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DEMOSTHENES

The First Philippic

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Of that which has been read, Athenians, most is true, unhappily true; perhaps not agreeable to hear. And if what one passes over in speaking, to avoid offense, one could pass over in reality, it is right to humor the audience; but if graciousness of speech, where it is out of place, does harm in action, shameful is it, Athenians, to delude ourselves, and by putting off everything unpleasant to miss the time for all operations, and be unable even to understand, that skilful makers of war should not follow circumstances, but be in advance of them; that just as a general may be expected to lead his armies, so are men of prudent counsel to guide circumstances, in order that their resolutions may be accomplished, not their motions determined by the event. Yet you, Athenians, with larger means than any people--ships, infantry, cavalry, and revenue--have never up to this day made proper use of any of them; and your war with Philip differs in no respect from the boxing of barbarians. For among them the party struck feels always for the blow; strike him somewhere else, there go his hands again; ward or look in the face he cannot nor will. So you, if you hear of Philip in the Chersonese, vote to send relief there if at Thermopylae, the same; if anywhere else, you run after his heels up and down, and are commanded by him; no plan have you devised for the war, no circumstance do you see beforehand, only when you learn that something is done, or about to be done. Formerly perhaps this was allowable: now it is come to a crisis, to be tolerable no longer. And it seems, men of Athens, as if some god, ashamed for us at our proceedings, has put this activity into Philip. For had he been willing to remain quiet in possession of his conquests and prizes, and attempted nothing further, some of you, I think, would be satisfied with a state of things, which brands our nation with the shame of cowardice and the foulest disgrace. But by continually encroaching and grasping after more, he may possibly rouse you, if you have not altogether despaired. I marvel, indeed, that none of you, Athenians, notices with concern and anger, that the beginning of this war was to chastise Philip, the end is to protect ourselves against his attacks. One thing is clear: he will not stop, unless someone oppose him. And shall we wait for this? And if you dispatch empty galleys and hopes from this or that person, think ye all is well? Shall we not embark? Shall we not sail with at least a part of our national forces, now though not before? Shall we not make a descent upon his coast? Where, then, shall we land? someone asks. The war itself, men of Athens, will discover the rotten parts of his empire, if we make a trial; but if we sit at home, hearing the orators accuse and malign one another, no good can ever be achieved. Methinks, where a portion of our citizens, though not all, are commissioned with the rest, Heaven blesses, and Fortune aids the struggle: but where you send out a general and an empty decree and hopes from the hustings, nothing that you desire is done; your enemies scoff, and your allies die for fear of such an armament. For it is impossible--ay, impossible, for one man to execute all your wishes: to promise, and assert, and accuse this or that person, is possible; but so your affairs are ruined. The general commands wretched unpaid hirelings; here are persons easily found, who tell you lies of his conduct; you vote at random from what you hear: what then can be expected.

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XIII

On Organization

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.

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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.