The World’s Famous Orations.
Greece (432 B.C.–324 B.C.). 1906.
Against Ctesiphon; Or, On the Crown
It were to be wished, indeed, that the presidents of our senate and of our popular assembly would attend with due care to the order of their debates; that the laws ordained by Solon to secure the decency of public speaking might still preserve their force; that so our elder citizens might first arise in due and decent form (as these laws direct), without tumult or confusion, and each declare in order the salutary counsels of his sage experience; that, after these, our other citizens who chose to speak might severally, and in order, according to their ages, propose their sentiments on every subject. Thus, in my opinion, would the course of government be more exactly regulated, and thus would our assemblies be less frequently engaged in trials.
But now, when these institutions, so confessedly excellent, have lost their force; when men propose illegal resolutions without reserve or scruple; when others are found to put them to the vote, not regularly chosen to preside in our assemblies, but men who have raised themselves to this dignity by intrigue; when if any of the other senators on whom the lot of presidency hath fairly fallen should discharge his office faithfully, and report your voices truly, there are men who threaten to impeach him, men who invade our rights, and regard the administration as their private property; who have secured their vassals, and raised themselves to sovereignty; who have suppressed such judicial procedures as are founded on established laws, and in the decision of those appointed by temporary decrees, consult their passions; now, I say, that most sage and virtuous proclamation is no longer heard, “Who is disposed to speak of those above fifty years old?” and then, “Who of the other citizens in their turns?” Nor is the indecent license of our speakers any longer restrained by our laws, by our magistrates; no, nor by the residing tribe which contains a full tenth part of the community.
As to the general nature of this prosecution, thus far have I promised, and, I trust, without offense. Let me now request your attention to a few words about the laws relative to persons accountable to the public, which have been violated by the decree proposed by Ctesiphon.
In former times there were found magistrates of the most distinguished rank, and intrusted with the management of our revenues, who in their several stations were guilty of the basest corruption, but who, by forming an interest with the speakers in the senate and in the popular assembly, anticipated their accounts by public honors and declarations of applause. Thus, when their conduct came to a formal examination, their accusers were involved in great perplexity, their judges in still greater; for many of the persons thus subject to examination, tho convicted on the clearest evidence of having defrauded the public, were yet suffered to escape from justice; and no wonder. The judges were ashamed that the same man, in the same city, possibly in the same year, should be publicly honored in our festivals, that proclamation should be made “that the people had conferred a golden crown on him on account of his integrity and virtue”; that the same man, I say, in a short time after, when his conduct had been brought to an examination, should depart from the tribunal condemned of fraud. In their sentence, therefore, the judges were necessarily obliged to attend, not to the nature of those offenses, but to the reputation of the state.
Some of our magistrates, observing this, framed a law (and its excellence is undeniable) expressly forbidding any man to be honored with a crown whose conduct had not yet been submitted to the legal examination. But notwithstanding all the precaution of the framers of this law, pretenses were still found of force sufficient to defeat its intention. Of these you are to be informed, lest you should be unwarily betrayed into error. Some of those who, in defiance of the laws, have moved that men who yet stood accountable for their conduct should be crowned are still influenced by some degree of decency (if this can with propriety be said of men who purpose resolutions directly subversive of the laws); they still seek to cast a kind of veil on their shame. Hence are they sometimes careful to express their resolutions in this manner: “that the man whose conduct is not yet submitted to examination shall be honored with a crown when his accounts have first been examined and approved.” But this is no less injurious to the state; for by these crowns and public honors is his conduct prejudiced and his examination anticipated, while the author of such resolutions demonstrates to his hearers that his proposal is a violation of the laws, and that he is ashamed of his offense. But Ctesiphon, my countrymen, hath at once broken through the laws relative to the examination of our magistrates; he hath scorned to recur to that subterfuge now explained; he hath moved you to confer a crown on Demosthenes previously to any examination of his conduct, at the very time while he was yet employed in the discharge of his magistracy.
But there is another evasion of a different kind to which they are to recur. These offices say they, to which a citizen is elected by an occasional decree, are by no means to be accounted magistracies, but commissions or agencies. Those alone are magistrates whom the proper officers appoint by lot in the temple of Theseus, or the people elect by suffrage in their ordinary assemblies, such as generals of the army, commanders of the cavalry, and such like; all others are but commissioners who are but to execute a particular decree. To this their plea I shall oppose your own law—a law enacted from a firm conviction that it must at once put an end to all such evasions. In this it is expressly declared that all offices whatever appointed by the voices of the people shall be accounted magistracies. In one general term the author of this law has included all. All has he declared “magistrates whom the votes of the assembly have appointed,” and particularly “the inspectors of public works.” Now Demosthenes inspected the repair of our walls, the most important of public works. “Those who have been intrusted with any public money for more than thirty days; those who are entitled to preside in a tribunal.” But the inspectors of works are entitled to this privilege. What then does the law direct? That all such should assume not their “commission” but their “magistracy,” having first been judicially approved (for even the magistrates appointed by lot are not exempted from this previous inquiry, but must be first approved before they assume their office). These are also directed by the law to submit the accounts of their administration to the legal officers, as well as every other magistrate. And for the truth of what I now advance, to the laws themselves do I appeal.
Here, then, you find that what these men call commissions or agencies are declared to be magistracies. It is your part to bear this in memory; to oppose the law to their presumption; to convince them that you are not to be influenced by the wretched sophistical artifice that would defeat the force of laws by words; and that the greater their address in defending their illegal proceedings, the more severely must they feel your resentment; for the public speaker should ever use the same language with the law. Should he at any time speak in one language, and the law pronounce another, to the just. authority of law should you grant your voices, not to the shameless presumption of the speaker.
To that argument on which Demosthenes relies as utterly unanswerable I would now briefly speak. This man will say, “I am director of the fortifications. I confess it; but I have expended of my own money for the public service an additional sum of one hundred minæ, and enlarged the work beyond any instructions: for what then am I to account, unless a man is to be made accountable for his own beneficence? To this evasion you shall hear a just and good reply. In this city, of so ancient an establishment and a circuit so extensive, there is not a man exempted from account who has the smallest part in the affairs of state. This I shall show, first, in instances scarcely creditable: thus the priests and priestesses are by the laws obliged to account for the discharge of their office, all in general, and each in particular; altho they have received no more than an honorary pension, and have had no other duty but of offering up their prayers for us to the gods.
