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- The Olynthiacs and the Phillippics of Demosthenes - 1/16 -







_Literally Translated, with Notes_




* * * * *



Olynthus was a city in Macedonia, at the head of the Toronaic gulf, and north of the peninsula of Pallene. It was colonized by a people from Chalcis in Euboea, and commanded a large district called Chalcidice, in which there were thirty-two cities. Over all this tract the sway of Olynthus was considerable, and she had waged wars anciently with Athens and Sparta, and been formidable to Philip's predecessors on the throne of Macedon. Soon after Philip's accession, the Olynthians had disputes with him, which were at first accommodated, and he gratified them by the cession of Anthemus. They then joined him in a war against Athens, and he gave up to them Potidaea, which had yielded to their united arms. After the lapse of some years, during which Philip had greatly increased his power, and acquired considerable influence in Thessaly and Thrace, the Olynthians became alarmed, and began to think him too dangerous a neighbor. The immediate cause of rupture was an attack which he made on one of the Chalcidian towns. An embassy was instantly sent to Athens, to negotiate an alliance. Philip, considering this as an infraction of their treaty with him, declared war against them, and invaded their territory. A second embassy was sent to Athens, pressing for assistance. The question was debated in the popular assembly. Demades, an orator of considerable ability, but profligate character, opposed the alliance. Many speakers were heard; and at length Demosthenes rose to support the prayer of the embassy, delivering one of those clear and forcible speeches, which seldom failed to make a strong impression on his audience. The alliance was accepted, and succors voted.

The orator here delicately touches on the law of Eubulus, which had made it capital to propose that the Theoric fund should be applied to military service. This fund was in fact the surplus revenue of the civil administration, which by the ancient law was appropriated to the defense of the commonwealth; but it had by various means been diverted from that purpose, and expended in largesses to the people, to enable them to attend the theatre, and other public shows and amusements. The law of Eubulus perpetuated this abuse. (See my article _Theorica_ in the Archaeological Dictionary.) Demosthenes, seeing the necessity of a war supply, hints that this absurd law ought to be abolished, but does not openly propose it.

There has been much difference of opinion among the learned as to the order of the three Olynthiac orations; nor is it certain, whether they were spoken on the occasion of one embassy, or several embassies. The curious may consult Bishop Thirlwall's Appendix to the fifth volume of his Grecian History, and Jacobs' Introduction to his translation. I have followed the common order, as adopted by Bekker, whose edition of Demosthenes is the text of this translation; and indeed my opinion is, on the whole, in favor of preserving the common order, though the plan of this work prevents my entering into controversy on the question. To enable the reader more fully to understand the following orations, I have in an Appendix to this volume given a brief account of Olynthus, showing its position with reference to Macedonia, and the importance of its acquisition to Philip. The historical abstract prefixed to this volume is intended chiefly to assist the reader in reference to dates. Such occurrences only are noticed as may be useful to illustrate Demosthenes.

I believe, men of Athens, you would give much to know, what is the true policy to be adopted in the present matter of inquiry. This being the case, you should be willing to hear with attention these who offer you their counsel. Besides that you will have the benefit of all preconsidered advice, I esteem it part of your good fortune, that many fit suggestions will occur to some speakers at the moment, so that from them all you may easily choose what is profitable.

