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

60.1After note the State decreed that those who repose in this tomb, having acquitted themselves as brave men in the war, should have a public funeral, and appointed me to the duty of delivering over them the customary speech, I began straightway to study how they might receive their due tribute of praise; but as I studied and searched my mind the conclusion forced itself upon me that to speak as these dead deserve was one of those things that cannot be done. For, since they scorned the love of life that is inborn in all men and chose rather to die nobly than to live and look upon Greece in misfortune, how can they have failed to leave behind them a record of valor surpassing all power of words to express? Nevertheless I propose to treat the theme in the same vein as those who have previously spoken in this place from time to time.

60.2That the State seriously concerns itself with those who die in battle it is possible to infer both from these rites in general and, in particular, from this law in accordance with which it chooses the speaker at our public funerals. For knowing that among good men the acquisition of wealth and the enjoyment of the pleasures that go with living are scorned, note and that their whole desire is for virtue and words of praise, the citizens were of the opinion that we ought to honor them with such eulogies as would most certainly secure them in death the glory they had won while living. 60.3Now, if it were my view that, of those qualities that constitute virtue, courage alone was their possession, I might praise this and be done with the speaking, but since it fell to their lot also to have been nobly born and strictly brought up and to have lived with lofty ideals, because of all which they had every reason to be good men, I should be ashamed if I were found to have passed over any of these topics. note I shall begin from the origin of their race. note

60.4The nobility of birth of these men has been acknowledged from time immemorial by all mankind. For it is possible for them and for each one of their remote ancestors man by man to trace back their being, not only to a physical father, but also to this land of theirs as a whole, a common possession, of which they are acknowledged to be the indigenous children. note For alone of all mankind they settled the very land from which they were born and handed it down to their descendants, so that justly one may assume that those who came as migrants into their cities and are denominated citizens of the same are comparable to adopted children; but these men are citizens of their native land by right of legitimate birth. note 60.5In my view also the fact that the fruits of the earth by which men live were first manifest among us, note even apart from their being a superlative boon to all men, constitutes an acknowledged proof that this land is the mother of our ancestors. For all things that bring forth young produce at the same time nutriment out of the organism itself note for those that are born. This very thing has been done by this land. note

60.6Such is the pride of birth that belongs to the ancestors of these men throughout the ages. As for Courage and the other elements of virtue, I shrink from rehearsing the whole story, being on my guard for fear an untimely length shall attach to my speech , note but such facts as it is worth while even for those who are familiar with them to recall to mind and most profitable for the inexperienced to hear, note events of great power to inspire and calling for no tedious length of speech, these I shall endeavor to rehearse in summary fashion. note 60.7For the ancestors of this present generation, both their fathers and those who bore the names of these men in time past, by which they are recognized by those of our race, never at any time wronged any man, whether Greek or barbarian, but it was their pride, in addition to all their other good qualities, to be true gentlemen and supremely just, and in defending themselves they accomplished a long list of noble deeds. 60.8They so prevailed over the invading host of the Amazons as to expel them beyond the Phasis, and the host of Eumolpus and of many another foeman they drove not only out of their own land but also from the lands of all the other Greeks—invaders whom all those dwelling on our front to the westward neither withstood nor possessed the power to halt. note Moreover, they were styled the saviors of the sons of Heracles, who himself was the savior of the rest of mankind, when they arrived in this land as suppliants, fleeing before Eurystheus. In addition to all these and many other noble deeds they refused to suffer the lawful rites of the departed to be treated with despite when Creon forbade the burial of “the seven against Thebes.” note

60.9Now, omitting mention of many exploits that are classed as myths, I have recalled to mind the above-mentioned, each of which affords so many charming themes that our writers of poetry, whether recited or sung, note and many historians, have made the deeds of those men the subjects of their respective arts; at the present time I shall mention the following deeds, which, though in point of merit they are no whit inferior to the former, still, through being closer in point of time, have not yet found their way into poetry or even been exalted to epic rank. 60.10Those men single-handed twice repulsed by land and sea the expedition assembled out of the whole of Asia, note and at their individual risks established themselves as the authors of the joint salvation of all the Greeks. And though what I shall say next has been said before by many another, still even at this date those dead must not be deprived of their just and excellent praise. For I say that with good reason those men might be judged so far superior to those who campaigned against Troy, that the latter, the foremost princes out of the whole of Greece, with difficulty captured a single stronghold of Asia after besieging it for ten years, note 60.11whereas those men single-handed not only repulsed a host assembled from an entire continent, which had already subdued all other lands, but also inflicted punishment for the wrong done the rest of the Greeks. Furthermore, checking all acts of selfish aggrandisement among the Greeks themselves, assigning themselves to each station where justice was arrayed, they went on bearing the brunt of all dangers that chanced to arise until the lapse of time brings us to the generation now living.