And this is not the case of single persons only, but of whole tribes as the Eumolpidæ, the Ceryces, and all the others. Again, the trierarchs are by the law made accountable for their conduct, altho no public money has been committed to their charge; altho they have not embezzled large portions of their revenue, and accounted but for a small part; altho they have not affected to confer bounties on you, while they really but restored your own property. No: they confessedly expended their paternal fortunes to approve their zealous affection for your service; and not our trierarchs alone, but the greatest assemblies in the state, are bound to submit to the sentence of our tribunals. First, the law directs that the council of the Areopagus shall stand accountable to the proper officers and submit their august transactions to a legal examination; thus our greatest judicial body stands in perpetual dependence on your decisions. Shall the members of this council, then, be precluded from the honor of a crown? Such has been the ordinance from times the most remote. And have they no regard to public honor? So scrupulous is their regard, that it is not deemed sufficient that their conduct should not be notoriously criminal; their least irregularity is severely punished—a discipline too rigorous for our delicate orators.
Again, our lawgiver directs that the senate of five hundred shall be bound to account for their conduct; and so great diffidence does he express of those who have not yet rendered such account, that in the very beginning of the law it is ordained “that no magistrate who has not yet passed through the ordinary examination shall be permitted to go abroad.” But here a man may exclaim, “What! in the name of Heaven, am I, because I have been in office, to be confined to the city?” Yes, and with good reason; lest, when you have secreted the public money and betrayed your trust, you might enjoy your perfidy by flight. Again, the laws forbid the man who has not yet accounted to the state to dedicate any part of his effects to religious purposes, to deposit any offering in a temple, to accept of an adoption into any family, to make any alienation of his property; and to many other instances is the prohibition extended. In one word, our lawgiver has provided that the fortunes of such persons shall be secured as a pledge to the community until their accounts are fairly examined and approved. Nay, further: suppose there be a man who has neither received nor expended any part of the public money, but has only been concerned in some affairs relative to the state, even such a one is bound to submit his accounts to the proper officers. “But how can the man who has neither received nor expended pass such accounts?” The law has obviated this difficulty, and expressly prescribed the form of his accounts. It directs that it shall consist of this declaration: “I have not received, neither have I disposed of any public money.” To confirm the truth of this hear the laws themselves.
When Demosthenes, therefore, shall exult in his evasion, and insist that he is not to be accountable for the additional sum which he bestowed freely on the state, press him with this reply: “It was then your duty, Demosthenes, to have permitted the usual and legal proclamation to be made, Who is disposed to prosecute? and to have given an opportunity to every citizen that pleased to have urged on his part that you bestowed no such additional sum; but that, on the contrary, having been intrusted with ten talents for the repair of our fortifications, you really expended but a small part of this great sum. Do not assume an honor to which you have no pretensions; do not wrest their suffrages from your judges; do not act in presumptuous contempt of the laws, but with due submission yield to their guidance. Such is the conduct that must secure the freedom of our constitution.”
As to the evasions on which these men rely, I trust that I have spoken sufficiently. That Demosthenes really stood accountable to the state at the time when this man proposed his decree, that he was really a magistrate, as manager of the theatrical funds; a magistrate, as inspector of the fortifications; that his conduct in either of these offices had not been examined, had not obtained the legal approbation, I shall now endeavor to demonstrate from the public records. Read in whose archonship, in what month, on what day, in what assembly, Demosthenes was chosen into the office of manager of the theatrical funds. So shall it appear, that during the execution of this office the decree was made which conferred this crown on him.
If, then, I should here rest my cause without proceeding further, Ctesiphon must stand convicted—convicted, not by the arguments of his accuser, but by the public records. In former times, Athenians, it was the custom that the state should elect a comptroller, who in every presidency of each tribe was to return to the people an exact state of the finances. But by the implicit confidence which you reposed in Eubulus, the men who were chosen to the management of the theatrical money executed this office of comptroller (I mean before the law of Hegemon was enacted), together with the offices of receiver and of inspector of our naval affairs; they were charged with the building of our arsenals, with the repair of our roads; in a word, they were intrusted with the conduct of almost all our public business. I say not this to impeach their conduct or to arraign their integrity; I mean but to convince you that our laws have expressly directed that no man yet accountable for his conduct in any one office, even of the smallest consequence, shall be entitled to the honor of a crown until his accounts have been regularly examined and approved; and that Ctesiphon has yet presumed to confer this honor on Demosthenes when engaged in every kind of public magistracy. At the time of this decree he was a magistrate as inspector of the fortifications, a magistrate as intrusted with public money, and, like other officers of the state, imposed fines and presided in tribunals. These things I shall prove by the testimony of Demosthenes and Ctesiphon themselves; for in the archonship of Chærondas, on the 22d of the month Thargelion, was a popular assembly held, in which Demosthenes obtained a decree appointing a convention of the tribes on the 2d of the succeeding month; and on the 3d his decree directed, still further, that supervisors should be chosen and treasurers from each tribe, for conducting the repairs of our fortifications. And justly did he thus direct, that the public might have the security of good and responsible citizens who might return a fair account of all disbursements. Read these decrees.
Yes; but you will hear it argued in answer, that to this office of inspector of the works he was not appointed in the general assembly either by lot or suffrage. This is an argument on which Demosthenes and Ctesiphon will dwell with the utmost confidence. My answer shall be easy, plain, and brief; but first I would premise a few things on this subject. Observe, Athenians! of magistracy there are three kinds: First, those appointed by lot or by election. Secondly, the men who have managed public money for more than thirty days, or have inspected public works. To these the law adds another species, and expressly declares that all such persons as, in consequence of a regular appointment, have enjoyed the right of jurisdiction, shall when approved be accounted magistrates: so that, should we take away the magistrates appointed by lot or suffrage, there yet remains the last kind of those appointed by the tribes, or the thirds of tribes, or by particular districts, to manage public money, all which are declared to be magistrates from the time of their appointment. And this happens in cases like that before us where it is a direction to the tribes to make canals or to build ships of war. For the truth of this I appeal to the laws themselves.
