would justly demand to obtain acquittal; I mean the equipping of choruses and triremes and the contributing of money on all occasions.8 In these duties I shall be found, not only to have been the first to do my own part, but also to have urged the rest to do theirs. Reviewing these services one by one, men of Athens, consider how undeserved is the calamity that has now befallen me. [13]

Since my present troubles are so abundant I am at a loss to know what I shall bemoan first. Will it be my advanced age,9 at which, for the first time and contrary to my deserts, I am compelled to experience the hazards of a perilous exile? Or will it be the disgrace of having been convicted and ruined without any investigation or proof of guilt? Or will it be in disappointment of my hopes in place of which I have fallen heir to evils that rightfully belonged to others, [14] since neither because of my previous political record was I deserving punishment nor had the charges been proved upon which I was being tried. For I shall never be shown to have been one of the friends of Harpalus,10 and among the decrees that were passed concerning him only those proposed by me have afforded the State a clean record. From all these facts it is clear that I was caught in an unfortunate conjuncture, not taken in wrongdoing, and that through coming first on the list into court I unjustly fell foul of the public rage against all those involved in those charges. [15] Because, which of the just pleas that have saved those subsequently tried did not I myself advance? Or what proof did the Council allege against me? Or what proof could it now allege? There is none; for it is impossible to make facts out of what never happened. I refrain, however, from enlarging upon these topics, though there is plenty to write, for the consciousness of innocence has afforded me proof through experience that, while a feeble help in time of trouble, it is the most excruciating of all means of enhancing one's suffering. [16] So, since, quite rightly, you have become reconciled with all others involved in these charges, be reconciled with me also, men of Athens for I have done no wrong against you, as I call upon the gods and heroes11 to bear testimony. My witness is the whole extent of time that has gone by, which has a juster claim upon your credence than the unsupported charge which has now been brought against me; nor shall I be found to be the worst or the least trustworthy of those who have been falsely accused. [17]

And surely my departure from Athens would not afford you just grounds for resentment against me, for it was not because I had renounced allegiance to you nor because I was looking to another quarter for comfort12 that I changed my residence to another country, but because, in the first place, I was pained at contemplating the disgrace of imprisonment, and in the second, on account of my age I was in no condition to endure the bodily discomforts. Besides, I did not think that you, either, were averse to my getting beyond the reach of revilement which, without benefiting you, was breaking me down. [18] For, as indications that it was on you my thoughts were centered and on no others, you may note many items of evidence; for instance, I did not go to a city in which I was likely to play an outstanding role myself,13 but to one where I knew our ancestors had gone when the Persian danger overtook them,14 and where I knew too there existed abundant goodwill toward yourselves. [19] I refer to the city of Troezen, to which it is my chief prayer that all the gods may be propitious, both because of its goodwill to you and because of its kindness to me, and my second prayer is that, having been delivered from this exile by you, I may be enabled to make repayment for kindnesses. In this city, when certain persons, thinking to make themselves agreeable to me, ventured to censure you for your arbitrary action in my regard, I preserved all reticence, as was my duty, which I believe was the chief reason for their being moved to admiration of me and honoring me in the name of the city. [20]

Observing, however, that though the goodwill of the men there was strong, yet the power of the city was insufficient for the present need, I changed my residence and now have my quarters in the sanctuary of Poseidon in Calauria,15 not only for the sake of my personal safety, which through the protection of the god I hope is assured—because I am not quite certain; for the fact that it is in the power of unfriendly people to deal with matters as they choose renders frail and unpredictable the safety of a man in danger—but also because from here I look across the sea every day to my native land, toward which I am conscious in my heart of feeling an attachment as strong as I pray that I may enjoy on your part. [21]

In order, therefore, men of Athens, that I may no longer be held in the grip of these present miseries, enact for me those measures you have already voted for the benefit of certain others, so that neither shall anything unworthy of you become my lot nor I be compelled to become the suppliant of rival powers; for that would not be an honorable thing for you either. Because, if the differences between you and me remain irreconcilable, it were better for me to be dead. [22] With good reason you may have confidence that I entertain this thought and that I am not now indulging in idle bluff.16 I placed my fate in your hands, and I faced the trial in order that I might neither be a traitor to the truth nor place myself beyond the reach of any one of you, but that you might deal with me as you pleased; for I thought that those from whom I had received all my blessings ought to possess the privilege even of erring against me if they chose. [23] Since, however, a just Fortune—thanks be to her—prevailing over the unjust, has bestowed upon you the opportunity of deliberating twice on the same questions, no irremediable decree concerning my case having been passed, save me, men of Athens, and vote a verdict worthy both of your own selves and of me. [24] You will not find me to have done wrong on the score of any of my measures, or a fit person to be deprived of my civic rights or destroyed, but a man who is as much devoted to your democracy as the best patriots—not to say anything invidious17—who of all men now living has accomplished most in your behalf and of all men of my time has available the most signal tokens of devotion to you. [25]

