Demosthenes : biography
Demosthenes ( ; 384–322 BC) was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BC. Demosthenes learned rhetoric by studying the speeches of previous great orators. He delivered his first judicial speeches at the age of 20, in which he argued effectively to gain from his guardians what was left of his inheritance. For a time, Demosthenes made his living as a professional speech-writer (logographer) and a lawyer, writing speeches for use in private legal suits.
Demosthenes grew interested in politics during his time as a logographer, and in 354 BC he gave his first public political speeches. He went on to devote his most productive years to opposing Macedon's expansion. He idealized his city and strove throughout his life to restore Athens' supremacy and motivate his compatriots against Philip II of Macedon. He sought to restore his city's former glory and to establish an alliance against Philip, who had tried several times to unite Greece using diplomatic means. Demosthenes' pro-war party gained support and broke the treaty oaths with Philip by attacking his ally Cardia and supporting Byzantium against him. After Philip's death, Demosthenes played a leading part in his city's uprising against the new King of Macedonia, Alexander the Great. However, his efforts failed and the revolt was met with a harsh Macedonian reaction. To prevent a similar revolt against his own rule, Alexander's successor in this region, Antipater, sent his men to track Demosthenes down. Demosthenes took his own life, in order to avoid being arrested by Archias, Antipater's confidant.
The Alexandrian Canon compiled by Aristophanes of Byzantium and Aristarchus of Samothrace recognized Demosthenes as one of the ten greatest Attic orators and logographers. Longinus likened Demosthenes to a blazing thunderbolt, and argued that he "perfected to the utmost the tone of lofty speech, living passions, copiousness, readiness, speed".Longinus, On the Sublime, 12.4, 34.4* D.C. Innes, 'Longinus and Caecilius", 277–279 Quintilian extolled him as lex orandi ("the standard of oratory"), and Cicero said about him that inter omnis unus excellat ("he stands alone among all the orators"), and he also acclaimed him as "the perfect orator" who lacked nothing.Cicero, Brutus, , Orator, II.; Quintillian, Institutiones, X, 1.* D.C. Innes, 'Longinus and Caecilius", 277
Early years and personal life
Family and personal life
Demosthenes was born in 384 BC, during the last year of the 98th Olympiad or the first year of the 99th Olympiad.H. Weil, Biography of Demosthenes, 5–6 His father—also named Demosthenes—who belonged to the local tribe, Pandionis, and lived in the deme of PaeaniaAeschines, Against Ctesiphon, in the Athenian countryside, was a wealthy sword-maker.E. Badian, "The Road to Prominence", 11 Aeschines, Demosthenes' greatest political rival, maintained that his mother Kleoboule was a Scythian by bloodAeschines, Against Ctesiphon, —an allegation disputed by some modern scholars. Demosthenes was orphaned at the age of seven. Although his father provided well for him, his legal guardians, Aphobus, Demophon and Therippides, mishandled his inheritance.O. Thomsen, The Looting of the Estate of the Elder Demosthenes, 61
As soon as Demosthenes came of age in 366 BC, he demanded they render an account of their management. According to Demosthenes, the account revealed the misappropriation of his property. Although his father left an estate of nearly fourteen talents, (equivalent to about 220 years of a laborer's income at standard wages, or 11 million dollars in terms of median US annual incomes)Demosthenes, Against Aphobus 1, * D.M. MacDowell, Demosthenes the Orator, ch. 3 Demosthenes asserted his guardians had left nothing "except the house, and fourteen slaves and thirty silver minae" (30 minae = ½ talent).Demosthenes, Against Aphobus 1, At the age of 20 Demosthenes sued his trustees in order to recover his patrimony and delivered five orations: three Against Aphobus during 363 and 362 BC and two Against Ontenor during 362 and 361 BC. The courts fixed Demosthenes' damages at ten talents.Demosthenes, Against Aphobus 3, * D.M. MacDowell, Demosthenes the Orator, ch. 3 When all the trials came to an end, he only succeeded in retrieving a portion of his inheritance.E. Badian, "The Road to Prominence", 18
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