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Now I have frequently observed that you make a great difference between orators, and are attentive to some but cannot suffer the voice of others. This is in reality no just wonder, for in former times you used to reject all such as did not flatter your inclinations; which, I think, deserves an impartial blame; for, though you know many private houses have been entirely ruined by flatteries, and detest such persons as in their private affairs conduct themselves in this manner; yet you are not disposed yourselves in the same manner in regard of the public amendment, but, finding fault with the censor, and taking pleasure in flatteries, you seem to put more confidence in such than in other citizens. And you yourselves have been a cause that the orators study and meditate not so much what will be beneficial to the State, as what will please your hope and expectation, for which a crowd of them is now flocked together; as it is evident to all that you take more pleasure in those who exhort you to war than to such as give you more peaceable counsels.
You have met to choose, as it becomes you, the wisest measures ; and though you do not know what is best to be done, yet you will hear none but such as flatter you. But if you truly have the State's good at heart, you ought rather to be attentive to those who oppose your sentiments, than to such as fall in with your humors and weaknesses; for you cannot be ignorant that those who practice such artifices are the most likely to deceive you, since artful flattery easily closes the eye to truth and sincerity. But you can never suffer such prejudice from those who speak the plain, naked truth, for such cannot persuade you but by the clear demonstrations of utility.
THE PRINCIPLES OF GOOD GOVERNMENT [The “ Areopagiticus” is one of the public discourses of Isocrates in which he deals with the home affairs of Athens. We offer the following extract, in which the good government of the past is offered as an example for the future.]
Such was the authority to which, as I have said, they entrusted the maintenance of good order, which considered that those were in error who imagined that a community in which the laws were framed with the greatest exactness produced the best men. For, if this were so, there could be nothing to prevent all the Hellenes* being on the same level, so far as the facility of adopting one another's written laws is concerned. They, on the contrary, knew that virtue is not promoted by the laws, but by the habits of daily life, and that most people turn out men of like character to those in whose midst they have severally been brought up. For, where there are a number of laws drawn up with great exactitude, it
*The Greeks--so called because they are believed to be descended from a mythical personage named Hellen.
is a proof that the city is badly administered, for the inhabitants are compelled to frame laws in great numbers as a barrier against offenses.
Those, however, who are rightly governed should not cover the walls of the porticoes with copies of the laws, but preserve justice in their hearts; for it is not by decrees but by manners that cities are well governed, and while those who have been badly brought up will venture to transgress laws drawn up even with the greatest exactitude, those who have been well educated will be ready to abide by laws framed in the simplest terms. With these ideas, they did not first consider how they should punish the disorderly, but by what means they should induce them to refrain from committing any offense deserving of punishment, for they considered that this was their mission, but that eagerness to inflict punishment was a matter of malevolence.
THE BASIS OF A VIRTUOUS LIFE [The following extract is from the oration or letter to a young man, named Demonicus. It has been much admired for its high standard of conduct.]
In the first place show your gratitude to Heaven, not only by sacrifices, but by a steady veracity and sacred observance of all leagues and oaths. The first indeed shows splendor and gratitude, but the latter only a truly noble, godlike mind. Be such toward your parents as you would hope your children should be toward you. Use exercise rather for health than strength and beauty. You will best attain these if you leave it off before nature is fatigued.
Be not austere and gloomy, but serene and brave. By the first behavior you would be thought proud ; but by the latter will be esteemed a man of worth and credit. Never imagine you can conceal a bad action ; for though you hide it from others, your own conscience will condemnn you. Be good, and have your own approbation. Be persuaded that every base action will at last take air.
It is the duty of every man to improve his knowledge, will and understanding. It is as great a shame to hear national, instructive discourse, and not be attentive to it, as it is to reject with scorn a valuable gift. Think philosophy a greater treasure than immense sums of gold, for gold is apt to take wings and fly away, but philosophy and virtue are inalienable possessions. Wisdom is the only immortal inheritance.
DEMOSTHENES (382-322 B.C.)
THE PARAGON OF ORATORS
HEN Greece, as a land of independent states, the nursery of
liberty and freedom of speech, was on the verge of falling
before the arts and arms of Philip of Macedon, Demosthenes, a native of Athens, arose, and in a succession of orations of unequalled eloquence exposed the designs of the enemy of Grecian liberty, and sought to arouse his countrymen to meet their new foeman as they had met the Persians of old. Several other orators of Athens were bribed by Philip's gold, but the patriotism of Demosthenes was proof against venality. With watchful sagacity he penetrated the designs of the cunning Macedonian, and if the generals of Athens had been equal in ability to their orator, the freedom of Greece would have been preserved. There were eleven or twelve of these great patriotic orations ; of which four are especially known as “ Philippies.” The persistent opposition of Demosthenes against the foes of Greece, in the end led to his death. His last effort for liberty failing, he was pursued by his enemies and sought an asylum in the temple of Neptune on the island of Calaurea. There, still followed, he took poison and died.