Let not one of you think, men of Athens, that through lack of manhood or from any other base motive I give way to my grief from the beginning to the end of this letter. Not so, but every man is ungrudgingly indulgent to the feelings of the moment, and those that now beset me—if only this had never come to pass—are sorrows and tears, longing both for my country and for you, and pondering over the wrongs I have suffered, all of which cause me to grieve. If you but scan this record fairly, in none of the political actions taken by me in your behalf will you find softness or lack of manhood attaching to me. [26]

Now thus far I am appealing to you all, but for those in particular who are attacking me in your presence I wish to say a word: so far as concerns all that they were doing in pursuance of the decrees passed by you in disregard of the truth, let it be allowed that these actions have been taken by them as your agents, and I lodge no complaint. Since, however, you have yourselves come to recognize these decrees for what they are, if they will yield in my case, just as they are allowing the prosecution to be dropped in the case of the other defendants, they shall have my thanks; but if they attempt to continue malicious, I appeal to you all to rally to my aid and not allow the enmity of these men to prevail. over the gratitude due to me from you. Farewell.

1 Three citations of this letter may be found in Walz's Rhetores Graeci, which will be mentioned in the footnotes. Harpocration refers to sect. 20 under the name Calauria.

2 The opening sentence down to this point is cited by Hermog. Rhet. Graec. 3, p. 349.

3 In Plut. Dem. 26, Plutarch informs us that the trial took place before the Areopagus. This was in the spring of 324 B.C. The exile lasted a year.

4 The reference is to the battle of Chaeronea, 338 B.C.

5 Demosthenes was one of ten envoys who negotiated with Philip the Peace of Philocrates in 346 B.C. and was several times sent on similar missions afterwards.

6 This sentence is cited by Hermogenes, Rhetores Graeci 3, p. 235 and by Maximus Planudes, ibid. 5, p.395.

7 Python, pupil of Isocrates and a presumptuous orator headed a deputation of all the Allies of Philip when they come to Athens in 343 B.C. to accuse the people of unjust conduct. See Dem. 7.20-23, Dem. 18.136, Plut. Dem. 9, and Lucian Encomium 32.

8 Prosperous citizens of Athens were required from time to time to contribute money for the equipment of triremes, dramatic choruses, and religious deputations to various shrines. These were theλῃτουργίαιin contrast to theὑπηρεσίαιmentioned in Dem. Ex. 52.

9 His age was sixty. Cicero was only a year older when he wrote his essay Cic. On Old Age.

10 Harpalus was an absconding treasurer of Alexander who sought refuge in Attica. Part of his illicit funds disappeared from the Acropolis, where they had been sequestered by the Athenians. Demosthenes was accused and convicted of accepting twenty talents. Few historians believe that he was guilty; some suggest that he may have spent part of the money in the cause of liberty.

11 Demigods or semi-divine ancestors of noble families.

12 The suggestion is that another man might have offered his services to the Macedonians.

13 He hints that he might have gone to some other city friendly to the Macedonians, where a welcome would have awaited him if he had renounced his allegiance to Athens.

14 The Athenians abandoned the city before the battle of Salamis in 480 B.C.

15 Calauria is situated south of Aegina in the Sardonic Gulf. Harpocration cites the letter under the name Calauria, an evidence of its authenticity.

16 Demosthenes terminated his second exile by taking poison rather than submit to capture by the soldiers of Antipater, 322 B.C. From this passage it seems that he had been prepared to do so the year before in the same Calauria.

17 To claim that he was more loyal would be invidious.

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hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (6):
    • Demosthenes, Exordia, 52
    • Demosthenes, On the Halonnesus, 20
    • Demosthenes, On the Crown, 136
    • Cicero, De Senectute
    • Plutarch, Demosthenes, 26
    • Plutarch, Demosthenes, 9
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