60.12Let no one think I have enumerated this list of achievements because I am at a loss what to say about each of them; for if I were the most helpless of all men in discovering what it becomes me to say, the sheer virtue of those dead reveals what sentiments lie to hand and are easy to rehearse. It is my intention, however, after calling to mind their noble birth and the magnificent things done by their ancestors, with all speed to link my speech with the deeds of these dead, to the end that, just as they were akin in the flesh, so I may make the words of praise spoken over them to apply to both alike. I assume that this would be gratifying not only to the ancestors but, best of all, to both them and these dead, if they should come to share one another's merit not only by virtue of birth but also by reason of our words of praise.

60.13In the meantime it is necessary to interrupt my discourse for a moment, before declaring the deeds of these men, to solicit the goodwill of those born outside this race who have accompanied us to the tomb. note For if I had been appointed to do honor to this burial through expenditure of money or by providing some different kind of a spectacle consisting of equestrian or gymnastic contests, the greater my zeal and the more lavish my expenditure in preparing such spectacles, the better I should have been thought to have done my duty. Having been chosen, however, to extol these men in a speech, unless I have the sympathy of my hearers, I fear that because of my eagerness I may effect the very opposite of what I ought. 60.14For wealth and speed of foot and strength of body and all other such things have their rewards self-assured to their possessors, and in those fields they win who have the luck, even if not one of the others wishes their success. On the other hand, the persuasiveness of words depends upon the goodwill of the hearers, and with the help of this, even if the eloquence be moderate, it reaps glory and gains favor, but lacking this help, even if it be surpassingly good, it is thwarted by those who hear. note

60.15Now to resume my theme: though many deeds of these men are at hand because of which they will be justly eulogized, I am at a loss what to mention first when I come face to face with the facts. For thronging into my mind as they do, all at one and the same time, it becomes difficult to make a choice among them. I shall endeavor, however, to maintain the same order of topics in my speech as marked the course of the lives of these men. 60.16From the beginning these men were outstanding in all the activities that formed their schooling, engaging in the exercises that became each stage of life, causing gratification to all who had claim to it—parents, friends, kinsmen. Therefore, just as if recognizing footprints, the memory of those who were near and dear to them now turns to these men every hour in fond recollection, finding many a reminder of occasions when they knew in their hearts that these were lads of surpassing worth. 60.17Arrived at manhood they rendered their innate nobility known, not only to their fellow-citizens, but to all men. For of all virtue, I say, and I repeat it, the beginning is understanding and the fulfillment is courage; by the one it is judged what ought to be done and by the other this is carried to success. note In both these qualities these men were distinctly superior; 60.18for if ever a danger affecting all the Greeks was brewing, these were the first to foresee it, and time and again they challenged the rest to save the situation. This action is a demonstration of sound judgement joined with public spirit. Although, again, there was much folly among the Greeks, not unmixed with slackness, note a folly which failed to foresee some dangers and feigned not to see others at a time when it was possible to avert these misfortunes without sacrificing safety, nevertheless, when they did hearken and evinced willingness to do their duty, note these men did not bear a grudge but stepping forward and eagerly offering their all, bodies, money, and allies, they entered upon the ordeal of the contest, in which they were not sparing even of their lives.

60.19Of necessity it happens, when a battle takes place, note that the one side is beaten and the other victorious; but I should not hesitate to assert that in my judgement the men who die at the post of duty on either side do not share the defeat but are both alike victors. For the mastery among the survivors is decided as the deity disposes, but that which each was in duty bound to contribute to this end, every man who has kept his post in battle has done. But if, as a mortal being, he meets his doom, what he has suffered is an incident caused by chance, but in spirit he remains unconquered by his opponents. note 60.20It is my judgement, therefore, that we have to thank the valor of these men, along with the folly of our opponents, that our enemies did not set foot upon our land; because, every man of them having had proof of their mettle, those who there engaged them on that occasion had no wish to confront in battle a second time the kinsmen of those men, suspecting that, although they would confront men of the same breed, they were not likely to find the fortune of battle so kind.

