The Philippics by Desmosthenes

Demosthenes, by universal consensus of opinion the greatest orator the world has known, was born at Athens 385 B.C. and died 322 B.C. His birth took place just nineteen years after the conclusion of the Peloponnesian War. Losing his father when he was yet a child, his wealth was frittered away by three faithless guardians, whom he prosecuted when he came of age. This dispute, and some other struggles, led him into public life, and by indomitable perseverance he overcame the difficulty constituted by certain physical disqualifications. Identifying himself for life entirely with the interests of Athens, he became the foremost administrator in the state, as well as its most eloquent orator. His stainless character, his matchless powers of advocacy, his fervent patriotism, and his fine diplomacy, render him altogether one of the noblest figures of antiquity. His fame rests mainly on "The Philippics"; those magnificent orations delivered during a series of several years against the aggressions of Philip of Macedon; though the three "Olynthiacs," and the oration "De Coronā," and several other speeches are monumental of the genius of Demosthenes, more especially the "De Coronā." He continued to resist the Macedonian domination during the career of Alexander the Great, and was exiled, dying, it is supposed, by poison administered by himself, at Calauria.

I.—"Men of Athens, Arouse Yourselves!"

The subject under discussion on this occasion, men of Athens, is not new, and there would be no need to speak further on it if other orators deliberated wisely. First, I advise you not to regard the present aspect of affairs, miserable though it truly is, as entirely hopeless. For the primary cause of the failure is your own mismanagement. If any consider it difficult to overcome Philip because of the power that he has attained, and because of our disastrous loss of many fortresses, they should remember how much he has gained by achieving alliances.

 If, now, you will emulate his policy, if every citizen will devote himself assiduously to the service of his country, you will assuredly recover all that has been lost, and punish Philip. For he has his enemies, even among his pretended friends. All dread him because your inertia has prevented you from providing any refuge for them. Hence the height of arrogance which he now displays and the constantly expanding area of his conquests.

When, men of Athens, will you realise that your attitude is the cause of this situation? For you idle about, indulging in gossip over circumstances, instead of grappling with the actualities. Were this antagonist to pass away, another enemy like him would speedily be produced by your policy, for Philip is what he is not so much through his own prowess as through your own indifference.

As to the plan of action to be initiated, I say that we must inaugurate it by providing fifty triremes, also the cavalry and transports and boats needed for the fleet. Thus we should be fully prepared to cope with the sudden excursions of Philip to Thermopylę or any other point. Besides this naval force, you should equip an army of 2,000 foot soldiers, of whom 500 should be Athenians, the remainder mercenaries, together with 250 cavalry, including 50 Athenians. Lastly, we should have an auxiliary naval contingent of ten swift galleys.

We are now conducting affairs farcically. For we act neither as if we were at peace, nor as if we had entered on a war. You enlist your soldiers not for warfare, but for religious pageants, and for parades and processions in the market-place. We must consolidate our resources, embody permanent forces, not temporary levies hastily enlisted, and we must secure winter quarters for our troops in those islands which possess harbours and granaries for the corn.

No longer, men of Athens, must you continue the mere discussion of measures without ever executing any of your projects. Remember that Philip sustains his power by drawing on the resources of your own allies.

But by adopting my plan you will at one and the same time deprive him of his chief sources of supply, and place yourselves out of the reach of danger. The policy he has hitherto pursued will be effectually thwarted. No longer will he be able to capture your citizens, as he did by attacking Lemnos and Imbros, or to seize your Paralus, as he did on his descent at Marathon.

But, men of Athens, you spend far larger sums of money on the splendid Panathenaic and Dionysian festivals than on your naval and military armaments. Moreover, those festivals are always punctually celebrated, while your preparations for war are always behindhand. Then, when a critical juncture arrives, we find our forces are totally inadequate to the emergency.

Having larger resources than any other state, you, Athenians, have never adequately availed yourselves of them. You never anticipate the movements of Philip, but simply drift after him, sending forces to Thermopylę if you hear he is there, or to any other quarter where he may happen to be. Such policy might formerly be excused, but now it is as disgraceful as it is intolerable. Are we to wait for Philip's aggressiveness to cease? It never will do so unless we resist it. Shall we not assume the offensive and descend on his coast with some of our forces?

Nothing will result from mere oratory and from mutual recrimination among ourselves. My own conviction is that Philip is encouraged by our inertia, and that he is carried away by his own successes, but that he has no fixed plan of action that can be guessed by foolish chatterers. Men of Athens, let us for the future abandon such an attitude, and let us bear in mind that we must depend not on the help of others, but on ourselves alone. Unless we go to attack Philip where he is, Philip will come to attack us where we are.

