« PreviousContinue »
Mingle-mangle by Monkshood.
[CONCLUDED.] AFTER Alexander, the two men who claim most interest, as prominent statesmen, in the closing volume of this History, are those widely-sundered fellow-citizens, opposed' in temperament, profession, policy-but to some extent mournfully alike in fate Phocion and Demosthenes. How well disposed Mr. Grote is towards Demosthenes, the eleventh volume of this History gave clear evidence so far as it went. In the twelfth, he has occasion more than once to advocate the cause of the orator against charges and insinuations of various kinds, and he ever stands forward to do so with hearty good-will.
As an instance of the charges thus preferred and thus confronted, take the Athenian mission to Alexander, on the motion of Demades, B.C. 336. During the consternation at Athens, occasioned by Alexander's victorious march into Greece at the head of a formidable army, and within a few weeks even of the death of Philip, it was moved by Demades, in the agitated assembly, that an address should be conveyed to Alexander, on the part of Athens, apologetic and entirely submissive in its character-and not only recognising him as chief of Greece, but conferring upon him divine honours, in terms even more emphatic than those bestowed upon Philip. The motion succeeded, and the mover, accompanied by a select deputation, carried the resolution to Alexander at Thebes, by whom it was accepted for what it was, an act of submission. One young spokesman at the assembly, Pytheas by name, is said to have opposed the motion. It is not known what side Demosthenes took in the debate, if any; whether he supported. Pytheas, or whether he altogether held his peace, in dudgeon, or from expediency, or some other motive, simple or compound. “That he did not go with Demades on the mission to Alexander, seems," Mr. Grote remarks," a matter of course, though he is said to have been appointed by public vote to do so, and to have declined the duty. He accompanied the legation as far as Mount Kithæron, on the frontier, and then returned to Athens." Now this step was denounced by Æschines and his other enemies, as a cowardly desertion—a reproach which Mr. Grote regards with astonishment, since there could be no envoy so odious to Alexander, or so likely to provoke refusal for the proposition which he carried, as Demosthenes, the arch-agitator of Athens, the antiMacedonian Pan-hellenic orator
whose resistless eloquence
To employ him in such a mission, the historian argues, would have been absurd; unless indeed for the purpose probably intended by his enemies—that he might be either detained by the conqueror as an expiatory victim (just as Demades himself was, some years later, put to death by Antipater, to whom he had been sent as an envoy from Athens), or sent back as a pardoned and humiliated prisoner.* Again. In the
spring of the following year, Darius appears to have sent money from Persia to sustain the anti-Macedonian party at Athens and elsewhere. It is affirmed by two orators, at enmity with Demosthenes,—by his leading rival Æschines, and by Deinarchus--that the sum sent by Darius, consisting of three hundred talents, was refused by the Athenian people, but taken by Demosthenes, who reserved about a fourth part of the amount for his own private purpose. They add, that public inquiry was afterwards instituted on the subject. Nothing, however, is shown to have been made out; nor does it appear even that the assumed culprit was brought to any formal trial, much less convicted and condemned. Mr. Grote observes on this topic, that supposing Demosthenes, and probably other leading orators, to have received such remittances from Persia, no such personal corruption is therein implied as their enemies impute to them. “It is no way proved that Demosthenes applied the money to his own private purposes
. To receive and expend it in trying to organise combinations for the enfranchisement of Greece, was a proceeding which he would avow as not only legitimate but patriotic. It was aid obtained from one foreign prince to enable Hellas to throw off the worse dominion of another.”+ So convinced is the historian, that, at this moment, the political interests of Persia were really at one with that of all Greeks who aspired to freedom; for while it would be the purpose of a Greek patriot to preserve the integrity
, and self-government of the Hellenic world against all foreign interference, the Persian monarch's own sense of security warned him to protect Greece from being made an appendage of Macedon, his own chance meantime of becoming master of Greece being null, though his means of supporting her were ample. Mr. Grote is ready with the readiest to stigmatise as unwarrantable the invoking of aid from Persia against Hellenic foes,--as Sparta had done both in the Peloponnesian war and at the peace of Antalcidas, and as Thebes and Athens had followed her example in doing afterwards
; but equally he maintains, on the other hand, that to invoke the same aid (from Persia) against the dominion of another foreigner (Macedonia), at once nearer and more formidable, was open to no blame on the score of either patriotism or policy. had vainly urged his countrymen to act with
energy against Philip
, at a time when they might by their own efforts have upheld the existing autonomy both for Athens and for Greece generally. * Grote, XII. 15 sq.
