The Public Orations of Demosthenes/Olynthiac III

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

1 Very different reflections suggest themselves to my mind, I men of Athens, when I turn my eyes to our real situation, and when I think of the speeches that I hear. For I observe that the speeches are all concerned with the taking of vengeance upon Philip; whereas in reality matters have gone so far, that we have to take care that we are not ourselves the first to suffer: so that those who speak of vengeance are actually, as it seems to me, suggesting to you a false conception of the situation which you are discussing. 2 That there was a time when the city could both keep her own possessions in safety, and punish Philip, I am very well aware. For it was not long ago, but within my own lifetime, that both these things were so. But I am convinced that it is now quite enough for us as a first step to make sure of the preservation of our allies. If this is safely secured, we shall then be able to consider upon whom vengeance is to fall, and in what way. But until the first step is properly conceived, I consider it idle to say anything whatever about the last.

3 If ever the most anxious deliberation was required, it is required in the present crisis; and my greatest difficulty is not to know what is the proper advice to give you in regard to the situation: I am at a loss rather to know, men of Athens, in what manner I should address you in giving it. For I am convinced by what I have heard with my own ears in this place that, for the most part, the objects of our policy have slipped from our grasp, not because we do not understand what our duty is, but because we will not do it; and I ask you to suffer me, if I speak without reserve, and to consider only whether I speak truly, and with this object in view—that the future may be better than the past. For you see that it is because certain speakers make your gratification the aim of their addresses, that things have gone on getting worse, till at last the extremity has been reached.

4 I think it necessary, first, to remind you of a few of the events which have taken place. You remember, men of Athens, that two or three years ago[1] the news came that Philip was in Thrace, besieging Heraeon Teichos. That was in the month of November. Amidst all the discussion and commotion which took place in this Assembly, you passed a resolution that forty warships should be launched, that men under forty-five years of age should embark in person, and that we should pay a war-tax of 60 talents. 5 That year[2] came to an end, and there followed July, August, September. In the latter month, after the Mysteries,[3] and with reluctance, you dispatched Charidemus[4] with ten ships, carrying no soldiers, and 5 talents of silver. For so soon as news had come that Philip was sick or dead—both reports were brought—you dismissed the armament, men of Athens, thinking that there was no longer any occasion for the expedition. But it was the very occasion; for had we then gone to the scene of action with the same enthusiasm which marked our resolution to do so, Philip would not have been preserved to trouble us to-day. 6 What was done then cannot be altered. But now a critical moment in another campaign has arrived; and it is in view of this, and to prevent you from falling into the same error, that I have recalled these facts. How then shall we use this opportunity, men of Athens? For unless you will go to the rescue 'with might and main to the utmost of your power',[5] mark how in every respect you will have served Philip's interest by your conduct of the war. 7 At the outset the Olynthians possessed considerable strength, and such was the position of affairs, that neither did Philip feel safe against them, nor they against Philip. We made peace with them, and they with us. It was as it were a stumbling-block in Philip's path, and an annoyance to him, that a great city which had made a compact with us should sit watching for any opportunity he might offer. We thought that we ought to excite them to war with him by every means; and now this much-talked-of event has come to pass—by what means, I need not relate. 8 What course then is open to us, men of Athens, but to go to their aid resolutely and eagerly? I can see none. Apart from the shame in which we should be involved, if we let anything be lost through our negligence, I can see, men of Athens, that the subsequent prospect would be alarming in no small degree, when the attitude of the Thebans towards us is what it is, when the funds of the Phocians are exhausted,[6] and when there is no one to prevent Philip, so soon as he has made himself master of all that at present occupies him, from bringing his energies to bear upon the situation further south. 9 But if any of you is putting off until then his determination to do his duty, he must be desirous of seeing the terrors of war close at hand, when he need only hear of them at a distance, and of seeking helpers for himself, when now he can give help to others. For that this is what it must come to, if we sacrifice the present opportunity, we must all, I think, be fairly well aware.

