The Public Orations of Demosthenes/Olynthiac II

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The Public Orations of Demosthenes by Demosthenes, translated by Arthur Wallace Pickard
Olynthiac II
Translated by Arthur Wallace Pickard

1 Many as are the occasions, men of Athens, on which we may discern the manifestation of the goodwill of Heaven towards this city, one of the most striking is to be seen in the circumstances of the present time. For that men should have been found to carry on war against Philip; men whose territory borders on his and who possess some power; men, above all, whose sentiments in regard to the war are such that they think of the proposed compact with him, not only as untrustworthy, but as the very ruin of their country—this seems to be certainly the work of a superhuman, a divine, beneficence. 2 And so, men of Athens, we must take care that we do not treat ourselves less well than circumstances have treated us. For it is a shameful thing—nay, it is the very depth of shame—to throw away openly, not only cities and places which were once in our power, but even the allies and the opportunities which have been provided for us by Fortune.

3 Now to describe at length the power of Philip, men of Athens, and to incite you to the performance of your duty by such a recital, is not, I think, a satisfactory proceeding; and for this reason—that while all that can be said on this subject tends to Philip's glory, it is a story of failure on our part. For the greater the extent to which his success surpasses his deserts, the greater is the admiration with which the world regards him; while, for your part, the more you have fallen short of the right use of your opportunities, the greater is the disgrace that you have incurred. 4 I will therefore pass over such considerations. For any honest inquirer must see that the causes of Philip's rise to greatness lie in Athens, and not in himself. Of the services for which he has to thank those whose policy is determined by his interest—services for which you ought to require their punishment—the present is not, I see, the moment to speak. But apart from these, there are things which may be said, and which it is better that you should all have heard—things which (if you will examine them aright) constitute a grave reproach against him; and these I will try to tell you.

5 If I called him perjured and faithless, without giving his actions in evidence, my words would be treated as idle abuse, and rightly: and it happens that to review all his actions up to the present time, and to prove the charge in every case, requires only a short speech. It is well, I think, that the story should be told, for it will serve two purposes; first, to make plain the real badness of the man's character; and secondly, to let those who are over-alarmed at Philip, as if he were invincible, see that he has come to the end of all those forms of deceit by which he rose to greatness, and that his career is already drawing to its close. 6 For I, too, men of Athens, should be regarding Philip with intense fear and admiration, if I saw that his rise was the result of a righteous policy. 7 But when I study and consider the facts, I find that originally, when certain persons wished to drive from your presence the Olynthians who desired to address you from this place, Philip won over our innocent minds by saying that he would deliver up Amphipolis to us, and by inventing the famous secret understanding; that he afterwards conciliated the Olynthians by seizing Poteidaea, which was yours, and injuring their former allies by handing it over to themselves; and that, last of all, he recently won over the Thessalians, by promising to give up Magnesia to them, and undertaking to carry on the war with the Phocians on their behalf. There is absolutely no one who has ever had dealings with him that he has not deluded; and it is by deceiving and winning over, one after another, those who in their blindness did not realize what he was, that he has risen as he has done. 8 And therefore, just as it was by these deceptions that he rose to greatness, in the days when each people fancied that he intended to do some service to themselves; so it is these same deceptions which should drag him down again, now that he stands convicted of acting for his own ends throughout. Such, then, is the crisis, men of Athens, to which Philip's fortunes have now come. If it is not so, let any one come forward and show me (or rather you) that what I say is untrue; or that those who have been deceived at the outset trust him as regards the future; or that those who have been brought into unmerited bondage would not gladly be free.

9 But if any of you, while agreeing with me so far, still fancies that Philip will maintain his hold by force, because he has already occupied fortified posts and harbours and similar positions, he is mistaken. When power is cemented by goodwill, and the interest of all who join in a war is the same, then men are willing to share the labour, to endure the misfortunes, and to stand fast. But when a man has become strong, as Philip has done, by a grasping and wicked policy, the first excuse, the least stumble, throws him from his seat and dissolves the alliance. 10 It is impossible, men of Athens, utterly impossible, to acquire power that will last, by unrighteousness, by perjury, and by falsehood. Such power holds out for a moment, or for a brief hour; it blossoms brightly, perhaps, with fair hopes; but time detects the fraud, and the flower falls withered about its stem. In a house or a ship, or any other structure, it is the foundations that must be strongest; and no less, I believe, must the principles, which are the foundation of men's actions, be those of truth and righteousness. Such qualities are not to be seen to-day in the past acts of Philip.

