The World’s Famous Orations.
Greece (432 B.C.–324 B.C.). 1906.
III. On the Crown
I BEGIN, men of Athens, by praying to every god and goddess, that the same good will, which I have ever cherished toward the commonwealth and all of you, may be requited to me on the present trial. I pray likewise—and this specially concerns yourselves, your religion, and your honor—that the gods may put it in your minds, not to take counsel of my opponent touching the manner in which I am to be heard—that would indeed be cruel!—but of the laws and of your oath; wherein (besides the other obligations) it is prescribed that you shall hear both sides alike. This means, not only that you must pass no precondemnation, not only that you must extend your good will equally to both, but also that you must allow the parties to adopt such order and course of defense as they severally choose and prefer.
Many advantages hath Æschines over me on this trial; and two especially, men of Athens. First, my risk in the contest is not the same. It is assuredly not the same for me to forfeit your regard, as for my adversary not to succeed in his indictment. To me—but I will say nothing untoward at the outset of my address. The prosecution, however, is play to him. My second disadvantage is, the natural disposition of mankind to take pleasure in hearing invective and accusation, and to be annoyed by those who praise themselves. To Æschines is assigned the part which gives pleasure; that which is (I may fairly say) offensive to all, is left for me. And if, to escape from this, I make no mention of what I have done, I shall appear to be without defense against his charges, without proof of my claims to honor; whereas, if I proceed to give an account of my conduct and measures, I shall be forced to speak frequently of myself. I will endeavor then to do so with all becoming modesty; what I am driven to do by the necessity of the case, will be fairly chargeable to my opponent, who has instituted such a prosecution.
I think, men of the jury, you will all agree that I, as well as Ctesiphon, am a party to this proceeding, and that it is a matter of no less concern to me. It is painful and grievous to be deprived of anything, especially by the act of one’s enemy; but your good will and affection are the heaviest loss, precisely as they are the greatest prize to gain.
Had Æschines confined his charge to the subject of the prosecution, I too would have proceeded at once to my justification of the decree. But since he has wasted no fewer words in the discussion of other matters, in most of them calumniating me, I deem it both necessary and just, men of Athens, to begin by shortly adverting to these points, that none of you may be induced by extraneous arguments to shut your ears against my defense to the indictment.
To all his scandalous abuse of my private life, observe my plain and honest answer. If you know me to be such as he alleged—for I have lived nowhere else but among you—let not my voice be heard, however transcendent my statesmanship! Rise up this instant and condemn me! But if, in your opinion and judgment, I am far better and of better descent than my adversary; if (to speak without offense) I am not inferior, I or mine, to any respectable citizens; then give no credit to him for his other statements—it is plain they were all equally fictions—but to me let the same good will, which you have uniformly exhibited upon many former trials, be manifested now. With all your malice, Æschines, it was very simple to suppose that I should turn from the discussion of measures and policy to notice your scandal. I will do no such thing; I am not so crazed. Your lies and calumnies about my political life I will examine forthwith; for that loose ribaldry I shall have a word hereafter, if the jury desire to hear it.
The crimes whereof I am accused are many and grievous; for some of them the laws enact heavy—most severe penalties. The scheme of this present proceeding includes a combination of spiteful insolence, insult, railing, aspersion, and everything of the kind; while for the said charges and accusations, if they were true, the state has not the means of inflicting an adequate punishment, or anything like it. For it is not right to debar another of access to the people and privilege of speech; moreover, to do so by way of malice and insult—by heaven! is neither honest, nor constitutional, nor just. If the crimes which he saw me committing against the state were as heinous as he so tragically gave out, he ought to have enforced the penalties of the law against them at the time; if he saw me guilty of an impeachable offense, by impeaching and so bringing me to trial before you; if moving illegal decrees, by indicting me for them. For surely, if he can prosecute Ctesiphon on my account, he would not have forborne to indict me myself, had he thought he could convict me. In short, whatever else he saw me doing to your prejudice, whether mentioned or not mentioned in his catalogue of slander, there are laws for such things, and punishments, and trials, and judgments, with sharp and severe penalties; all of which he might have enforced against me; and had he done so—had he thus pursued the proper method with me, his charges would have been consistent with his conduct. But now he has declined the straightforward and just course, avoided all proofs of guilt at the time, and after this long interval gets up, to play his part withal, a heap of accusation, ribaldry and scandal. Then he arraigns me, but prosecutes the defendant.
What, then, were the statements made by Æschines, through which everything was lost? That you should not be alarmed by Philip’s having passed Thermopylæ—that all would be as you desired, if you kept quiet; and in two or three days you would hear, he was their friend to whom he had come as an enemy, and that their enemy to whom he had come as a friend—it was not words that cemented attachments (such was his solemn phrase), but identity of interest; and it was the interest of all alike, Philip, the Phocians, and you, to be relieved from the harshness and insolence of the Thebans. His assertions were heard by some with pleasure, on account of the hatred which then subsisted against the Thebans. But what happened directly, almost immediately afterward? The wretched Phocians were destroyed, their cities demolished; you that kept quiet, and trusted to Æschines, were shortly bringing in your effects out of the country, while Æchines received gold; and yet more—while you got nothing but your enmity with the Thebans and Thessalians, Philip won their gratitude for what he had done.
When you had been deceived by Philip through the agency of these men, who sold themselves in the embassies, and reported not a word of truth to you—when the unhappy Phocians had been deceived and their cities destroyed—what followed? The despicable Thessalians and stupid Thebans looked on Philip as a friend, a benefactor, a savior; he was everything with them—not a syllable would they hear from any one to the contrary. You, tho regarding his acts with suspicion and anger, still observed the peace; for you could have done nothing alone. The rest of the Greeks, cheated and disappointed like yourselves, gladly observed the peace, tho they also had in a manner been attacked for a long time. For when Philip was marching about, subduing Illyrians and Triballians and some also of the Greeks, and gaining many considerable accessions of power, and certain citizens of the states (Æschines among them) took advantage of the peace to go there and be corrupted; all people then, against whom he was making such preparations, were attacked.