Let it be remembered that, as I have already observed, the sentence of the law is this, that all those appointed to any office by their tribes shall act as magistrates, when first judicially approved. But the Pandionian tribe has made Demosthenes a magistrate, by appointing him an inspector of the works; and for this purpose he has been intrusted with public money to the amount of near ten talents. Again, another law expressly forbids any magistrate who yet stands accountable for his conduct to be honored with a crown. You have sworn to give sentence according to the laws. Here is a speaker who has brought in a decree for granting a crown to a man yet accountable for his conduct. Nor has he added that saving clause, “when his accounts have first been passed.” I have proved the point of illegality from the testimony of your laws, from the testimony of your decrees, and from that of the opposite parties. How then can any man support a prosecution of this nature with greater force and clearness?
But further, I shall now demonstrate that this decree is also a violation of the law by the manner in which it directs that this crown shall be proclaimed. The laws declare, in terms the most explicit, that if any man receives a crown from the senate, the proclamation shall be made in the senate-house; if by the people, in the assembly; never in any other place.
And this institution is just and excellent. The author of this law seems to have been persuaded that a public speaker should not ostentatiously display his merits before foreigners: that he should be contented with the approbation of this city, of these his fellow citizens, without practising vile arts to procure a public honor. So thought our lawgiver.
Since, then, it is provided that those crowned by the senate shall be proclaimed in the senate-house, those by the people in the assembly; since it is expressly forbidden that men crowned by their districts or by their tribes shall have proclamation made in the theater; that no man may indulge an idle vanity by public honors thus clandestinely procured; since the law directs, still further, that no proclamation shall be made by any others, but by the senate, by the people, by the tribes, or by the districts, respectively; if we deduct all these cases, what will remain but crowns conferred by foreigners?. That I speak with truth the law itself affords a powerful argument. It directs that the golden crown conferred by proclamation in the theater shall be taken from the person thus honored and consecrated to Minerva. But who shall presume to impute so illiberal a procedure to the community of Athens? Can the state or can a private person be suspected of a spirit so sordid that when they themselves have granted a crown, when it has been just proclaimed, they should take it back again and dedicate it? No; I apprehend that such dedication is made because the crown is conferred by foreigners, that no man by valuing the affection of strangers at a higher rate than that of his country, may suffer corruption to steal into his heart. But when a crown has been proclaimed in the assembly, is the person honored bound to dedicate it? No; he is allowed to possess it, that not he alone but his posterity may retain such a memorial in their family, and never suffer their affections to be alienated from their country.
To enter into a minute examination of the life of Demosthenes I fear might lead me into a detail too tedious. And why should I insist on such points as the circumstances of the indictment for his wound, brought before the Areopagus against Demomeles his kinsman, and the gashes he inflicted on his own head? or why should I speak of the expedition under Cephisodotus, and the sailing of our fleet to the Hellespont, when Demosthenes acted as a trierarch, entertained the admiral on board his ship, made him partaker of his table, of his sacrifices and religious rites, confessed his just right to all those instances of affection, as an hereditary friend; and yet, when an impeachment had been brought against him which affected his life, appeared as his accuser? Why, again, should I take notice of his affair with Midias; of the blows which he received in his office of director of the entertainments; or how, for the sum of thirty minæ he compounded this insult, as well as the sentence which the people pronounced against Midias in the theater? These and the like particulars I determine to pass over; not that I would betray the cause of justice; not that I would recommend myself to favor by an affected tenderness; but lest it should be objected that I produce facts true, indeed, but long since acknowledged and notorious. Say then, Ctesiphon, when the most heinous instances of this man’s baseness are so incontestably evident that his accuser exposes himself to the censure, not of advancing falsehoods, but of recurring to facts so long acknowledged and notorious, is he to be publicly honored, or to be branded with infamy? And shall you, who have presumed to form decrees equally contrary to truth and to the laws, insolently bid defiance to the tribunal, or feel the weight of public justice?
My objections to his public conduct shall be more explicit. I am informed that Demosthenes, when admitted to his defense, means to enumerate four different periods in which he was engaged in the administration of affairs. One, and the first, of these (as I am assured) he accounts that time in which we were at war with Philip for Amphipolis; and this period he closes with the peace and alliance which we concluded, in consequence of the decree proposed by Philocrates, in which Demosthenes had equal share, as I shall immediately demonstrate. The second period he computes from the time in which we enjoyed this peace down to that day when he put an end to a treaty that had till then subsisted and himself proposed the decree for war. The third, from the time when hostilities were commenced, down to the fatal battle of Chæronea. The fourth is this present time.
After this particular specification, as I am informed, he means to call on me, and to demand explicitly on which of these four periods I found my prosecution, and at what particular time I object to his administration as inconsistent with the public interest. Should I refuse to answer, should I attempt the least evasion or retreat, he boasts that he will pursue me and tear off my disguise; that he will haul me to the tribunal, and compel me to reply. That I may then at once confound this presumption, and guard you against such artifice, I thus explicitly reply: Before these your judges, before the other citizens spectators of this trial, before all the Greeks who have been solicitous to hear the event of this cause (and of these I see no small number, but rather more than ever yet known to attend on any public trial) I thus reply: I say, that on every one of these four periods which you have thus distinguished is my accusation founded.
You had the fairest opportunity, Athenians! of concluding this first peace in conjunction with the general assembly of the Greeks, had certain persons suffered you to wait the return of our ambassadors, at that time sent through Greece to invite the states to join in the general confederacy against Philip; and in the progress of these negotiations the Greeks would have freely acknowledged you the leading state. Of these advantages were you deprived by Demosthenes and Philocrates, and by the bribes which they received in traitorous conspiracy against your government. If at first view this assertion should seem incredible to any in this tribunal, let such attend to what is now to be advanced, just as men sit down to the accounts of money a long time since expended. We sometimes come from home possessed with false opinions of the state of such accounts; but when the several sums have been exactly collected, there is no man of a temper so obstinate as to dissemble or to refuse his assent to the truth of that which the account itself exhibits. Hear me in the present cause with dispositions of the same kind. And if with respect to past transactions any one among you has come hither possessed with an opinion that Demosthenes never yet appeared advocate for the interests of Philip, in dark confederacy with Philocrates; if any man, I say, be so persuaded, let him suspend his judgment, and neither assent nor deny until he has heard (for justice requires this).