10 'But,' some one may say, 'we have all made up our minds that we must go to their aid, and we will go. Only tell us how we are to do it.' Now do not be surprised, men of Athens, if I give an answer which will be astonishing to most of you. You must appoint a Legislative Commission.[7] But when the commissioners meet, you must not enact a single law—you have laws enough—you must cancel the laws which, in view of present circumstances, are injurious to you. 11 I mean the laws which deal with the Festival Fund—to put it quite plainly—and some of those which deal with military service: for the former distribute your funds as festival-money to those who remain at home; while the latter give immunity to malingerers,[8] and thereby also take the heart out of those who want to do their duty. When you have cancelled these laws, and made the path safe for one who would give the best advice, then you can look for some one to propose what you all know to be expedient. 12 But until you have done this, you must not expect to find a man who will be glad to advise you for the best, and be ruined by you for his pains; for you will find no one, particularly when the only result will be that some unjust punishment will be inflicted on the proposer or mover of such measures, and that instead of helping matters at all, he will only have made it even more dangerous in future than it is at present to give you the best advice. Aye, and you should require the repeal of these laws, men of Athens, from the very persons who proposed them.[9] 13 It is not fair that those who originally proposed them should enjoy the popularity which was fraught with such mischief to the whole State, and that the unpopularity, which would lead to an improvement in the condition of us all, should be visited to his cost upon one who now advises you for the best. Until you have thus prepared the way, men of Athens, you must entertain no expectation whatever that any one will be influential enough here to transgress these laws with impunity, or senseless enough to fling himself to certain ruin.

14 At the same time, men of Athens, you must not fail to realize this further point. No resolution is worth anything, without the willingness to perform at least what you have resolved, and that heartily. For if decrees by themselves could either compel you to do what you ought, or could realize their several objects unaided, you would not be decreeing many things and performing few—nay, none—of the things that you decree, nor would Philip have insulted you so long. 15 If decrees could have done it, he would have paid the penalty long ago. But it is not so. Actions come later than speeches and voting in order of procedure, but in effectiveness they are before either and stronger than either. It is action that is still needed; all else you already have. For you have those among you, men of Athens, who can tell you what your duty is; and no one is quicker than you are to understand the speaker's bidding. Aye, and you will be able to carry it out even now, if you act aright. 16 What time, what opportunity, do you look for, better than the present? When, if not now, will you do your duty? Has not the man seized every position from us already? If he becomes master of this country too, will not our fate be the most shameful in the world? And the men whom we promised to be ready to save, if they went to war—are they not now at war? 17 Is he not our enemy? Are not our possessions in his hands? Is he not a barbarian? Is he not anything that you choose to call him? In God's name, when we have let everything go, when we have all but put everything into his hands, shall we then inquire at large who is responsible for it all? That we shall never admit our own responsibility, I am perfectly sure. Just so amid the perils of war, none of those who have run away accuses himself; he accuses his general, his neighbour—any one but himself; and yet, I suppose, all who have run away have helped to cause the defeat. He who now blames the rest might have stood fast; and if every one had done so, the victory would have been theirs. 18 And so now, if a particular speaker's advice is not the best, let another rise and make a proposal, instead of blaming him; and if some other has better advice to give, carry it out, and good fortune be with you. What? Is the advice disagreeable? That is no longer the speaker's fault—unless, of course, he leaves out the prayer that you expect of him. There is no difficulty in the prayer, men of Athens; a man need only compress all his desires into a short sentence. But to make his choice, when the question for discussion is one of practical policy, is by no means equally easy. Then a man is bound to choose what is best, instead of what is pleasant, if both are not possible at once. 19 But suppose that some one is able, without touching the Festival Fund, to suggest other sources of supply for military purposes—is not he the better adviser? Certainly, men of Athens—if such a thing is possible. But I should be surprised if it ever has happened or ever should happen to any one to find, after spending what he has upon wrong objects, that what he has not is wealth enough to enable him to effect right ones. Such arguments as these find, I think, their great support in each man's personal desire, and, for that reason, nothing is easier than to deceive oneself; what a man desires, he actually fancies to be true. 20 But the reality often follows no such principle. Consider the matter, therefore, men of Athens, after this fashion; consider in what way our objects can be realized under the circumstances, and in what way you will be able to make the expedition and to receive your pay. Surely it is not like sober or high-minded men to submit light-heartedly to the reproach which must follow upon any shortcomings in the operations of the war through want of funds—to seize your weapons and march against Corinthians and Megareans,[10] and then to allow Philip to enslave Hellenic cities, because you cannot find rations for your troops.

