Demosthenes, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [lemma count] [Dem.].
<<Dem. 2 Dem. 3 (Greek) >>Dem. 4

Third Olynthiac

3.1Very different, men of Athens, are the thoughts suggested to me by the contemplation of public affairs and by the speeches to which I listen. I observe that the speeches are all about punishing Philip, while our affairs have reached a stage at which it must be our first concern to avoid disaster ourselves. Hence these speakers seem to me to make precisely the mistake of submitting to you the wrong subject for deliberation. 3.2But for myself I am perfectly well aware that Athens once had the chance both of establishing her power and of punishing Philip; for within my own memory and not long ago, both these objects were within our grasp. Now, however, I am persuaded that we must be content to secure the first, that of saving our allies. If once we can be sure of that, then we can go on to consider who is to be punished and how it is to be done; but until that foundation is well and truly laid, it is idle, in my opinion, to say a word about our ultimate object.

3.3Never was there a crisis that demanded more careful handling than the present. But the difficulty lies, I think, not in proposing a plan to meet the case: what puzzles me, men of Athens, is how to put it before you. For what I have seen and heard convinces me that most of your chances have escaped us rather from a disinclination to do our duty than from a failure to understand it. I must ask you to bear with me if I speak frankly, considering only whether I am speaking the truth, and speaking with the object that things may go better in the future; for you see how the popularity-hunting of some of our orators has led us into this desperate predicament.

3.4I must first refresh your memory with a little history. You remember, men of Athens, when news came three or four years ago that Philip was in Thrace besieging the fortress of Heraeum. Well, it was the month of Maemacterion, and there was a long and excited debate in the Assembly, and you finally decided to launch a fleet of forty vessels manned by citizens under the age of forty-five, and to raise forty talents by a special tax. 3.5That year passed and Hecatombaeon came and Metageitnion and Boëdromion. In that month, with a great effort, after the celebration of the Mysteries note you dispatched Charidemus with ten ships, unmanned, and a sum of five talents of silver. When news came that Philip was ill or dead—both reports reached us—you, Athenians, thinking that help was no longer needed, abandoned the expedition. But that was just your opportunity. If we had carried out our resolution in earnest and sailed to Thrace then, Philip would not have survived to trouble us today.

3.6Well, what is done cannot be undone; but now comes the opportunity of another war. That was why I have referred to the past, that you may not make the same mistake again. What use, men of Athens, are we to make of our opportunity? For if you do not send help “in full muster, whereto your power shall extend,” note observe how all your generalship will make for Philip's success. 3.7We could count note on the Olynthians with their considerable resources; and the position of affairs was that Philip did not trust them, nor they Philip. We had negotiated a peace with them that hampered Philip sorely; for here was a powerful state, reconciled to us and watching for him to give them an opening. We thought that we ought by all means to embroil them with him; and what was then common talk has today somehow or other come to pass. 3.8What remains then, men of Athens, but to help them with all your power and energy? I see no alternative. For, quite apart from the disgrace that we should incur if we shirk our responsibilities, I see not a little danger, men of Athens, for the future, if the Thebans maintain their present attitude towards us, and the Phocians have come to the end of their money, and there is nothing to hinder Philip, when he has crushed his present foe, from turning his arms against Attica. 3.9But surely if anyone of you would postpone the necessary action till then, he must prefer to see danger at his very doors, rather than hear of it far away, and to beg help for himself, when he might be lending help to others now; for I suppose we all realize that that is what it will come to, if we throw away our present chances.

3.10Perhaps you will say, “Of course we all know that we must send an expedition, and we are willing to do so; but tell us how.” Then do not be surprised, Athenians, if my answer comes as a shock to most of you. Appoint a legislative commission. Do not use it to frame new laws—you have laws enough for your purpose—but repeal those which hamper us in the present crisis. 3.11In plain language I mean the laws for administering the Theoric Fund, and also some of the service regulations. The former distribute the military funds as theatre-money among those who remain in the city; the latter give impunity to deserters and in consequence discourage those willing to serve. When you have repealed these laws and made the way safe for wise counsel, then look round for someone who will propose what you all know to be salutary measures. But until you have done this, do not expect to find a statesman who will propose measures for your benefit, only to be ruined by you for his pains. 3.12You will never find one, especially as the only result would be that the proposer would get into trouble without improving the situation, and his fate would also make good advice more dangerous for the future. Yes, men of Athens, and you ought to insist that those who made these laws should also repeal them. 3.13It is not fair that those legislators should enjoy a popularity which has cost the community dear, but that the patriotic reformer should be penalized by the odium of proposals by which we may all be benefited. Until you have set this right, Athenians, do not expect to find anyone so influential among you that he can break these laws with impunity, or so wanting in discretion as to run open-eyed into danger.

