Redevoeringen, Demosthenes (384-322 v. Chr.): redevoeringen XIII en XVIII
In dealing with the sum of money under discussion and the other matters referred to this Assembly, I see no difficulty, men of Athens, in either of two methods: I may attack the officials who assign and distribute the public funds and may thus gain credit with those who regard this system as detrimental to the State, or I may approve and commend the right to receive these doles and so gratify those who are especially in need of them. For neither class has the interest of the State in view, when they approve or complain of the system, but they are prompted respectively by their poverty or their affluence.
I myself would neither propose such a distribution of the doles, nor oppose the right to receive them; but I do urge you to reflect seriously in your own minds that while the sum of money you are discussing is a trifle, the habit of mind that it fosters is a serious matter. Now if you so organize the receipt of money that it is associated with the performance of duties, so far from injuring, you will actually confer on the State and on yourselves the greatest benefit; but if a festival or any other pretext is good enough to justify a dole, and yet you refuse even to listen to the suggestion that there is any obligation attached to it, beware lest you end by acknowledging that what you now consider a proper practice was a grievous error.
My idea of our duty–do not drown with your clamor what I am about to say, but hear me before you judge–my idea is that, as we have devoted a meeting of the Assembly to the question of receiving the dole, so we ought also to devote a meeting to organization and to equipment for war; and everyone must show himself not merely ready to hear what is said, but also willing to act, so that you may depend on yourselves, Athenians, for your hopes of success, and not be always asking what service this individual or that is rendering.
The total revenues of the State, including your own resources, now squandered on unnecessary objects, and the contributions of your allies, must be shared by each citizen equally, as pay by those of military age and as overseers’ fees, or whatever you like to call it, by those beyond the age-limit; and you must serve in person and not resign that duty to others, but our army must be a national force, equipped from the resources I have named, so that you may be well provided for the performance of your task, and that we may have no repetition of what usually happens now, when you are always bringing your generals to trial and the net result of your exertions is the announcement that “So-and-so, the son of So-and-so, has impeached So-and-so.”
But what is to be the result for you? In the first place, that your allies may be kept loyal, not by maintaining garrisons among them, but by making their interests identical with yours; next, that our generals may not lead mercenaries to the plunder of our allies without even coming in sight of the enemy, so that the profit is all their own, while the State at large incurs the hatred and the abuse, but that they may have their own citizens at their back, and may so deal with our enemies as they now deal with our friends.
But apart from this, many operations demand your actual presence, and beside the advantage of using a national force in a national quarrel, this is necessary on every other ground. For if you were content to let things slide and not worry about the state of Greece, it would be another matter.
But, as it is, you claim to take the lead and to determine the rights of other states; yet neither in the past nor today have you furnished a sufficient force to superintend and secure this claim. On the contrary, it was when you stood utterly aloof and indifferent that the democracies of Mytilene and of Rhodes were destroyed. “Yes, but Rhodes was our enemy,” you may say.
But you should consider, men of Athens, that our hostility towards oligarchies, purely on the ground of principle, is stronger than our hostility towards democracies on any grounds whatever. But to return to my point. My view is that you must be brought under a system, and there must be a uniform scheme for receiving public money and for performing necessary services. I have addressed you before on this subject and have described the method of organizing you, whether you serve in the infantry or the cavalry or in other ways, and also how ample provision may be ensured for all alike.
I will tell you without any concealment what has caused me most disappointment. It is that though the many reforms proposed were all of them important and honorable, no one remembers any of them, but everyone remembers the two obols.1 Yet these can never be worth more than two obols, but the other reforms, together with those that I proposed, are worth all the wealth of the Great King–that a city, so well provided with infantry, triremes, cavalry, and revenues, should be duly organized and equipped.