If they perceived it not, that is another question, no concern of mine. I was forever warning and protesting, both at Athens and wheresoever I was sent. But the states were diseased; one class in their politics and measures being venal and corrupt, while the multitude of private men either had no foresight, or were caught with the bait of present ease and idleness; and all were under some such influence, only they imagined each that the mischief would not approach themselves, but that by the peril of others they might secure their own safety when they chose. The result, I fancy, has been that the people, in return for their gross and unseasonable indolence, have lost their liberty; the statesmen, who imagined they were selling everything but themselves, discovered they had sold themselves first; for, instead of friends, as they were named during the period of bribery, they are now called parasites, and miscreants, and the like befitting names. Justly. For no man, O Athenians, spends money for the traitor’s benefit, or, when he has got possession of his purchase, employs the traitor to advise him in future proceedings; else nothing could have been more fortunate than a traitor. But it is not so—it never could be—it is far otherwise! When the aspirant for power has gained his object, he is master also of those that sold it; and then—then, I say, knowing their baseness, he loathes and mistrusts and spurns them.
Consider only—for, tho the time of the events is past, the time for understanding them is ever present to the wise; Lasthenes was called the friend of Philip for a while, until he betrayed Olynthus—Timolaus for a while, until he destroyed Thebes—Eudicus and Simus of Larissa for a while, until they brought Thessaly under Philip’s power. Since then the world has become full of traitors, expelled and insulted, and suffering every possible calumny. How fared Aristratus in Sicyon? how Perilaus in Megara? Are they not outcasts? Hence one may evidently see, it is the vigilant defender of his country, the strenuous opponent of such men, who secures to you traitors and hirelings, Æschines, the opportunity of getting bribes: through the number of those that oppose your wishes, yon are in safety and in pay; for had it depended on yourselves you would have perished long ago.
Much more could I say about those transactions, yet methinks too much has been said already. The fault is my adversary’s, for having spirted over me the dregs, I may say, of his own wickedness and iniquities, of which I was obliged to clear myself to those who are younger than the events. You, too, have probably been disgusted, who knew this man’s venality before I spoke a word. He calls it friendship indeed; and said somewhere in his speech—“the man who reproaches me with the friendship of Alexander.” I reproach you with friendship of Alexander I Whence gotten, or how merited I Neither Philip’s friend nor Alexander’s should I ever call you; I am not so mad—unless we are to call reapers and other hired laborers the friends of those that hire them. That, however, is not so—how could it be? It is nothing of the kind. Philip’s hireling I called you once, and Alexander’s I call you now. So do all these men. If you disbelieve me, ask them; or rather I will do it for you. Athenians! is Æschines, think ye the hireling, or the friend of Alexander? You hear what they say!
Philip started, men of Athens, with a great advantage. It happened that among the Greeks—not some, but all alike—there sprang up a crop of traitors and venal wretches, such as in the memory of man had never been before. These he got for his agents and supporters; the Greeks, already ill-disposed and unfriendly to each other, he brought into a still worse state, deceiving this people, making presents to that, corrupting others in every way; and he split them into many parties, when they had all one interest, to prevent his aggrandizement. While the Greeks were all in such a condition—in such ignorance of the gathering and growing mischief—you have to consider, men of Athens, what policy and measures it became the commonwealth to adopt, and of this to receive a reckoning from me; for the man who assumed that post in the administration was I.
But I return to the question—What should the commonwealth, Æschines, have done, when she saw Philip establishing an empire and dominion over Greece? Or what was your statesman to advise or move?—I, a statesman at Athens?—for this is most material—I who knew that from the earliest time until the day of my own mounting the platform, our country had ever striven for precedency and honor and renown, and expended more blood and treasure for the sake of glory and the general weal than the rest of the Greeks had expended on their several interests?—who saw that Philip himself, with whom we were contending, had, in the strife for power and empire, had his eye cut out, his collarbone fractured, his hand and leg mutilated, and was ready and willing to sacrifice any part of his body that fortune chose to take, provided he could live with the remainder in honor and glory? Hardly will I any one venture to say this—that it became a man bred at Pella, then an obscure and inconsiderable place, to possess such inborn magnanimity, as to aspire to the mastery of Greece and form the project in his mind, while you, who were Athenians, day after day in speeches and in dramas reminded of the virtue of your ancestors, should have been so naturally base, as of your own free will and accord to surrender to Philip the liberty of Greece. No man will say this!
The only course then that remained was a just resistance to all his attacks upon you. Such course you took from the beginning, properly and becomingly; and I assisted by motions and counsels during the period of my political life:—I acknowledge it. But what should I have done? Was it meet that any of the Greeks should rise up to prevent these proceedings, or not? If not—if Greece was to present the spectacle (as it is called) of a Mysian prey, while Athenians had life and being, then I have exceeded my duty in speaking on the subject—the commonwealth has exceeded her duty, which followed my counsels—I admit that every measure has been a misdeed, a blunder of mine. But if some one ought to have arisen to prevent these things, who but the Athenian people should it have been? Such then was the policy which I espoused. I saw him reducing all men to subjection, and I opposed him; I continued warning and exhorting you not to make these sacrifices to Philip.
When Philip therefore was driven out of Eubœa, with arms by you, with counsels and decrees—tho some persons there should burst!—by me, he sought some new position of attack upon Athens. Seeing that we use more foreign corn than any people, and wishing to command the passage of the corn-trade, he advanced to Thrace; the Byzantines being his allies, he first required them to join in the war against you, and when they refused, saying (truly enough) that they had not made alliance en such terms, he threw up intrenchments before the city, planted batteries, and laid siege to it. What course hereupon it became you to take, I will not ask again; it is manifest to all. But who was it that succored the Byzantines, and rescued them? who prevented the alienation of the Hellespont at that crisis? You, men of Athens. When I say you, I mean the commonwealth. But who advised, framed, executed the measures of state, devoted himself wholly and unreservedly to the public business?—I!—What benefits thence accrued to all, you need no further to be told; you have learned by experience. For the war which then sprang up, besides that it brought honor and renown, kept you in a cheaper and more plentiful supply of all the necessaries of life than does the present peace, which these worthies maintain to their country’s prejudice in the hope of something to come. Perish such hope! Never may they share the blessings for which you men of honest wishes pray to the gods, or communicate their own principles to you!