The prince whose gold purchased these important points is by no means to be accused. Before the treaty was concluded, and previously to his solemn engagements, we cannot impute it as a crime that he pursued his own interests; but the men who traitorously resigned into his hands the strength and security of the state should justly feel the severest effects of your resentment. He, then, who now declares himself the enemy of Alexander, Demosthenes, who at that time was the enemy of Philip—he who objects to me my connections of friendship with Alexander, proposed a decree utterly subversive of the regular and gradual course of public business, by which the magistrates were to convene an assembly on the eighth of the month Elaphebolion, a day destined to the sacrifices and religious ceremonies in honor of Esculapius, when the rites were just preparing.
After these festivals our assemblies were accordingly convened. In the first was the general resolution of our allies publicly read, the heads of which I shall here briefly recite. They in the first place, resolved that you should proceed to deliberate only about a peace. Of an alliance not one word was mentioned; and this not from inattention, but because they deemed even a peace itself rather necessary than honorable. In the next place, they wisely provided against the fatal consequences of the corruption of Demosthenes; for they expressly resolved still further, that “it shall and may be lawful for any of the Grecian states whatever, within the space of three months, to accede in due form to this treaty, to join in the same solemn engagements, and to be included in the same stipulations.” Thus were two most important points secured: First, an interval of three months was provided for the Greeks—a time sufficient to prepare their deputations; and then the whole collected body of the nation stood well affected and attached to Athens, that if at any time the treaty should be violated, we might not be involved in war single and unsupported. These resolutions are themselves the amplest testimony to the truth of my assertions.
It remains that I produce some instances of his abandoned flattery. For one whole year did Demosthenes enjoy the honor of a senator; and yet in all that time it never appears that he moved to grant precedency to any ministers; for the first, the only time, he conferred this distinction on the ministers of Philip; he servilely attended to accommodate them with his cushions and his carpets; by the dawn of day he conducted them to the theater; and by his indecent and abandoned adulation raised a universal uproar of derision. When they were on their departure toward Thebes he hired three teams of mules, and conducted them in state into that city. Thus did he expose his country to ridicule. But that I may confine myself to facts, read the decree relative to the grant of precedency.
And yet this abject, this enormous flatterer, when he had been the first that received advice of Philip’s death, from the emissaries of Charidemus, pretended a divine mission, and, with a shameless lie, declared that this intelligence had been conveyed to him, not by Charidemus, but by Jupiter and Minerva! Thus he dared to boast that these divinities, by whom he had sworn falsely in the day, had condescended to hold communication with him in the night, and to inform him of futurity. Seven days had now scarcely elapsed since the death of his daughter, when this wretch, before he had performed the usual rites of mourning, before he had duly paid her funeral honors, crowned his head with a chaplet, put on his white robe, made a solemn sacrifice in despite of law and decency; and this when he had lost his child—the first, the only child that had ever called him by the tender name of father! I say not this to insult his misfortunes; I mean but to display his real character: for he who hates his children, he who is a bad parent cannot possibly prove a good minister. He who is insensible to that natural affection which should engage his heart to those who are most intimate and near to him can never feel a greater regard to your welfare than to that of strangers. He who acts wickedly in private life cannot prove excellent in his public conduct; he who is base at home can never acquit himself with honor when sent to a strange country in a public character; for it is not the man but the scene that changes.
When Philip, then, had possessed himself of Thermopylæ by surprise; when, contrary to all expectation, he had subverted the cities of the Phocians; when he had raised the state of Thebes to a degree of power too great (as we then thought) for the times or for our interest; when we were in such consternation that our effects were all collected from the country and deposited within these walls—the severest indignation was expressed against the deputies in general who had been employed in the negotiation of the peace, but principally, and above all others, against Philocrates and Demosthenes; because they had not only been concerned in the deputation, but were the first movers and authors of the decree for peace. It happened at this juncture that a difference arose between Demosthenes and Philocrates, nearly on the same occasion which you yourselves suspected must produce animosities between them. The ferment which arose from hence, together with the natural distemper of his mind, produced such counsels as nothing but an abject terror could dictate, together with a malignant jealousy of the advantages which Philocrates derived from his corruption. He concluded that by inveighing against his colleagues and against Philip, Philocrates must inevitably fall; that the other deputies must be in danger; that he himself must gain reputation; and notwithstanding his baseness and treachery to his friends, he must acquire the character of a consummate patriot. The enemies of our tranquillity perceived his designs: they at once invited him to the gallery, and extolled him as the only man who disdained to betray the public interest for a bribe. The moment he appeared he kindled up the flame of war and confusion. He it was, Athenians, who first found out the Serrian fort, and Doriscum, and Ergiske, and Murgiske, and Ganos, and Ganides—places whose very names were hitherto utterly unknown; and such was his power in perverting and perplexing, that if Philip declined to send his ministers to Athens, he represented it as a contemptuous insult on the state; if he did send them, they were spies and not ministers; if he inclined to submit his disputes with us to some impartial mediating state, no equal umpire could be found, he said, between us and Philip. This prince gave us up the Halonesus; but he insisted that we should not receive it unless it was declared, not that he resigned, but restored—thus caviling about syllables. And to crown all his conduct, by paying public honors to those who had carried their arms into Thessaly and Magnesia, under the command of Aristodemus, in direct violation of the treaty, he dissolved the peace, and prepared the way for calamity and war.
When he had finished he presented a decree to the secretary longer than the Iliad, more frivolous than the speeches which he usually delivers, or than the life which he has led; filled with hopes never to be gratified, and with armaments never to be raised. And while he diverted your attention from his fraud, while he kept you in suspense by his flattering assurances, he seized the favorable moment to make his grand attack, and moved that ambassadors should be sent to Eretria, who should entreat the Eretrians (because such entreaties were mighty necessary) not to send their contribution of five talents to Athens, but to intrust it to Callias; again, he ordained that ambassadors should be appointed to repair to Oreum, and to prevail on that state to unite with Athens in strict confederacy. And now it appeared, that through this whole transaction he had been influenced by a traitorous motive; for these ambassadors were directed to solicit the people of Oreum also to pay their five talents, not to you, but to Callias. To prove the truth of this read the decree—not all the pompous preamble, the magnificent account of navies, the parade and ostentation; but confine yourself to the point of fraud and circumvention, which were practised with too much success by this impious and abandoned wretch, whom the decree of Ctesiphon declares to have persevered, through the course of all his public conduct, in an inviolable attachment to the state.
Here is a grand account of ships and of levies, of the full moon, and of conventions. Thus were you amused by words; while in fact you lost the contributions of your allies, you were defrauded of ten talents.
