A LITTLE before noon on the sixteenth, I was walking in the Porch — it was on the left-hand side as you go out — when Thersagoras appeared; I dare say he is known to some of you — short, hook-nosed, fair-complexioned, and virile. He drew nearer, and I spoke: ‘Thersagoras the poet. Whence, and whither?’ ‘From home, hither,’ he replied. ‘Just a stroll?’ I asked. ‘Why, I do need a stroll too,’ he said. ‘I got up in the small hours, impressed with the duty of making a poetic offering on Homer’s birthday.’ ‘Very proper,’ said I; ‘a good way of paying for the education he has given you.’ ‘That was how I began,’ he continued, ‘and time has glided by till now it is just upon noon; that was what I meant by saying I wanted a stroll.
‘However, I wanted something else much more — an inter view with this gentleman’ (and he pointed to the Homer; you know the one on the right of the Ptolemies’ shrine, with the hair hanging loose); ‘I came to greet him, and to pray for a good flow of verse.’ ‘Ah,’ I sighed, ‘if prayers would do it! in that case I should have given Demosthenes a worrying for assistance against his birthday. If prayers availed, I would join my wishes to yours; for the boons we desire are the same.’ ‘Well, I put down to Homer,’ he replied, ‘my facility of this night and morning; ardours divine and mystic have possessed me. But you shall judge. Here are my tablets, which I have brought with designs upon any idle friend I might light upon; and you, I rejoice to see, are idle.’
‘Ah, you lucky man!’ I exclaimed; ‘you are like the winner of the three miles, who had washed off the dust, and could amuse himself for the rest of the day. He was minded to crack a story with the wrestler, when the wrestling was next on the programme; but the wrestler asked him whether he had felt like cracking stories when he toed the line just now. You have won your poetic three miles, and want me to minister to your amusement just as I am shivering at the thought of my hundred yards.’ He laughed: ‘Why, how will it make things worse for you? ’
‘Ah, you probably consider Demosthenes of much less account than Homer. You are very proud of your eulogy on Homer; and is Demosthenes a light matter to me?’ ‘A trumped up charge,’ he exclaimed; ‘I am not going to sow dissension between these two mighty ones, though it is true my own allegiance is rather to Homer.’
‘Good,’ I said, ‘and you must allow me to give mine to Demosthenes. But, though you do not disqualify my subject, I am sure you think poetry the only real treatment; you feel about mere rhetoric what the cavalryman feels as he gallops past the infantry.’ ‘I hope I am not so mad as that,’ he said, ‘though a considerable touch of madness is required of him who would pass the gates of poetry.’ ‘If you come to that, prose cannot do without some divine inspiration either, if it is not to be flat and common.’ He admitted that at once: ‘I often delight myself with comparing passages from Demosthenes and other prose writers with Homer in point of vehemence, pungency, fire. “Flown with wine” I pair off against the revellings and dancings and debauchery of Philip; “One presage that ne’er fails 1“ finds its counterpart in “It is for brave men, founding themselves upon brave hopes —”; “How would old Peleus, lord of steeds, repine —” is matched by “What a cry of lamentation would go up from the men of those days who laid down their lives for glory and freedom —”; “fluent Python” reminds me of Odysseus’s “snow-flake speech”; “If ’twere our lot neither to age nor die,” I illustrate by “For every man’s life must end in death, though he shut himself up in a narrow chamber for safer keeping.” In fact the instances are numberless in which they attack their meaning by the same road.
‘I love too to study his feelings and moods and transitions, the variety with which he combats weariness, his resumptions after digression, the charm of his opportune illustrations, and the never-failing native purity of his style.
‘It has often struck me about Demosthenes — for I will tell the whole truth out — that that looser of the bonds of speech rebukes Athenian slackness with a dignity that is lacking in the “Greekesses” used by Homer of the Greeks; and again he maintains the tragic intensity proper to the great Hellenic drama more consistently than the poet who inserts speeches at the very crisis of battle and allows energy to evaporate in words.
‘As often as I read Demosthenes, the balanced clauses, the rhythmic movement and cadence, make me forget that this is not my beloved poetry; for Homer too abounds in contrast and parallel, in figures startling or simple. It is a provision of nature, I suppose, that each faculty should have its proper equipment attached to it. How should I scorn your Muse? I know her powers too well.
