Demosthenes, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [lemma count] [Dem.].
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On Organization

13.1In 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. 13.2I 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. 13.3My 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. 13.4The 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, 13.5but 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.” 13.6But 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. 13.7But 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. 13.8But, 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. 13.9But 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. 13.10I 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. note 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.

13.11Why 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.

13.12It 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.” 13.13But 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. 13.14Let 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 note 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. 13.15The 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. 13.16Yes, 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. 13.17For 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.

13.18If 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. 13.19Men 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. 13.20The 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. note 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.

13.21Yet 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. 13.22For 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. note For you seem to waive your own right to these successes by the extravagant honors which you have bestowed on each of these officers. 13.23Rewards 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 note 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. 13.24On an earlier occasion, when Perdiccas, note 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. 13.25You 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.

13.26But 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 note 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. 13.27Thus 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? note 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? 13.28But, 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. 13.29But 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. 13.30But 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. 13.31The 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.

13.32Such, 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, note 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. 13.33That, 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. 13.34I, 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 note 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. 13.35But 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.

13.36This, Athenians, is the sum of all that I have said. Your orators never make you either bad men or good, but you make them whichever you choose; for it is not you that aim at what they wish for, but they who aim at whatever they think you desire. You therefore must start with a noble ambition and all will be well, for then no orator will give you base counsel, or else he will gain nothing by it, having no one to take him at his word.

Demosthenes, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [lemma count] [Dem.].
<<Dem. 12 Dem. 13 (Greek) >>Dem. 14

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