Aeschines (c. 390-c.322 BC) was an Athenian political figure, three of whose orations
survive. Early in his career he worked with Demosthenes to resist the expanding
power of Philip of Macedon, but after the failure of an embassy to Philip in 346
BC, in which both Aeschines and Demosthenes participated, the two men became bitter
enemies. Their rivalry culminated in the famous trial in 330, when Aeschines delivered
Against Ctesiphon and Demosthenes responded with On the Crown. The verdict went
overwhelmingly against Aeschines, and he was forced to leave Athens. History has
not treated him well, and his inferiority to Demosthenes as an orator and politician
is generally taken for granted.
Life and Works
We know little of Aeschines' family or early life besides what we are told by Demosthenes, whose bias is obvious, but it is probably fair to say that he came from a poor but respectable family. We have no evidence that he formally studied rhetoric, or wrote speeches for others; rather he seems to have been a politician first and an orator only from necessity. He served in the army and had a career as an actor before becoming involved in politics. In 347/6 he served on the Council (with Demosthenes). The main issue facing Athens at this time was how best to stop the advance of Philip into Greece. After several strategies failed, the Athenians sent an embassy to Philip to negotiate peace. Both Aeschines and Demosthenes were members of the embassy, but in the process of dealing both with Philip and the Athenian assembly the two men became more and more hostile to one another, with Demosthenes opposing the eventual peace treaty and Aeschines supporting it.
Relations between the two men over the next fifteen years are marked by three trials, which account for all three of Aeschines' surviving speeches. He must have spoken often in the assembly, but no deliberative speech of his survives; perhaps none was ever published. In all three cases Demosthenes supported the other side, and in two of these we have his speech. The legal disputes began in 346/5, when the ambassadors underwent an accounting for their actions on the embassy. Timarchus, a politician allied with Demosthenes, charged Aeschines with treason, but Aeschines responded with a countersuit, claiming in Against Timarchus (1) that Timarchus was unfit to prosecute because he had been a prostitute, which was illegal for an Athenian citizen. This speech has traditionally been neglected, but recently there has been increased interest in it as a source for Athenian views of homosexuality (Dover 1978). Aeschines won the case against Timarchus, and the prosecution for treason was postponed until 343, when Demosthenes delivered On the False Embassy (19) and Aeschines responded with On the Embassy (2). Aeschines was narrowly acquitted of the charges, but his career suffered.
The most famous episode in Aeschines' life came after the battle of Chaeronea (338 BC), when Philip decisively defeated Athens and its allies. In 336 Ctesiphon proposed in the assembly that Demosthenes be awarded a crown for his service to the city. On the basis of some relatively minor (though probably valid) legal points, Aeschines then charged Ctesiphon with making an illegal proposal. When the case was finally tried in 330, Aeschines (in Against Ctesiphon) raised his legal objections but devoted most of his speech to attacking the career and person of Demosthenes. The latter responded in On the Crown with an impassioned defense of himself and his service to Athens and a virulent attack on Aeschines? family, character and policies. The verdict was so one-sided that Aeschines was fined and went into exile. He finished his life teaching rhetoric on the island of Rhodes.
The speeches of Aeschines, especially On the Embassy and Against Ctesiphon, have been read and studied primarily by those interested in the opposing speeches of Demosthenes, and indeed Aeschines' entire career has been relegated to the shadow of that of his more famous opponent. With regard to rhetorical skill this is a fair assessment, for although Aeschines is skilled at attacking his opponents and arguing relatively minor points, he does not have Demosthenes' ability to sound grand and noble themes or to raise larger issues of policy. As a result, his speeches often appear petty and mean. Because of his rhetorical inferiority, however, Aeschines' political views may be unfairly judged. Since he never presents a comprehensive defense of his positions in the context of the overall goals of Athenian policy, most have judged his views inferior to Demosthenes', but it is arguable that his policy of a less strident opposition to Philip and greater cooperation with Athens' allies was the better one. In any case, it is unlikely that anyone could have stopped Philip in the end, and Aeschines seems to have been as honest as Demosthenes in his proposals. As is usually the case, however, claims of patriotism on one's own part and accusations of treason on one's opponent's, even if grossly misleading (at best), were politically opportune. Aeschines' career ended in failure, but a balanced judgment would see him as a well-meaning and partially successful politician but a second-rate speaker, who had the misfortune to be pitted against one of the most brilliant orators the world has ever known.
Michael Gagarin, ed.
This text is cited August 2004 from Perseus Project URL bellow, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Aeschines, (Aischines) . A great Athenian orator, born in B.C.
389, the son of Atrometus, a schoolmaster, and Leucothea. The statements of Demosthenes
in regard to the disreputable character of his parents are probably groundless.
After some experience as a soldier he entered upon the profession of a public
clerk, which, however, he soon left to become an actor of indifferent success.