+ Ibid. 27 sq.
He now seconded or invited Darius, at a time when Greece singlehanded had become incompetent to the struggle against Alexander, the common enemy both of Grecian liberty and of the Persian empire. Unfortunately for Athens as well as for himself, Darius, with full means of resistance in his hands, played his game against Alexander even with more stupidity and improvidence than Athens had played hers against Philip.”
Æschines, again, accuses Demosthenes of having by his perverse
* Mr. Grote exposes the incompetency of Darius Codomannus at various stages in his conduct of the war, with a severity of plain-speaking that may jar on the nerves of those, fancy-fed and Dryden-led, who cherish an ideal of
“__Darius, great and good;" and who, inspired with "soft pity" by the same “mournful Muse” that erst inspired Timotheus, at the royal feast for Persia won by Philip's warlike son, lament the Great King as fallen
“By too severe a fate,
And weltering in his blood." The death of that far-sighted and ready-witted general, Memnon, is shown to have been a fatal blow to the interests of Darius—though the fall value of that loss was better appreciated by the intelligent enemy whom Memnon opposed, than by the feeble master whom he served. Memnon's plans were abandoned by Darius at the precise moment when they might have been most safely and completely executed, and this abandonment was the turning point of the besotted monarch's future fortune. As for the battle of Issus, which Darius has been blamed for fighting at Issus, within a narrow space, instead of waiting for Alexander on the spacious plains beyond Mount Amanus,--this, Mr. Grote contends, was comparatively immaterial, whatever stress Arrian and the other historians may lay upon it, and in confirmation of his view he points to the fact, that Arbela proved the Persian army under Darius to be hardly less unfit for a pitched battle in the open plain. The real imprudence, according to Mr. Grote, consisted simply in fighting the battle at all, to the neglect of Memnon's military forewarnings. “Mountains and defiles were the real strength of the Persians, to be held as posts against the invader.” (XII. 149.) If Darius stands in humiliating contrast to Alexander in the matter of generalship, so does he in the quality of personal courage. As soon as the Asiatic hoplites on his left gave way at the battle of Issns, the king, who was in his chariot in the centre, seized with panic, caused his chariot to be turned round, and fled with all speed among the foremost fugitives (p. 163). In his terror,
“Mantle, and shield, and bow he flung aside,
Intent on flight, alarmed for life, dear life" Nor does it appear that he gave "a single order or made the smallest effort to repair a first misfortune." This craven flight lost him the confidence of several of his most valuable servants (p. 206). At Arbela again, that “death-blow of the Persian empire," which converted Alexander into the Great King, and
Darius into nothing better than a fugitive pretender,--at Arbela, as at Issus, , among all the causes of the defeat, “the most prominent and indisputable was
the cowardice of Darius himself” (p. 226). Again the chariot was turned round, and again the king's philosophy taught by example the propriety of sauve qui peut, or Ahrimanes take the hindmost! Nevertheless, there are few subjects in history, as Mr. Grote himself allows, better calculated to move with tragic
backwardness brought about the ruin of Thebes. He alleges that Demosthenes, having in his possession three hundred talents from the Persian king, to instigate anti-Macedonian movements in Greece, was supplicated by the Theban envoys to furnish money, for the purpose of enabling the Arcadian generals to bring up their troops to the aid of Thebes, and of inducing the foreign mercenaries who garrisoned the Cadmeia to deliver up that fortress,- but that Demosthenes refused the request, kept the money for himself
, and thus prevented both the surrender of the Cadmeia and the onward march of the Arcadians. The charge here advanced against De mosthenes, is regarded by Mr. Grote as utterly incredible. He dismisses it with the remark, that the entire history of the antiMacedonian orator belies the supposition that anti-Macedonian movements counted for so little in his eyes.