Why then, you may ask, do I choose the present time for these remarks? Because I think that, as the principle that all citizens should serve for pay is displeasing to some people, and yet the advantage of organization and equipment is approved by all, you ought to begin the business at this point, giving everyone a chance of stating his views on the subject. For the case stands thus: if you are convinced that now is the opportunity for these reforms, all things will be ready when the need of them arrives, but if you pass over the opportunity as unsuitable, then, just when you want to use them, you will be compelled to begin your preparations.
It has been before now remarked, men of Athens, by some speaker–not one of the great body of citizens, but one of those who are likely to have a fit if these reforms are carried out–“What good have we ever got from the speeches of Demosthenes? He comes forward, whenever he thinks well, fills our ears with phrases, denounces our present state, extols our ancestors, and then descends from the platform after raising our hopes and inflating our pride.”
But if I could only induce you to accept any of my proposals, I think that I should confer such benefits on the State that if I tried to describe them now, many of you would disbelieve them, as being too good to be true. And yet even this too I consider no mean benefit, if I accustom you to listen to the best advice. For he who would benefit the State, Athenians, must first purge your ears, for they have been poisoned; so many lies have you been accustomed to hear–anything, in fact, rather than the best advice.
Let me give you an instance, and let no one interrupt me till I have finished my story. You know that a day or two ago the treasury of the Parthenon was broken into. So the speakers in the Assembly, one and all, cried that the democracy was overthrown, that the laws were null and void, and so on. And yet, Athenians, though the culprits–mark whether my words are true–deserved death, it is not through them that the democracy is endangered. Again, a few oars were stolen. “Scourge the thieves torture them,” cried the orators; “the democracy is in danger.” But what is my opinion I say, like the others, that the thief deserves death, but not that the democracy is endangered by such means.
The real danger to democracy no one is bold enough to name; but I will name it. It is in danger when you, men of Athens, are wrongly led, when in spite of your numbers you are helpless, unarmed, unorganized and at variance, when no general or anyone else pays any heed to your resolutions, when no one cares to tell you the truth or set you right, when no one makes an effort to remedy this state of things. And that is what always happens now.
Yes, by heavens, men of Athens, and there are other phrases, false and injurious to the State, that have passed into your common speech, such as “In the law-courts lies your salvation,” and “It is the ballot-box that must save the State.” I know that these courts are sovereign to uphold the rights of citizen against citizen, but it is by arms that you must conquer the enemy, and upon arms depends the safety of the State.
For resolutions will not give your men victory in battle, but those who with the help of arms conquer the enemy shall win for you power and security to pass resolutions and to do what you will. For in the field you ought to be terrible, but in the courts sympathetic.
If my speeches seem to be greater than my own worth, that is itself a virtue in them. For a speech, if it is to be delivered on behalf of this great city and our wide interests, ought always to appear greater than the individual who utters it; it ought to approximate to your reputation, not to the reputation of the speaker. But none of the men whom you delight to honor speaks like that, and I will tell you what their excuse is.
Men who aim at office and at official rank go to and fro cringing to the favours of the electorate; each one’s ambition is to join the sacred ranks of the generals, not to do a man’s work. If anyone is really capable of undertaking a job, he thinks that by exploiting the reputation and renown of Athens, profiting by the absence of opposition, holding out hopes to you and nothing but hopes, he will be sole inheritor of your advantages–and so he is; but if you act as your own agents in every case, he will only have his equal share with the rest, both in the labours and also in their results.
The politicians, absorbed in their profession, neglect to devise the best policy for you and have joined the ranks of the office-seekers; and you conduct your party-politics as you used to conduct your tax-paying–by syndicates. There is an orator for chairman, with a general under him, and three hundred to do the shouting. The rest of you are attached now to one party and now to another. Hence all that you gain is that So-and-so has a public statue and So-and-so makes his fortune–just one or two men profiting at the expense of the State. The rest of you are idle witnesses of their prosperity, surrendering to them, for the sake of an easy life from day to day, the great and glorious prosperity which is yours by inheritance.