But his real talents, aided by his experience of public life gained as a clerk,
soon made him prominent when he turned his attention to a political career. In
B.C. 348, after the fall of Olynthus, he attracted attention by advocating a general
council of the Greek States to concert measures [p. 35] against King Philip. But
the failure of the embassy to Arcadia, which he undertook in pursuance of this
plan, seems to have so discouraged him that he immediately changed sides, and
was thenceforth an adherent of the peace party. In this capacity he played a conspicuous
part as a member of the famous embassy to Philip in b. c. 346, preliminary to
the peace of Philocrates. The complicated details of these negotiations need not
be given here. It is sufficient to say that Aeschines was won over by Philip's
flattery (there is no proof that he was actually bribed, beyond the partisan statement
of Demosthenes), and became convinced that a close alliance with the Macedonian
king was the safest course for Athens. Almost immediately after the conclusion
of the peace, he was indicted by Timarchus, an adherent of Demosthenes, for treasonablc
conduct, but was triumphantly acquitted. A second accusation, brought by Demosthenes
himself in b. c. 343, was more nearly successful, and Aeschines narrowly escaped
conviction, after an able defence, in which he was aided by the intercession of
Eubulus and Phocion. Aeschines next appears as one of the representatives of Athens
at the Amphictyonic Council at Delphi in b. c. 339. Here, as he tells us, he was
so enraged by an unjust complaint which the delegates from Amphissa brought against
Athens, that he in turn made a vehement counter-attack on the Amphissians for
their occupation of the sacred plain of Cirrha. So infuriated were the Amphictyons
by his invective that, after burning the buildings of the offending Amphissian
settlers, they voted to hold a special meeting of the council to consider what
further punishment should be inflicted. Athens and Thebes refused to send delegates
to this assembly, and thus became involved in war with Philip and the rest of
the Amphictyons--a war which resulted in the fatal battle of Chaeronea and the
downfall of Athenian independence.
In stirring up this new conflict, Aeschines certainly played into the hands of Philip, who was awaiting an opportunity for armed interference in the affairs of Central Greece; but here, too, the charge of bribery rests on the unsupported testimony of his bitterest enemy. After the battle of Chaeronea, the party of Aeschines naturally fell into disfavour. He does not figure prominently in public affairs again till B.C. 330, when he made a final effort to defeat his hated rival. An obscure politician named Ctesiphon had in b. c. 336 brought in a bill proposing to confer a golden crown upon Demosthenes for his services to the State. Aeschines raised objection to this on the score of illegality. The case did not come to trial till six years had elapsed, and then each of the orators exhausted every effort to crush his opponent. But Aeschines was the weaker, both in genius and in merit, and, not receiving the fifth part of the votes of the court, he was fined one thousand drachmas, and lost the right of appearing before the people in a similar capacity again. He left Athens and went first to Ephesus and afterwards to Rhodes, where he is said to have opened a school of oratory. He outlived his great opponent and died at Samos at the age of seventy-five.
Only three orations of Aeschines have been preserved, and all of these bear, directly or indirectly, on his quarrel with Demosthenes. Their titles are: (a) Against Timarchus, (b) On the Dishonest Embassy, (c) Against Ctesiphon. The occasion and subject of each have been noticed above. The second of them is generally considered to be the best. In natural gifts of oratory Aeschines was inferior to Demosthenes alone among his contemporaries. He excelled particularly in brilliant narrative, and was also one of the first to win a reputation for extemporaneous speech. He was less careful in his composition than Demosthenes, and was inferior to him in vigour and moral earnestness.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Aeschines (Aischines), the orator, was born in Attica in the demus of Cothocidae,
in B. C. 389, as is clear from his speech against Timarchus, which was delivered
in B. C. 345, and in which he himself says that he was then in his forty-fifth
year. He was the son of Tromes and Glaucothea, and if we listen to the account
of Demosthenes, his political antagonist, his father was not a free citizen of
Athens, but had been a slave in the house of Elpias, a schoolmaster. After the
return of the Athenian exiles under Thrasybulus, Tromes himself kept a small school,
and Athenias in his youth assisted his father and performed such services as were
unworthy of a free Athenian youth. Demosthenes further states, that Aeschines,
in order to conceal the low condition of his father, changed his name Tromes into
Atrometus, and that he afterwards usurped the rights of an Athenian citizen (Dem.
De Coron.). The mother of Aeschines is described as originally a dancer and a
prostitute, who even after her marriage with Tromes continued to carry on unlawful
practices in her house, and made money by initiating low and superstitious persons
into a sort of private mysteries. She is said to have been generally known at
Athens under the nickname Empusa. According to Aeschines himself, on the other
hand, his father Atrometus was descended from an honourable family, and was in
some way even connected with the noble priestly family of the Eteobutadae. He
was originally an athlete, but lost his property during the time of the Peloponnesian
war, and was afterwards driven from his country under the tyranny of the Thirty.
He then served in the Athenian armies in Asia and spent the remainder of his life
at Athens, at first in reduced circumstances (Aesch. De fals. Leg.). His mother,
too, was a free Athenian citizen, and the daughter of Glaucias of Acharne. Which
of these accounts is true, cannot be decided, but there seems to be no doubt that
Demosthenes is guilty of exaggeration in his account of the parents of Aeschines
and his early youth.