3.14At the same time, Athenians, you must not forget this, that a mere decree is worthless without a willingness on your part to put your resolutions into practice. If decrees could automatically compel you to do your duty, or could accomplish the objects for which they were proposed, you would not have passed such an array of them with little or no result, and Philip would not have had such a long career of insolent triumph. Long ago, if decrees counted for anything, he would have suffered for his sins. 3.15But that is not so. For in order of time action is subsequent to speaking and voting, but in importance it comes first and ranks higher. It is action, then, that must be added: of all else we have enough. You have among you, Athenians, men competent to say the right thing, no nation is quicker-witted to grasp the meaning of speech, and you will at once be able to translate it into action, if only you do your duty. 3.16Why, what better time or occasion could you find than the present, men of Athens? When will you do your duty, if not now? Has not your enemy already captured all our strongholds, and if he becomes master of Chalcidice, shall we not be overwhelmed with dishonor? Are not those states actually at war which we so readily engaged in that event to protect? Is not Philip our enemy? And in possession of our property? And a barbarian? Is any description too bad for him? 3.17But, in the name of the gods, when we have abandoned all these places and almost helped Philip to gain them, shall we then ask who is to blame? For I am sure we shall never admit that it is ourselves. In the panic of battle the runaway never blames himself; it is always his general's fault, or his comrades', anyone's rather than his own. Yet surely to the runaways collectively the defeat is due; for he might have stood firm who now blames the others, and if every man had stood, the battle would have been won. 3.18So now: someone's suggestion is not the best possible. Then let someone else get up and make a better, not blame the first speaker. Suppose the second suggestion is an improvement. Then act upon it, and success attend it! But, you say, it is not a pleasant one. The speaker is not to blame for that—unless he leaves out the necessary prayer! note Yes, men of Athens, it is easy to pray, cramming all our wants into one short petition. But to choose, when choice of action is put before you, is no such child's-play, because you have to choose the best course rather than the pleasantest, if you cannot have both at once. 3.19“But what if someone can leave our Theoric Fund untouched and name other sources for our military budget? Is not he the better statesman?” says someone. I grant you, men of Athens—if the thing is possible. But I wonder if any mortal, after spending all his existing wealth on superfluities, ever did or ever will find himself with a surplus for necessaries from his vanished funds. I think that in such proposals the wish is father to the thought, and that is why nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true. Unfortunately it is not often so in practical politics. 3.20Now I want you, Athenians, to consider the possibilities of the case, and see how you can both serve and receive your pay. Surely it is not like men of sense and spirit to shirk your military duty because the pay is not forthcoming, thinking lightly of the shame of it all; or to snatch up arms and march against Corinth or Megara, note but to let Philip enslave Greek cities, because you are short of rations for a campaign.

3.21I am not talking for the idle purpose of quarrelling with anyone here. I am not such a misguided fool as to pick a quarrel deliberately when I see no advantage from it. But I consider it right as a citizen to set the welfare of the state above the popularity of an orator. Indeed I am given to understand—and so perhaps are you—that the orators of past generations, always praised but not always imitated by those who address you, adopted this very standard and principle of statesmanship. I refer to the famous Aristides, to Nicias, to my own namesake, note and to Pericles. 3.22But ever since this breed of orators appeared who ply you with such questions as “What would you like? What shall I propose? How can I oblige you?” the interests of the state have been frittered away for a momentary popularity. The natural consequences follow, and the orators profit by your disgrace. 3.23Yet reflect, men of Athens, on what might be named as the outstanding achievements of the days of your ancestors and those of your own time. I will give you a summary of familiar facts, for you need not go abroad for examples to teach you how to win success. 3.24Now your ancestors, whom their orators, unlike ours today, did not caress or flatter, for five and forty years note commanded the willing obedience of the Greeks; more than ten thousand talents did they accumulate in our Acropolis; the then king of Macedonia note was their subject, even as a barbarian ought to be subject to Greeks; many honorable trophies for victory on sea and land did they erect, themselves serving in the field; and they alone of mankind left behind them by their deeds a renown greater than all detraction. 3.25Such was their rank in the world of Hellas: what manner of men they were at home, in public or in private life, look round you and see. Out of the wealth of the state they set up for our delight so many fair buildings and things of beauty, temples and offerings to the gods, that we who come after must despair of ever surpassing them; yet in private they were so modest, so careful to obey the spirit of the constitution, 3.26that the houses of their famous men, of Aristides or of Miltiades, as any of you can see that knows them, are not a whit more splendid than those of their neighbors. For selfish greed had no place in their statesmanship, but each thought it his duty to further the common weal. And so by their good faith towards their fellow Greeks, their piety towards the gods, and their equality among themselves, they deserved and won a great prosperity.