It remains that I inform you of the real motive which prompted Demosthenes to procure this decree; and that was a bribe of three talents—one received from Chalcis, by the hands of Callias, another from Eretia, by Clitarchus, the sovereign of this state; the third paid by Oreum, by which means the stipulation was discovered; for as Oreum is a free state, all things are there transacted by a public decree. And as the people of this city had been quite exhausted in the war with Philip, and reduced to the utmost indigence, they sent over Gnosidemus, who had once been their sovereign, to entreat Demosthenes to remit the talent, promising, on this condition, to honor him with a statue of bronze, to be erected in their city. He answered their deputy, that he had not the least occasion for their paltry brass; that he insisted on his stipulation, which Callias should prosecute. The people of Oreum, thus pressed by their creditor, and not prepared to satisfy him, mortgaged their public revenues to Demosthenes for this talent, and paid him interest at the rate of one drachma a month for each mina, until they were enabled to discharge the principal. And, to prove this, I produce the decree of the Oreitans.
Here is a decree, Athenians, scandalous to our country. It is no small indication of the general conduct of Demosthenes, and it is an evidence of the most flagrant kind, which must condemn Ctesiphon at once: for it is not possible that he who has descended to such sordid bribery can be that man of consummate virtue which Ctesiphon has presumed to represent him in his decree.
And what can be conceived surprising or extraordinary that we have not experienced? Our lives have not passed in the usual and natural course of human affairs: no, we were born to be an object of astonishment to posterity. Do we not see the King of Persia, he who opened a passage for his navy through Mount Athos, who stretched his bridge across the Hellespont, who demanded earth and water from the Greeks; he who in his letters presumed to style himself sovereign of mankind from the rising to the setting sun; now no longer contending to be lord over others, but to secure his personal safety? Do not we see those crowned with honor and ennobled with the command of the war against Persia who rescued the Delphian temple from sacrilegious hands? Has not Thebes, our neighboring state, been in one day torn from the midst of Greece? And, altho this calamity may justly be imputed to her own pernicious councils, yet we are not to ascribe such infatuation to any natural causes, but to the fatal influence of some evil genius. Are not the Lacedæmonians, those wretched men, who had but once slightly interfered in the sacrilegious outrage on the temple, who in their day of power aspired to the sovereignty of Greece, now reduced to display their wretchedness to the world by sending hostages to Alexander, ready to submit to that fate which he shall pronounce on themselves and on their country; to those terms which a conqueror, and an incensed conqueror, shall vouchsafe to grant? And is not this our state, the common refuge of the Greeks, once the great resort of all the ambassadors from the several cities, sent to implore our protection as their sure resource, now obliged to contend, not for sovereign authority, but for our native land? And to these circumstances have we been gradually reduced from that time when Demosthenes first assumed the administration.
And let it be observed that in these his negotiations he committed three capital offenses against the state. In the first place, when Philip made war on us only in name, but in reality pointed all his resentment against Thebes (as appears sufficiently from the event, and needs not any further evidence), he insidiously concealed this, of which it so highly concerned us to be informed; and pretending that the alliance now proposed was not the effect of the present conjuncture, but of his negotiations, he first prevailed on the people not to debate about conditions, but to be satisfied that the alliance was formed on any terms; and having secured this point, he gave up all Bœotia to the power of Thebes, by inserting this clause in the decree that if any city should revolt from the Thebans, the Athenians would grant their assistance to such of the Bœotians only as should be resident. in Thebes; thus concealing his fraudulent design in spacious terms, and betraying us into his real purposes, according to his usual practise; as if the Bœotians, who had really labored under the most grievous oppression, were to be fully satisfied with the fine periods of Demosthenes, and to forget all resentment of the wrongs which they had suffered. Then as to the expenses of the war, two thirds of these he imposed on us, who were the farthest removed from danger, and one third only on the Thebans; for which, as well as all his other measures, he was amply bribed. And with respect to the command, that of the fleet he indeed divided between us; the expense he imposed entirely on Athens; and that of the land forces (if I am to speak seriously I must insist on it) he absolutely transferred to the Thebans; so that during this whole war our general Stratocles had not so much authority as might enable him to provide for the security of his soldiers. And here I do not urge offenses too trivial for regard of other men. No: I speak them freely; all mankind condemn them, and you yourselves are conscious of them, yet will not be roused to resentment. For so completely has Demosthenes habituated you to his offenses, that you now hear them without emotion or surprise. But this should not be; they should excite your utmost indignation, and meet their just punishment, if you would preserve those remains of fortune which are still left to Athens.
And here let us recall to mind those gallant men whom he forced out to manifest destruction, without one sacred rite happily performed, one propitious omen to assure them of success; and yet, when they had fallen in battle, presumed to ascend their monument with those coward feet that fled from their post, and pronounced his encomiums on their merit. But O thou who, on every occasion of great and important action, hast proved of all mankind the most worthless, in the insolence of language the most astonishing, canst thou attempt in the face of these thy fellow citizens to claim the honor of a crown for the misfortunes in which thou hast plunged thy city? Or, should he claim it, can you restrain your indignation, and has the memory of your slaughtered countrymen perished with them? Indulge me for a moment, and imagine that you are now not in this tribunal, but in the theater; imagine that you see the herald approaching, and the proclamation prescribed in this decree on the point of being delivered; and then consider whether will the friends of the deceased shed more tears at the tragedies, at the pathetic stories of the great characters to be presented on the stage, or at the insensibility of their country?
That I may now speak of the fourth period, and thus proceed to the present times, I must recall one particular to your thoughts: that Demosthenes not only deserted from his post in battle, but fled from his duty in the city, under the pretense of employing some of our ships in collecting contributions from the Greeks; but when, contrary to expectation, the public dangers seemed to vanish, he again returned. At first he appeared a timorous and dejected creature: he rose in the assembly, scarcely half alive, and desired to be appointed a commissioner for settling and establishing the treaty; but during the first progress of these transactions you did not even allow the name of Demosthenes to be subscribed to your decrees, but appointed Nausicles your principal agent; yet now he has the presumption to demand a crown. When Philip died and Alexander succeeded to the kingdom, then did he once more practise his impostures. He raised altars to Pausanias, and loaded the senate with the odium of offering sacrifices and public thanksgivings on this occasion. He called Alexander a margites, and had the presumption to assert that he would never stir from Macedon; for that he would be satisfied with parading through his capital, and there tearing up his victims in search of happy omens. “And this,” said he, “I declare, not from conjecture, but from a clear conviction of this great truth, that glory is not to be purchased but by blood”; the wretch! whose veins have no blood; who judged of Alexander, not from the temper of Alexander, but from his own dastardly soul.