Aeschines had two brothers, one of whom, Philochares, was older than himself, and the other, Aphobetus, was the youngest of the three. Philochares was at one time one of the ten Athenian generals, an office which was conferred upon him for three successive years; Aphobetus followed the calling of a scribe, but had once been sent on an embassy to the king of Persia and was afterwards connected with the administration of the public revenue of Athens (Aesch. De fals. Leg.). All these things seem to contain strong evidence that the family of Aeschines, although poor, must have been of some respectability. Respecting his early youth nothing can be said with certainty, except that he assisted his father in his school, and that afterwards, being of a strong and athletic constitution, he was employed in the gymnasia for money, to contend with other young men in their exercises (Dem. De Coron.; Plut. Vit. x orat. Aesch.). It is a favourite custom of late writers to place great orators, philosophers, poets, &c., in the relation of teacher and scholar to one another, and accordingly Aeschines is represented as a disciple of Socrates, Plato, and Isocrates. If these statements, which are even contradicted by the ancients themselves, were true, Aeschines would not have omitted to mention it in the many opportunities he had. The distinguished orator and statesman Aristophon engaged Aeschines as a scribe, and in the same capacity he afterwards served Eubulus, a man of great influence with the democratical party, with whom lie formed an intimate friendship, and to whose political principles he remained faithful to the end of his life. That he served two years as peripolos from his eighteenth to his twentieth year, as all young men at Athens did, Aeschines (De fals. Leg.) expressly states, and this period of his military training must probably be placed before the time that he acted as a scribe to Aristophon; for we find that, after leaving the service of Eubulus, lie tried his fortune as an actor, for which he was provided by nature with a strong and sonorous voice. He acted the parts of tritagonistes but was unsuccessful, and on one occasion, when he was performing in the character of Oenomaus, was hissed off the stage (Dem. De Coron.). After this he left the stage and engaged in military services, in which, according to his own account (De fals. Leg.), he gained great distinction. After several less important engagements in other parts of Greece, he distinguished himself in B. C. 362 in the battle of Mantineia; and afterwards in B. C. 358, he also took part in the expedition of the Athenians against Euboea, and fought in the battle of Tamynae, and on this occasion he gained such laurels, that he was praised by the generals on the spot, and, after the victory was gained, was sent to carry the news of it to Athens. Temenides, who was sent with him, bore witness to his courage and bravery, and the Athenians honoured him with a crown (Aesch. De fals Leg.)
Two years before this campaign, the last in which he took part, he had come forward at Athens as a public speaker (Aesch. Epist. 12), and the military fame which he had now acquired established his reputation. His former occupation as a scribe to Aristophon and Eubulus had made him acquainted with the laws and constitution of Athens, while his acting on the stage had been a useful preparation for public speaking. During the first period of his public career, he was, like all other Athenians, zealously engaged in directing the attention of his fellow-citizens to the growing power of Philip, and exhorted them to check it in its growth. After the fall of Olynthus in B. C. 348, Eubulus prevailed on the Athenians to send an embassy to Peloponnesus with the object of uniting the Greeks against the common enemy. and Aeschines was sent to Arcadia. Here Aeschines spoke at Megalopolis against Hieronymus an emissary of Philip, but without success; and from this moment Aeschines, as well as all his fellow-citizens, gave up the hope of effecting anything by the united forces of Greece. (Dem. De fals. Leg.; Aesch. De fals. Leg.). When therefore Philip, in B. C. 347, gave the Athenians to understand that he was inclined to make peace with them, Philocrates urged the necessity of sending an embassy to Philip to treat on the subject. Ten men, and among them Aeschines and Demosthenes, were accordingly sent to Philip, who received them with the utmost politeness, and Aeschines, when it was his turn to speak, reminded the king of the rights which Athens had to his friendship and alliance. The king promised to send forthwith ambassadors to Athens to negotiate the terms of peace. After the return of the Athenian ambassadors they were each rewarded with a wreath of olive, on the proposal of Demosthenes, for the manner in which they had discharged their duties. Aeschines from this moment forward was inflexible in his opinion, that nothing but peace with Philip could avert utter ruin from his country. That this was perfectly in accordance with what Philip wished is clear, but there is no reason for supposing, that Aeschines had been bribed into this opinion, or that he urged the necessity of peace with a view to ruin his country (Aesch. in Ctesiph.). Antipater and two other Macedonian ambassadors arrived at Athens soon after the return of the Athenian ones, and after various debates Demosthenes urgently advised the people to conclude the peace, and speedily to send other ambassadors to Philip to receive his oath to it. The only difference between Aeschines and Demosthenes was, that the former would have concluded the peace even without providing for the Athenian allies, which was happily prevented by Demosthenes. Five Athenian ambassadors, and among them Aeschines but not Demosthenes (De Coron.), set out for Macedonia the more speedily, as Philip was making war upon Cersobleptes, a Thracian prince and ally of Athens. They went to Pella to wait for the arrival of Philip from Thrace, and were kept there for a considerable time, for Philip did not come until he had completely subdued Cersobleptes. At last, however, he swore to the peace, from which the Phocians were expressly