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date: 27 June 2022

Demosthenes (2), Athenian oratorlocked

Demosthenes (2), Athenian oratorlocked

  • Edward Harris

Summary

Though he had many detractors, Demosthenes was often ranked in antiquity as the greatest of the Greek orators. Demosthenes lost his father at an early age, and his estate was mismanaged by his guardians, whom he later sued in an attempt to recovery his inheritance. He began his career in the assembly in 354 bce, speaking about public finances and foreign policy, and wrote several speeches for important public cases. Starting in 351 he warned the Athenians about the dangers of Macedonian expansionism. Even though he helped to negotiate the Peace of Philocrates, he later attacked the treaty and contributed to the breakdown in Athenian relations with Philip II which led to the battle of Chaeronea in 338. Despite this defeat, he remained popular and was able to defend his reputation against the attacks of Aeschines at the trial of Ctesiphon in 330. Later convicted of bribery in the Harpalus affair, he went into exile. He subsequently returned but fled abroad again and committed suicide to avoid capture by his Macedonian pursuers.

Subjects

  • Greek History and Historiography
  • Greek Law
  • Greek Literature

Updated in this version

Article rewritten to reflect current scholarship.

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