But when the Thessalians had taken up arms against us, and the young prince at first expressed the warmest resentment, and not without reason—when an army had actually infested Thebes, then was he chosen our ambassador; but when he had proceeded as far as Cithæron he turned and ran back to Athens. Thus has he proved equally worthless, both in peace and in war. But what is most provoking, you refused to give him up to justice; nor would you suffer him to be tried in the general council of the Greeks; and if that be true which is reported, he has now repaid your indulgence by an act of direct treason; for the mariners of the Parhalian galley, and the ambassadors sent to Alexander, report (and with great appearance of truth) that there is one Aristion, a Platæan, the son of Aristobulus, the apothecary (if any of you know the man). This youth, who was distinguished by the beauty of his person, lived a long time in the house of Demosthenes; how he was there employed, or to what purposes he served, is a matter of doubt, and which it might not be decent to explain particularly; and, as I am informed, he afterward contrived (as his birth and course of life were a secret to the world) to insinuate himself into the favor of Alexander, with whom he lived with some intimacy. This man Demosthenes employed to deliver letters to Alexander, which served in some sort to dispel his fears, and effected his reconciliation with the prince, which he labored to confirm by the most abandoned flattery.
And now observe how exactly this account agrees with the facts which I allege against him; for if Demosthenes had been sincere in his professions, had he really been that mortal foe to Alexander, there were three most fortunate occasions for an opposition, not one of which he appears to have improved. The first was when this prince had but just ascended the throne, and, before his own affairs were duly settled, passed over into Asia, when the King of Persia was in the height of all his power, amply furnished with ships, with money, and with forces, and extremely desirous of admitting us to his alliance, on account of the danger which then threatened his dominions. Did you then utter one word, Demosthenes? Did you rise up to move for any one resolution? Am I to impute your silence to terror—to the influence of your natural timidity? But the interests of the state cannot wait the timidity of a public speaker. Again, when Darius had taken the field with all his forces; when Alexander was shut up in the defiles of Cilicia, and, as you pretended destitute of all necessaries; when he was on the point of being trampled down by the Persian cavalry (this was your language); when your insolence was insupportable to the whole city; when you marched about in state with your. letters in your hands, pointing me out to your creatures as a trembling and desponding wretch, calling me the “gilded victim,” and declaring that I was to be crowned for sacrifice if any accident should happen to Alexander: still were you totally inactive; still you reserved yourself for some fairer occasion.
I presume, then, it must be universally acknowledged that these are the characteristics of a friend to our free constitution: First, he must be of a liberal descent both by father and mother, lest the misfortune of his birth should inspire him with a prejudice against the laws which secure our freedom. Secondly, he must be descended from such ancestors as have done service to the people, at least from such as have not lived in enmity with them; this is indispensably necessary, lest he should be prompted to do the state some injury in order to revenge the quarrel of his ancestors. Thirdly, he must be discreet and temperate in his course of life, lest a luxurious dissipation of his fortune might tempt him to receive a bribe in order to betray his country. Fourthly, he must have integrity united with a powerful elocution; for it is the perfection of a statesman to possess that goodness of mind which may ever direct him to the most salutary measures, together with a skill and power of speaking which may effectually recommend them to his hearers; yet, of the two, integrity is to be preferred to eloquence. Fifthly, he must have a manly spirit, that in war and danger he may not desert his country. It may be sufficient to say, without further repetition, that a friend to the arbitrary power of a few is distinguished by the characteristics directly opposite to these.
And now consider which of them agree to Demosthenes. Let us state the account with the most scrupulous regard to justice. This man’s father was Demosthenes of the Pæanian tribe, a citizen of repute (for I shall adhere strictly to truth). But how he stands as to family, with respect to his mother and her father, I must now explain. There was once in Athens a man called Gylon, who, by betraying Nymphæum in Pontus to the enemy, a city then possessed by us, was obliged to fly from his country in order to escape the sentence of death pronounced against him, and settled on the Bosphorus, where he obtained from the neighboring princes a tract of land called “The Gardens,” and married a woman who indeed brought him a considerable fortune, but was by birth a Scythian; by her he had two daughters, whom he sent hither with a great quantity of wealth. One of them he settled—I shall not mention with whom, that I may not provoke the resentment of too many; the other Demosthenes the Pæanian married, in defiance of our laws, and from her is the present Demosthenes sprung—our turbulent and malicious informer. So that by his grandfather in the female line, he is an enemy to the state, for this grandfather was condemned to death by your ancestors; and by his mother he is a Scythian—one who assumes the language of Greece, but whose abandoned principles betray his barbarous descent.
And what has been his course of life? He first assumed the office of a trierarch, and, having exhausted his paternal fortune by his ridiculous vanity, he descended to the profession of a hired advocate; but having lost all credit in this employment by betraying the secrets of his clients to their antagonists, he forced his way into the gallery, and appeared as a popular speaker. When those vast sums of which he had defrauded the public were just dissipated, a sudden tide of Persian gold poured into his exhausted coffers; nor was all this sufficient for no fund whatever can prove sufficient for the profligate and corrupt. In a word, he supported himself, not by a fortune of his own, but by your perils. But how does he appear with respect to integrity and force of elocution? Powerful in speaking, abandoned in his manners. Of such unnatural depravity in his sensual gratifications that I can not describe his practises; I cannot offend that delicacy to which such shocking descriptions are always odious. And how has he served the public? His speeches have been plausible, his actions traitorous.