II.—Beware the Guile of Philip

Nothing, men of Athens, is done as a sequel to the speeches which are delivered and approved concerning the outrageous proceedings of Philip. You are earnest in discussion; he is earnest in action. If we are to be complacently content because we employ the better arguments, well and good; but if we are successfully to resist this formidable and increasing power, we must be prepared to entertain advice that is salutary, however unpalatable, rather than counsel which is easy and pleasant.

If you give me any credit for clear perception, I beg you to attend to what I plead. After subduing Thermopylę and the Phocians, Philip quickly apprehended that you could not be induced by any selfish considerations to abandon other Greek states to him. The Thebans, Messenians, and Argives he lured by bribes. But he knew how, in the past, your predecessors scorned the overtures of his ancestor, Alexander of Macedon, sent by Mardonius the Persian to induce the Athenians to betray the rest of the Greeks. It was not so with the Argives and the Thebans, and thus Philip calculates that their successors will care nothing for the interests of the Greeks generally. So he favours them, but not you.

Everything demonstrates Philip's animosity against Athens. He is instinctively aware that you are conscious of his plots against you, and ascribes to you a feeling of hatred against him. Eager to be beforehand with us, he continues to negotiate with Thebans and Peloponnesians, assuming that they may be beguiled with ease.

I call to mind how I addressed the Messenians and the Argives, reminding them how Philip had dishonourably given certain of their territories to the Olynthians. Would the Olynthians then have listened to any disparagements of Philip? Assuredly not. Yet they were soon shamefully betrayed and cheated by him. It is unsafe for commonwealths to place confidence in despots. In like manner were the Thessalians deceived when he had ejected their tyrants and had restored to them Nicasa and Magnesia, for he instituted the new tyranny of the Decemvirate. Philip is equally ready with gifts and promises on the one hand, and with fraud and deceit on the other.

"By Jupiter," said I to those auditors, "the only infallible defence of democracies against despots is the absolute refusal of all confidence in them. Always to mistrust them is the only safeguard. What is it that you seek to secure? Liberty? Then do you not perceive that the very titles worn by Philip prove him to be adverse to this? For every king and tyrant is an enemy to freedom and an opponent to laws."

But though my speeches and those of other emissaries were received with vociferous applause, all the same those who thus manifested profound approbation will never be able to resist the blandishments and overtures of Philip. It may well be so with those other Greeks. But you, O Athenians, surely should understand your own interests better. For otherwise irreparable disaster must ensue.

In justice, men of Athens, you should summon the men who communicated to you the promises which induced you to consent to peace. Their statements misled us; otherwise, neither would I have gone as ambassador, nor would you have ceased hostilities. Also, you should call those who, after my return from my second embassy, contradicted my report. I then protested against the abandonment of Thermopylę and of the Phocians.

They ridiculed me as a water-drinker, and they persuaded you that Philip would cede to you Oropus and Eubœa in exchange for Amphipolis, and also that he would humble the Thebans and at his own charges cut through the Chersonese. Your anger will be excited in due time when you realise what you have hitherto disregarded, namely, that these projects on the part of Philip are devised against Athens.

Though all know it only too well, let me remind you who it was, even Ęschines himself, who induced you by his persuasion to abandon Thermopylę and Phocis. By possessing control over these, Philip now commands also the road to Attica and Peloponnesus.

Hence the present situation is this, that you must now consider, not distant affairs, but the means of defending your homes and of conducting a war in Attica, that war having become inevitable through those events, grievous though it will be to every citizen when it begins. May the gods grant that the worst fears be not fully confirmed!

III.—Athens Must Head the War

Various circumstances, men of Athens, have reduced our affairs to the worst possible state, this lamentable crisis being due mainly to the specious orators who seek rather to please you than wisely to guide you. Flattery has generated perilous complacency, and now the position is one of extreme danger. I am willing either to preserve silence, or to speak frankly, according to your disposition. Yet all may be repaired if you awaken to your duty, for Philip has not conquered you; you have simply made no real effort against him.

Strange to say, while Philip is actually seizing cities and appropriating various portions of our territory, some among us affirm that there is really no war. Thus, caution is needed in speech, for those who suggest defensive measures may afterwards be indicted for causing hostilities. Now, let those who maintain that we are at peace propose a resolution for suitable plans. But if you are invaded by an armed aggressor, who pretends to be at peace with you, what can you do but initiate measures of defence?

Both sides may profess to be at peace, and I do not demur; but it is madness to style that a condition of peace which allows Philip to subjugate all other states and then to assail you last of all. His method of proceeding is to prepare to attack you, while securing immunity from the danger of being attacked by you.

If we wait for him to declare war, we wait in vain. For he will treat us as he did the Olynthians and the Phocians. Professing to be their ally, he appropriated territories belonging to them. Do you imagine he would declare war against you before commencing operations of encroachment? Never, so long as he knows that you are willing to be deceived.