Yet consider how things were managed in the days of your ancestors, for you need not go abroad for examples to teach you your duty. Take Themistocles, who was your general in the sea-fight at Salamis, and Miltiades, who commanded at Marathon, and many more whose good services were far greater than those of our present generals: verily our ancestors put up no bronze statues to them, but rewarded them as men in no way superior to themselves.
For truly, men of Athens, they never robbed themselves of any of their achievements, nor would anyone dream of speaking of Themistocles’ fight at Salamis, but of the Athenians’ fight, nor of Miltiades’ battle at Marathon, but of the Athenians’ battle. But now we often hear it said that Timotheus took Corcyra, that Iphicrates cut up the Spartan detachment, or that Chabrias won the sea-fight off Naxos. For you seem to waive your own right to these successes by the extravagant honors which you have bestowed on each of these officers.
Rewards to citizens, rightly thus granted by our ancestors, are wrongly granted by you. But how about foreigners? When Meno of Pharsalus gave twelve talents of silver towards the war at Eion near Amphipolis and supported us with two hundred cavalry of his own vassals, our ancestors did not vote him the citizenship, but only gave him immunity from taxes.
On an earlier occasion, when Perdiccas, who was king of Macedonia at the time of the Persian invasions, destroyed the barbarians who were retreating after their defeat at Plataea and so completed the discomfiture of the Great King, they did not vote him the citizenship, but only gave him immunity from taxes; because, I presume, they regarded their own country as great, glorious, and venerable, and as something greater than any service rendered. But now, Athenians, you make citizens of the scum of mankind, menial sons of menial fathers, charging a price for it as for any other commodity.
You have got into the habit of acting thus, not because in ability you are inferior to your ancestors, but because it was second nature with them to have a high opinion of themselves, while you, Athenians, have lost that virtue. You cannot, I suppose, have a proud and chivalrous spirit, if your conduct is mean and paltry, any more than your spirit can be mean and humble, if your conduct is honorable and glorious; for whatever a man’s pursuits are, such must be his spirit.
But reflect on what might be named as the outstanding achievements of your ancestors and of yourselves, if haply the comparison may yet enable you to become your own masters. For five and forty years they commanded the willing obedience of the Greeks; more than ten thousand talents did they accumulate in our Acropolis; many honorable trophies for victories on sea and on land did they erect, in which even yet we take a pride. Yet remember that they erected them, not that we might wonder as we gaze at them, but that we might also imitate the virtues of the dedicators.
Thus did our ancestors; but as for us, who have gained, as you all see, a clear field, consider whether we can match them. Have we not wasted more than fifteen hundred talents on the needy communities of Greece? Have we not squandered our private estates, our public funds, and the contributions of our allies? Have not the allies gained in war been lost in the peace?
But, it may be said, in these respects alone things were better then than now, but in other respects worse. Far from it; but let us examine any instance you please. The buildings which they left behind them to adorn our city–temples, harbors, and their accessories–were so great and so fair that we who come after must despair of ever surpassing them; the Propylaea yonder, the docks, the porticoes and the rest, with which they beautified the city that they have bequeathed to us.
But the private houses of those who rose to power were so modest and so in accordance with the style of our constitution that the homes of their famous men, of Themistocles and Cimon and Aristides, as any of you can see that knows them, are not a whit more splendid than those of their neighbors.
But today, men of Athens, while our public works are confined to the provision of roads and fountains, whitewash and balderdash (and I blame, not those who introduced these improvements–far from it!–but you, if you imagine that these are all that is required of you ), private individuals, who control any of the State-funds, have some of them reared private houses, not merely finer than the majority, but more stately than our public edifices, and others have purchased and cultivated estates more vast than they ever dreamed of before.
The cause of all this change is that then the people controlled and dispensed everything, and the rest were well content to accept at their hand honor and authority and reward; but now, on the contrary, the politicians hold the purse-strings and manage everything, while the people are in the position of lackeys and hangers-on, and you are content to accept whatever your masters dole out to you.