3.27Such was their condition in those days under the leaders I have named; and what is our condition today, thanks to our worthy statesmen? Is it the same or anything like the same? Why, we—I pass over much that I might mention, but you all see what a clear field we had got, with the Lacedaemonians crushed, the Thebans fully occupied, and no other city fit to dispute the supremacy with us, while we might have been both the vindicators of our own rights and the umpires of the rights of others; 3.28and yet we have been robbed of our own soil, we have wasted on unnecessary objects more than fifteen hundred talents, our statesmen in peace have lost us the allies we gained in war, and we have provided a training-ground for this formidable rival. If not, let someone come forward and tell me who but ourselves has made Philip powerful. 3.29“But,” says an objector, “if our foreign policy has failed, there is great improvement in domestic affairs.” And to what can you point in proof? To the walls we are whitewashing, the streets we are paving, the water-works, and the balderdash? Look rather at the men whose statesmanship has produced these results; some of them were poor and now are rich, some were obscure and now are eminent, some have reared private houses more stately than our public buildings, while the lower the fortunes of the city have sunk, the higher have their fortunes soared.

3.30What is the cause of all this, and why, pray, did everything go well then that now goes amiss? Because then the people, having the courage to act and to fight, controlled the politicians and were themselves the dispensers of all favors; the rest were well content to accept at the people's hand honor and authority and reward. 3.31Now, on the contrary, the politicians hold the purse-strings and manage everything, while you, the people, robbed of nerve and sinew, stripped of wealth and of allies, have sunk to the level of lackeys and hangers-on, content if the politicians gratify you with a dole from the Theoric Fund or a procession at the Boëdromia, and your manliness reaches its climax when you add your thanks for what is your own. They have mewed you up in the city and entice you with these baits, that they may keep you tame and subservient to the whip. 3.32You cannot, I suppose, have a proud and chivalrous spirit, if your conduct is mean and paltry; for whatever a man's actions are, such must be his spirit. By our Lady, I should not wonder if I got rougher treatment from you for pointing out these faults than the men who are responsible for them. For you do not allow liberty of speech on every subject, and indeed I am surprised that you have allowed it now.

3.33If, therefore, even at the eleventh hour, you can shake off these habits, and consent to fight and act as becomes Athenians and to devote the abundant resources that you have at home to the attainment of success abroad, perhaps, men of Athens, perhaps you may gain some important and unqualified advantage and may be quit of these paltry perquisites. Like the diet prescribed by doctors, which neither restores the strength of the patient nor allows him to succumb, so these doles that you are now distributing neither suffice to ensure your safety nor allow you to renounce them and try something else; they only confirm each citizen in his apathy. 3.34You will ask me if I mean pay for military service. Not only that, men of Athens, but also the immediate adoption of a uniform system, so that each citizen, receiving his quota from the public funds, may fill his proper place in the service of the state. If peace can be preserved, he is better off at home, safe from temptations into which want might lead him. If some such contingency as the present arises, then it is better for him to serve his country in person, as indeed he ought, supported by these same contributions. If anyone is too old to fight, then as overseer or manager of some indispensable work, let him be paid on an equitable system the wages that he now receives without benefit to the state. 3.35In a word, without increasing or lessening our expenditure by more than a trifle, I claim to have removed anomalies and introduced order into the state, establishing a uniform system of pay and of service, whether in the field or in the law-courts or wherever each man finds a task suited to his own age and to the needs of the occasion. Never have I suggested that we should give the worker's wages to the drone, or that we should ourselves remain inactive, idle, and helpless, and only learn by report that So-and-so's mercenaries have won a victory. For that is what happens now. 3.36I am not indeed blaming the man who does your duty for you, but I call on you to do that for yourselves which you reward others for doing, and not to desert that post of honor, men of Athens, which your ancestors through many glorious hazards won and bequeathed to you.

I have now said almost all that I consider suitable. It is for you to choose what is likely to benefit the city and all of you.

Demosthenes, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [lemma count] [Dem.].
<<Dem. 2 Dem. 3 (Greek) >>Dem. 4

Powered by PhiloLogic