Demosthenes (dĬmŏs´thənēz), 384?–322 BC, Greek orator, generally considered the greatest of the Greek orators. He was a pupil of Isaeus, and—although the story of his putting pebbles in his mouth to improve his voice is only a legend—he seems to have been forced to overcome a weak voice and delivery. After years of private practice in law, he became a political orator in 351 BC when he delivered the first of three Philippics. Philip II of Macedon had been steadily building power, and Demosthenes saw clearly the danger to Greek liberty in the great Macedonian state. The Philippics (the second in 344, the third in 341) and the three Olynthiacs (349), in which he urged aid for Olynthus against Philip, were all directed toward arousing Greece against the conqueror. The third of the Philippics is generally considered the finest of his orations. In On the Peace (346) Demosthenes urged an end to the Phocian War. In 343 he accused his rival, Aeschines, of accepting Macedonian bribes in a speech entitled (as was Aeschines' defense) On the False Legation. Philip triumphed in the battle of Chaeronea (338), and Demosthenes' cause was lost. Although he had many rivals, he was greatly honored by his admirers, but a proposal by Ctesiphon to give Demosthenes a gold crown caused Aeschines to bring suit. Demosthenes roundly defended his own career and attacked that of Aeschines in On the Crown (330). The verdict was in favor of Demosthenes. Later he was involved in a complex and obscure affair involving money taken by one of the lieutenants of Alexander the Great; it ended with Demosthenes in exile. After the death of Alexander he was recalled and attempted to build Greek strength to throw off the yoke of Macedon, but he was unsuccessful and Antipater triumphed. Demosthenes fled and took poison before he could be captured.

See A. W. Pickard-Cambridge, Demosthenes and the Last Days of Greek Freedom (1914); W. W. Jaeger, Demosthenes: The Origin and Growth of His Policy (1938, repr. 1963); J. J. Murphy, ed., Demosthenes on the Crown (1983); H. Montgomery, The Way to Chaeronea (1984); I. Worthington, Demosthenes of Athens and the Fall of Classical Greece (2012).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Demosthenes: Selected full-text books and articles

Demosthenes By Charles Miner Thompson; Georges Clemenceau Houghton Mifflin Company, 1926
Demosthenes and His Influence By Charles Darwin Adams Longmans, Green and Co., 1927
FREE! The World's Famous Orations By Francis W. Halsey; William Jennings Bryan Funk & Wagnalls, vol.1, 1906
Librarian's tip: "The Second Oration against Philip (344 B.C.)" by Demosthenes begins on p. 110, "On the State of the Chersonesus (342 B.C.) by Demosthenes begins on p. 120, and "On the Crown" by Demosthenes begins on p. 143
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Cicero's Philippics and Their Demosthenic Model: The Rhetoric of Crisis By Cecil W. Wooten University of North Carolina Press, 1983
Greek Oratory: Tradition and Originality By Stephen A. Usher Oxford University, 1999
Librarian's tip: Chap. 6 "Demosthenes Logographos (Part I)" and Chap. 7 "Demosthenes Logographos (Part II)"
Against Meidias, Androtion, Aristocrates, Timocrates, Aristogeiton By Demosthenes; J. H. Vince Harvard University Press, 1935
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Interpreting a Classic: Demosthenes and His Ancient Commentators By Craig A. Gibson University of California Press, 2002
A New History of Classical Rhetoric By George A. Kennedy Princeton University Press, 1994
Librarian's tip: "Demosthenes" begins on p. 68
Deception and Democracy in Classical Athens By Jon Hesk Cambridge University Press, 2000
Librarian's tip: "Arguments from (National) Character: Demosthenes' Against Leptines" begins on p. 40
Taming Democracy: Models of Political Rhetoric in Classical Athens By Harvey Yunis Cornell University Press, 1996
Librarian's tip: Chap. IX "Demosthenes: Discourse and Deliberation in Theory and Practice"
Canons of Style in the Antonine Age: Idea-Theory in Its Literary Context By Ian Rutherford Clarendon Press, 1998
Librarian's tip: "Hermogenes on Demosthenes" begins on p. 18, "Demosthenes and Plato" begins on p. 47, and "Homer and Demosthenes" begins on p. 61
Persuasion: Greek Rhetoric in Action By Ian Worthington Routledge, 1994
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "Power and Oratory in Democratic Athens: Demosthenes 21, against Meidias"
Rhetoric and the Law of Draco By Edwin Carawan Oxford University, 1998
Librarian's tip: "Authenticity of the Laws of Demosthenes 23" begins on p. 88
Aeschines and Athenian Politics By Edward M. Harris Oxford University Press, 1995
Librarian's tip: Includes discussion of Demosthenes in multiple chapters
The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature By M. C. Howatson Oxford University Press, 1989 (2nd edition)
Librarian's tip: "Demosthenes" begins on p. 179
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