Thus the saving of Chersonesus and Byzantium, the preventing Philip’s conquest of the Hellespont, and the honors therefore bestowed on this country, were the effects of my policy and administration; and more than this—they proved to all mankind the generosity of Athens and the baseness of Philip. He, the ally and friend of the Byzantines, was before all eyes besieging them—what could be more shameful or outrageous?—You, who might justly on many grounds have reproached them for wrongs done you in former times, instead of bearing malice and abandoning the oppressed, appeared as their deliverers; conduct which procured you glory, good-will, honors from all men. That you have crowned many of your statesmen, every one knows; but through what other person (I mean what minister or orator), besides myself, the commonwealth has been crowned, no one can say.
Well then, men of Athens—when the Lacedæmonians had the empire of land and sea, and held the country round Attica by governors and garrisons, Eubœa, Tanagra, all Bœotia, Megara, Ægina, Cleonæ, the other islands; when our state possessed neither ships nor walls; you marched out to Haliartus, and again not many days after to Corinth; albeit the Athenians of that time had many causes of resentment against both Corinthians and Thebans for their acts in the Decelean war; but they showed no resentment, none. And yet neither of these steps took they, Æschines, for benefactors, nor were they blind to the danger; but they would not for such reasons abandon people who sought their protection; for the sake of renown and glory they willingly exposed themselves to peril; just and noble was their resolve! For to all mankind the end of life is death, tho one keep one’s self shut up in a closet; but it becomes brave men to strive always for honor, with good hope before them, and to endure courageously whatever the Deity ordains.
Thus did your ancestors, thus the elder among yourselves. For, tho the Lacedæmonians were neither friends nor benefactors, but had done many grievous injuries to our state, yet when the Thebans, victorious at Leuctra, sought their destruction, you prevented it, not fearing the power and reputation then possessed by the Thebans, nor reckoning up the merits of those whom you were about to fight for. And so you demonstrated to all the Greeks, that, however any people may offend you, you reserve your anger against them for other occasions; but should their existence or liberty be imperiled, you will not resent your wrongs or bring them into account.
I must return to the next in date of my political acts; and here again consider what was most beneficial for the state. I saw, men of Athens, that your navy was decaying, and that, while the rich were getting off with small payments, citizens of moderate or small fortunes were losing their substance, and the state, by reason thereof, missing her opportunities of action. I, therefore, proposed a law, by which I compelled the one class (the rich) to perform their duty, and stopped the oppression of the poor; and—what was most useful to the country—I caused her preparations to be made in time. And being indicted for it, I appeared en the charge before you, and was acquitted; and the prosecutor did not get his portion of the votes. But what sums, think ye, the chief men of the boards, or those in the second and third degrees, offered me, first, not to propose that law, secondly, when I had recorded it, to drop it en the abatement-oath? Such sums, men of Athens, as I should be afraid to tell you. And no wonder they did so; for under the former laws they might divide the charge between sixteen, spending little or nothing themselves, and grinding down the needy citizens; whereas under my law every one had to pay a sum proportioned to his means, and there was a captain for two ships, where before there was a partner with fifteen others for one ship; for they were calling themselves not captains any longer, but partners. They would have given anything to get these regulations annulled, and not be obliged to perform their duties.
Why then, wretched man, do you play the pettifogger? Why manufacture arguments? Why don’t you take hellebore for your malady? Are you not ashamed to bring on a cause for spite, and not for any offense?—to alter some laws, and to garble others, the whole of which should in justice be read to persons sworn to decide according to the laws? And you that act thus describe the qualities which belong to a friend of the people, as if you had ordered a statue according to contract, and received it without having what the contract required; or as if friends of the people were known by words, and not by acts and measures! And you bawl out, regardless of decency, a sort of cart-language, applicable to yourself and your race, not to me.
Again, men of Athens—I conceive abuse to differ from accusation in this, that accusation has to do with offenses for which the laws provide penalties, abuse with the scandal which enemies speak against each other according to their humor. And I believe your ancestors built these courts, not that we should assemble you here and bring forth the secrets of private life for mutual reproach, but to give us the means of convicting persons guilty of crimes against the state. Æschines knew this as well as I, and yet he chose to rail rather than to accuse.
Even in this way he must take as much as he gives; but before I enter upon such matters, let me ask him one question—Should one call you the state’s enemy, or mine, Æschines? Mine, of course. Yet, where you might, for any offense, which I committed, have obtained satisfaction for the people according to the laws, you neglected it—at the audit, on the indictments and other trials; but where I in my own person am safe on every account, by the laws, by time, by prescription, by many previous judgments on every point, by my never having been convicted of a public offense—and where the country must share, more or less, in the repute of measures which were her own—here it is you have encountered me. See if you are not the people’s enemy, while you pretend to be mine!
I am at no loss for materials concerning you and your family, but am in doubt what to mention first—whether how your father Tromes, being servant to Elpias, who kept a reading-school in the temple of Theseus, wore a weight of fetters and a collar; or how your mother, by her morning spousals in the cottage by Hero Calamites, reared up you, the beautiful statue, the eminent third-rate actor!—But all know these things without my telling—Or how the galley-piper Phormio, the slave of Dion of Phrearrii, removed her from that honorable employment. But, by Jupiter and the gods! I fear, in saying what is proper about you, I may be thought to have chosen topics unbecoming to myself. All this therefore, I shall pass by, and commence with the acts of his own life; for indeed he came not of common parents, but of such as are execrated by the people. Very lately—lately do I say?—it is but yesterday that he has become both an Athenian and an orator—adding two syllables, he converted his father from Tromes to Atrometus, and dignified his mother by the name of Glaucothea, who (as every one knows) was cared Empusa; having got that title (it is plain) from her doing and submitting to anything—how else could she have got it? However, you are so ungrateful and wicked by nature, that after being raised through the people from servitude to freedom, from beggary to affluence, instead of returning their kindness, you work against them as a hireling politician.
