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
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
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
Euba 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
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 Euba, 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
Euba. 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
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
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.