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Second Olynthiac

2.1On many occasions, men of Athens, one may, I think, recognize the manifest favor of heaven towards our city, and not least at the present crisis. That Philip has found men willing to fight him, situated on his frontiers and possessed of considerable power, above all so determined that they regard any accommodation with him as both delusive and fatal to their own country—this has all the appearance of a super-human, a divine beneficence. 2.2So the time has come, men of Athens, to look to it that we do not prove more unfriendly to ourselves than circumstances have been, for we shall show ourselves the meanest of mankind, if we abandon not only the cities and the places which we once called our own, but the very allies that fortune has raised up for us and the chances she throws in our way.

2.3Now I do not choose, Athenians, to enumerate the resources of Philip and by such arguments to call on you to rise to the occasion. Do you ask why? Because it seems to me that any dissertation on that topic is a tribute to his enterprise, but a record of our failure. For the higher he has raised himself above his proper level, the more he wins the admiration of the world; but the more you have failed to improve your opportunities, the greater is the discredit that you have incurred. All this then I will waive. 2.4For an impartial investigation, men of Athens, would trace the source of Philip's greatness not to himself, but to this very platform. Of transactions, then, for which Philip should be grateful to those whose policy has served his interests, and for which you might well demand satisfaction, I do not find this the proper time for speaking. There are, however other topics open to me; you will be the better for having heard them, and if you will consent to scrutinize them accurately, men of Athens, you will find in them grave charges against Philip. On these topics I shall endeavor to address you.

2.5Now to call a man perjured and faithless, without drawing attention to his acts, might justly be termed mere abuse; but to describe his conduct in detail and convict him on the whole count fortunately requires only a short speech. Moreover, I have two reasons for thinking the story worth the telling: Philip shall appear as worthless as he really is, and those who stand aghast at his apparent invincibility shall see that he has exhausted all the arts of chicanery on which his greatness was founded at the first, and that his career has now reached its extreme limit. 2.6For my own part, Athenians, I too should be inclined to regard Philip with mingled fear and admiration, if I saw that his success had crowned a career of integrity. But when I consider him attentively, I find that at the outset, when the Olynthians were anxious to consult you, but certain persons were for excluding them from our Assembly, he won our simple hearts by promising to hand over Amphipolis to us and by negotiating that secret treaty note once so much talked about. 2.7I find that next he won the friendship of the Olynthians by capturing Potidaea, which was yours, and thus wronging you, his former allies, note in presenting it to them. Lastly he has won over the Thessalians by promising to bestow Magnesia upon them and by undertaking to conduct the Phocian war note in their interests. In a word, he has hoodwinked everyone that has had any dealings with him; he has played upon the folly of each party in turn and exploited their ignorance of his own character. That is how he has gained his power. 2.8Now even as he has raised himself by these arts, while every community imagined that they were to be the recipients of his favors, so by these same arts he is bound to be brought low again now that the utter selfishness of his conduct has been amply demonstrated. Yes, men of Athens, this is the turning point of Philip's career. If not, let someone step up and prove to me—or rather to you—that my words are untrue, or that those who have been once deceived will continue to trust him, or that the Thessalians who stooped to become his slaves would not now welcome their emancipation.

2.9Again, if anyone here admits the truth of this, but fancies that Philip will remain master of the situation, being already in possession of the fortresses and harbors and other points of vantage, he is mistaken. For when a league is knit together by goodwill, when all the allied states have the same interests, then the individual members are willing to remain steadfast, sharing the toil and enduring the hardships; but when a man has gained power, as Philip has, by rapacity and crime, then the first pretext, some trifling slip, overthrows and shatters all. 2.10It is impossible, men of Athens, impossible to gain permanent power by injustice, perjury, and falsehood. Once in a way and for a brief season such things endure, and fed with hopes make, it may be, a brave show of blossom, but at the last they are detected and fall to pieces. For a house, I take it, or a ship or anything of that sort must have its chief strength in its substructure; and so too in affairs of state the principles and the foundations must be truth and justice. There is no vestige of these today in the power that Philip has built up.