The present juncture, Athenians, all but proclaims aloud, that you must yourselves take these affairs in hand, if you care for their success. I know not how we seem disposed in the matter. [Footnote: This is a cautious way of hinting at the general reluctance to adopt a vigorous policy. And the reader will observe the use of the first person, whereby the orator includes himself in the same insinuation.] My own opinion is, vote succor immediately, and make the speediest preparations for sending it off from Athens, that you may not incur the same mishap as before; send also embassadors, to announce this, and watch the proceedings. For the danger is, that this man, being unscrupulous and clever at turning events to account, making concessions when it suits him, threatening at other times, (his threats may well be believed,) slandering us and urging our absence against us, may convert and wrest to his use some of our main resources. Though, strange to say, Athenians, the very cause of Philip's strength is a circumstance favorable to you. [Footnote: After alarming the people by showing the strength of their adversary, he turns off skillfully to a topic of encouragement.] His having it in his sole power to publish or conceal his designs, his being at the same time general, sovereign, paymaster, and every where accompanying his army, is a great advantage for quick and timely operations in war; but, for a peace with the Olynthians, which he would gladly make, it has a contrary effect. For it is plain to the Olynthians, that now they are fighting, not for glory or a slice of territory, but to save their country from destruction and servitude. They know how he treated those Amphipolitans who surrendered to him their city, and those Pydneans who gave him admittance. [Footnote: Amphipolis was a city at the head of the Strymonic gulf, in that part of Macedonia which approaches western Thrace. It had been built formerly by an Athenian colony, and was taken by the Spartan general Brasidas in the Peloponnesian war. Ever since Athens regained her character of an imperial state, she had desired to recover Amphipolis, which was important for its maritime position, its exportation of iron, and especially from the vicinity of the forests near the Strymon, which afforded an inexhaustible supply of ship-timber. But she had never been able to accomplish that object. Philip, who at that time possessed no maritime town of importance, was for obvious reasons anxious to win Amphipolis for himself; and he got possession of it partly by force of arms, partly by the treachery of certain Amphipolitans who were attached to his interest. It seems the Athenians had been amused by a promise of Philip to give up the town to them. The non-performance of this compact led to their first long war with him. Immediately after the capture of Amphipolis, Philip marched against Pydna, and was admitted into the town.] And generally, I believe, a despotic power is mistrusted by free states, especially if their dominions are adjoining. All this being known to you, Athenians, all else of importance considered, I say, you must take heart and spirit, and apply yourselves more than ever to the war, contributing promptly, serving personally, leaving nothing undone. No plea or pretense is left you for declining your duty. What you were all so clamorous about, that the Olynthians should be pressed into a war with Philip, has of itself come to pass, [Footnote: Compare Virgil, Aen. ix. 6.

Turne, quod optanti Divum promittere nemo Auderet, volvenda dies en attulit ultro.]

and in a way most advantageous to you. For, had they undertaken the war at your instance, they might have been slippery allies, with minds but half resolved perhaps: but since they hate him on a quarrel of their own, their enmity is like to endure on account of their fears and their wrongs. You must not then, Athenians, forego this lucky opportunity, nor commit the error which you have often done heretofore. For example, when we returned from succoring the Euboeans, and Hierax and Stratocles of Amphipolis came to this platform, [Footnote: The hustings from which the speakers addressed the people. It was cut to the height of ten feet out of the rock which formed the boundary wall of the assembly; and was ascended by a flight of steps.] urging us to sail and receive possession of their city, if we had shown the same zeal for ourselves as for the safety of Euboea, you would have held Amphipolis then and been rid of all the troubles that ensued. Again, when news came that Pydna, [Footnote: Potidaea was in the peninsula of Pallene, near Olynthus, and was therefore given by Philip to the Olynthians, as mentioned in the argument. Methone and Pydna are on the Macedonian coast approaching Thessaly. Pagasae is a Thessalian town in the Magnesian district. It was the sea-port of Pherae, capital of the tyrant Lycophron, against whom Philip was invited to assist the Thessalians. Philip overcame Lycophron, and restored republican government at Pherae; but Pagasae he garrisoned himself, and also Magnesia, a coast-town in the same district.] Potidaea, Methone, Pagasae, and the other places (not to waste time in enumerating them) were besieged, had we to any one of these in the first instance carried prompt and reasonable succor, we should have found Philip far more tractable and humble now. But, by always neglecting the present, and imagining the future would shift for itself, we, O men of Athens, have exalted Philip, and made him greater than any king of Macedon ever was. Here then is come a crisis, this of Olynthus, self-offered to the state, inferior to none of the former. And methinks, men of Athens, any man fairly estimating what the gods have done for us, notwithstanding many untoward circumstances, might with reason be grateful to them. Our numerous losses in war may justly be charged to our own negligence; but that they happened not long ago, and that an alliance, to counterbalance them, is open to our acceptance, I must regard as manifestations of divine favor. It is much the same as in money matters. If a man keep what he gets, he is thankful to fortune; if he lose it by imprudence, he loses withal his memory of the obligation.

The Olynthiacs and the Phillippics of Demosthenes - 1/16

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