As to his courage, I need say but little on that head. Did he himself deny that he is a coward? Were you not sensible of it, I should think it necessary to detain you by a formal course of evidence; but as he has publicly confessed it in our assemblies, and as you have been witnesses of it, it remains only that I remind you of the law enacted against such crimes. It was the determination of Solon, our old legislator, that he who evaded his duty in the field or left his post in battle should be subject to the same penalties with the man directly convicted of cowardice; for there are laws enacted against cowardice. It may, perhaps, seem wonderful that the law should take cognizance of a natural infirmity, but such is the fact. And why? That every one of us may dread the punishment denounced by the law more than the enemy, and thus prove the better soldier in the cause of his country. The man, then, who declines the service of the field, the coward, and he who leaves his post in battle, are by our lawgiver excluded from all share in public deliberations, rendered incapable of receiving the honor of a crown, and denied admission to the religious rites performed by the public. But you direct us to crown a person whom the laws declare to be incapable of receiving a crown; and by your decree you introduce a man into the theater who is disqualified from appearing there; you call him into a place sacred to Bacchus, who, by his cowardice, hath betrayed all our sacred places. But that I may not divert you from the great point, remember this: when Demosthenes tells you that he is a friend to liberty, examine not his speeches, but his actions; and consider not what he professes to be, but what he really is.
And now that I have mentioned crowns and public honors, while it yet rests on my mind, let me recommend this precaution. It will be your part, Athenians, to put an end to this frequency of public honors, these precipitate grants of crowns; else they who obtain them will owe you no acknowledgment, nor shall the state receive the least advantage; for you never can make bad men better, and those of real merit must be cast into the utmost dejection. Of this truth I shall convince you by the most powerful arguments. Suppose a man should ask at what time this state supported the most illustrious reputation—in the present days, or in those of our ancestors? With one voice you would reply, “In the days of our ancestors.” At what time did our citizens display the greatest merit—then or now? They were then eminent; now, much less distinguished. At what time were rewards, crowns, proclamations, and public honors of every kind most frequent—then or now? Then they were rare and truly valuable; then the name of merit bore the highest luster; but now it is tarnished and effaced; while your honors are conferred by course and custom, not with judgment and distinction.
That you may conceive the force of what I here advance, I must explain myself still more clearly. Which, think ye, was the more worthy citizen—Themistocles, who commanded your fleet when you defeated the Persian in the sea-fight at Salamis, or this Demosthenes, who deserted from his post? Miltiades, who conquered the barbarians at Marathon, or this man? The chiefs who led back the people from Phyle? Aristides, surnamed the Just, a title quite different from that of Demosthenes? No; by the powers of Heaven. I deem the names of these heroes too noble to be mentioned in the same day with that of this savage. And let Demosthenes show, when he comes to his reply, if ever a decree was made for granting a golden crown to them. Was then the state ungrateful? No; but she thought highly of her own dignity. And these citizens, who were not thus honored, appear to have been truly worthy of such a state; for they imagined that they were not to be honored by public records, but by the memories of those they had obliged; and their honors have there remained from that time down to this day in characters indelible and immortal. There were citizens in those days, who, being stationed at the river Strymon, there patiently endured a long series of toils and dangers, and at length gained a victory over the Medes. At their return they petitioned the people for a reward; and a reward was conferred on them (then deemed of great importance) by erecting three Mercuries of stone in the usual portico, on which, however, their names were not inscribed, lest this might seem a monument erected to the honor of the commanders, not to that of the people.
As to the calumnies with which I am attacked, I would prevent their effect by a few observations. I am informed that Demosthenes is to urge that the state hath received services from him, but in many instances hath been injured by me; the transactions of Philip, the conduct of Alexander, all the crimes by them committed, he means to impute to me. And so much doth he rely on his powerful abilities in the art of speaking that he does not confine his accusations to any point of administration in which I may have been concerned; to any counsels which I may have publicly suggested; he traduces the retired part of my life, he imputes my silence as a crime. And that no one topic may escape his officious malice, he extends his accusations even to my conduct when associated with my young companions in our schools of exercise. The very introduction of his defense is to contain a heavy censure of this suit. I have commenced the prosecution, he will say, not to serve the state, but to display my zeal to Alexander, and to gratify the resentment of this prince against him. And (if I am truly informed) he means to ask why I now condemn the whole of his administration, altho I never opposed, never impeached any one part of it separately; and why after a long course of time, in which I scarcely ever was engaged in public business, I now return to conduct this prosecution?
I, on my part, am by no means inclined to emulate that course of conduct which Demosthenes hath pursued; nor am I ashamed of mine own. Whatever speeches I have made, I do not wish them unsaid; nor, had I spoken like Demosthenes, could I support my being. My silence, Demosthenes, hath been occasioned by my life of temperance. I am contented with a title; nor do I desire any accession which must be purchased by iniquity. My silence, therefore, and my speaking are the result of reason, not extorted by the demands of inordinate passions. But you are silent when you have received your bribe; when you have spent it you exclaim. And you speak not at such times as you think fittest—not your own sentiments—but whenever you are ordered, and whatever is dictated by those masters whose pay you receive. So that without the least sense of shame you boldly assert what in a moment after is proved to be absolutely false. This impeachment, for instance, which is intended not to serve the state, but to display my officious zeal to Alexander, was actually commenced while Philip was yet alive, before ever Alexander had ascended the throne, before you had seen the vision about Pausanias, and before you had held your nocturnal interviews with Minerva and Juno. How then could I have displayed my zeal to Alexander, unless we had all seen the same visions with Demosthenes?
But, O ye gods! how can I restrain my indignation at one thing which Demosthenes means to urge (as I have been told), and which I shall here explain? He compares me to the Sirens, whose purpose is not to delight their hearers, but to destroy them. Even so, if we are to believe him, my abilities in speaking, whether acquired by exercise or given by nature, all tend to the detriment of those who grant me their attention. I am bold to say that no man hath a right to urge an allegation of this nature against me; for it is shameful in an accuser not to be able to establish his assertions with full proof. But if such must be urged, surely it should not come from Demosthenes; it should be the observation of some military man, who had done important services, but was unskilled in speech; who repined at the abilities of his antagonist, conscious that he could not display his own actions, and sensible that his accuser had the art of persuading his audience to impute such actions to him as he never had committed. But when a man composed entirely of words, and these the bitterest and most pompously labored—when he recurs to simplicity, to artless facts, who can endure it? He who is but an instrument, take away his tongue, and he is nothing.