2.11I urge you strongly to send help to Olynthus, and the best and quickest method that anyone can suggest will please me most. To the Thessalians you must send an embassy to inform some of them of our intentions and to stir up the others; for they have already decided to demand the restoration of Pagasae and to protest against the occupation of Magnesia. 2.12But you must make sure, men of Athens, that our envoys do not confine themselves to words; they must be able to give some practical proof that we have taken the field in a way worthy of our city and that we are really grappling with the situation. All words, apart from action, seem vain and idle, especially words from Athenian lips; for the greater our reputation for a ready tongue, the greater the distrust it inspires in all men. 2.13You must indeed prove the thoroughness of your reformation and the importance of your change of policy by raising money, by serving in the field, and by doing everything with a will, if you want anyone to take you seriously. If you consent to carry through the necessary reforms at once, not only will Philip's alliances, men of Athens, prove unstable and untrustworthy, but the weakness of his native power and sovereignty will be completely exposed.

2.14Yes, the power and sovereignty of Macedonia is indeed, as an adjunct, no slight contribution, as you found it when on your side against Olynthus in the days of Timotheus. note On another occasion, in dealing with Potidaea, the Olynthians found its cooperation of some value; and lately it came to the help of the Thessalians in their factions and feuds against the ruling house. The accession, I suppose, even of a small force is in every way helpful; but by itself Macedonia is weak and full of defects. 2.15For indeed Philip by all that might be deemed to constitute his greatness, by his wars and his campaigns, has only reduced his country below its natural level of insecurity. You must not imagine, men of Athens, that his subjects share his tastes. No: glory is his sole object and ambition; in action and in danger he has elected to suffer whatever may befall him putting before a life of safety the distinction of achieving what no other king of Macedonia ever achieved. 2.16But his subjects have no share in the glory that results. They are perpetually buffeted and wearied and distressed by these expeditions north and south, never suffered to give their time to their business or their private affairs, never able to dispose of such produce as they can raise, because the war has closed all the markets in their land. 2.17Hence it is not difficult to see how the majority of the Macedonians regard Philip. As for his household troops and footguards, they have indeed the name of admirable soldiers, well grounded in the science of war; but one who has lived on the spot, a man incapable of falsehood, has informed me that they are no better than other soldiers. 2.18If there is anyone among them who can be described as experienced in war and battle, I was told that Philip from jealousy keeps all such in the background, because he wants to have the credit himself of every action, among his many faults being an insatiable ambition. Any fairly decent or honest man, who cannot stomach the licentiousness of his daily life, the drunkenness and the lewd dancing, is pushed aside as of no account. 2.19All the rest about his court, he said, are robbers and toadies, men capable of getting drunk and performing such dances as I hesitate to name to you here. This report is obviously true, for the men who were unanimously expelled from Athens, as being of far looser morals than the average mountebank—I mean Callias the hangman and fellows of that stamp, low comedians, men who compose ribald songs to raise a laugh against their boon companions—these are the men he welcomes and loves to have about him. 2.20These are perhaps trivial things, and yet, Athenians, to wise men they afford an important proof of the infatuation of his character. For the present, however, his prosperity throws all this into the shade (for success is apt to cover a multitude of faults); but if he trips, then we shall know all about his vices. And it seems to me, Athenians, that we shall not have to wait long for the exposure, if heaven wills and you so resolve. 2.21For just as in our bodies, so long as a man is in sound health, he is conscious of no pain, but if some malady assails him, every part is set a-working, be it rupture or sprain or any other local affection; even so is it with states and monarchies; as long as their wars are on foreign soil, few detect their weaknesses, but when the shock of battle is on their frontiers, it makes all their faults perfectly clear.

