The Ancient Library

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On this page: Demosthenes (continued)



m the art of delivery. In this he was aided by the sympathy and experience of several friends, especially the actor Satyrus. Thus prepared, he appeared again in public in 355 b.c. with his celebrated speech against the law of Leptlnes, and then made good his position on the rostrum. Two years afterwards he started on his political career. His object from the first was to re­store the supremacy of Athens through her own resources, and to rally the Greek states round her against the common enemy, whom he had long recognized in Philip of Macedon. It was in 351 b.c. that he first raised his voice against the Macedonian king. Philip, invoked by the Thessalians to help them against the Phocians, had con­quered the latter, and was threatening to occupy the pass of Thermopylae, the key of Greece Proper. In his first Philippic, Demosthenes opened the conflict between Greek freedom and the Macedonian military despotism. This contest he carried on with no other weapon than his eloquence ; but with such power and persistence that Philip himself is reported to have said that it was Demosthenes and not the Athenians with whom he was fighting. On this occasion he succeeded in inspiring the Athenians to vigorous action. But his three Olynthiac orations failed to conquer the indolence and short-sightedness of his fellow-citizens, and their ally the city of Olynthus was taken by Philip in 348. In 346 he was one of the ambassadors sent to conclude a peace with Philip. His col­leagues Philocrates and jEschlnes were bribed with Macedonian gold, and Demos­thenes did not succeed in thwarting their intrigues, which made it possible for the king to occupy Thermopylae, and secure therewith the approach to Greece. In his speech on the Peace he advises his country­men to abide by the settlement. But the ceaseless aggression of the Macedonian soon provoked him again to action, and in the second and third Philippic (344 and 341) he put forth all the power of his eloquence. At the same time he left no stone unturned to strengthen the fighting power of Athens. His exertions were, on this occasion, success­ful : for in spite of the counter efforts of the Macedonian party, he managed to prevail on the Athenians to undertake a war against Philip, in the victorious course of which Perinthus and Byzantium were saved from the Macedonian despotism (340). But it was not long before the intrigues of JLschines, who was in Philip's pay, brought about a

new interference on the king's part in the affairs of Greece. As a counter-move Demosthenes used his eloquence to persuade the Thebans to ally themselves with Athens: but all hope was shattered by the unhappy battle of Chasronea (b.c. 338), in which Demosthenes himself took part as a heavy-armed soldier. Greece was now completely

* DEMOSTHENES. (Vatican Museum, Rome.)

in the hands of Philip. The Macedonian party tried to make Demosthenes responsible for the disaster; but the people acquitted him, and conferred upon him, as their most patriotic citizen, the honour of delivering the funeral oration over the dead. In 336, after Philip's death, Demosthenes summoned

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