excluded. Philip honoured the Athenian ambassadors with rich presents, promised to restore all Athenian prisoners without ransom, and wrote a polite letter to the people of Athens apologizing for having detained their ambassadors so long. (Dem. De fals. Leg.). Hyperides and Timarchus, the former of whom was a friend of Demosthenes, brought forward an accusation against the ambassadors, charging them with high treason against the republic, because they were bribed by the king. Timarchus accused Aeschines, and Hyperides Philocrates. But Aeschines evaded the danger by bringing forward a counter-accusation against Timiarchus (B. C. 345), and by showing that the moral conduct of his accuser was such that lie had no right to speak before the people. The speech in which Aeschines attacked Timarchus is still extant, and its effect was, that Timarchus was obliged to drop his accusation, and Aeschines gained a brilliant triumph. The operations of Philip after this peace, and his march towards Thermopylae, made the Athenians very uneasy, and Aeschines, though he assured the people that the king had no hostile intentions towards Athens and only intended to chastise Thebes, was again requested to go as ambassador to Philip and insure his abiding by the terms of his peace. But he deferred going on the pretext that he was ill (Dem. De fals. Leg.). On his return he pretended that the king had secretly confided to him that he would undertake nothing against either Phocis or Athens. Demosthenes saw through the king's plans as well as the treachery of Aeschines, and how just his apprehensions were became evident soon after the return of Aeschines, when Philip announced to the Athenians that he had taken possession of Phocis. The people of Athens, however, were silenced and lulled into security by the repeated assurances of the king and the venal orators who advocated his cause at Athens. In B. C. 346, Aeschines was sent as pulagoras to the assembly of the amphictyons at Pylae which was convoked by Philip, and at which he received greater honours than he could ever have expected.
At this time Aeschines and Demosthenes were at the head of the two parties, into which not only Athens, but all Greece was divided, and their political enmity created and nourished personal hatred. This enmity came to a head in the year B. C. 343, when Demosthenes charged Aeschines with having been bribed and having betrayed the interests of his country during the second embassy to Philip. This charge of Demosthenes (peri parapresbeias) was not spoken, but published as a memorial, and Aeschines answered it in a similar memorial on the embassy (peri parapresbeias), which was likewise published (Dem. De fals. Leg.), and in the composition of which he is said to have been assisted by his friend Eubulus. The result of these mutual attacks is unknown, but there is no doubt that it gave a severe shock to the popularity of Aeschines. At the time he wrote his memorial we gain a glimpse into his private life. Some years before that occurrence he had married a daughter of Philodemus, a man of high respectability in his tribe of Paeania, and in 343 he was father of three little children (Aesch, De falss. Leg.).
It was probably in B. C. 342, that Antiphon, who had been exiled and lived in Macedonia, secretly returned to the Peiraeeus with the intention of setting fire to the Athenian ships of war. Demosthenes, discovered him, and had him arrested. Aeschines denounced the conduct of Demosthenes as a violation of the democratical constitution. Antiphon was sentenced to death; and although no disclosure of any kind could be extorted from him, still it seems to have been believed in many quarters that Aeschines had been his accomplice. Hence the honourable office of sundikos to the sanctuary in Delos, which had just been given him, was taken from him and bestowed upon Hyperides (Demosth. De Coron.). In B. C. 340 Aeschines was again present at Delphi as Athenian pulagoras, and caused the second sacred war against Amphissa in Locris for having taken into cultivation some sacred lands. Philip entrusted with the supreme command by the amphictyons, marched into Locris with an army of 30,000 men, ravaged the country, and established himself in it. When in 338 he advanced southward as far as Elatea, all Greece was in consternation. Demosthenes alone persevered, and roused his countrymen to a last and desperate struggle. The battle of Chaeroneia in this same year decided the fate of Greece. The misfortune of that day gave a handle to the enemies of Demosthenes for attacking him; but notwithstanding the bribes which Aeschines received from Antipater for this purpose, the pure and unstained patriotism of Demosthenes was so generally recognised, that he received the honourable charge of delivering the funeral oration over those who had fallen at Chacroneia. Ctesiphon proposed that Demosthenes should be rewarded for the services he had done to his country, with a golden crown in the theatre at the great Dionysia. Aeschines availed himself of the illegal form in which this reward was proposed to be given, to bring a charge against Ctesiphon on that ground. But lie did not prosecute the matter till eight years later, that is, in B. C. 330, when after the death of Philip, and the victories of Alexander, political affairs had assumed a different aspect in Greece. After having commenced the prosecution of Ctesiphon, he is said to have gone for some time to Macedonia. What induced him to drop the prosecution of Ctesiphon, and to take it up again eight years afterwards, are questions which can only be answered by conjectures. The speech in which he accused Ctesiphon in B. C. 330, and which is still extant, is so skilfully managed, that if he had succeeded he would have totally destroyed all the political influence and authority of Demosthenes. The latter answered Aeschines in his celebrated oration on the crown (peri stephanou. Even before Demosthenes had finished his speech, Aeschines acknowledged himself conquered, and withdrew from the court and his country. When the matter was put to the votes, not even a fifth of them was in favour of Aeschiines.