2.22But if any of you, Athenians, seeing Philip's good fortune, thinks that he is in that respect a formidable antagonist, he reasons like a prudent man. For fortune is indeed a great weight in the scales; I might almost say it is everything in human affairs. All the same, if you gave me the choice, I should prefer the fortune of Athens to Philip's, provided that you are willing to do your duty yourselves, even to a limited extent; for I am sure you have far greater claims than he upon the favor of the gods. Yet, I think, we sit here doing nothing. 2.23But one who is himself idle cannot possibly call upon his friends, much less upon the gods, to work for him. No wonder that Philip, sharing himself in the toils of the campaign, present at every action, neglecting no chance and wasting no season, gets the better of us, while we procrastinate and pass resolutions and ask questions. I cannot wonder at this: the contrary would rather surprise me, that we, performing no single duty of a combatant, should overcome the man who fulfils them all. 2.24Nay, I am surprised that you, men of Athens, who once withstood the Lacedaemonians in defence of the rights of Hellas, who spurned the opportunity, repeatedly offered, of self-aggrandizement, who lavished your treasure and jeoparded your lives in the field that others might enjoy their rights, now shrink from service and grudge to pay your contributions for the sake of your own possessions. I am surprised that you, who have so often saved the other states, both all of them together and each separately in turn, should sit down under the loss of what is your own. 2.25All this I wonder at, and at another thing besides. I wonder that no one here, men of Athens, can count up how many years you have been at war with Philip, and what you have been doing all that long time. Surely you must know that all that time you have been hesitating, hoping that some other state would take action, accusing and sitting in judgement on one another, and still hoping, hoping—doing in fact pretty much what you are doing now. 2.26And are you so unintelligent, men of Athens, as to hope that the same policy that has brought our state from success to failure will raise us from failure to success? Surely that is neither reasonable nor natural; for in all things it is much easier to keep than to gain. But, in the present instance, of what was once ours the war has left us nothing to keep and everything to gain. This, then, is our own task today. 2.27I say it is your duty to serve cheerfully in person and to reserve your censures till you are masters of the situation. Then, judging all on their merits, assign praise to the deserving and punishment to the wrongdoers, and render excuse impossible by mending your own deficiencies; for you have no right to be severe critics of others' conduct, unless you first set your own house in order. 2.28Why is it, think you, men of Athens, that all the generals you dispatch—if I am to tell you something of the truth about them—leave this war to itself and pursue little wars of their own? It is because in this war the prizes for which you contend are your own—(if, for instance, Amphipolis is captured, the immediate gain will be yours)—while the officers have all the dangers to themselves and no remuneration; but in the other case the risks are smaller and the prizes fall to the officers and the soldiers—Lampsacus, for example, and Sigeum, and the plunder of the merchant-ships. So they turn aside each to what pays him best. 2.29But you, whenever you turn your attention to your reverses, sit in judgement on your officers, but acquit them whenever in defence they plead their necessities. Hence the outcome is strife and contention among yourselves, some taking this side and some that, while the interests of the state suffer. You conduct your party-politics, Athenians as you used to conduct your taxpaying—by syndicates. note Each syndicate has 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. 2.30Surely this system must be abandoned. You must be once more your own masters, and must give to all alike the same chance to speak, to counsel, to act. But if you authorize one class of men to issue orders like absolute monarchs, and force another class to equip the galleys and pay the war-tax and serve in the field, while yet a third class has no other public duty than to vote the condemnation of the latter, you will never get anything essential done at the right time. There will always be some class with a grievance, who will fail you, and then it will be your privilege to punish them instead of the enemy.

2.31To sum up, I propose that all should contribute equitably, each according to his means, that all should serve in turn until all have taken part in the campaign, that all who wish to address you should have a fair hearing, and that you should adopt the best advice offered, not just what this man or that man is pleased to suggest. If you do this, you will be able to congratulate the speaker at once and yourselves later on, when you find the cause of the nation prospering.

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