That he should cooperate openly with Philip before the war, was shocking—O heaven and earth! could it be otherwise?—against his country! Yet allow him if you please, allow him this. But when the ships had openly been made prize, Chersonesus was ravaged, the man was marching against Attica, matters were no longer doubtful, war had begun—nothing that he ever did for you can this malicious iambic-mouther show—not a resolution has Æschines, great or small, concerning the interests of the state. If he asserts it, let him prove it now while my waterglass is running. But there is none. He is reduced to an alternative;—either he had no fault to find with my measures, and therefore moved none against them; or he sought the good of the enemy, and therefore would not propose any better.
Did he abstain from speaking as well as moving, when any mischief was to be done to you? Why, no one else could speak a word. Other things, it appears, the country could endure, and he could accomplish without detection; but one last act he achieved, O Athenians, which crowned all he had done before; on which he lavished that multitude of words, recounting the decrees against the Amphissian Locrians, in hopes of distorting the truth. But the thing admits it not. No! never will you wash yourself clean from your performances there—talk as long as you will!
In your presence, men of Athens, I invoke all the gods and goddesses to whom the Attic territory belongs, and Pythian Apollo the Father-god of our state; and I implore them all! As I shall declare the truth to you, as I declared it in your assembly at the time, the very moment I saw this wretch putting his hand to the work—for I perceived, instantly perceived it—so may they grant me favor and protection! If from malice or personal rivalry I bring a false charge against my opponent, may they cut me off from every blessing!
But wherefore this imprecation, this solemn assurance? Because, tho I have documents lying in the public archives, from which I shall clearly prove my assertions, tho I know you remember the facts, I fear this man may be considered unequal to the mischiefs which he has wrought; as before happened, when he caused the destruction of the unhappy Phocians by his false reports to you.
The Amphissian War, I say—which brought Philip to Elatea, which caused him to be chosen general of the Amphictyons, which ruined everything in Greece—was this man’s contrivance. He is the single author of all our heaviest calamities. I protested at the time, and cried out in the assembly—“You are bringing a war, Æschines, into Attica, an Amphictyonic war”—but his packed party would not let me be heard; the rest wondered, and supposed that I was bringing an idle charge against him out of personal enmity. However, the real character of those transactions, the purpose for which they were got up, the manner in which they were accomplished, hear ye now, men of Athens, as ye were prevented then. You will see that the thing was well concerted, and it will help you much to get a knowledge of public affairs, and what craftiness there was in Philip you will observe.
Philip could neither finish nor get rid of the war with Athens, unless he made the Thebans and Thessalians her enemies. Tho your generals fought against him without fortune or skill, yet from the war itself and the cruisers he suffered infinite damage. He could neither export any of the produce of his country, nor import what he needed. He was not then superior to you at sea, nor able to reach Attica, unless the Thessalians followed him and the Thebans, gave him a passage; so that, while he overcame in war the generals whom you sent out—such as they were—I say nothing about that—he found himself distressed by the difference of your local position and means. Should he urge either Thessalians or Thebans to march in his own quarrel against you, none, he thought, would attend to him: but should he, under the pretense of taking up their common cause, be elected general, he trusted partly by deceit and partly by persuasion to gain his ends more easily. He sets to work therefore—observe how cleverly—to get the Amphictyons into a war, and create a disturbance in the congress. For this he thought they would immediately want him. Now, if any of the presbyters commissioned by himself or any of his allies brought it forward, he imagined that both Thebans and Thessalians would suspect the thing, and would all be on their guard; whereas, if the agent were an Athenian and commissioned by you his opponents, it would easily pass unnoticed. An thus it turned out.
How did he effect his purpose? He hires the prosecutor. No one (I believe) was aware of the thing or attending to it, and so—just as these things are usually done at Athens—Æschines was proposed for Pylæan deputy, three or four held up their hands for him, and his election was declared. When clothed with the dignity of the state he arrived among the Amphictyons, dismissing and disregarding all besides, he hastened to execute what he was hired for. He makes up a pretty speech and story, showing how the Cirrhæan plain came to be consecrated; reciting this to the presbyters, men unused to speeches and unsuspicious of any consequences.
The mention of this man’s treasonable acts brings me to the part which I have myself taken in opposition to him. It is fair you should hear my account of it for many reasons, but chiefly, men of Athens, because it would be a shame, when I have undergone the toil of exertions on your behalf, that you should not endure the bare recital of them.
When I say that the Thebans, and I may add the Athenians, were so led away by Philip’s partizans and the corrupt men of either state, as to disregard and take no precaution against a danger which menaced both, and required the utmost precaution (I mean the suffering Philip’s power to increase), and were readily disposed to enmity and strife with each other; I was constantly watchful to prevent it, not only because in my own judgment I deemed such vigilance expedient, but knowing that Aristophon, and again Eubulus, had all along desired to bring about that union, and, while they were frequently opposed upon other matters, were always agreed upon this. Men whom in their lifetime—you reptile!—you pestered with flattery, yet see not that you are accusing them in their graves: for the Theban policy that you reproach me with is a charge less affecting me than them, who approved that alliance before I did. But I must return.—I say, when Æschines had excited the war in Amphissa, and his coadjutors had helped to establish enmity with Thebes, Philip marched against us—that was the object for which these persons embroiled the states—and had we not roused up a little in time, we could never have recovered ourselves: so far had these men carried matters.
Now, Æschines, how would you have me describe you, and how myself, upon that day? Shall I call myself Batalus, your nickname of reproach, and you not even a hero of the common sort, but one of those upon the stage, Cresphontes or Creon, or the Œnomaus whom you execrably murdered once at Colyttus? Well; upon that occasion I the Batalus of Pæania was more serviceable to the state than you the Œnomaus of Cothocidæ. You were of no earthly use; I did everything which became a good citizen.