Such, in consequence, is the state of our public affairs that if anyone read out your resolutions and then went on to describe your performances, not a soul would believe that the same men were responsible for the one and for the other. Take for instance the decrees that you passed against the accursed Megarians, when they appropriated the sacred demesne, that you should march out and prevent it and forbid it; in favour of the Phliasians, when they were exiled the other day, that you should help them and not give them up to their murderers, and should call for volunteers from the Peloponnese.
That, Athenians, was all very noble and right and worthy of our city; but the resultant action was simply of no account. So your hostility is expressed in your decrees, but action is beyond your control. Your decrees accord with the traditions of Athens, but your powers bear no relation to your decrees.
I, however, would advise you–do not be angry with me–either to humble yourselves and be content to mind your own affairs, or else to get ready a more powerful force. If I felt sure that you were Siphnians or Cythnians or people of that sort, I should counsel you to be less proud, but since you are Athenians, I urge you to get your force ready. For it would be a disgrace, men of Athens, a disgrace to desert that post of honor which your ancestors bequeathed to you.
But besides it is no longer in your power, even if you wished it, to hold aloof from Greek affairs. For you have many exploits to your credit from the earliest times, and it would be disgraceful to abandon the friends you have, while it is impossible to trust your enemies and allow them to grow powerful. In short, you stand in the same position as your statesmen stand to you–they cannot retire when they would; for you are definitely involved in the politics of Greece.
On the Treaty with Alexander
Our hearty assent, men of Athens, is due to those who insist that we should abide by our oaths and covenants, provided that they do so from conviction; for I believe that nothing becomes a democratic people more than zeal for equity and justice. Those, therefore, who are so emphatic in urging you to this course should not keep wearying you with speeches which are belied by their practice, but after submitting now to full inquiry, should either for the future be sure of your assent in these matters, or else make way for the counsels of those who show a truer conception of what is just, so that you may either voluntarily submit to wrong, making the wrongdoer a free gift of your submission, or having definitely resolved to put justice before all other claims, may pursue your own interests, clear from all reproach, without further hesitation. But from the very terms of the compact and from the oaths which ratified the general peace, you may at once see who are its transgressors; and that those transgressions are serious, I will prove to you concisely.
Now if you were asked, men of Athens, what form of compulsion would most rouse your indignation, I think that if the sons of Pisistratus had been alive at the present time and someone tried to compel you to restore them, you would snatch up your weapons and brave any danger rather than receive them back, or if you did consent, you would be slaves, as surely as if you had been bought for money; nay, more so, inasmuch as no one would intentionally kill his own servant, but the victims of tyranny may be seen executed without trial, as well as outraged in the persons of their wives and children.
Therefore when Alexander, contrary to the oaths and the compacts as set forth in the general peace, restored those tyrants, the sons of Philiades, to Messene, had he any regard for justice? Did he not rather give play to his own tyrannical disposition, showing little regard for you and the joint agreement?
It is surely wrong that you should be highly indignant when you are the victims of such coercion, but should neglect all safeguards if it is employed somewhere else, contrary to the sworn agreement with you, and that we here at Athens should be urged by certain speakers to abide by the oaths, while they grant this liberty of action to the men who have so notoriously made those oaths of no effect.
But this can never happen, if you are willing to see justice done; for it is further stipulated in the compact that anyone who acts as Alexander has acted shall be the enemy of all the other parties to the compact, and his country shall be hostile territory, and all the parties shall unite in a campaign against him. So if we carry out the agreement, we shall treat the restorer of the tyrants as an enemy.
But these champions of tyranny might urge that the sons of Philiades were tyrants of Messene before the compact was made, and that that was why Alexander restored them. But it is a ridiculous principle to expel the Lesbian tyrants on the ground that their rule is an outrage–I mean the tyrants of Antissa and Eresus, who established themselves before the agreement–and yet to imagine that it is a matter of indifference at Messene, where the same harsh system prevails.