21 These words do not spring from a wanton determination to court the ill-will of any party among you. I am neither so foolish nor so unfortunate as to desire unpopularity when I do not believe that I am doing any good. But a loyal citizen ought, in my judgement, to care more for the safety of his country's fortunes than for the popularity of his utterances. Such, I have heard, and perhaps you have heard it also, was the principle which the orators of our forefather's time habitually followed in public life—those orators who are praised by all who rise to address you, though they are far from imitating them—the great Aristides, and Nicias, and my own namesake[11], and Pericles. 22 But ever since these speakers have appeared who are always asking you, 'what would you like?' 'what may I propose for you?' 'what can I do to please you?' the interests of the city have been wantonly given away for the sake of the pleasure and gratification of the moment; and we see the consequences—the fortunes of the speakers prosper, while your own are in a shameful plight. 23 And yet consider, men of Athens, the main characteristics of the achievements of your forefathers' time, and those of your own. The description will be brief and familiar to you; for you need not have recourse to the history of others, when your own will furnish examples, by following which you may achieve prosperity. 24 Our forefathers, who were not courted and caressed by their politicians as you are by these persons to-day, were leaders of the Hellenes, with their goodwill, for forty-five years;[12] they brought up into the Acropolis more than 10,000 talents; the king[13] who then ruled Macedonia obeyed them as a foreigner ought to obey a Hellenic people; serving in person, they set up many glorious trophies for victories by land and sea; and alone of all mankind they left behind them, as the crown of their exploits, a fame that is beyond the reach of envy. 25 Such was the part they played in the Hellenic world: and now contemplate the manner of men they were in the city, both in public and in private life. As public men, they gave us buildings and objects of such beauty and grandeur, in the temples which they built and the offerings which they dedicated in them, that no room has been left for any of those that come after to surpass them: while in private life they were so modest, 26 so intensely loyal to the spirit of the constitution, that if any one actually knows what the house of Aristides, or Miltiades, or any other of the glorious men of that day, is like, he can see that it is no more imposing than those of their neighbours. For it was not to win a fortune that they undertook affairs of State; but each thought it his duty to add to the common weal. And thus, acting in a spirit of good faith towards the Hellenes, of piety towards the gods, and of equality towards one another, they naturally attained great prosperity. 27 Such was the national life of those times, when those whom I have mentioned were the foremost men in the State. How do matters stand to-day, thanks to these worthy persons? Is there any likeness, any resemblance, to old times? Thanks to them (and though I might say much, I pass over all but this), when we had the field, as you see, completely open to us—when the Spartans had been ruined,[14] and the Thebans had their hands full,[15] and no other power could seriously dispute the supremacy with us on the field of battle—when we could have retained our own possessions in safety, and have stood as umpires of the rights of others—we have been deprived of our own territory; 28 we have spent more than 1,500 talents to no good purpose; the allies whom we had gained in the war,[16] these persons have lost in time of peace; and we have trained Philip to be the powerful enemy to us that he is. Let any one rise and tell me how Philip has grown so strong, if we ourselves are not the source of his strength. 29 'But, my good Sir,' you say, 'if we are badly off in these respects, we are at any rate better off at home.' And where is the proof of this? Is it in the whitewashing of the battlements, the mending of the roads, the fountains, and all such trumperies? Look then at the men whose policy gives you these things. Some of them who were poor have become rich; others, who were unknown to fame, have risen to honour; some of them have provided themselves with private houses more imposing than our public buildings; and the lower the fortunes of the city have fallen, the higher theirs have risen.