Had I attempted to say, that I instructed you in sentiments worthy of your ancestors, there is not a man who would not justly rebuke me. What I declare is, that such principles are your own; I show that before my time such was the spirit of the commonwealth; tho certainly in the execution of the particular measures I claim a share also for myself. The prosecutor, arraigning the whole proceedings, and embittering you against me as the cause of our alarms and dangers, in his eagerness to deprive me of honor for the moment, robs you of the eulogies that should endure for ever. For should you, under a disbelief in the wisdom of my policy convict the defendant, you will appear to have done wrong not to have suffered what befel you by the cruelty of fortune. But never, never can you have done wrong, O Athenians, in undertaking the battle for the freedom and safety of all! I swear it by your forefathers—those that met the peril at Marathon, those that took the field at Platæa, those in the sea-fight at Salamis, and those at Artemisium, and many other brave men who repose in the public monuments, all of whom alike, as being worthy of the same honor, the country buried, Æschines, not only the successful or victorious! Justly! For the duty of brave men has been done by all: their fortune has been such as the Deity assigned to each.
Accursed scribbler! you, to deprive me of the approbation and affection of my countrymen, speak of trophies and battles and ancient deeds. with none of which had this present trial the least concern; but I!—O you third-rate actor!—I, that rose to counsel the state how to maintain her preeminence! in what spirit was I to mount the hustings? In the spirit of one having unworthy counsel to offer?—I should have deserved to perish! You yourselves, men of Athens, may not try private and public causes on the same principles: the compacts of every-day life you are to judge of by particular laws and circumstances; the measures of statesmen, by reference to the dignity of your ancestors. And if you think it your duty to act worthily of them, you should every one of you consider, when you come into court to decide public questions, that together with your staff and ticket the spirit of the commonwealth is delivered to you.
Athenians, you have had many great and renowned orators before me; the famous Callistratus, Aristophon, Cephalus, Thrasybulus, hundreds of others, yet none of them ever thoroughly devoted himself to any measure of state: for instance, the mover of a resolution would not be ambassador; the ambassador would not move a resolution; each one left for himself some relief, and also, should anything happen, an excuse. How then—it may be said—did you so far surpass others in might and boldness as to do everything yourself? I don’t say that: but such was my conviction of the danger impending over us, that I considered it left no room or thought for individual security; a man should have been only too happy to perform his duty without neglect. As to myself I was persuaded, perhaps foolishly, yet I was persuaded, that none would move better resolutions than myself, none would execute them better, none as ambassador would show more zeal and honesty. Therefore I undertook every duty myself.
Through my policy, which he arraigns, instead of the Thebans invading this country with Philip, as all expected, they joined our ranks and prevented him;—instead of the war being in Attica, it took place seven hundred furlongs from the city on the confines of Bœotia;—instead of corsair issuing from Eubœa to plunder us, Attica was in peace on the coast-side during the whole war;—instead of Philip being master of the Hellespont by taking Byzantium, the Byzantines were our auxiliaries against him Does this computation of services, think you, resemble the casting of accounts? Or should we strike these out on a balance, and not look that they be kept in everlasting remembrance? I will not set down, that of the cruelty, remarkable in cases where Philip got people all at once into his power, others have had the trial; while of the generosity, which, casting about for his future purposes, he assumed toward Athens, you have happily enjoyed the fruits. I pass that by.
If you talk about just conditions with the Thebans, Æschines, or with the Byzantines or Eubœans, or discuss now the question of equal terms, first I say—you are ignorant that of those galleys formerly which defended Greece, being three hundred in number, our commonwealth furnished two hundred, and never (as it seemed) thought herself injured by having done so, never prosecuted those who advised it or expressed any dissatisfaction—shame on her if she had!—but was grateful to the gods, that, when a common danger beset the Greeks, she alone furnished double what the rest did for the preservation of all. Besides, it is but a poor favor you do your countrymen by calumniating me. For what is the use of telling us now what we should have done? Why, being in the city and present, did you not make your proposals then; if indeed they were practicable at a crisis, when we had to accept not what we liked but what the circumstances allowed? Remember, there was one ready to bid against us, to welcome eagerly those that we rejected, and give money into the bargain.
But if I am accused for what I have actually done, how would it have been, if, through my hard bargaining, the states had gone off and attached themselves to Philip, and he had become master at the same time of Eubœa, Thebes, and Byzantium? What, think ye, these impious men would have said or done? Said doubtless, that the states were abandoned—that they wished to join us and were driven away—that he had got command of the Hellespont by the Byzantines, and become master of the corn-trade of Greece—that a heavy neighbor-war had by means of the Thebans been brought into Attica—that the sea had become unnavigable by the excursion of pirates from Eubœa! All this would they have said sure enough, and a great deal besides. A wicked, wicked thing, O Athenians, is a calumniator always, every way spiteful and faultfinding. But this creature is a reptile by nature, that from the beginning never did anything honest or liberal; a very ape of a tragedian, village Œnomaus, counterfeit orator! What advantage has your eloquence been to your country? Now do you speak to us about the past? As if a physician should visit his patients, and not order or prescribe anything to cure the disease, but on the death of any one, when the last ceremonies were performing, should follow him to the grave and expound, how, if the poor fellow had done this and that, he never would have died! Idiot, do you speak now?
Even the defeat—if you exult in that which should make you groan, you accursed one!—by nothing that I have done will it appear to have befallen us. Consider it thus, O Athenians. From no embassy, on which I was commissioned by you, did I ever come away defeated by the ambassadors of Philip—neither from Thessaly, nor from Ambracia, nor from the kings of Thrace, nor from Byzantium, nor from any other place, nor on the last recent occasion from Thebes; but where his ambassadors were vanquished in argument, he came with arms and carried the day. And for this you call me to account; and are not ashamed to jeer the same person for cowardice, whom you require single-handed to overcome the might of Philip—and that, too, by words! For what else had I at my command? Certainly not the spirit of each individual, nor the fortune of the army, nor the conduct of the war, for which you would make me accountable; such a blunderer are you!
