Item of the Day: First Philippic Oration of Demosthenes (1757)

Full Title: Orations of Demosthenes, Translated by the Rev. Mr. Francis, with Critical and Historical Notes. Vol. I. London: Printed for A. Millar in the Strand, MDCCLVII.

ORATION III.

FIRST PHILIPPIC.

 

The ARGUMENT.

THE Rapidity of his Conquests, the numerous Forces he commanded, and his own enterprising Spirit, had long since made Philip of Macedon an Object of much Apprehension to the Athenians. He had lately taken several Tracian Cities; Confederates and Allies of Athens. The Year before this Oration, he had totally routed the Phocaens, and this present Year had attempted to march into Phoci, through the Pass of Thermopylae. The Athenians opposed him, and with Success. They now deliberate upon their Conduct towards him. Demosthenes advises an immediate Declaration of War. Shews the Necessity of such a Measure, both from Motives of Interest and Glory. Lays down a Plan for military Operations. Paints the Dangers of the Republic in the strongest Colours. Flatters and reproaches. Terrifies and encourages; for while he presents Philip as truly formidable, he represents him indebted for the Power, which made him thus formidable, only to the Indolence and Inactivity of the Athenians.

Our Author pronounced this Oration in the first year of the hundred and seventh Olympiad, when he was nine and twenty Years of Age. [Rev. Mr. Francis]

 

IF any new Affair, O Men of Athens, were appointed for your Debates, restraining my Impatience,  until the greatest Part of those, who are authorised by Custom, had laid before you their Opinions, I had continued silent, if the Measures they proposed had pleased me; if otherwise, I would then have endeavoured to speak my own Sentiments. But since the same Conjunctures, upon which they have often spoken are still the Subject of your Deliberations, I think, I may with Reason expect to be forgiven, though I rise before them in this Debate. For if they had ever given you that salutary Advice, your Affairs, required, there could be no Neccessity for your present Counsils.

LET it be therefore our first Resolution, O men of Athens, not to despair of our present Situation, however totally distressed, since even the worst Circumstance in your past Conduct is now become the best Foundation for your future Hopes. What Circumstance? That your never having acted in any single Instance, as you ought, hath occasioned your Misfortunes; for if you had constantly pursued the Measures necessary for your Welfare, and still the Commonwealth had continued thus distress, there could not even an Hope remain of its ever hereafter being a happier situation.

YOU should next with Confidence recollect, both what you have heard from others, and what you may remember you yourselves have seen, how formidable a Power the Lacedaemonians not long since possessed, and how generously, how consistently with  the Dignity of your Character, you then acted; not in any one Partiuclar unworthy of the Republic, but supporting, in Defence of the common Rights of Greece, the whole Weight of the War against them. Why do I mention these Instances? That you may be convinced, O Men of Athens, that nothing is capable of alarming you, while you are attentive to your Interests; nothing, while you are thus thoughtlessly negligent, will succeed as you desire. As Examples of this Truth, consider the Power of the Cadedaemonians, which you subdued by paying a just Attention to your Affairs; consider the Insolence of this Man, by which you are now alarmed, only through your own exceeding Indolence.

YET whoever reflects upon the numerous Forces he commands; upon all the Places he hath wrested from the Republic, and then concludes, that Philip is not without Difficulty to be conquered, indeed concludes justly. Let him reflect, however, that we, O Men of Athens, were formerly Masters of Pydna, Potidaea, Methone, with all that large Extent of Country round them, upon the very Frontiers of Macedonia; that many of the Nations, now in Confederacy with him, were once governed by their own Laws; were absolutely free, and then greatly preferred your Alliance to that of Philip. Had Philip therefore at that Time entertained an Opinion, that it would be dangerous to enter into a War with the Athenians, possessed of Fortresses, from which they might make Incursions into Macedonia, while he himself was wholly destitute of Allies, he never had attempted what he hath since executed; he had never gained so formidable a Strength. But he was wisely conscious, O Men of Athens, that all these Countries were placed, as common Prize of War, between the contending Parties; that in the very Nature of Things, to the Present belong the Possession of the Absent; to them, who are willing to support the Labour, attempt the Danger, to them belong the Treasures of the Indolent. Acting upon this Principle, he universally subdues and takes Possession; sometimes by Right of Conquest; sometimes, under the Name of Friendship and Alliance. For all Mankind with Chearfulness [sic] enter into Alliances, and engage their whole Attention to those, whom they behold ready and resolute to act in support of their proper Interests.

IF, therfore, you could even now resolve to form your Conduct upon these Maxims, which you have never yet regarded; if every Man, according to his Duty, and in Proportion to his Ablilities, would render himself useful to the Republic, and without disguising or concealing those Ablilities, would act with Vigour and Alacrity; the rich, by a voluntry Contribution of his Riches; the young, by enlisting in the Army; or, at once, and simply to express myself, if you resolve to be Masters of your own Fortune; if every single Citizen will no longer expect, while he himself does absolutely nothing, that his Neighbour will do every Thing for him, then shall you preserve, if such the Will of Jupiter, what you now possess; recover what you have lost by your Inactivity, and chastise this Macedonian. For do not imagine, his present Success is fixed and immortal, as if he were a God. There are, even among those, who seem in strictest Amity with him, who hate, who fear, O Men of Athens, who envy him. Every Passion, incident to the rest of Mankind, you ought assuredly to believe inhabits the Bosoms of his present Allies. But all these Passions are suppressed by their not having whither to fly for Refuge and Protection, through your Indolence, your Dejection of Spirit, which, I pronounce, must be now laid aside for ever. For behold, to what Excess of Arrogance this Man proceeds, who neither gives you the Choice of Peace or War; who threatens, and, as it is reported, talks of you with utmost Insolence; who not contented with the Possession of what he hath blasted with the Lightnings of is War, perpetually throws abroad his Toils, and having on every side inclosed us, sitting here, and indolently forming some future Schemes of Conguest, now stalks around his Prey.

WHEN therefore, O Men of Athens, when will you act, as your Glory, your Interest demands? When some new Event shall happen? When, in the Name of Jupiter! some strong Necessity shall compel you? What then shall we deem our present Circumstances? In my Judgement, the strongest Necessity to a free People, is a Dishonour attending their public Measures. Or, tell me, do you purpose, perpetually wandering in the Market-place, to ask each other, “Is any Thing new reported?” Can any Thing new, than a Man of Macedon, conquering the Athenians, and directing at his Pleasure the Affairs of Greece? “Is Philip dead? Not yet, by Jupiter, but extremely weakened by Sickness.” His Sickness, or his Death, of what Importance to you? Should any Accident happen to this Philip, you yourselves would instantly create another, if such, as at present your Attention to your Affairs. For not so much by his own proper Strength has he grown to this exceeding Greatness, as by your Indolence. However, should some Accident really happen to him; should Fortune be so far propitious to us (she, who is always more attentive in her Concern for us, than we are for ouselves, and may she one Day perfect this her own Work) be assured, if you were near his Dominions, and ready to advance upon the general Disorder of his Affairs, you might dispose of every Thing according to your Pleasure. But in your present Disposition should some favourable Conjucture even deliver up Amphipolis to you, thus fluctuating in your Operations and your Councils, you could not receive the least Benefit from the Possession, with Regard to Macedonia. . . .

 

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Filed under 1750's, Ancient Greece, Greek/Roman Translations, Oratory, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

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