Aeschines went to Asia Minor. The statement of Plutarch, that Demosthenes provided him with the means of accomplishing his journey, is surely a fable. He spent several years in Ionia and Caria, occupying himself with teaching rhetoric, and anxiously waiting for the return of Alexander to Europe. When in B. C. 324 the report of the death of Alexander reached him, he left Asia and went to Rhodes, where he established a school of eloquence, which subsequently became very celebrated, and occupies a middle position between the [p. 39] grave manliness of the Attic orators, and the effeminate luxuriance of the so-called Asiatic school of oratory. On one occasion he read to his audience in Rhodes his speech against Ctesiphon, and when some of his hearers expressed their astonishment at his having been defeated notwithstanding his brilliant oration, he replied, " You would cease to be astonished, if you had heard Demosthenes" (Cic. De Orat. iii. 56; Plin. H. N. vii. 30; Plin. Epist. ii. 3; Quinctil. xi. 3. 6). From Rhodes he went to Samos, where he died in B. C. 314.
The conduct of Aeschines has been censured by the writers of all ages; and for this many reasons may be mentioned. Ill the first place, and above all, it was his misfortune to be constantly placed in juxtaposition or opposition to the spotless glory of Demosthenes, and this must have made him appear more guilty in the eyes of those who saw through his actions, while in later times the contrast between the greatest orators of the time was frequently made the theme of rhetorical declamation, in which one of the two was praised or blamed at the cost of the other, and less with regard to truth than to effect. Respecting the last period of his life we scarcely possess any other source of information than the accounts of late sophists and declamations. Another point to be considered in forming a just estimate of the character of Aeschines is, that he had no advantages of education, and that lie owed his greatness to none but himself. His occupations during the early part of his life were such as necessarily engendered in him the low desire of gain and wealth; and had he overcome these passions, he would have been equal to Demosthenes. There is, however, not the slightest ground for believing, that Aeschines recommended peace with Macedonia at first from any other motive than the desire of promoting the good of his country. Demosthenes himself acted in the same spirit at that time, for the craftiness of Philip deceived both of them. But while Demosthenes altered his policy on discovering the secret intentions of the king, Aeschines continued to advocate the principles of peace. But there is nothing to justify the belief that Aeschines intended to ruin his country, and it is much more probable that the crafty king made such an impression upon him, that he firmly believed he was doing right, and was thus unconsciously led on to become a traitor to his country. But no ancient writer except Demosthenes charges him with having received bribes from the Macedonians for the purpose of betraying his country. He appears to have been carried away by the favour of the king and the people, who delighted in hearing from him what they themselves wished, and, perhaps also, by the opposition of Demosthenes himself.
Aeschines spoke on various occasions, but he published only three of his orations, namely, against Timarchus, on the Embassy, and against Ctesiphon. As an orator, he was inferior to none but Demosthenes. He was endowed by nature with extraordinary oratorical powers, of which his orations afford abundant proofs. The facility and felicity of his diction, the boldness and the vigour of his descriptions, carry away the reader now, as they must have carried away his audience. The ancients, as Photius (Cod. 61) remarks, designated these three orations as the Graces, and the nine letters which were extant in the time of Photius, as the Muses. Besides the three orations, we now possess twelve letters which are ascribed to Aeschines, which however are in all probability not more genuine than the so-called epistles of Phalaris, and are undoubtedly the work of late sophists.
The principal sources of information concerning Aeschines are:
1. The orations of Demosthenes on the Embassy, and on the Crown, and the orations of Aeschines on the Embassy and against Ctesiphon. These four orations were translated into Latin by Cicero; but the translation is lost, and we now possess only an essay which Cicero wrote as an introduction to them: "De optimo genere Oratorum."
2. The life in Plutarch's Vitac decem Oratorum.
3. The life of Aeschines by Philostratus.
4. The life of Aeschines by Libanius.
5. Apollonius' Exegesis.
The first edition of the orations of Aeschines is that of Aldus Manutius in his Collectio Rhetorum Graecorum, Venice, 1513, fol. An edition with a Latin translation, which also contains the letters ascribed to Aeschines, is that of H. Wolf, Basel. 1572, fol. The next important edition is that by Taylor, which contains the notes of Wolf, Taylor, and Markland, and appeared at Cambridge in 1748-56 in his collection of the Attic orators. In Reiske's edition of the Attic orators Aeschines occupies the third volume, Lips. 1771, 8vo. The best editions are those of I. Bekker, vol. iii. of his Oratores Attici, Oxford, 1822, 8vo., for which thirteen new MSS. were collated, and of F. H. Bremi, Zurich, 1823, 2 vols. 8vo. The oration against Demosthenes has been translated into English by Portal and Leland.