Yet understand me. Of what a statesman may be responsible for I allow the utmost scrutiny; I deprecate it not. What are his functions? To observe things in the beginning, to foresee and foretell them to others,—this I have done: again; wherever he finds delays, backwardness, ignorance, jealousies, vices inherent and unavoidable in all communities, to contract them into the narrowest compass, and on the other hand, to promote unanimity and friendship and zeal in the discharge of duty. All this, too, I have performed; and no one can discover the least neglect on my part. Ask any man, by what means Philip achieved most of his successes, and you will be told, by his army, and by his bribing and corrupting men in power. Well; your forces were not under my command or control; so that I can not be questioned for anything done in that department. But by refusing the price of corruption I have overcome Philip; for as the offerer of a bribe, if it be accepted, has vanquished the taker, so the person who refuses it and is not corrupted has vanquished the person offering. Therefore is the commonwealth undefeated as far as I am concerned.
For my part, I regard any one, who reproaches his fellow man with fortune, as devoid of sense. He that is best satisfied with his condition, he that deems his fortune excellent, can not be sure that it will remain so until the evening: how then can it be right to bring it forward, or upbraid another man with it? As Æschines, however, has on this subject (besides many others) expressed himself with insolence, look, men of Athens, and observe how much more truth and humanity there shall be in my discourse upon fortune than in his.
I hold the fortune of our commonwealth to be good, and so I find the oracles of Dodonæan Jupiter and Phythian Apollo declaring to us. The fortune of all mankind, which now prevails, I consider cruel and dreadful: for what Greek, what barbarian, has not in these times experienced a multitude of evils? That Athens chose the noblest policy, that she fares better than those very Greeks who thought, if they abandoned us, they should abide in prosperity, I reckon as part of her good fortune; if she suffered reverses, if all happened not to us as we desired, I conceive she has had that share of the general fortune which fell to our lot. As to my fortune (personally speaking) or that of any individual among us, it should, as I conceive, be judged of in connection with personal matters. Such is my opinion upon the subject of fortune, a right and just one, as it appears to me, and I think you will agree with it. Æschines says that my individual fortune is paramount to that of the commonwealth, the small and mean to the good and great, How can this possibly be?
However, if you are determined, Æschines, to scrutinize my fortune, compare it with your own, and, if you find my fortune better than yours, cease to revile it. Look then from the very beginning. And I pray and entreat that I may not be condemned for bad taste. I don’t think any person wise, who insults poverty, or who prides himself on having been bred in affluence: but by the slander and malice of this cruel man I am forced into such a discussion; which I will conduct with all the moderation which circumstances allow.
I had the advantage, Æschines, in my boyhood of going to proper schools, and having such allowance as a boy should have who is to do nothing mean from indigence. Arrived at man’s estate, I lived suitably to my breeding; was choir-master, ship-commander, rate-payer; backward in no acts of liberality public or private, but making myself useful to the commonwealth and to my friends. When I entered upon state affairs, I chose such a line of politics, that both by my country and many people of Greece I have been crowned many times, and not even you my enemies venture to say that the line I chose was not honorable. Such then has been the fortune of my life: I could enlarge upon it, but I forbear, lest what I pride myself in should give offense.
But you, the man of dignity, who spit upon others, look what sort of fortune is yours compared with mine. As a boy you were reared in abject poverty, waiting with your father in his school, grinding the ink, sponging the benches, sweeping the room, doing the duty of a menial rather than a freeborn man. After you were grown up, you attended your mother in the initiations, reading her books and helping in all the ceremonies; at night wrapping the noviciates in fawn-skin, swilling, purifying, and scouring them with clay and bran, raising them after the lustration, and bidding them say, “Bad I have scaped, and better I have found”; priding yourself that no one ever howled so lustily—and I believe him! for don’t suppose that he who speaks so loud is not a splendid howler! In the daytime you led your noble orgiasts, crowned with fennel and poplar, through the highways, squeezing the big-checked serpents, and lifting them over your head, and shouting Evœ Sabœ, and capering to the words Hyes Attes, Attes Hyes, saluted by the beldames as Leader, Conductor, Chest-bearer, Fan-bearer, and the like, getting as your reward tarts and biscuits and rolls; for which any man might well bless himself and his fortune!
When you were enrolled among your fellow townsmen—by what means I stop not to inquire—when you were enrolled, however, you immediately selected the most honorable of employments, that of clerk and assistant to our petty magistrates. From this you were removed after a while, having done yourself all that you charge others with; and then, sure enough, you disgraced not your antecedents by your subsequent life, but hiring yourself to those ranting players, as they were called, Simylus and Socrates, you acted third parts, collecting figs and grapes and olives like a fruiterer from other men’s farms, and getting more from them than from the playing, in which the lives of your whole company were at stake; for there was an implacable and incessant war between them and the audience, from whom you received so many wounds, that no wonder you taunt as cowards people inexperienced in such encounters.
But passing over what may be imputed to poverty, I will come to the direct charges against your character. You espoused such a line of politics (when at last you thought of taking to them) that, if your country prospered, you lived the life of a hare, fearing and trembling and ever expecting to be scourged for the crimes of which your conscience accused you; tho all have seen how bold you were during the misfortunes of the rest. A man who took courage at the death of a thousand citizens—what does he deserve at the hands of the living? A great deal more than I could say about him I shall omit; for it is not all I can tell of his turpitude and infamy which I ought to let slip from my tongue, but only what is not disgraceful to myself to mention.
Contrast now the circumstances of your life and mine, gently and with temper, Æschines; and then ask these people whose fortune they would each of them prefer. You taught reading, I went to school; you performed initiations, I received them; you danced in the chorus, I furnished it; you were assembly clerk, I was a speaker; you acted third parts, I heard you; you broke down, and I hissed; you have worked as a statesman for the enemy, I for my country. I pass by the rest; but this very day I am on my probation for a crown, and am acknowledged to be innocent of all offense; while you are already judged to be a pettifogger, and the question is, whether you shall continue that trade, or at once be silenced by not getting a fifth part of the votes. A happy fortune, do you see you have enjoyed, that you should denounce mine as miserable!