As an orator Demosthenes was superb. Yet his first effort at public speaking was an utter failure. Feeble in frame, weak in voice, shy and awkward in manner, and ungraceful in gesture, he seemed strikingly ill-fitted for success upon the forum. But he had industry, intelligence and determination, and success came to him. He strengthened his lungs and his voice by declaiming while climbing steep hills or seeking to raise his voice above the roar of the sea. His natural defect in delivery was overcome by the practice of speaking with pebbles in his mouth. He learned the art of graceful gesture by practicing before a mirror. Constant study, composition of orations, and
memorizing made him ready and fluent in speech. Never trusting to facility in extemporaneous delivery, he carefully prepared all his orations, and then delivered them with the utmost force and effectiveness. They remain to-day models of oratory, closely studied by all who would excel in the art. “ His style,” says Hume, “is rapid harmony exactly adjusted to the sense ; it is vehement reasoning without any appearance of art; it is disdain, anger, boldness, freedom, involved in a continued stream of argument; and of all human productions his orations present the models which approach the nearest to perfection.”'
Fenelon says: “We think not of his words; we think only of the things he says. He lightens, he thunders, he is a torrent which sweeps everything before it. We can neither criticise nor admire, because we have not the command of our own faculties." Lord Brougham says: “ There is not any long or close train of reasoning in Demosthenes; still less any profound observations or ingenious allusions; but a constant succession of remarks bearing immediately upon the matter in hand, perfectly plain, and as readily admitted as easily understood. These are intermingled with most striking appeals : some to feelings which we are all conscious of and deeply agitated by, though ashamed to own; some to sentiments, which every man was panting to utter, and delighted to hear thundered forth; bursts of oratory, therefore, which either overwhelmed or delighted the audience. Such hits, if we may use a homely phrase, are the principal glory of the great combatant.”
PHILIP THE ENEMY OF ATHENS [As an example of the Philippics we offer the following brief extract, in which the orator strongly points out the position of Athens, as affected by the designs of its artful enemy.)
There are persons among you, O Athenians, who think to confound a speaker by asking, “ What, then, is to be done?" To which I might answer: "Nothing that you are doing everything that you leave undone!" And it would be a just and a true reply. But I will be more explicit ; and may these men, so ready to question, be equally ready to act! In the first place, Athenians, admit the incontestable fact, that Philip has broken your treaties, that he has declared war against you. Let us have no more crimination and recrimination on this point! And, then, recognize the fact that he is the mortal enemy of Athens,-of its very soil, of all within its walls, ay, of those even who most flatter themselves that they are high in his good graces.
What Philip most dreads and abhors is our liberty, our Democratic system. For the destruction of that all his snares are laid, all his projects are shaped. And in this is he not consistent ? He is well aware that, though he should subjugate all the rest of Greece, his conquest would be insecure while your Democracy stands. He knows that, should he experience one of those reverses to which the lot of humanity is so liable, it would be into your arms that all those nations, now forcibly held under his yoke, would rush. Is there a tyrant to be driven back?-Athens is in the field ! Is there a people to be enfranchised ?-Lo, Athens, prompt to aid ! What wonder, then, that Philip should be impatient while Athenian liberty is a spy upon his evil days! Be sure, O my countrymen, that he is your irreconcilable foe; that it is against Athens that he musters and disposes all his armaments; against Athens that all his schemes are laid.
What, then, ought you, as wise men, convinced of these truths, to do? You ought to shake off your fatal lethargy, contribute according to your means, summon your allies to contribute, and take measures to retain the troops already under arms; so that, if Philip has an army prepared to attack and subjugate all the Greeks, you may also have one ready to succor and to save them. Tell me not of the trouble and expense which this will involve. I grant it all. But consider the dangers that menace you, and how much you will be the gainers by engaging heartily, at once, in the general cause. Indeed, should some god assure you that, however inactive and unconcerned you might remain, yet, in the end, you should not be molested by Philip, still it would be ignominious, --be witness, Heaven !--it would be beneath you, beneath the dignity of your State, beneath the glory of your ancestors, to sacrifice, to your own selfish repose, the interest of all the rest of Greece.
Rather would I perish than recommend such a course! Let some other man urge it upon you, if he will ; and listen to him, if you can. But, if my sentiments are yours; if you foresee, as I do, that the more we leave Philip to extend his conquests, the more we are fortifying an enemy, whom, sooner or later, we must cope with ; why do you hesitate ? What necessity do you wait? Can there be a greater for freemen than the prospect of dishonor? Do you wait for that? It is here already ; it presses, it weighs on us now. Now, did I say? Long since, long since, was it before us, face to face. True, there is still another necessity in reserve, the necessity of slaves, blows and stripes! Wait you for them? The gods forbid! The very words, in this place, are an indignity!
-The most famous oration of Demosthenes was one that had a personal origin, it being called forth by a controversy with Eschines,