‘None the less, I consider my task of a Homeric encomium twice as difficult as your praise of Demosthenes; not because it must be in verse, but from the nature of the material; I cannot lay down a foundation of fact to build the edifice of praise upon; there is nothing but the poems themselves. Everything else is uncertain — his country, his family, his time. If there had been any uncertainty about them,
Debate and strife had not divided men;
but as it is, they give him for a country Ios or Colophon or Cumae, Chios, Smyrna, or Egyptian Thebes, or half a hundred other places; his father may be Macon the Lydian, or he may be a river; his mother is now Melanope, and now in default of satisfactory human descent a dryad; his time is the Heroic Age, or else perhaps it is the Ionic. There is no knowing for certain whether he was before or after Hesiod, even; and no wonder, considering that some object to his very name, and will have him Melesigenes instead. So too with his poverty, and his blindness. However, all these questions are best left alone. So you see the arena open to my panegyric is extremely limited; my theme is a poet and not a man of action; I can infer and collect his wisdom only from his verses.
‘Your work, now, can be reeled smoothly off out of hand; you have your definite known facts; the butcher’s meat is there, only needing to be garnished with the sauce of your words. History supplies you with the greatness and distinction of Demosthenes; it is all known; his country was Athens, the splendid, the famous, the bulwark of Hellas. Now if I could have laid hands on Athens, I might have used the poet’s right to introduce the loves and judgements and sojourns there of the Gods, the gifts they lavished on it, the tale of Eleusis. As for its laws and courts and festivals, its Piraeus and its colonies, the memorials set up in it of victory by land and sea, Demosthenes himself is the authority for saying that no words could do justice to them. My material would have been inexhaustible; and I could not have been accused of hanging up my true theme; the formula of panegyric includes the arraying of the man in the splendours of his country. So too Isocrates ekes out his Helen by introducing Theseus. It is true that poets have their privileges; and perhaps you have to be more careful about your proportions; there must not be too much sack to the proverbial halfpennyworth of bread.
‘Well then, let Athens go; but your discourse at once finds another support in his father’s wealth — that “golden base” which Pindar likes —; for to be responsible for providing a warship was to be among the richest Athenians in those days. And though he died while Demosthenes was quite a child, we are not to count his orphan state a disaster; it led to the distinction that brought his splendid gifts into notice.
‘Tradition gives us no hint of how Homer was educated or developed his powers; the panegyrist must plunge straight into his works, and can find nothing to talk about in his breeding and training and pupilage; he has not even the resource of that Hesiodic sprig of bay which could make a facile poet out of a shepherd. But think of your abundance in this branch of the subject. There is Callistratus and all the mighty roll of orators, Alcidamas, Isocrates, Isaeus, Eubulides. Then again, at Athens even those who were subject to paternal control had countless temptations to indulgence, youth is the susceptible time, a neglected ward could have lived as irregular a life as he chose, and yet the objects that Demosthenes set up for himself were philosophy and patriotism, and the doors they took him to not Phryne’s, but those of Aristotle and Theophrastus, Xenocrates and Plato.
‘And so, my dear sir, your way is open to a disquisition upon the two kinds of human love, the one sprung of a desire that is like the sea, outrageous, fierce, stormily rocking the soul; it is a true sea wave, which the earthly Aphrodite sets rolling with the tempestuous passions of youth; but the other is the steady drawing of a golden cord from heaven; it does not scorch and pierce and leave festering wounds; it impels towards the pure and unsullied ideal of absolute beauty, and is a sane madness in those souls which “yet hold of Zeus and nurse the spark divine.”
‘Love will find out the way, though that way involve a shaven head, a cavern dwelling, a discouraging mirror and punitive sword, a disciplining of the tongue, a belated apprenticeship to the actor’s art, a straining of the memory, a conquest over clamour, and a borrowing of night hours to lengthen toilsome days 1. All this your Demosthenes endured, and who knows not what an orator it made of him? his speech packed with thought and terse of language, himself convincing in his knowledge of human nature, as splendid in the elevation as mighty in the force of his sentiments, the master and not the slave of his words and his ideas, ever fresh with the graces of his art. He is the one orator whose speech has, in the bold phrase of Leosthenes, at once the breath of life and the strength of wrought iron.