11 I say, then, that we should help the Olynthians; and the best and quickest method which can be proposed is the method which I approve. Further, we should send an embassy to the Thessalians—to some, to inform them of our intention; to others, to spur them on; for even now they have resolved to demand the restitution of Pagasae, and to make representations in regard to Magnesia. 12 Take care, however, men of Athens, that our envoys may not only have words to speak, but also actions of yours to point to. Let it be seen that you have gone forth in a manner that is worthy of Athens, and are already in action. Words without the reality must always appear a vain and empty thing, and above all when they come from Athens; for the more we seem to excel in the glib use of such language, the more it is distrusted by every one. 13 The change, then, which is pointed out to them must be great, the conversion striking. They must see you paying your contributions, marching to war, doing everything with a will, if any of them is to listen to you. And if you resolve to accomplish all this in very deed, as it should be accomplished, not only will the feeble and untrustworthy nature of Philip's alliances be seen, but the weakness of his own empire and power will also be detected.

14 The power and empire of Macedonia is, indeed, to speak generally, an element which tells considerably as an addition to any other power. You found it so when it helped you against the Olynthians in the days of Timotheus;[1] the Olynthians in their turn found its help of some value, in combination with their own strength, against Poteidaea; and it has recently come to the aid of the Thessalians, in their disordered and disturbed condition, against the ruling dynasty[2]: and wherever even a small addition is made to a force, it helps in every way. 15 But in itself the Macedonian Empire is weak and full of manifold evils. Philip has in fact rendered his own tenure of it even more precarious than it naturally was, by these very wars and campaigns which might be supposed to prove his power. For you must not imagine, men of Athens, that Philip and his subjects delight in the same things. Philip has a passion for glory—that is his ambition; and he has deliberately chosen to risk the consequences of a life of action and danger, preferring the glory of achieving more than any King of Macedonia before him to a life of security. 16 But his subjects have no share in the honour and glory. Constantly battered about by all these expeditions, up and down, they are vexed with incessant hardships: they are not suffered to pursue their occupations or attend to their own affairs: for the little that they produce, as best they can, they can find no market, the trading stations of the country being closed on account of the war. 17 From these facts it is not difficult to discover the attitude of the Macedonians in general towards Philip; and as for the mercenaries and Infantry of the Guard who surround him, though they have the reputation of being a fine body of well-drilled warriors, I am told by a man who has been in Macedonia, and who is incapable of falsehood, that they are no better than any other body of men. 18 Granted that there may be experienced campaigners and fighters among them; yet, he tells me, Philip is so jealous of honour, that he thrusts all such men away from him, in his anxiety to get the credit of every achievement for himself; for in addition to all his other qualities, his jealousy is insurpassable. On the other hand, any generally temperate or upright man, who cannot endure the dissolute life there, day by day, nor the drunkenness and the lewd revels, is thrust on one side and counts for nothing. 19 Thus he is left with brigands and flatterers, and men who, when in their cups, indulge in dances of a kind which I shrink from naming to you now. And it is evident that this report is true; for men whom every one tried to drive out of Athens, as far viler than even the very juggler in the street—Callias the public slave and men like him, players of farces, composers of indecent songs, written at the expense of their companions in the hope of raising a laugh—these are the men he likes and keeps about him. 20 You may think that these are trivial things, men of Athens: but they are weighty, in the judgement of every right-minded man, as illustrations of the temper with which Philip is cursed. At present, I suppose, these facts are overshadowed by his continual prosperity. Success has a wonderful power of throwing a veil over shameful things like these. But let him only stumble, and then all these features in his character will be displayed in their true light. And I believe, men of Athens, that the revelation is not far off, if Heaven be willing and you desirous of it. 21 So long as a man is in good health, he is unconscious of any weakness; but if any illness comes upon him, the disturbance affects every weak point, be it a rupture or a sprain or anything else that is unsound in his constitution. And as with the body, so it is with a city or a tyrant. So long as they are at war abroad, the mischief is hidden from the world at large, but the close grapple of war on the frontier brings all to light.