Not the least reason for believing that this was their state of mind is afforded by the peace that was made; for it is impossible to cite a more plausible or more creditable reason than that the master of our opponents, astounded at the valor of these who died, chose rather to be friendly toward their kinsmen than once more to assume the risk of all his fortunes. note 60.21I believe also that if someone were to ask those in the opposite ranks whether they thought they had won by their own deeds of valor or by a startling and cruel turn of fortune and by the skill and daring of their own commander, not one of them would be so shameless or audacious as to claim credit for what happened. Furthermore, in contests of which the deity, the master of all, has disposed the outcome as it chose, it is necessary of course to acquit all others, being but human, of the charge of cowardice, but when it comes to the means by which the leader of our opponents prevailed over those appointed to the command of our army, no one could justly locate the cause in the rank and file of either the enemy or ourselves. 60.22But if, after all, there is any human being who might rightly lay a charge concerning the issue of that battle, he would with good reason advance it against those of the Thebans who were appointed to this command, note nor could anyone rightly lay blame upon the rank and file of either the Thebans or ourselves. Those men, receiving command of a military force that would neither brook defeat nor make excuse and had an emulous zest for glory, made the right use of none of these. 60.23As for the other questions touching this campaign, each individual is at liberty to draw conclusions according to his judgement, but what has become manifest to all living men alike is this—that, in effect, the freedom of the whole Greek world was being preserved in the souls of these men. At any rate, since fate removed them, not one of those remaining has made a stand against the foe. While I desire that my words may be free from offence, it seems to me that if one should declare that the valor of these men was the very life of Greece he would speak the truth; 60.24for at one and the same time their spirits were separated from their dear bodies and the self-esteem of Greece was taken from her. We shall therefore seem guilty perhaps of a bold exaggeration, but still it must be uttered: for just as, if the light of day were removed out of this universe of ours, note all the remnant of life would be harsh and irksome, so, now that these men have been taken from us, all the old-time ambition of the Greeks is sunk in gloom and profound obscurity.

60.25While it stands to reason that many influences helped to make them what they were, not least was their virtue ascribable to our form of government. note For though absolute governments dominated by a few create fear in their citizens, they fail to awaken the sense of shame. Consequently, when the test of war comes, everyone lightheartedly proceeds to save himself, knowing full well that if only he succeeds in appeasing his masters by presents or any other civility whatsoever, even though he becomes guilty of the most revolting conduct, only slight reproach will attach to him thereafter. 60.26Democracies, however, possess many other just and noble features, to which right-minded men should hold fast, and in particular it is impossible to deter freedom of speech, which depends upon speaking the truth, from exposing the truth. For neither is it possible for those who commit a shameful act to appease all the citizens, note so that even the lone individual, uttering the deserved reproach, makes the guilty wince: for even those who would never speak an accusing word themselves are pleased at hearing the same, provided another utters it. Through fear of such condemnation, all these men, as was to be expected, for shame at the thought of subsequent reproaches, note manfully faced the threat arising from our foes and chose a noble death in preference to life and disgrace.

60.27The considerations that actuated these men one and all to choose to die nobly have now been enumerated,—birth, education, habituation to high standards of conduct, and the underlying principles of our form of government in general. The incentives that challenged them severally to be valiant men, depending upon the tribes to which they belonged, I shall next relate. note All the Erechtheidae were well aware that Erechtheus, from whom they have their name, for the salvation of this land gave his own daughters, whom they call Hyacinthides, to certain death, and so extinguished his race. Therefore they regarded it as shameful, after a being born of immortal gods had sacrificed everything for the liberation of his native land, that they themselves should have been found to have placed a higher value upon a mortal body than upon immortal glory. note 60.28Neither were the Aegeidae ignorant that Theseus, the son of Aegeus, for the first time established equality in the State. note They thought it, therefore, a dreadful thing to be false to the principles of that ancestor, and they preferred to be dead rather than through love of life to survive among the Greeks with this equality lost. The Pandionidae had inherited the tradition of Procne and Philomela, the daughters of Pandion, who took vengeance on Tereus for his crime against themselves. note Therefore they decided that life was not worth living unless they, akin by race, should have proved themselves to possess equal spirit with those women, when confronted by the outrage they saw being committed against Greece.