Again, the compact at the very beginning enjoins that the Greeks shall be free and independent. Is it not, then, the height of absurdity that the clause about freedom should stand first in the compact, and that one who has enslaved others should be supposed not to have acted contrary to the joint agreement? Therefore, men of Athens, if we are going to abide by our oaths and covenants and do what is just (for it is to this that these speakers, as I have said, are urging you ), it is our bounden duty to seize our arms and take the field against the transgressors with all who will join us.
Or do you think that opportunity sometimes so prevails that men pursue expediency even apart from justice–and yet now, when justice and opportunity and expediency all concur, will you actually wait for some other season to claim your liberties and the liberties of all the Greeks?
I come to another claim sanctioned by the compact. For the actual words are, “If any of the parties shall overthrow the constitution established in the several states at the date when they took the oaths to observe the peace, they shall be treated as enemies by all the parties to the peace.” But just reflect, men of Athens, that the Achaeans in the Peloponnese enjoyed democratic government, and one of their democracies, that of Pellene, has now been overthrown by the Macedonian king, who has expelled the majority of the citizens, given their property to their slaves, and set up Chaeron, the wrestler, as their tyrant.
But we ourselves are parties to the peace, which instructs us to treat as enemies those who are guilty of such acts. Now in view of this, are we to obey these joint instructions and treat them as enemies, or will anyone be blackguard enough to say no–one of the hirelings in the pay of the Macedonian king, one of those who have grown rich at your expense?
For you may be sure they are not ignorant of these facts; but they have grown so insolent, with the tyrant’s troops for their bodyguard, that they insist on your observing the already violated oaths, as if Alexander’s absolute sovereignty extended over perjury also; and they compel you to rescind your own laws, releasing men who have been condemned in your courts and forcing you to sanction numberless other illegalities.
And their conduct is natural; for men who have sold themselves to a policy antagonistic to the interests of their country cannot trouble themselves about laws and oaths; they are to them mere terms which they employ to lead astray the citizens who come to the Assembly for diversion and not for careful inquiry, and who forget that present inaction will some day result in wild confusion.
My own advice, as I said at the start, is to believe them when they say that we ought to abide by the joint agreement, unless, when they insist on our abiding by the oaths, they interpret them as not forbidding any act of injustice, or imagine that no one will be sensible of the change from democracy to tyranny or of the overthrow of a free constitution.
Now for a still greater absurdity. For it is provided in the compact that it shall be the business of the delegates at the Congress and those responsible for public safety to see that in the states that are parties to the peace there shall be no executions and banishments contrary to the laws established in those states, no confiscation of property, no partition of lands, no cancelling of debts, and no emancipation of slaves for purposes of revolution. But these speakers are so far from seeking to prevent any of these evils, that they join in promoting them. And do they not then deserve death–the men who promote in the various states those terrible calamities which, because they are so serious, this important body has been commissioned to prevent
I will point out a further breach of the compact. For it is laid down that it shall not be lawful for exiles to set out, bearing arms, from the states which are parties to the peace, with hostile intent against any of the states included in the peace; but if they do, then that city from which they set out shall be excluded from the terms of the treaty. Now the Macedonian king has been so unscrupulous about bearing arms that he has never yet laid them down, but even now goes about bearing arms, as far as is in his power, and more so indeed now than ever, inasmuch as he has reinstated the professional trainer at Sicyon by an edict, and other exiles elsewhere.
Therefore if we are to keep this joint agreement, as these speakers say, the states that are guilty of these offences are excluded from our treaty. If, indeed, we ought to hush the matter up, we must never say that they are the Macedonian states; but if the men who are subservient to the Macedonian king against your interests never cease urging us to carry out the joint agreement, let us take them at their word, since their contention is just, and let us, as our oath demands, exclude the guilty parties from the treaty, and form a plan for dealing with men whose temper is so brutally dictatorial, and who are constantly either plotting or acting against us and mocking at the general peace.
What, I ask you, can they urge against the correctness of this view? Will they claim that the agreement stands good as against our city, but demur to it where it protects our interests? Does it really seem fair that this should be so? And if there is anything in the treaty that favors our enemies against our city, will they always make the most of it, but if there is anything that tells the other way and is at once just and advantageous to us, will they think that unremitting opposition is their peculiar duty?