I will have done then with private topics, but say another word or two upon public. If you can mention, Æschines, a single man under the sun, whether Greek or barbarian, who has not suffered by Philip’s power formerly and Alexander’s now, well and good; I concede to you, that my fortune, or misfortune (if you please), has been the cause of everything. But if many that never saw me or heard my voice have been grievously afflicted, not individuals only but whole cities and nations; how much juster and fairer is it to consider, that to the common fortune apparently of all men, to a tide of events overwhelming and lamentable, these disasters are to be attributed. You, disregarding all this, accuse me whose ministry has been among my countrymen, knowing all the while, that a part (if not the whole) of your calumny falls upon the people, and yourself in particular. For if I assumed the sole and absolute direction of our counsels, it was open to you the other speakers to accuse me; but if you were constantly present in all the assemblies, if the state invited public discussion of what was expedient, and if these measures were then believed by all to be the best, and especially by you (for certainly from no good-will did you leave me in possession of hopes and admiration and honors, all of which attended on my policy, but doubtless because you were compelled by the truth and had nothing better to advise); is it not iniquitous and monstrous to complain now of measures, than which you could suggest none better at the time?
I should conclude, Æschines, that you undertook this cause to exhibit your eloquence and strength of lungs, not to obtain satisfaction for any wrong. But it is not the language of an orator, Æschines, that has any value, nor yet the tone of his voice, but his adopting the same views with the people, and his hating and loving the same persons that his country does. He that is thus minded will say everything with loyal intention; he that courts persons from whom the commonwealth apprehends danger to herself, rides not on the same anchorage with the people, and, therefore, has not the same expectation of safety. But—do you see?—I have; for my objects are the same with those of my countrymen; I have no interest separate or distinct. Is that so with you? How can it be—when immediately after the battle you went as ambassador to Philip, who was at that period the author of your country’s calamities, notwithstanding that you had before persisted in refusing that office, as all men know?
And who is it that deceives the state? Surely the man who speaks not what he thinks. On whom does the crier pronounce a curse? Surely on such a man. What greater crime can an orator be charged with than that his opinions and his language are not the same? Such is found to be your character. And yet you open your mouth, and dare to look these men in the faces! Do you think they don’t know you?—or are sunk in such slumber and oblivion, as not to remember the speeches which you delivered in the assembly, cursing and swearing that you had nothing to do with Philip, and that I brought that charge against you out of personal enmity without foundation? No sooner came the news of the battle, than you forgot all that; you acknowledge and avowed that between Philip and yourself there subsisted a relation of hospitality and friendship—new names these for your contract of hire. For upon what plea of equality or justice could Æschines, son of Glaucothea, the timbrel player, be the friend or acquaintance of Philip? I cannot see. No! You were hired to ruin the interests of your countrymen; and yet, tho you have been caught yourself in open treason, and informed against yourself after the fact, you revile and reproach me for things which you will find any man is chargeable with sooner than I.
Many great and glorious enterprises has the commonwealth, Æschines, undertaken and succeeded in through me; and she did not forget them. Here is the proof—On the election of a person to speak the funeral oration immediately after the event, you were proposed, but the people would not have you, notwithstanding your fine voice, nor Demades, tho he had just made the peace, nor Hegemon, nor any other of your party—but me. And when you and Pythocles came forward in a brutal and shameful manner (O merciful Heaven!) and urged the same accusations against me which you now do, and abused me, they elected me all the more. The reason—you are not ignorant of it—yet I will tell you. The Athenians knew as well the loyalty and zeal with which I conducted their affairs, as the dishonesty of you and your party; for what you denied upon oath in our prosperity, you confessed in the misfortunes of the republic. They considered, therefore, that men who got security for their politics by the public disasters had been their enemies long before, and were then avowedly such. They thought it right also, that the person who was to speak in honor of the fallen and celebrate their valor should not have sat under the same roof or at the same table with their antagonists; that he should not revel there and sing a pæan over the calamities of Greece in company with their murderers, and then come here and receive distinction; that he should not with his voice act the mourner of their fate, but that he should lament over them with his heart. This they perceived in themselves and in me, but not in any of you; therefore, they elected me, and not you. Nor, while the people felt thus, did the fathers and brothers of the deceased, who were chosen by the people to perform their obsequies, feel differently. For having to order the funeral banquet (according to custom) at the house of the nearest relative to the deceased, they ordered it at mine. And with reason; because, tho each to his own was nearer of kin than I was, none was so near to them all collectively. He that had the deepest interest in their safety and success had upon their mournful disaster the largest share of sorrow for them all.
Of this base and infamous conspiracy and profligacy—or rather, O Athenians, if I am to speak in earnest, of this betrayal of Grecian liberty—Athens is by all mankind acquitted, owing to my counsels; and I am acquitted by you. Then do you ask me, Æschines, for what merit I claim to be honored? I will tell you. Because, while all the statesmen in Greece, beginning with yourself, have been corrupted formerly by Philip and now by Alexander, me neither opportunity, nor fair speeches, nor large promises, nor hope, nor fear, nor anything else could tempt or induce to betray aught that I considered just and beneficial to my country. Whatever I have advised my fellow citizens, I have never advised like you men, leaning as in a balance to the side of profit; all my proceedings have been those of a soul upright, honest, and incorrupt; entrusted with affairs of greater magnitude than any of my contemporaries, I have administered them all honestly and faithfully. Therefore do I claim to be honored.