30 What is the cause of all these things? Why is it that all was well then, and all is amiss to-day? It is because then the people itself dared to act and to serve in the army; and so the people was master of its politicians; all patronage was in its own hands; any separate individual was content to receive from the people his share of honour or office or other emolument. The reverse is now the case. 31 All patronage is in the hands of the politicians, while you, the people, emasculated, stripped of money and allies, have been reduced to the position of servile supernumeraries, content if they give you distributions of festival-money, or organize a procession at the Boedromia;[17] and to crown all this bravery, you are expected also to thank them for giving you what is your own. They pen you up closely in the city; they entice you to these delights; they tame you till you come to their hand. 32 But a high and generous spirit can never, I believe, be acquired by men whose actions are mean and poor; for such as a man's practice is, such must his spirit be. And in all solemnity I should not be surprised if I suffered greater harm at your hands for telling you the things that I have told you, than the men who have brought them to pass. Even freedom of speech is not possible on all subjects in this place, and I wonder that it has been granted me to-day.

33 If, even now, you will rid yourselves of these habits, if you will resolve to join the forces and to act worthily of yourselves, converting the superfluities which you enjoy at home into resources to secure our advantage abroad, then it may be, men of Athens, it may be, that you will gain some great and final good, and will be rid of these your perquisites, which are like the diet that a physician gives a sick man—diet which neither puts strength into him nor lets him die. For these sums which you now share among yourselves are neither large enough to give you any adequate assistance, nor small enough to let you renounce them and go about your business; but these it is that[18] increase the indolence of every individual among you. 34 'Is it, then, paid service that you suggest?'[19] some one will ask. I do, men of Athens; and a system for immediate enforcement which will embrace all alike; so that each, while receiving his share of the public funds may supply whatever service the State requires of him.[20] If we can remain at peace, then he will do better to stay at home, free from the necessity of doing anything discreditable through poverty. But if a situation like the present occurs, then supported by these same sums, he will serve loyally in person, in defence of his country. If a man is outside the military age, then let him take, in his place among the rest, that which he now receives irregularly and without doing any service, and let him act as an overseer and manager of business that must be done. 35 In short, without adding or subtracting anything,[21] beyond a small sum, and only removing the want of system, my plan reduces the State to order, making your receipt of payment, your service in the army or the courts, and your performance of any duty which the age of each of you allows, and the occasion requires, all part of one and the same system. But it has been no part of my proposal that we should assign the due of those who act to those who do nothing; that we should be idle ourselves and enjoy our leisure helplessly, listening to tales of victories won by somebody's mercenaries;[22] for this is what happens now. 36 Not that I blame one who is doing some part of your duty for you; but I require you to do for yourselves the things for which you honour others, and not to abandon the position which your fathers won through many a glorious peril, and bequeathed to you.

I think I have told you all that, in my belief, your interest demands. May you choose the course which will be for the good of the city and of you all!