22 Now if any of you, men of Athens, seeing Philip's good fortune, thinks that this makes him a formidable enemy to fight against, he reasons like a sensible man: for fortune weighs heavily in the scale—nay, fortune is everything, in all human affairs. And yet, if I were given the choice, it is the fortune of Athens that I should choose, rather than that of Philip, provided that you yourselves are willing to act even to a small extent as you should act. For I see that there are far more abundant grounds for expecting the goodwill of Heaven on your side than on his. 23 But here, of course, we are sitting idle; and one who is a sluggard himself cannot require his friends to help him, much less the gods. It is not to be wondered at that Philip, who goes on campaigns and works hard himself, and is always at the scene of action, and lets no opportunity go, no season pass, should get the better of us who delay and pass resolutions and ask for news; nor do I wonder at it. It is the opposite that would have been wonderful—if we, who do nothing that those who are at war ought to do, were successful against one who leaves nothing undone. 24 But this I do wonder at, that you who once raised your hand against Sparta, in defence of the rights of the Hellenes—you, who with opportunities often open to you for grasping large advantages for yourselves, would not take them, but to secure for others their rights spent your own fortunes in war-contributions, and always bore the brunt of the dangers of the campaign—that you, I say, are now shrinking from marching, and hesitating to make any contribution to save your own possessions; and that, though you have often saved the rest of the Hellenes, now all together and now each in their turn, you are sitting idle, when you have lost what was your own. 25 I wonder at this; and I wonder also, men of Athens, that none of you is able to reckon up the time during which you have been fighting with Philip, and to consider what you have been doing while all this time has been going by. Surely you must know that it is while we have been delaying, hoping that some one else would act, accusing one another, bringing one another to trial, hoping anew—in fact, doing practically what we are doing now—that all the time has passed. 26 And have you now so little sense, men of Athens, as to hope that the very same policy, which has made the position of the city a bad one instead of a good, will actually make it a good one instead of a bad? Why, it is contrary both to reason and to nature to think so! It is always much easier to retain than to acquire. But now, owing to the war, none of our old possessions is left for us to retain; and so we must needs acquire. 27 This, therefore, is our own personal and immediate duty; and accordingly I say that you must contribute funds, you must go on service in person with a good will, you must accuse no one before you have become masters of the situation; and then you must honour those who deserve praise, and punish the guilty, with a judgement based upon the actual facts. You must get rid of all excuses and all deficiencies on your own part; you cannot examine mercilessly the actions of others, unless you yourselves have done all that your duty requires. 28 For why is it, do you think, men of Athens, that all the generals whom you dispatch avoid this war,[3] and discover private wars of their own—if a little of the truth must be told even about the generals? It is because in this war the prizes for which the war is waged are yours, and if they are captured, you will take them immediately for your own; but the dangers are the personal privilege of your commanders, and no pay is forthcoming: while in those wars the dangers are less, and the profits—Lampsacus, Sigeum, and the ships which they plunder—go to the commanders and their men. Each force therefore takes the road that leads to its own advantage. 29 For your part, when you turn your attention to the serious condition of your affairs, you first bring the commanders to trial; and then, when you have given them a hearing, and have been told of the difficulties which I have described, you acquit them. The result, therefore, is that while you are quarrelling with one another and broken into factions-one party persuaded of this, another of that—the public interest suffers. You used, men of Athens, to pay taxes by Boards:[4] to-day you conduct your politics by Boards. On either side there is an orator as leader, and a general under him; and for the Three Hundred, there are those who come to shout. The rest of you distribute yourselves between the two parties, some on either side. 30 This system you must give up: you must even now become your own masters; you must give to all alike their share in discussion, in speech and in action. If you assign to one body of men the function of issuing orders to you, like tyrants; to another, that of compulsory service as trierarchs or tax-payers or soldiers; and to another, only that of voting their condemnation, without taking any share in the labour, nothing that ought to be done will be done in time. For the injured section will always be in default, and you will only have the privilege of punishing them instead of the enemy. 31 To sum up, all must contribute, each according to his wealth, in a fair proportion: all must go on active service in turn, until you have all served: you must give a hearing to all who come forward, and choose the best course out of all that you hear—not the course proposed by this or that particular person. If you do this, you will not only commend the proposer of that course at the time, but you will commend yourselves hereafter, for the whole position of your affairs will be a better one.

  1. "Timotheus, &c". In 364 an Athenian force under Timotheus invaded the territory of the Olynthian League, and took Torone, Poteidaea, and other towns, with the help of Perdiccas, King of Macedonia.
  2. "ruling dynasty". i.e. the dynasty of Lycophron and Peitholaus at Pherae. (See Introd. to First Philippic.)
  3. "this war". i.e. the war with Philip generally. The reference is supposed to be to the conduct of Chares in 356 (cf. Phil. I, Section 24 ii.), though in fact it was against the revolted allies, not against Philip, that he had been sent. Sigeum was a favourite resort of Chares, and it is conjectured that he may have obtained possession of Lampsacus and Sigeum (both on the Asiatic shore of the Hellespont) in 356. The explanation of the conduct of the generals is to be found in the fact that in Asia Minor they could freely appropriate prizes of war and plunder, since under the terms of the Peace of Antalcidas, Athens could claim nothing in Asia for her own.
  4. "taxes by Boards". Each of the Boards constituted in 378-377 for the collection of the war-tax (see vol. i, p. 31) had a leader or chairman ([Greek: "".egem".n".), one of the 300 richest men in Athens, whose duty it was to advance the sums required by the State, recovering them afterwards from the other members of the Boards. Probably the Three Hundred were divided equally among the 100 Boards, a leader, a 'second', and a 'third' (Speech on Crown, Sec. 103) being assigned to each. The 'general' here perhaps corresponds to the 'second'.