I am utterly at a loss to conceive, and would gladly be informed, Athenians, on what grounds you can possibly give sentence for the defendant. Can it be because this decree is not illegal? No public act was ever more repugnant to the laws. Or because the author of this decree is not a proper object of public justice? All your examinations of men’s conduct are no more, if this man be suffered to escape. And is not this lamentable, that formerly your stage was filled with crowns of gold, conferred by the Greeks on the people (as the season of our public entertainments was assigned for the honors granted by foreigners); but now, by the ministerial conduct of Demosthenes, you should lose all crowns, all public honors, while he enjoys them in full pomp? Should any of these tragic poets whose works are to succeed our public proclamations represent Thersites crowned by the Greeks, no man could endure it, because Homer marks him as a coward and a sycophant; and can you imagine that you yourselves will not by the decision of all Greece of this man be permitted to receive his crown? In former times your fathers ascribed everything glorious and illustrious in the public fortune to the people; transferred the blame of everything mean and dishonorable to bad ministers. But now Ctesiphon would persuade you to divest Demosthenes of his ignominy, and to cast it on the state. You acknowledge that you are favored by fortune; and justly, for you are so favored; and will you now declare by your sentence that fortune hath abandoned you; that Demosthenes hath been your only benefactor? Will you proceed to the last absurdity, and in the very same tribunals condemn those to infamy whom you have detected in corruption; and yet confer a crown on him whose whole administration you are sensible hath been one series of corruption? In our public spectacles, the judges of our common dancers are at once fined if they decide unjustly; and will you who are appointed judges, not of dancing, but of the laws, and of public virtue, confer honors not agreeably to the laws, not on a few, and those most eminent in merit, but on any man who can establish his influence by intrigue?
And here, in your presence, would I gladly enter into a discussion with the author of this decree, as to the nature of those services for which he desires that Demosthenes should be crowned. If you allege, agreeably to the first clause of the decree, that he hath surrounded our walls with an excellent intrenchment, I must declare my surprise. Surely the guilt of having rendered such a work necessary far outweighs the merits of its execution. It is not he who hath strengthened our fortifications, who hath digged our intrenchments, who hath disturbed the tombs of our ancestors, that should demand the honors of a patriotic minister, but he who hath procured some intrinsic services to the state. If you have recourse to the second clause, where you presume to say that he is a good man, and hath ever persevered in speaking and acting for the interest of the people, strip your decree of its vainglorious pomp; adhere to facts; and prove what you have asserted. I shall not press you with the instances of his corruption in the affairs of Amphissa and Eubœa. But if you attempt to transfer the merit of the Theban alliance to Demosthenes, you but impose on the men who are strangers to affairs, and insult those who are acquainted with them, and see through your falsehood. By suppressing all mention of the urgent juncture, of the illustrious reputation of these our fellow citizens, the real causes of this alliance, you fancy that you have effectually concealed your fraud in ascribing a merit to Demosthenes which really belongs to the state.
But to urge the point of greatest moment: should any of your sons demand by what examples they are to form their lives, how would you reply? For you well know that it is not only by bodily exercises, by seminaries of learning, or by instructions in music, that our youth are trained, but much more effectually by public examples. Is it proclaimed in the theater that a man is honored with a crown for his virtue, his magnanimity, and his patriotism, who yet proves to be abandoned and profligate in his life? The youth who sees this is corrupted. Is public justice inflicted on a man of base and scandalous vices like Ctesiphon? This affords excellent instruction to others. Doth the judge who has given a sentence repugnant to honor and to justice return home and instruct his son? That son is well warranted to reject his instruction. Advice in such a ease may well be called impertinence. Not then as judges only, but as guardians of the state, give your voices in such a manner that you may approve your conduct to those absent citizens who may inquire what hath been the decision. You are not to be informed, Athenians, that the reputation of our country must be such as theirs who receive its honors. And surely it must be scandalous to stand in the same point of view, not with our ancestors, but with the unmanly baseness of Demosthenes.
Think on this critical season, in which you are to give your voices. In a few days the Pythian games are to be celebrated, and the convention of Grecian states to be collected. There shall our state be severely censured on account of the late measures of Demosthenes. Should you crown him, you must be deemed accessories to those who violated the general peace: if, on the contrary, you reject the demand, you will clear the state from all imputation. Weigh this clause maturely, as the interest, not of a foreign state, but of your own, and do not lavish your honors inconsiderately: confer them with a scrupulous delicacy; and let them be the distinctions of exalted worth and merit: nor be contented to hear, but look around you, where your own interest is so intimately concerned, and see who are the men that support Demosthenes. Are they his former companions in the chase, his associates in the manly exercises of his youth? No, by the Olympian god! he never was employed in rousing the wild boar, or in any such exercises as render the body vigorous; he was solely engaged in the sordid arts of fraud and circumvention.
And let not his arrogance escape your attention, when he tells you that by his embassy he wrested Byzantium from the hands of Philip; that his eloquence prevailed on the Acarnanians to revolt; his eloquence transported the souls of the Thebans. He thinks that you are sunk to such a degree of weakness that he may prevail on you to believe that you harbor the very genius of persuasion in your city, and not a vile sycophant. And when at the conclusion of his defense he calls up his accomplices in corruption as his advocates, then imagine that you see the great benefactors of your country in this place from whence I speak, arrayed against the villainy of those men: Solon, the man who adorned our free constitution with the noblest laws, the philosopher, the renowned legislator, entreating you, with that decent gravity which distinguished his character, by no means to pay a greater regard to the speeches of Demosthenes than to your oaths and laws: Aristides, who was suffered to prescribe to the Greeks their several subsidies, whose daughters received their portions from the people at his decease, roused to indignation at this insult on public justice, and asking whether you are not ashamed, that when your fathers banished Arthmius the Zelian, who brought in gold from Persia; when they were scarcely restrained from killing a man connected with the people in the most sacred ties, and by public proclamation forbade him to appear in Athens, or in any part of the Athenian territory; yet you are going to crown Demosthenes with a golden crown, who did not bring in gold from Persia, but received bribes himself, and still possesses them. And can you imagine but that Themistocles, and those who fell at Marathon, and those who died at Platæa, and the very sepulchers of our ancestors, must groan if you confer a crown on this man, who confessedly united with the Barbarians against the Greeks?
And now bear witness for me, thou earth, thou sun, O virtue, and intelligence, and thou, O erudition, that teacheth us the just distinction between vice and goodness, I have stood up, I have spoken in the cause of justice. If I have supported my prosecution with a dignity befitting its importance, I have spoken as my wishes dictated; if too deficiently, as my abilities admitted. Let what hath now been offered, and what your own thoughts must supply, be duly weighed, and pronounce such a sentence as justice and the interests of the state demand.