By a series of operations he has been infringing the peace: by his attempt to seize Megara, by his intervention in Eubœa, by his excursion into Thrace. I reckon that the virtual beginnings of hostilities must be dated from the day that he completed the subjugation of the Thracians. From your other orators I differ in deeming any discussion irrelevant respecting the Chersonese or Byzantium. Aid these, indeed; but let the safety of all Greece alike be the subject of your deliberations.

What I would emphasise is that to Philip have been conceded liberties of encroachment and aggression, by you first of all, such as in former days were always contested by war. He has attacked and enslaved city after city of the Greeks. You Athenians were for seventy-three years the supreme leaders in Hellas, as were the Spartans for twenty-nine years. Then after the battle of Leuctra the Thebans acquired paramount influence. But neither you nor these others ever arrogated the right to act according to your pleasure.

If you appeared to act superciliously towards any state, all the other states sided with that one which was aggrieved. Yet all the errors committed by our predecessors and by those of the Spartans during the whole of that century were trivial compared with the wrongs perpetrated by Philip during these thirteen years. Cruel has been his destruction of Olynthus, of Methone, of Apollonia, and of thirty-two cities on the borders of Thrace, and also the extermination of the Phocians. And now he domineers ruthlessly over Thessaly and Eubœa. Yet all we Greeks of various nationalities are in so abjectly miserable a condition that, instead of arranging embassies and declaring our indignation, we entrench ourselves in isolation in our several cities.

It must be reflected that when wrongs were inflicted by other states, by us or the Spartans, these faults were at any rate committed by genuine sons of Greece. How much more hateful is the offence when perpetrated against a household by a slave or an alien than by a son or other member of the family! But Philip is not only no son of Hellas; he is not even a reputable barbarian, but only a vile fellow of Macedon, a country from which formerly even a respectable slave could not be purchased!

What is lacking to his unspeakable arrogance? Does he not assemble the Pythian games, command Thermopylę, garrison the passes, secure prior access to the oracle at Delphi, and dictate the form of government for Thessaly? All this the Greeks look upon with toleration; they seem to regard it as they would some tempest, each hoping it will fall on someone else. We are all passive and despondent, mutually distrusting each other instead of the common foe.

How different the noble spirit of former days! How different that old passion for liberty which is now superseded by the love of servitude! Then corruption was so deeply detested that there was no pardon for the guilt of bribery. Now venality is laughed at and bribery goes unpunished. In ships, men, equipment, and revenues our resources are larger than ever before, but corruption neutralises them all.

But preparations for war are not sufficient. You must not only be ready to encounter the foes without, but must punish those who among you are the creatures of Philip, like those who caused the ruin of Olynthus by betraying the cavalry and by securing the banishment of Apollonides. Similar treachery brought about the downfall of other cities. The same fate may befall us. What, then, must be done?

When we have done all that is needful for our own defence, let us next send our emissaries to all the other states with the intelligence that we are ready. If you imagine that others will save Greece while you avoid the conflict, you cherish a fatal delusion. This enterprise devolves on you; you inherit it from your ancestors.

IV.—Exterminate the Traitors!

Men of Athens, your chief misfortune is that, though for the passing moment you heed important news, you speedily scatter and forget what you have just heard. You have become fully acquainted with the doings of Philip, and you well know how great is his ambition; and yet, so profound has been our indifference that we have earned the contempt of several other states, which now prefer to undertake their defence separately rather than in alliance with us.

You must become more deeply convinced than you have been hitherto that our destruction is the supreme anxiety of Philip. The special object of his hatred is your democratic constitution. Our mode of procedure is a mockery, for we are always behind in the execution of our schemes. You must form a permanent army with a regular organisation, and with funds sufficient for its maintenance.

Most of all, money is needed to meet coming requirements. There was a time when money was forthcoming and everything necessary was performed. Why do we now decline to do our duty? In a time of peril to the commonwealth the affluent should freely contribute of their possessions for the welfare of the country; but each class has its obligations to the state and should observe them.

Many and inveterate are the causes of our present difficulties. You, O Athenians, have surrendered the august position which your predecessors bequeathed you, and have indolently permitted a stranger to usurp it. The present crisis involves peril for all the states, but to Athens most of all; and that not so much on account of Philip's schemes of conquest, as of your neglect.

How is it, Athenians, that none affirm concerning Philip that he is guilty of aggression, even while he is seizing cities, while those who advise resistance are indicated as inciting to war? The reason is that those who have been corrupted believe that if you do resist him you will overcome him, and they can no longer secure the reward of treachery.

Remember what you have at stake. Should you fall under the dominion of Philip, he will show you no pity, for his desire is not merely to subdue Athens, but to destroy it. The struggle will be to the death; therefore, those who would sell the country to him you must exterminate without scruple. This is the only city where such treacherous citizens can dare to speak in his favour. Only here may a man safely accept a bribe and openly address the people.