Aeschines, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [Aeschin.].
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But as regards good judgment and power of speech, how does it stand with him? Eloquent of speech, infamous of life! For so licentious has been his treatment of his own body that I prefer not to describe his conduct; for before now I have seen people hated who recount too exactly the sins of their neighbors. Then again, what is the outcome for the city? His words are fine, his acts worthless.


But as concerns his bravery little remains for me to say. For if he denied that he is a coward, or if you did not know it as well as he does himself, the account of it would have detained me. But since he admits it himself in the assembly, and you are perfectly aware of it, it remains only to remind you of the laws as to this matter. For Solon, the ancient lawgiver, thought it necessary to apply the same penalties to the coward as to the man who failed to take the field or the man who deserted his post. For there are such things as indictments for cowardice. Some of you may indeed be surprised to know that there are indictments for inborn defects. There are. To what end? In order that each man of us, fearing the punishment of the laws more than he fears the enemy, may become a better champion of his country.


Therefore the man who fails to take the field, and the coward, and the man who has deserted his post are excluded by the lawgiver from the purified precincts of the Agora, and may not be crowned, nor take part in the sacred rites of the people. But you, Ctesiphon, command us to crown the man who by command of the laws is uncrowned; and by your decree you invite into the orchestra at the time of the tragedies the man who has no right to enter, and into the shrine of Dionysus the man who has betrayed all our shrines through cowardice.

But that I may not lead you away from the subject, remember this when he says that he is the “friend of the people”; examine, not his speech, but his life; and consider, not who he says he is, but who he is.


I have mentioned crowns and rewards. Let me, fellow citizens, while I still have the matter in mind, warn you that unless you put a stop to these prodigal gifts and these crowns thoughtlessly bestowed, neither those who receive honors from you will be grateful, nor will the prosperity of the city be restored. For you will never in the world reform those who are bad, and the good you will plunge into extreme discouragement. But I will present proofs which I think will convince you that what I say is true.


If any one should ask you whether our city seems to you more glorious in our own time or in the time of our fathers, you would all agree, in the time of our fathers. And were there better men then than now? Then, eminent men; but now, far inferior. But rewards and crowns and proclamations, and maintenance in the Prytaneum—were these things more common then than now? Then, honors were rare among us, and the name of virtue was itself an honor. But now the custom is already completely faded out, and you do the crowning as a matter of habit, not deliberately.


Are you not therefore surprised, when you look at it in this light, that the rewards are now more numerous, but the city was then more prosperous? And that the men are now inferior, but were better then? I will try to explain this to you. Do you think, fellow citizens, that any man would ever have been willing to train for the pancratium or any other of the harder contests in the Olympic games, or any of the other games that confer a crown, if the crown were given, not to the best man, but to the man who had successfully intrigued for it? No man would ever have been willing.


But as it is, because the reward is rare, I believe, and because of the competition and the honor, and the undying fame that victory brings, men are willing to risk their bodies, and at the cost of the most severe discipline to carry the struggle to the end. Imagine, therefore, that you yourselves are the officials presiding over a contest in political virtue, and consider this, that if you give the prizes to few men and worthy, and in obedience to the laws, you will find many men to compete in virtue's struggle; but if your gifts are compliments to any man who seeks them and to those who intrigue for them, you will corrupt even honest minds.


How true this is, I wish to teach you a little more explicitly. Does it seem to you that Themistocles, who was general when you conquered the Persian in the battle of Salamis, was the better man, or Demosthenes, who the other day deserted his post? Miltiades, who won the battle of Marathon, or yonder man? Further—the men who brought back the exiled democracy from Phyle? And Aristeides “the Just,” a title most unlike the name men give Demosthenes?


But, by the Olympian gods, I think one ought not to name those men on the same day with this monster! Now let Demosthenes show if anywhere stands written an order to crown any one of those men. Was the democracy, then, ungrateful? No, but noble-minded, and those men were worthy of their city. For they thought that their honor should be conferred, not in written words, but in the memory of those whom they had served; and from that time until this day it abides, immortal. But what rewards they did receive, it is well to recall.

Aeschines, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [Aeschin.].
<<Aeschin. 3.169 Aeschin. 3.177 (Greek) >>Aeschin. 3.186

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