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On the Treaty with Alexander

17.1Our hearty assent, men of Athens, is due to those who insist that we should abide by our oaths and covenants, provided that they do so from conviction; for I believe that nothing becomes a democratic people more than zeal for equity and justice. Those, therefore, who are so emphatic in urging you to this course should not keep wearying you with speeches which are belied by their practice, but after submitting now to full inquiry, should either for the future be sure of your assent in these matters, or else make way for the counsels of those who show a truer conception of what is just, 17.2so that you may either voluntarily submit to wrong, making the wrongdoer a free gift of your submission, or having definitely resolved to put justice before all other claims, may pursue your own interests, clear from all reproach, without further hesitation. But from the very terms of the compact and from the oaths which ratified the general peace, you may at once see who are its transgressors; and that those transgressions are serious, I will prove to you concisely.

17.3Now if you were asked, men of Athens, what form of compulsion would most rouse your indignation, I think that if the sons of Pisistratus note had been alive at the present time and someone tried to compel you to restore them, you would snatch up your weapons and brave any danger rather than receive them back, or if you did consent, you would be slaves, as surely as if you had been bought for money; nay, more so, inasmuch as no one would intentionally kill his own servant, but the victims of tyranny may be seen executed without trial, as well as outraged in the persons of their wives and children. 17.4Therefore when Alexander, contrary to the oaths and the compacts as set forth in the general peace, restored those tyrants, the sons of Philiades, note to Messene, had he any regard for justice? Did he not rather give play to his own tyrannical disposition, showing little regard for you and the joint agreement? 17.5It is surely wrong that you should be highly indignant when you are the victims of such coercion, but should neglect all safeguards if it is employed somewhere else, contrary to the sworn agreement with you, and that we here at Athens should be urged by certain speakers to abide by the oaths, while they grant this liberty of action to the men who have so notoriously made those oaths of no effect. 17.6But this can never happen, if you are willing to see justice done; for it is further stipulated in the compact that anyone who acts as Alexander has acted shall be the enemy of all the other parties to the compact, and his country shall be hostile territory, and all the parties shall unite in a campaign against him. So if we carry out the agreement, we shall treat the restorer of the tyrants as an enemy.

17.7But these champions of tyranny might urge that the sons of Philiades were tyrants of Messene before the compact was made, and that that was why Alexander restored them. But it is a ridiculous principle to expel the Lesbian tyrants on the ground that their rule is an outrage—I mean the tyrants of Antissa and Eresus, who established themselves before the agreement—and yet to imagine that it is a matter of indifference at Messene, where the same harsh system prevails.

17.8Again, the compact at the very beginning enjoins that the Greeks shall be free and independent. Is it not, then, the height of absurdity that the clause about freedom should stand first in the compact, and that one who has enslaved others should be supposed not to have acted contrary to the joint agreement? Therefore, men of Athens, if we are going to abide by our oaths and covenants and do what is just (for it is to this that these speakers, as I have said, are urging you), it is our bounden duty to seize our arms and take the field against the transgressors with all who will join us. 17.9Or do you think that opportunity sometimes so prevails that men pursue expediency even apart from justice—and yet now, when justice and opportunity and expediency all concur, will you actually wait for some other season to claim your liberties and the liberties of all the Greeks?

17.10I come to another claim sanctioned by the compact. For the actual words are, “If any of the parties shall overthrow the constitution established in the several states at the date when they took the oaths to observe the peace, they shall be treated as enemies by all the parties to the peace.” But just reflect, men of Athens, that the Achaeans in the Peloponnese enjoyed democratic government, and one of their democracies, that of Pellene, has now been overthrown by the Macedonian king, who has expelled the majority of the citizens, given their property to their slaves, and set up Chaeron, the wrestler, as their tyrant. 17.11But we ourselves are parties to the peace, which instructs us to treat as enemies those who are guilty of such acts. Now in view of this, are we to obey these joint instructions and treat them as enemies, or will anyone be blackguard note enough to say no—one of the hirelings in the pay of the Macedonian king, one of those who have grown rich at your expense? 17.12For you may be sure they are not ignorant of these facts; but they have grown so insolent, with the tyrant's troops for their bodyguard, that they insist on your observing the already violated oaths, as if Alexander's absolute sovereignty extended over perjury also; and they compel you to rescind your own laws, releasing men who have been condemned in your courts and forcing you to sanction numberless other illegalities. 17.13And their conduct is natural; for men who have sold themselves to a policy antagonistic to the interests of their country cannot trouble themselves about laws and oaths; they are to them mere terms which they employ to lead astray the citizens who come to the Assembly for diversion and not for careful inquiry, and who forget that present inaction will some day result in wild confusion. 17.14My own advice, as I said at the start, is to believe them when they say that we ought to abide by the joint agreement, unless, when they insist on our abiding by the oaths, they interpret them as not forbidding any act of injustice, or imagine that no one will be sensible of the change from democracy to tyranny or of the overthrow of a free constitution.