This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited July 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Aeschines was for twenty years a bitter enemy of Demosthenes. This enmity was perhaps the chief interest in his life; at any rate it is the dominant motive of his extant speeches. Demosthenes on his side could not afford to despise an enemy whose biting wit and real gift of eloquence assured him an attentive hearing, whether in the courts or before the ecclesia, and thus gave him an influence which the vagueness of his political views and the instability of his personal character could never entirely dissipate. Aeschines had no constructive policy, but he had just the talents which are requisite for the leader of a captious and malicious opposition. To the fact of the long-maintained hostility between these two men we owe a good deal of first-hand information about each of them, both as regards public and private life. It is true that we cannot accept without reservation the statements and criticisms made by either speaker about his rival; but in many cases they agree about facts, though they put different interpretations on them, and so, with care, we may arrive at a substratum of truth.
Aeschines was born about 390 B.C. His father Atrometus, an Athenian citizen of pure descent, was exiled by the Thirty, and fled to Corinth, with his wife. He served for some time as a mercenary soldier in Asia, and finally returned to Athens, where he kept a school. His wife, Glaucothea, filled some minor religious office, initiating the neophytes in certain mysteries, apparently connected with Orphism. Aeschines seems to have helped both his parents in their work, if we may suppose that there is a grain of truth mixed with the malice of Demosthenes:
The whole of the description from which the foregoing passage is taken is an obvious caricature, and its chief value is to show that Demosthenes, if circumstances had not made him a statesman, might have been a successful writer of mediocre comedy; but it seems to point to the fact that Aeschines' parents were in humble circumstances, that he himself had a hard life as a boy, and did not enjoy the usual opportunities of obtaining the kind of education desirable for a statesman. After this, at an age when other aspirants to public life would have been studying under teachers of rhetoric, he was forced to earn his living. He was first clerk to some minor officials, then an actor -according to Demosthenes he played small parts in an inferior company, and lived chiefly on the figs and olives with which the spectators pelted him (de Cor.). He also served as a hoplite, and, by his own account, distinguished himself at Mantinea and Tamynae. In 357 B.C. he obtained political employment, first under Aristophon of Azenia, then under Eubulus, and later we find him acting as clerk of the ecclesia.
You used to fill the ink-pots, sponge the benches, and sweep the schoolroom, like a slave, not like a gentleman's son. When you grew up you helped your mother in her initiations, reciting the formulas, and making yourself generally useful. All night long you were wrapping the celebrants in fawn-skins, preparing their drink-offerings, smearing them with clay and bran, etc. (Dem., de Cor., 258-259)
After the conclusion of the peace of Philocrates the accusations were more definite. Demosthenes asserts that Aeschines had private interviews with Philip when on the second embassy, and that for his services he received certain lands in Boeotia;3 he recurs to this charge in the de Corona, many years later. Aeschines does not deny or even mention this charge either in the speech On the Embassy or in the accusation of Ctesiphon. Demosthenes, having, apparently, little direct evidence, tries to establish his case by emphasizing the relations of Aeschines with the traitor Philocrates; but this is a weak argument, for though Aeschines at one time boasted of these relations, on a later occasion he repudiated them, and even ventured to rank Demosthenes himself with Philocrates. Perhaps we should attach more importance to the other fact urged by Demosthenes, that Aeschines from time to time urged the city to accept Philip's vague promises of goodwill; but before we condemn him on this ground we must recollect that Isocrates, a man of far greater intelligence than Aeschines, and of undoubted honesty, had come so completely under the spell of Philip's personality as to place a thorough belief in the sincerity of his professions. Aeschines may have been duped in the same manner.
You reproach me for the speech which I made, as an envoy, before ten thousand people in Arcadia; you say that I have changed sides, you abject creature, who were nearly branded as a deserter. The truth is that during the war I tried to the best of my ability to unite the Arcadians and the rest of the Greeks against Philip; but when I found that nobody would give help to Athens, but some were waiting to see what happened and others were marching against us, and the orators in the city were using the war as a means of meeting their daily expenses, I admit that I advised the people to come to terms with Philip, and make the peace which you, who have never drawn a sword, now say is disgraceful, though I say that it is far more honourable than the war. (de Leg., 79)
Aeschines considered apaideusia, want of education, almost as a cardinal sin, and could never conceive that he himself was guilty of it. He displays his learning by quotations from the poets, which are sometimes, it must be admitted, very appropriate to his argument, and by references to mythology and legend, which are sometimes frigid. His use of history betrays a rather superficial knowledge of the subject; it is hardly probable that he had studied Thucydides, for instance. Still, he possessed a fair portion of learning; what leads him astray is really his lack of taste. He is at his best in the use of quotation when he adduces the lines of Hesiod on the man whose guilt in volves a whole city in his own ruin--the passage will be quoted later. The verses give a real sting to his denunciations, and the opinion which he expresses on the educational influence of poetry is both solemn and sincere. But he cannot keep to this level. His much boasted education results generally in an affectation of a sort of artificial propriety in action and language, and a profession of prudery which is really foreign to his nature. He professes an admiration for the self-restraint of public speakers in Solon's time, and during the greatness of the republic, and speaks with disgust of Timarchus, who 'threw off his cloak and performed a pancration naked in the assembly'. In the opening of the same speech he makes a strong claim to the merit of ?moderation?; in the prosecution of Timarchus his moderation consists in hinting at certain abominable practices, which he does not describe by name.
