Aeschines, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [Aeschin.].
<<Aeschin. 3.226 Aeschin. 3.234 (Greek) >>Aeschin. 3.242


If any one of the tragic poets who are to bring on their plays after the crowning should in a tragedy represent Thersites as crowned by the Greeks, no one of you would tolerate it, for Homer says he was a coward and a slanderer; but when you yourselves crown such a man as this, think you not that you would be hissed by the voice of Hellas? Your fathers were wont to attribute to the people such deeds as were glorious and brilliant, but mean and unworthy acts they threw upon the incompetent politicians. But Ctesiphon thinks that you ought to take off from Demosthenes his ill-fame, and crown the people with it.


And while you assert that you are favorites of fortune—as indeed you are, thank heaven—will you declare by public resolution that you have been abandoned by fortune, but blessed by Demosthenes? And—strangest of all—in the same court-rooms do you disfranchise those who are convicted of receiving bribes, and then yourselves propose to crown a man who, to your own knowledge, has always been in politics for pay? If the judges at the Dionysiac festival are not honest in their award of the prize to the cyclic choruses, you punish them; but do you yourselves, who are sitting as judges, not of cyclic choruses, but of the laws and of integrity in public life, do you propose to bestow your rewards, not according to the laws, and not upon the rare and deserving, but upon the successful intriguer?


Furthermore, a juror who so acts will go out from the court-room responsible for having made himself weak and the politician strong. For in a democracy the private citizen is a king by virtue of the constitution and his own vote; but when he hands these over to another man, he has by his own act dethroned himself. Still further, the oath that he has sworn before taking his seat haunts him and troubles him, for it was his oath, I think, that made his act a sin; and his service is unknown to the man whom he was trying to please, for the vote is cast in secret.


But it seems to me, fellow citizens, that the political situation, while fortunate, is also perilous; for we are not wise. The fact that at the present time you, the people, give over the mainstays of the democracy to the few is to be deplored; but the fact that there has not sprung up to our hurt a crop of politicians both corrupt and daring is a gift of fortune. For in former times the state did bring forth such characters, and they made short work of putting down the democracy. For the people loved to be flattered, and in consequence were overthrown, not by the men whom they feared, but by those in whose hands they had placed themselves.


And some of them actually joined the Thirty, who killed more than fifteen hundred of the citizens without trial, before they had even heard the charges on which they were to be put to death, and who would not even allow the relatives to be present at the burial of the dead. Will you not hold the politicians under your control? Will you not humble and dismiss those who are now exultant? Will you not bear in mind that in the past no one has ever attempted the overthrow of the democracy until he has made himself stronger than the courts?


But I would like to reckon up in your presence, fellow citizens, with the author of this motion, the benefactions for which he calls on you to crown Demosthenes. For if, Ctesiphon, you propose to cite that which you made the beginning of your motion, that he did good work in excavating the trenches around the walls, I am astonished at you. For to have been responsible for the necessity of doing the work at all involves an accusation greater than is the credit for having done it well. Indeed, it is not for surrounding the walls with palisades, and not for tearing down the public tombs [Note] that the statesman of clean record ought to ask reward, but for having been responsible for some good to the city.


But if you turn to the second part of your decree, in which you have had the effrontery to write that he is a good man, and “constantly speaks and does what is best for the Athenian people,” omit the pretence and the bombast of your decree, and take hold of the facts, and show us what you mean. I pass by his corruption in the case of the Amphissians and Euboeans; but when you give Demosthenes the credit for the alliance with Thebes, you deceive the ignorant and insult the sensible and well informed. For in failing to mention the crisis and the prestige of these your fellow citizens, which were the real reasons why the alliance was made, you think you prevent our seeing that you are crowning Demosthenes with the credit which belongs to the city.


How great is this imposture, I will try to show you by a signal proof. Not long before Alexander crossed over into Asia, the king of the Persians sent to our people a most insolent and barbarous letter, in which everything was expressed in the most ill-mannered terms; and at the close he wrote, “I will not give you gold; stop asking me for it; you will not get it.”

Aeschines, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [Aeschin.].
<<Aeschin. 3.226 Aeschin. 3.234 (Greek) >>Aeschin. 3.242

Powered by PhiloLogic