17.15Now for a still greater absurdity. For it is provided in the compact that it shall be the business of the delegates at the Congress and those responsible for public safety to see that in the states that are parties to the peace there shall be no executions and banishments contrary to the laws established in those states, no confiscation of property, no partition of lands, no cancelling of debts, and no emancipation of slaves for purposes of revolution. But these speakers are so far from seeking to prevent any of these evils, that they join in promoting them. And do they not then deserve death—the men who promote in the various states those terrible calamities which, because they are so serious, this important body has been commissioned to prevent note

17.16I will point out a further breach of the compact. For it is laid down that it shall not be lawful for exiles to set out, bearing arms, from the states which are parties to the peace, with hostile intent against any of the states included in the peace; but if they do, then that city from which they set out shall be excluded from the terms of the treaty. Now the Macedonian king has been so unscrupulous about bearing arms that he has never yet laid them down, but even now goes about bearing arms, as far as is in his power, and more so indeed now than ever, inasmuch as he has reinstated the professional trainer at Sicyon by an edict, and other exiles elsewhere. 17.17Therefore if we are to keep this joint agreement, as these speakers say, the states that are guilty of these offences are excluded from our treaty. If, indeed, we ought to hush the matter up, we must never say that they are the Macedonian states note; but if the men who are subservient to the Macedonian king against your interests never cease urging us to carry out the joint agreement, let us take them at their word, since their contention is just, and let us, as our oath demands, exclude the guilty parties from the treaty, and form a plan for dealing with men whose temper is so brutally dictatorial, and who are constantly either plotting or acting against us and mocking at the general peace. 17.18What, I ask you, can they urge against the correctness of this view? Will they claim that the agreement stands good as against our city, but demur to it where it protects our interests? Does it really seem fair that this should be so? And if there is anything in the treaty that favors our enemies against our city, will they always make the most of it, but if there is anything that tells the other way and is at once just and advantageous to us, will they think that unremitting opposition is their peculiar duty?

17.19But to prove to you still more clearly that no Greeks will accuse you of transgressing any of the terms of the joint agreement, but will even be grateful to you for exposing the real transgressors, I will just touch upon a few of the many points that might be mentioned. For the compact, of course, provides that all the parties to the peace may sail the seas, and that none may hinder them or force a ship of any of them to come to harbor, note and that anyone who violates this shall be treated as an enemy by all the parties to the peace. 17.20Now, men of Athens, you have most distinctly seen this done by the Macedonians; for they have grown so arrogant that they forced all our ships coming from the Black Sea to put in at Tenedos, and under one pretence or another refused to release them until you passed a decree to man and launch a hundred war-galleys instantly, and you put Menestheus in command. 17.21Is it not, then, absurd that others should be guilty of so many serious transgressions, but that their friends in Athens, instead of restraining the transgressors, should urge us to abide by the terms thus lightly regarded? As if there were a clause added, permitting some to violate them, but forbidding others even to defend their rights! 17.22But was not the conduct of the Macedonians as stupid as it was lawless, when they committed such a gross violation of their oaths as deservedly went near to cost them their right to command at sea? note Even as it is, they have supplied us with this unquestionable claim against them, whenever we choose to press it. For surely their violation of the joint agreement is not lessened because they have now ceased to offend. 17.23But they are in luck, because they can make the most of your supineness, which prefers to take no advantage even of your due rights.

The greatest humiliation, however, that we have suffered is that all the other Greeks and barbarians dread your enmity, but these upstarts note alone can make you despise yourselves, sometimes by persuasion, sometimes by force, as if Abdera or Maronea, note and not Athens, were the scene of their political activities. 17.24Moreover, while they weaken your cause and strengthen that of your enemies, they at the same time admit unconsciously that our city is irresistible, because they bid her uphold justice by injustice, as though she could easily vanquish her enemies, if she preferred to consult her own interests. note 17.25And they have taken up a reasonable attitude; for as long as we, single-handed, can maintain an unchallenged supremacy at sea, we can devise other and stronger defences on land in addition to our existing forces, especially if by good fortune we can get rid of these politicians, who have for their bodyguard the hosts of tyranny, and if some of them are destroyed and others conclusively proved to be worthless.

17.26Such then, in the matter of the ships, has been the violation of the compact by the Macedonian king, in addition to the other cases mentioned. But the most insolent and overbearing exploit of the Macedonians was that performed quite recently, when they dared to sail into the Piraeus, contrary to our mutual agreement. Moreover, men of Athens, because it was only a single war-galley, it must not be regarded as a slight matter, but as an experiment made to see whether we should overlook it, so that they could repeat it on a larger scale, and also as a proof that they cared as little for these terms of agreement as for those that have been already mentioned. 17.27For that it was an encroachment little by little and was meant to accustom us to suffering such intrusions into our harbors, is plain from the following consideration. For the mere fact that the man who sailed the ship in, and whom you ought to have put out of existence at once, galley and all, asked permission to build small boats in our harbor—does it not make it perfectly plain that their scheme was not so much to enter the harbor as to be inside it from the first? And if we tolerate small craft, a little later it will be war-galleys as well; and if at first we sanction a few, there will soon be many. 17.28For they cannot allege as their excuse that there is plenty of timber for shipbuilding at Athens, where we import it with great trouble from distant parts, but that it is scarce in Macedonia, where there is a cheap supply for all who want it. No, they thought that they would build their ships here and also furnish them with crews in our harbor, though it is expressly stipulated in the joint agreement that nothing of the kind should be permitted; and they thought too that it would always be more and more in their power to do this. Thus on every hand they treat our city with contempt, thanks to their prompters here, who suggest to them everything they should do; 17.29and thus with their help they have discovered that there is an indescribable slackness and feebleness in our city, and that we take no thought for the morrow, and that it never occurs to us to consider how the tyrant is carrying out the joint agreement.

17.30That agreement, men of Athens, I urge you to keep in the way that I have explained, and I would confidently assure you, with the authority that my age note confers, that we shall at once be exercising our undoubted rights, and also making the safest use of those opportunities which impel us to secure our interests. For, indeed, there is this clause appended to the agreement, “if it is our wish to share in the common peace.” But the words “if it is our wish” mean also the opposite—if it is ever our duty to abandon our disgraceful submission to the dictates of others, or even our forgetfulness of those high ideals, which from time immemorial we have cherished in greater measure than any other people. note Therefore, if you approve, Athenians, I will now propose that, as the agreement directs, we declare war on the transgressors.

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