What right have you (he asks) to speak of education? No man who really had received a liberal education would ever talk about himself in such a tone as you do; he would have the modesty to blush if any one else said such things about him; but people who have missed a proper education, as you have, and are stupid enough to pretend that they possess it, only succeed in offending their hearers when they talk about it, and fail completely to produce the desired impression. (Dem., de Cor. 128)
Notice again the hypocritical reticence or 'omission' (paraleipsis) -a rhetorical device familiar to readers of Cicero- which insinuates what it cannot prove:
I pray you, Gentlemen, to forgive me if, when forced to speak of certain practices which are not honourable by nature, but are the established habits of the defendant, I am led away into using any expression which resembles the actions of Timarchus. . . . The blame should rest on him rather than on me. It will be impossible to avoid all use of such expressions, . . . but I shall try to avoid it as far as possible. (Timarch. 37-38)
Whatever his origin may have been, he was not ashamed of it. He more than once refers with affectionate respect to his father. His love for his wife and children is on one occasion ingeniously introduced in an eloquent passage to influence the feelings of his hearers. This use of 'pathos' was familiar enough to Greek audiences, but Aeschines shows his originality by the form in which he puts the appeal -aiming directly at the feelings of individual hearers for their own families, rather than asking the assembly collectively to pity the victims of misfortune:
Only consider the folly, the vulgarity of the man, who has invented so monstrous a lie against me as the one about the Olynthian woman. You hissed him down in the middle of the story, for the slander was quite out of keeping with my character, and you knew me well. (Aesch., de Leg. 153)
Lastly, he could speak of himself with dignity, as in the passage where he rebuts a charge against his private character, and in the following:
I have by my wife, the daughter of Philodemus and sister of Philon and Echecrates, three children, a daughter and two sons. I have brought them here with the rest of my family in order that I may put one question and prove one point to my judges; and this I shall now proceed to do. I ask you, men of Athens, whether you think it likely that, in addition to sacrificing my country and the companionship of my friends and my right to a share in the worship and the burial-place of my fathers, I could betray to Philip these whom I love more than anything in the world, and value his friendship higher than their safety? Have I ever become so far the slave of base pleasures? Have I ever yet done anything so base for the sake of money? No; it is not Macedon that makes a man good or bad, but nature; and when we return from an embassy we are the same men that we were when you sent us out. (de Leg. 152)
My silence, Demosthenes, is due to the moderation of my life; I am content with a little; I have no base desire for greatness; and so my silence or my speech is due to careful deliberation, not to necessity imposed by habits of extravagance. You, I imagine, are habitually silent when you have got what you want; when you have spent it, you raise your voice. (Ctes. 218)
In other cases the quotations are excessively long and, like those of Lycurgus, have hardly any bearing on the point.
We know that Aeschines took education very seriously -more seriously, in fact, than anything else- and his reference here to the educative influence of the poets gives proof of his earnestness, which may have been a transient emotion, but was, for the moment, a strong one.
Thebes, our neighbour Thebes, in the course of a single day has been torn from the midst of Greece; justly, perhaps, for in general she followed a mistaken policy; yet it was not human judgment but divine ordinance that led her into error. And the poor Lacedaemonians, who only interfered in this matter originally in connection with the seizure of the sanctuary, they who once could claim to be the leaders of the Greeks, must now be sent up to Alexander to offer themselves as hostages and advertise their disaster; they and their country must submit to any treatment on which he decides, and be judged by the clemency of the conqueror who was the injured party. And our city, the common asylum of all Greeks, to whom formerly embassies used to come from Greece to obtain their safety from us, city by city, is struggling now not for the leadership of the Greeks but for the very soil of her fatherland. And this has befallen us since Demosthenes took the direction of our policy. A passage in Hesiod contains a solemn warning appropriate to such a case. He speaks, I believe, with the intention of educating the people, and advising the cities not to take to themselves evil leaders.