  1. "two or three years ago" (lit. 'this is the third or fourth year since). It was in November 352 B.C. If the present Speech was delivered before November 349, not quite three years would have elapsed. (The Greek words, [Greek: triton "he tetarton etos touti], must, on the analogy of the Speech against Meidias, Sec. 13, against Stephanus, II. Sec. 13, and against Aphobus, I. Sec. 24, &c., mean 'two or three', not 'three or four years ago'). The vagueness of the expression is more likely to be due to the date of the Third Olynthiac being not far short of three years from that of the siege of Heraeon Teichos, than to the double-dating (on the one hand by actual lapse of time, and on the other by archon-years--from July to July--or by military campaigning seasons) which most commentators assume to be intended here, but which seems to me over-subtle and unlike Demosthenes.
  2. "that year". i.e. the archonship of Aristodemus, which ran from July 352 B.C. to July 351.
  3. "the mysteries". These were celebrated from the 14th to the 27th of Boedromion (late in September).
  4. "Charidemus", of Oreus in Euboea, was a mercenary leader who had served many masters at different times--Athens, Olynthus, Cotys, and Cersobleptes--and had played most of them false at some time or other. But he was given the citizenship in 357 for the part which he had taken in effecting the cession of the Chersonese to Athens, and was a favourite with the people. He was sent on the occasion here referred to with ten ships, for which he was to find mercenary soldiers.
  5. "with might ... power". A quotation, probably from the text of the treaty of alliance between Athens and Olynthus.
  6. "funds of the Phocians are exhausted". The Phocian leader Phalaecus had been using the temple-treasures of Delphi, but they were now exhausted.
  7. "a Legislative Commission". i.e. a Special Commission on the model of the regular Commission which was appointed annually from the jurors for the year (if the Assembly so decreed), and before which those who wished to make or to oppose changes in the laws appeared, the proceedings taking the form of a prosecution and defence of the laws in question. The Assembly itself did not legislate, though it passed decrees, which had to be consistent with the existing laws. As regards legislation, it merely decided whether in any given year alterations in the laws should or should not be allowed.
  8. "malingerers". The scholiast says that the choregi were persuaded to choose persons as members of their choruses, in order to enable them to escape military service, choreutae being legally exempted. Other exemptions also existed.
  9. "persons who proposed them". This can only refer to Eubulus and his party.
  10. "Corinthians and Megareans". From the pseudo-Demosthenic Speech on the Constitution ([Greek: "pe".i suntaxe".s".) and from Philochorus (quoted in the Scholia of Didymus upon that Speech) it appears that the Athenians had in 350 invaded Megara, under the general Ephialtes, and forced the Megareans to agree to a delimitation of certain land sacred to the two goddesses of Eleusis, which the Megareans had violated, perhaps for some years past (see Speech against Aristocrates, Sec. 212). A scholiast also refers to the omission by Corinth to invite the Athenians to the Isthmian games, in consequence of which the Athenians sent an armed force to attend the games. Probably this was also a recent occurrence, and due to an understanding between Corinth and Megara.
  11. "my own namesake". i.e. Demosthenes, who was a distinguished general during the Peloponnesian War, and perished in the Sicilian expedition.
  12. "for forty-five years". i.e. between the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars, 476-431 B.C.
  13. "the king". i.e. Perdiccas II, who, however, took the side of Sparta shortly after the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. He died in 413. (The date of the beginning of his reign is unknown, but he did not become sole king of the whole of Macedonia until 436.)
  14. "Spartans had been ruined". sc. by the battles of Leuctra (in 371) and Mantineia (in 362).
  15. "Thebans had their hands full", owing to the war with the Phocians, from 356 onwards.
  16. "in the war", when Athens joined Thebes against Sparta (in 378). 'The allies' are those members of the Second Delian League (formed in 378) who had been lost in the Social War which ended in or about 355, when Athens was at peace with Thebes and Sparta. (See Introduction, vol. i, p. 9.)
  17. "procession at the Boedromia". The Boedromia was a festival held in September in honour of Apollo and Artemis Agrotera, Probably a procession was not a regular part of the festival at this time. The importance which the populace attached to such processions is illustrated by the Speech against Timocrates, Sec. 161.
  18. [Greek: esti tauta ta].
  19. "is it then paid service, &c".: almost, 'do you then suggest that we should "earn" our money?'
  20. [Greek: touto parechae].
  21. "adding or subtracting". sc. from the sums dispensed by the State to the citizens.
  22. "somebody's mercenaries". The reference is probably to the successes of Charidemus when first sent (see Introd. to Olynthiacs).