« ForrigeFortsæt »
tribution to the state; when even Aristonicus gave up that money, which he had saved, to qualify him for public offices' never appeared, never once contributed the smallest sum: and not from poverty: no, he had just received a bequest of five talents from his kinsman Philon; besides the two talents collected for his services in traversing the law relative to trierarchs.—But I am in danger of being led off from one point to another, so as to forget my subject.—I say then that it was not from poverty that you refused your contribution, but from the fear of opposing their interests, who influenced all your public conduct. On what occasion, then, are you spirited and shining? When you are to speak against your country. Then are we struck with the brilliancy of your eloquence, the power of your memory, the excellence with which you act your part; —the excellence of a true dramatic Theocrines.
We have heard his encomiums on the great characters of former times: and they are worthy of them. Yet it is by no means just (Athenians!) to take advantage of your predilection to the deceased, and to draw the parallel between them and me who live among you. Who knows not that all men, while they yet live, must endure some share of envy, more or less ? But the dead are not hated even by their enemies. And, if this be the usual and natural course of things, shall I be tried, shall I be judged by a comparison with my predecessors? No, Æschines, this would be neither just nor equitable. Compare me with yourself, with any, the very best of your party, and our contemporaries. Consider, whether it be nobler and better for the state to make the benefits received from our ancestors,
1 Such as that of general, trierarch, ambassador, and director of the theatre, which could not be discharged without advancing considerable sums. ? A man notorious for calumny. He had composed some pieces for the theatre, but soon exchanged this profession for that of an informer: in which his virulence and malice rendered his name proverbial. We learn from St. Jerom, that the Pagans frequently gave this name to the first Christians. Demosthenes adds an epithet to it (“theatrical”), calculated to keep the original profession of his rival in view, to which he is indeed particularly attentive through his whole speech.
great and exalted as they are, beyond all expression great, a pretence for treating present benefactors with ingratitude and contempt; or to grant a due share of honour and regard to every man, who, at any time, approves his attachment to the public.—And yet, if I may hazard the assertion, the whole tenor of my conduct must appear, upon a fair enquiry, similar to that which the famed characters of old times pursued; and founded on the same principles: while you have as exactly imitated the malicious accusers of these great men. For it is well known, that in those times, men were found to malign all living excellence, and to lavish their insidious praises on the dead, with the same base artifice which you have practised.—You say, then, that I do not in the least resemble those great characters. And do you resemble them? Or your brother? Do any of the present speakers? I name none among them: I urge but this: let the living, thou man of candour, be compared with the living, and with those of the same department. Thus we judge, in every case, of poets, of dancers, of wrestlers. Philammon doth not depart from the Olympian games uncrowned, because he hath not equal powers with Glaucus, or Karistius, or any other wrestler of former times. No: as he approves himself superior to those who enter the lists with him, he receives his crown, and is proclaimed victor. So do you oppose me to the speakers of these times, to yourself, to any, take your most favourite character: still I assert my superiority. At that period when the state was free to choose the measures best approved, when we were all invited to engage in the great contest of patriotism, then did I display the superior excellence of my counsels, then were affairs all conducted by my decrees, my laws, my embassies. While not a man of your party ever appeared, unless to vent his insolence. But when we had once experienced this unmerited reverse of fortune; when this became the place, not for patriot ministers, but for the slaves of power, for those who stood prepared to sell their country for a bribe, for those who could descend' to certain prostituted compliments; then,
1 He alludes to the complimentary addresses sent to Alexander, which he insinuates were procured by Æschines and his party.
indeed, were you and your associates exalted; then, did you display your magnificence, your state, your splendour, your equipage: while I was depressed, I confess it: yet still superior to you all, in an affectionate attachment to my country.
There are two distinguishing qualities (Athenians !) which the virtuous citizen should ever possess. (I speak in general terms, as the least invidious method of doing justice to myself) a zeal for the honour and pre-eminence of the state, in his official conduct; on all occasions, and in all transactions, an affection for his country. This nature can bestow. Abilities and success depend upon another power. And in this affection you find me firm and invariable. Not the solemn demand of my person, not the vengeance of the Amphictyonic council which they denounced against me, not the terror of their threatenings, not the flattery of their promises, no, nor the fury of those accursed wretches, whom they roused like wild beasts against me, could ever tear this affection from my breast. From first to last I have uniformly pursued the just and virtuous course of conduct; assertor of the honours, of the prerogatives, of the glory of my country; studious to support them, zealous to advance them, my whole being is devoted to this glorious cause. I was never known to march through the city, with a face of joy and exultation, at the success of a foreign power; embracing, and announcing the joyful tidings to those who, I supposed, would transmit it to the proper place. I was never known to receive the successes of my own country, with tremblings, with sighings, with eyes bending to the earth, like those impious men, who are the defamers of the state, as if by such conduct they were not defamers of themselves: who look abroad; and, when a foreign potentate hath established his power on the calamities of Greece, applaud the event, and tell us we should take every means to perpetuate his power.
Hear me, ye immortal gods! and let not these their desires be ratified in heaven! Infuse a better spirit into these men! Inspire even their minds with pure sentiments !—This is my first prayer.—Or, if their natures are not to be reformed; on them, on them only discharge your vengeance! Pursue them even to destruction! But, to us, display your goodness, in a speedy deliverance from impending evils, and all the blessings of protection and tranquillity !
1 The event of this contest was such as might be expected from the superior abilities of Demosthenes. His rival was condemned, and involved in the consequences of a groundless and malicious prosecution. Unable to pay the penalty, he was obliged to submit to exile, and determined to take up his residence at Rhodes: where he opened a school of eloquence. Here he read to his hearers those two orations. His was received with approbation, that of Demosthenes with an extravagance of applause. And how must you have been affected, said Æschines, with a generous acknowledgement of his rival's merit, had you heard HIM DELIVER IT?
It is said, that, as Æschines was retiring from the city, Demosthenes followed him, and obliged him to accept of a large present of money in his distress.