I shall quote the lines, for I conceive that we learn by heart the maxims of the poets in childhood, so that in manhood we may apply them:
"Often the whole of a city must suffer for one man's sin, Who plotteth infatuate counsel, and walketh in evil ways, On such God sendeth destruction, by famine and wasting plague, And razeth their walls and armies, and shatters their ships at sea". (Ctes. 133-136)
The pleasing custom followed by the orators of antiquity, whether Greek or Roman, of defiling the graves of the ancestors of their political opponents, and defaming their private lives, can be as well exemplified from Aeschines as from his rival. Aeschines shows no great originality in particular terms of abuse -Dinarchus has a greater variety of offensive words--but the following extract from his circumstantial fictions about Demosthenes is more effective, because more moderate in tone, than the incredible insults with which the latter described the family circumstances and the career of Aeschines:
The fellow has one characteristic peculiarly his own when other impostors tell a lie, they try to speak vaguely and indefinitely, for fear of being convicted of falsehood; but when Demosthenes seeks to impose upon you, he first of all enforces his lie with an oath, invoking eternal ruin on himself; secondly, though he knows that a thing never can happen at all, he dares to speak with a nice calculation of the day when it is going to happen; he utters the names of people whose faces he has never seen, thus cheating you into hearing him, and assuming an air of truthfulness; and so he thoroughly merits your detestation, since, being such a scoundrel as he is, he discredits the usual proofs of honesty.
After talking in this way he gives the clerk a decree to read -something longer than the Iliad, and more empty than the speeches he makes or the life he has led; full of hopes that can never be realized, and armies that will never be mustered. (Ctes. 99-100)
But he is really at his best where some slight slip on the part of his opponent gives him the opportunity of magnifying a trivial incident into importance. In the following caricature the indecision of Demosthenes is better expressed by the vacillating language thrust into his mouth than it could have been by the most eloquent description in the third person:
So, on his grandfather's account, he must be an enemy of the people, for you condemned his ancestors to death; but through his mother's family he is a Scythian, a barbarian, though he speaks Greek; so that even his wickedness is not of native growth. And what of his daily life? Once a trierarch, he appeared again as a speechwriter, having in some ridiculous fashion thrown away his patrimony; but as in this profession he came under suspicion of disclosing the speeches to the other side, he bounded up on to the tribunal; and though he took great sums of money from his administration, he saved very little for himself. Now, however, the king's treasure has drowned his extravagance -but even that will not be enough; for no conceivable wealth can survive evil habits. Worst of all, he makes a living not out of his private sources of income, but out of your danger. (Ctes. 172-173)
The failure of Demosthenes to rise to the occasion when he had the opportunity of delivering an impressive speech before Philip, during the first embassy, forms the groundwork for excellent comedy on the part of Aeschines. Demosthenes, by his rival's account, was usually so intolerable as a companion that his colleagues refused to stay in the same lodging with him whenever another was obtainable; but he had found opportunity to impress them with his own sense of his importance as an orator. These professions are well indicated in a few words. The account of his failure, of Philip's patronizing encouragement, of the fiasco in which the whole proceedings terminated, are sketched with a delicate malice that must have made any defence or explanation impossible; indeed Demosthenes seems to have attempted no reply:
While I was in the middle of this speech, Demosthenes shouted out at the top of his voice -all our fellow-envoys can support my statement- for in addition to his other vices he is a partisan of Boeotia. What he said was something to this purpose: "This fellow is full of a spirit of turbulence and recklessness; I admit that I am made of softer stuff, and fear dangers afar off. However, I would forbid him to raise disturbances between the States, for I think that the right course is for us ambassadors not to meddle with anything. Philip is marching to Thermopylae; I cover my face. No man will judge me because Philip takes up arms; I shall be judged for any unnecessary word that I utter, or for any action in which I exceed my instructions". (de Leg. 106-107)
Aeschines not only excelled in this class of circumstantial caricature, but he could win a laugh by a single phrase. It is well known that Midias, after various discreditable quarrels, put the final touch to his insolence by a public assault on Demosthenes, whose face he slapped in the theatre. Demosthenes on many occasions made capital out of this assault; which fact inspires the remark of Aeschines, 'His face is his fortune'. Of his dexterity in repartee a single instance may be quoted: Demosthenes, in an outburst of indignation, had suggested that the court should refuse to be impressed by the oratory of a man who was notoriously corrupt, but should rather be prejudiced by it against him (de Falsa Leg. 339). Aeschines, catching at the words, rather than the spirit, retorted, 'Though you, gentlemen, have taken a solemn oath to give an impartial hearing to both parties, he has dared to urge you not to listen to the voice of the defendant' (Aesch., de Leg.1).
When these and other speeches had been made, it was Demosthenes' turn to play his part in the embassy, and everybody was most attentive, expecting to hear a speech of exceptional power; for, as we gathered later, even Philip and his companions had heard the report of his ambitious promises. When everybody was thus prepared to listen to him, the brute gave utterance to some sort of obscure exordium, half-dead with nervousness, and having made a little progress over the surface of the subject he suddenly halted and hesitated, and at last completely lost his way. Philip, seeing the state he was in, urged him to take courage, and not to think he had failed because, like an actor, he had forgotten his part; but to try quietly and little by little to recollect himself and make the speech as he intended it. But he, having once been flurried, and lost the thread of his written speech, could not recover himself again; he tried once more, and failed in the same way. A silence followed, after which the herald dismissed the embassy. (de Leg. 34-35)
This text is cited July 2005 from Perseus Project URL bellow, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Receive our daily Newsletter with all the latest updates on the Greek Travel industry.Subscribe now!