60.29The Leontidae had heard the stories related of the daughters of Leo, how they offered themselves to the citizens as a sacrifice for their country's sake. When, therefore, such courage was displayed by those women, they looked upon it as a heinous thing if they, being men, should have proved to possess less of manhood. The Acamantidae did not fail to recall the epics in which Homer says that Acamas sailed for Troy for the sake of his mother Aethra. note Now, since he braved every danger for the sake of saving his own mother, how were these men not bound to face every danger for the sake of saving their parents one and all at home? 60.30It did not escape the Oeneidae that Semele was the daughter of Cadmus, and of her was born one whom it would be sacrilegious to name at this tomb, note and by him Oeneus was begotten, who was called the founder of their race. note Since the danger in question was common to both States, on behalf of both they thought themselves bound to endure any Anguish to the end. note The Cecropidae were well aware that their founder was reputed to have been part dragon, part human, for no other reason than this, that in understanding he was like a man, in strength like a dragon. So they assumed that their duty was to perform feats worthy of both. 60.31The Hippothoontidae bore in mind the marriage of Alope, from which Hippothoon was born, and they knew also who their founder was; about these matters—to avoid impropriety on an occasion like this note I forbear to speak plainly—they thought it was their duty to be seen performing deeds worthy of these ancestors. It did not escape the Aeantidae that Ajax, robbed of the prize of valor, did not consider his own life worth living. note When, therefore, the god was giving to another the prize of valor, at once they thought they must die trying to repel their foes so as to suffer no disgrace to themselves. The Antiochidae were not unmindful that Antiochus was the son of Heracles. note They concluded therefore that they must either live worthily of their heritage or die nobly.

60.32Now, though the living kinsmen of these dead deserve our sympathy, bereaved of such brave men and divorced from close and affectionate association, and though the life of our native land is desolate and filled with tears and mourning, nevertheless these dead by a just calculation are happy. note First of all, bartering little for much, a brief time for all eternity, they leave behind them an ageless fame note 60.33In which the children of these men shall be reared in honor and the parents of these men shall enjoy distinction note and tender care in their old age, cherishing the fame of these men as an assuagement of their sorrow. note In the second place, immune from disease of body and beyond the reach of anguish of spirit, note such as the living must suffer because of the misfortunes which have befallen, they today receive high honor and inspire great emulation while they are accorded the customary obsequies. note How, then, since the whole country unites in according them a public burial, and they alone receive the words of universal praise, while their kinsmen and fellow-citizens are not alone in mourning them, but every land that has the right to be called Hellas and the greater part of the whole world mourns with them, note how can we do otherwise than consider them blessed of fortune? 60.34With excellent reason one might declare them to be now seated beside the gods below, possessing the same rank as the brave men who have preceded them in the islands of the blest. For though no man has been there to see or brought back this report concerning them, yet those whom the living have assumed to be worthy of honors in the world above, these we believe, basing our surmise on their fame, receive the same honors also in the world beyond. note

60.35While it is perhaps difficult note to mitigate the present misfortunes by the spoken word, nevertheless it is our duty to endeavor to turn our minds to comforting thoughts, reflecting that it is a beautiful thing for parents who have begotten men like these, and themselves were born of others like unto them, to be seen enduring their affliction more decorously than the rest of mankind, and, no matter what fortune befalls, to be like them; 60.36for to the departed such conduct would seem most becoming in you and honorable to them, and to the whole State and to the living it would bring the greatest glory. note It is a grievous thing for fathers and mothers to be deprived of their children and in their old age to lack the care of those who are nearest and dearest to them. Yes, but it is a proud privilege to behold them possessors of deathless honors and a memorial of their valor erected by the State, and deemed deserving of sacrifices and games for all future time. 60.37It is painful for children to be orphaned of a father. Yes, but it is a beautiful thing to be the heir of a father's fame. And of this pain we shall find the deity to be the cause, to whom mortal creatures must yield, but of the glory and honor the source is found in the choice of those who willed to die nobly.

As for myself, it has not been my concern how I might make a long speech, but how I might speak the truth. And now do you, having spent your grief and done your part as law and custom require, disperse to your homes.

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