Aeschines, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [Aeschin.].
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One thing more I wish to add to what I have said: if there is anywhere among mankind any form of wickedness in which I fail to show that Demosthenes is preeminent, let my death be your verdict. But I think many difficulties attend a defendant: his danger calls his mind away from his anger, to the search for such arguments as shall secure his safety, and it causes him earnest thought lest he overlook some one of the accusations which have been brought against him. I therefore invite you, and at the same time myself, to recall the accusations.


Consider, then, one by one, fellow citizens, the possible grounds for my prosecution: what decree have I proposed, what law have I repealed, what law have I kept from being passed, what covenant have I made in the name of the city, what vote as to the peace have I annulled, what have I added to the terms of peace that you did not vote?


The peace failed to please some of our public men. Then ought they not to have opposed it at the time, instead of putting me on trial now? Certain men who were getting rich out of the war from your war-taxes and the revenues of the state, have now been stopped; for peace does not feed laziness. Shall those, then, who are not wronged, but are themselves wronging the city, punish the man who was sponsor for the peace, [Note]1 and will you, who are benefited by it, leave in the lurch men who have proved themselves useful to the commonwealth?


Yes, my accuser says, because I joined Philip in singing paeans when the cities of Phocis had been razed. [Note] What evidence could be sufficient to prove that charge? I was, indeed, invited to receive the ordinary courtesies, as were my colleagues in the embassy. Those who were invited and were present at the banquet, including the ambassadors from other Hellenic states, were not less than two hundred. And so it seems that among all these I was conspicuous, not by my silence, but by joining in the singing—for Demosthenes says so, who was not there himself, and presents no witness from among those who were.


Who would have noticed me, unless I was a sort of precentor and led the chorus? Therefore if I was silent, your charge is false; but if, with our fatherland safe and no harm done to my fellow citizens, I joined the other ambassadors in singing the paean when the god was being magnified and the Athenians in no wise dishonored, I was doing a pious act and no wrong, and I should justly be acquitted. Am I, forsooth, because of this to be considered as a man who knows no pity, but you a saint, you, the accuser of men who have shared your bread and cup?


But you have also reproached me with inconsistency in my political action, in that I have served as ambassador to Philip, when I had previously been summoning the Greeks to oppose him. [Note] And yet, if you choose, you may bring this charge against the rest of the Athenian people as a body. You, gentlemen, once fought the Lacedaemonians, and then after their misfortune at Leuctra you aided the same people. You once restored Theban exiles to their country, and again you fought against them at Mantineia. You fought against Themison and the Eretrians, and again you saved them. And you have before now treated countless others of the Hellenes in the same way. For in order to attain the highest good the individual, and the state as well, is obliged to change front with changing circumstances.


But what is the good counsellor to do? Is he not to give the state the counsel that is best in view of each present situation? And what shall the rascally accuser say? Is he not to conceal the occasion and condemn the act? And the born traitor—how shall we recognize him? Will he not imitate you, Demosthenes, in his treatment of those whom chance throws in his way and who have trusted him? Will he not take pay for writing speeches for them to deliver in the courts, and then reveal the contents of these speeches to their opponents? [Note] You wrote a speech for the banker Phormion and were paid for it: this speech you communicated to Apollodorus, who was bringing a capital charge against Phormion.


You entered a happy home, that of Aristarchus the son of Moschus; you ruined it. You received three talents from Aristarchus in trust as he was on the point of going into exile; [Note] you cheated him out of the money that was to have aided him in his fight, and were not ashamed of the reputation to which you laid claim, that of being a wooer of the young man's bodily charms—an absurd story, of course, for genuine love has no place for rascality. That conduct, and conduct like that, defines the traitor.


But he spoke, I believe, about service in the field, and named me “the fine soldier.” But I think, in view of my present peril rather than of his slander, I may without offence speak of these matters also. For where, or when, or to whom, shall I speak of them, if I led this day go by? As soon as I passed out of boyhood I became one of the frontier guards of this land for two years. [Note] As witnesses to this statement, I will call my fellow cadets and our officers.

Aeschines, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [Aeschin.].
<<Aeschin. 2.154 Aeschin. 2.163 (Greek) >>Aeschin. 2.171

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