But to prove to you still more clearly that no Greeks will accuse you of transgressing any of the terms of the joint agreement, but will even be grateful to you for exposing the real transgressors, I will just touch upon a few of the many points that might be mentioned. For the compact, of course, provides that all the parties to the peace may sail the seas, and that none may hinder them or force a ship of any of them to come to harbor, and that anyone who violates this shall be treated as an enemy by all the parties to the peace.
Now, men of Athens, you have most distinctly seen this done by the Macedonians; for they have grown so arrogant that they forced all our ships coming from the Black Sea to put in at Tenedos, and under one pretence or another refused to release them until you passed a decree to man and launch a hundred war-galleys instantly, and you put Menestheus in command.
Is it not, then, absurd that others should be guilty of so many serious transgressions, but that their friends in Athens, instead of restraining the transgressors, should urge us to abide by the terms thus lightly regarded? As if there were a clause added, permitting some to violate them, but forbidding others even to defend their rights!
But was not the conduct of the Macedonians as stupid as it was lawless, when they committed such a gross violation of their oaths as deservedly went near to cost them their right to command at sea? Even as it is, they have supplied us with this unquestionable claim against them, whenever we choose to press it. For surely their violation of the joint agreement is not lessened because they have now ceased to offend.
But they are in luck, because they can make the most of your supineness, which prefers to take no advantage even of your due rights.
The greatest humiliation, however, that we have suffered is that all the other Greeks and barbarians dread your enmity, but these upstarts alone can make you despise yourselves, sometimes by persuasion, sometimes by force, as if Abdera or Maronea, and not Athens, were the scene of their political activities.
Moreover, while they weaken your cause and strengthen that of your enemies, they at the same time admit unconsciously that our city is irresistible, because they bid her uphold justice by injustice, as though she could easily vanquish her enemies, if she preferred to consult her own interests.
And they have taken up a reasonable attitude; for as long as we, single-handed, can maintain an unchallenged supremacy at sea, we can devise other and stronger defences on land in addition to our existing forces, especially if by good fortune we can get rid of these politicians, who have for their bodyguard the hosts of tyranny, and if some of them are destroyed and others conclusively proved to be worthless.
Such then, in the matter of the ships, has been the violation of the compact by the Macedonian king, in addition to the other cases mentioned. But the most insolent and overbearing exploit of the Macedonians was that performed quite recently, when they dared to sail into the Piraeus, contrary to our mutual agreement. Moreover, men of Athens, because it was only a single war-galley, it must not be regarded as a slight matter, but as an experiment made to see whether we should overlook it, so that they could repeat it on a larger scale, and also as a proof that they cared as little for these terms of agreement as for those that have been already mentioned.
For that it was an encroachment little by little and was meant to accustom us to suffering such intrusions into our harbors, is plain from the following consideration. For the mere fact that the man who sailed the ship in, and whom you ought to have put out of existence at once, galley and all, asked permission to build small boats in our harbor–does it not make it perfectly plain that their scheme was not so much to enter the harbor as to be inside it from the first? And if we tolerate small craft, a little later it will be war-galleys as well; and if at first we sanction a few, there will soon be many.
For they cannot allege as their excuse that there is plenty of timber for shipbuilding at Athens, where we import it with great trouble from distant parts, but that it is scarce in Macedonia, where there is a cheap supply for all who want it. No, they thought that they would build their ships here and also furnish them with crews in our harbor, though it is expressly stipulated in the joint agreement that nothing of the kind should be permitted; and they thought too that it would always be more and more in their power to do this. Thus on every hand they treat our city with contempt, thanks to their prompters here, who suggest to them everything they should do; and thus with their help they have discovered that there is an indescribable slackness and feebleness in our city, and that we take no thought for the morrow, and that it never occurs to us to consider how the tyrant is carrying out the joint agreement.