A more serious matter is that which occasioned the trial, condemnation, and exile of Demosthenes, on the ground of corrupt appropriation of the money of Harpalus, the fugitive satrap
, B.C. 324. The orator himself—“ unquestionably," says Mr. Grote
, " the greatest orator, and one of the greatest citizens, in Athenian antiquity”-denied the charge; but as neither the specification of the evidence against him, nor his personal defence, is extant, adequate means for forming a decided judgment on the case are wanting. At the same time, Mr. Grote submits, judging from the circumstances as far as we are acquainted with them, there are several which go to show the defendant's innocence, and none which tend to prove him guilty. True, there is a story told by Plutarch, that Demosthenes began by opposing the refugee Harpalus (who came with a present of some seven hundred talents to Athens, to ask shelter and protection in that city, from the vengeance of Alexander on his ostentatious prodigalities in the East), but that presently the orator was fascinated by the beauty of a golden cup among the Harpalian treasures,-insomuch that Harpalus took care to send him the golden cup on the night following, together with twenty talents, which Demosthenes did him the honour of accepting. A few days afterwards, the story goes on to say, when the cause of Harpalus was again debated in the public assembly, Demosthenes was to be seen with a portentous series of “chokers” about his neck-indicative of influenza, perhaps, or possibly of a golden cup and twenty talents, at any rate significant of his having lost his voice, which noble organ had been lifted up, pathos than the narrative of the last days of Darius—the shame and sufferings of him who lately
“ High on a throne of royal state," —
"-where the gorgeous East with richest hand
on the last occasion, against Harpalus, but could hardly, if the parable of the talents was true, adopt the same tone in the present instance. That Demosthenes should be at the meeting and not speak, was about as pure and simple a solecism then, as it now-adays would be for Lord Palmerston to hold his tongue at a Mansion House dinner, or Mr. Layard to hang fire at an Administrative Reform meeting, or Elihu Burrit at a Peace congress, or J. B. Gough at a Temperance tea-party. So, in spite of the woollen wrappers around his throat, and the deprecatory aspect ce malade imaginaire may be supposed to have put on, there was a call for Demosthenes. The call was general, and lusty : Demosthenes ! The sovereign people not only will be heard, but will hear, when the fit is on them. Demosthenes comes forward, "gesticulates, mutters something hoarse and inarticulate, and no doubt appeals with due dumb show to the investiture of his throat. And then, no doubt, the cry is, Speak up! That is, of course, out of the question. Eventually, it is explained that the orator is really and wholly disabled from speech-making to-day, accustomed as he is to public speaking.-being hoarse enough to be literally speechless. Nevertheless, there are some discontented fellows in the throng who tell you, maliciously enough, that it was no common hoarseness Demosthenes caught last night, but a hoarseness brought on by swallowing gold and silver. The mot spread, and told ; errea Tepoerta of that kind generally do. At the next public appearance, therefore, of the suspected statesman, the converse order of things occurred: this time Demosthenes was eager to speak, in his defence, while the people were resolved not to hear him. Clamour drowned to-day the voice that yesterday was choked by woollen wrappers. One man, indeed, stood up to claim a hearing for the speaker, but with the mischievous intent of the
good-natured friend” class, for his ironical appeal was, “Will you, not listen to the man with the cup ?”-a tart witticism that would mightily tickle the popular palate, as alluding to the right of the guest into whose hands the loving cup had passed, in its post-prandial transit, to claim the attention of his fellows while he delivered himself of a sentiment or a song. For once, the man with the cup, it was carried by acclamation, had no right to be heard; hear Demosthenes the Athenians would not, and there was an end of it-or rather the beginning of the end.
But not every good story in Plutarch will stand critical scrutiny. And this one, unfortunately for the lovers of scandal, turns out to be demonstrably untrue. Demosthenes may, indeed, says Mr. Grote, have been disabled by sore-throat from speaking at some particular assembly; so far the story may be accurate; but that he desisted from opposing Harpalus (the real point of the allegation against him) is certainly not true; for we know, from his accusers Deinarchus and Hyperides, that it was he who made the final