The History of Greece - Vol. 5

By Ernst Curtius; Adolphus William Ward | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III.
ATHENS AND KING PHILIP TO THE PEACE OF PHILOCRATES.*

IN the period when Pericles was extending the Attic dominion in the Pontus (vol. ii. p. 534), one of the remotest points reached by it was Nymphæum, a port of the

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*

Concerning the age of Demosthenes we possess a greater abundance of materials than for any other section of Greek history; but no history of it has been handed down to us. Even in antiquity Demosthenes found no narrator of his public activity worthy of him: and out of the works concerning the period of Philip ( Theopompus, Philochorus, lib. vi., Duris) there are left to us only meagre fragments, or tradition reaching us at second or third hand ( Diodorus, Justin). Plutarch is of importance when he mentions his sources; in the same way Dionysius of Halicarnasus, whose principal work on Demosthenes is unfortunately lost: of all those who have judged Demosthenes, he displays the greatest insight. The biographers are uncritical. We are therefore without a connected history; instead of this, the age stands before us like a drama, in which we see historical personages acting with all the clearness of living individualities. We find ourselves personally placed between the two parties. Herein lies the extraordinary charm of the Demosthenic age; hereon, too, is based the difference in the conceptions formed of it; for it depends on the personal attitude which we assume towards Demosthenes, upon the moral impression made upon us by his speeches, upon the truthfulness with which we credit him. All the attempts which have been made to whitewash Æschines (cf. Francke on Stechow de vita Æsch. in Neue Jahrb. für Phitol., xii.) or to prove the representation of his character in Demosthenes to be a caricature due to political hatred ( Spengel, Demosth. Vertheidigung des Ktesiphon, Munich, 1863), as it appears to me, by their want of success merely furnish a testimony in favor of Demosthenes. Equally unsatisfactory are the attempts to tack in a midway-course between Demosthenes and Æschines (cf. Frohberger on O. Haupt Leben des Demosth. in Neue Jahrb. für Philol. 1862, p. 614). Without denying the character of a democratic party-orator to belong to Demosthenes, we shall yet be justified in regarding his speeches as genuine sources of history, if we believe in the truthfulness and honesty of his mind. In this respect I have from full conviction followed the view which was asserted by Niebuhr. Since his time science has labored unwearyingly to bring order into the history of this age. I merely mention the labors of F. Ranke, Boeckh, Winiewski, Droysen, Böhneke, Vömel, Funkhänel, the critical and exegetical labors on the Orators of Sauppe, Westermann, Franke, Rehdantz and others, and the narratives of Thirl

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