These and the like measures, Æschines, are what become an honorable citizen (by their success—O earth and heaven!—we should have been the greatest of people incontestably, and deserved to be so; even under their failure the result is glory, and no one blames Athens or her policy; all condemn fortune that so ordered things); but never will he desert the interests of the commonwealth, nor hire himself to her adversaries, and study the enemy’s advantage instead of his country’s; nor on a man who has courage to advise and propose measures worthy of the state, and resolution to persevere in them, will he cast an evil eye, and, if any one privately offends him, remember and treasure it up; no, nor keep himself in a criminal and treacherous retirement you so often do. There is indeed a retirement just and beneficial to the state, such as you, the bulk of my countrymen, innocently enjoy; that however is not the retirement of Æschines; far from it. Withdrawing himself from public life when he pleases, (and that is often) he watches for the moment when you are tired of a constant speaker, or when some reverse of fortune has befallen you, or anything untoward has happened (and many are the casualties of human life); at such a crisis he springs up an orator, rising from his retreat like a wind; in full voice, with words and phrases collected, he rolls them out audibly and breathlessly, to no advantage or good purpose whatsoever, but to the detriment of some or other of his fellow citizens and to the general disgrace.
Yet from this labor and diligence, Æschines, if it proceeded from an honest heart, solicitous for your country’s welfare, the fruits should have been rich and noble and profitable to all—alliances of states, supplies of money, conveniences of commerce, enactment of useful laws, opposition to our declared enemies. All such things were looked for in former times; and many opportunities did the past afford for a good man and true to show himself; during which time you are nowhere to be found, neither first, second, third, fourth, fifth, nor sixth—not in any rank at all—certainly on no service by which your country was exalted. For what alliance has come to the state by your procurement? What succors, what acquisition of good will or credit? What embassy or agency is there of yours, by which the reputation of the country has been increased? What concern domestic, Hellenic, or foreign, of which you have had the management, has improved under it? What galleys? what ammunition? what arsenals? what repair of walls? what cavalry? What in the world are you good for? What assistance in money have you ever given, either to the rich or the poor, out of public spirit or liberality? None. But, good sir, if there is nothing of this, there is at all events zeal and loyalty. Where? when? You infamous fellow! Even at a time when all who ever spoke upon the platform gave something for the public safety, and last Aristonicus gave the sum which he had amassed to retrieve his franchise, you neither came forward nor contributed a mite—not from inability—no, for you have inherited above five talents from Philo, your wife’s father, and you had a subscription of two talents from the chairmen of the boards for what you did to cut up the navy law. But, that I may not go from one thing to another and lose sight of the question, I pass this by. That it was not poverty prevented your contributing, already appears; it was, in fact, your anxiety to do nothing against those to whom your political life is subservient. On what occasions then do you show your spirit? When do you shine out? When aught is to be spoken against your countrymen!—then it is you who are splendid in voice, perfect in memory, an admirable actor, a tragic Theocrines.
You mention the good men of olden times; and you are right so to do. Yet it is hardly fair, O Athenians, that he should get the advantage of that respect which you have for the dead, to compare and contrast me with them,—me who am living among you; for what mortal is ignorant, that toward the living there exists always more or less of ill will, whereas the dead are no longer hated even by an enemy? Such being human nature, am I to be tried and judged by the standard of my predecessors? Heaven forbid! It is not just nor equitable, Æschines. Let me be compared with you, or any persons you like of your party who are still alive. And consider this—whether it is more honorable and better for the state, that because of the services of a former age, prodigious tho they are beyond all power of expression, those of the present generation should be unrequited and spurned, or that all who give proof of their good intentions should have their share of honor and regard from the people? Yet, indeed—if I must say so much—my politics and principles, if considered fairly, will be found to resemble those of the illustrious ancients, and to have had the same objects in view, while yours resemble those of their calumniators; for it is certain there were persons in those times, who ran down the living, and praised people dead and gone, with a malignant purpose like yourself.
You say that I am nothing like the ancients Are you like them, Æschines? Is your brother, or any of our speakers? I assert that none is. But pray, my good fellow (that I may give you no other name), try the living with the living and with his competitors, as you would in all cases—poets, dancers, athletes. Philammon did not, because he was inferior to Glaucus of Carystus and some other champions of a bygone age, depart uncrowned from Olympia, but, because he beat all who entered the ring against him, was crowned and proclaimed conqueror. So I ask you to compare me with the orators of the day, with yourself, with any one you like; I yield to none. When the commonwealth was at liberty to choose for her advantage, and patriotism was a matter of emulation, I showed myself a better counselor than any, and every act of state was pursuant to my decrees and laws and negotiations; none of your party was to be seen, unless you had to do the Athenians a mischief. After that lamentable occurrence, when there was a call no longer for advisers, but for persons obedient to command, persons ready to be hired against their country and willing to flatter strangers, then all of you were in occupation, grand people with splendid equipages; I was powerless, I confess, tho more attached to my countrymen than you.
Two things, men of Athens, are characteristic of a well-disposed citizen—so may I speak of myself and give the least offense:—In authority, his constant aim should be the dignity and preeminence of the commonwealth; in all times and circumstances his spirit should be loyal. This depends upon nature; power and might upon other things. Such a spirit, you will find, I have ever sincerely cherished. Only see. When my person was demanded—when they brought Amphictyonic suits against me—when they menaced—when they promised—when they set these miscreants like wild beasts upon me—never in any way have I abandoned my affection for you. From the very beginning I chose an honest and straight forward course in politics, to support the honor, the power, the glory of my fatherland, these to exalt, in these to have been my being. I do not walk about the market-place gay and cheerful because the stranger has prospered, holding out my right hand and congratulating those who I think will report it yonder, and on any news of our own success shudder and groan and stoop to the earth, like these impious men, who rail at Athens, as if in so doing they did not rail at themselves; who look abroad, and if the foreigner thrives by the distresses of Greece, are thankful for it, and say we should keep him so thriving to all time.
Never, O ye gods, may those wishes be confirmed by you! If possible, inspire even in these men a better sense and feeling! But if they are indeed incurable, destroy them by themselves; exterminate them on land and sea; and for the rest of us, grant that we may speedily be released. from our present fears, and enjoy a lasting deliverance!