Callisthenes remarked of Aeschylus that he wrote his tragedies in wine, which lent vigour and warmth to his work. With Demosthenes it was otherwise; he composed not on wine but on water; whence the witticism of Demades, that most men’s tongues are regulated by water 2, but Demosthenes’s pen was subject to the same influence. And Pytheas detected the smell of the midnight oil in the very perfection of the speeches. Well, there is much in common between your subject and mine, so far as this branch of them is concerned; on Homer’s poems I was no worse off than you are.
‘But when you come to your hero’s acts of humanity, his pecuniary sacrifices, his grand political achievements ’ (and he was going on in full swing to the rest of the catalogue, when I interrupted, with a laugh: ‘Must I be dowsed with the remainder of your canful, good bath-man?’ ‘Most certainly,’ he retorted, and went straight on), ‘the public entertainments he gave, the public burdens he assumed, the ships, the wall, the trench he contributed to, the prisoners he ransomed, the girls he portioned, his admirable policy, the embassies he served on, the laws he got passed, the mighty issues he was concerned in — why, then I cannot but laugh to see your contracted brows; as if a recital of the exploits of Demosthenes could lack matter!’
‘I believe you think, my good man,’ I protested, ‘that I have never had the deeds of Demosthenes drummed into me; I should be singular among rhetoricians, then.’ ‘It was on the assumption,’ he said, ‘implied by you, that we want assistance. But perhaps your case is a very different one; is the light so bright that you cannot manage to fix your eyes on the dazzling glory of Demosthenes? Well, I was rather like that about Homer at first. Indeed, I came very near turning mine away, thinking I could not possibly face my subject. However, I got over it somehow or other; became gradually inured, as it were, superior to the weakness of vision that would have condemned me for a bastard eagle and no true son of Homer.
‘But now here is another great advantage that I consider you have over me. The poetic faculty has a single aim; from which it follows that Homer’s glory must be laid hold of at once and as a whole. You on the other hand, if you were to attempt dealing with the whole Demosthenes all at once, would never know what to say; you would waver and not be able to set your thoughts to work. You would be like the gourmand at a Sicilian banquet, or the aesthete who has a thousand delightful sights and sounds presented to him at once; they do not know which way to turn for their conflicting desires. I suspect that you too are distracted and find concentration impossible; all round you are the varied attractions — his magnanimity, his fire, his orderly life, his oratorical force and practical courage, the endless opportunities of gain that he scorned, his justice, humanity, honour, spirit, sagacity, and each of all his great services to his country. It may well be that, when you behold on this side decrees, ambassadors, speeches, laws, on the other, fleets, Euboea, Boeotia, Chios, Rhodes, the Hellespont, Byzantium, you are pulled to and fro among these too numerous invitations, and cannot tell which to accept.
‘Pindar once found himself in a similar difficulty with an overabundant theme:
Ismenus? Melia’s distaff golden-bright?
Cadmus? the race from dragon’s teeth that came?
Thebe’s dark circlet? the all-daring might
Of Heracles? great Bacchus’ merry fame?
White-armed Harmonia’s bridal? — Ay, but which?
My Muse, we ‘re poor in that we are too rich.
You, I dare say, are in the same quandary. Logic and life, rhetoric and philosophy, popularity and death — ay, but which?
The maze is quite easy to escape from, though; you have only to take hold of one single clue, no matter which — his oratory, if you will, so that it is taken by itself — and stick to that one throughout your present discourse. You will have ample material; his oratory is not of the Periclean type. Pericles could lighten and thunder, and he could hit the right nail on the head; so much tradition tells us; but we have nothing to judge for ourselves by, no doubt because, beyond the momentary impression produced, there was in his performances no element of permanence, nothing that could stand the searching test of time. But with Demosthenes’s work — well, that it will be your province to deal with, if your choice goes that way.
Or if you prefer his character, or his policy, it will be well to isolate some particular detail — if you are greedy you may pick out two or three — which will give you quite enough to go upon; so great was he at every point. And for such specializing we have Homer’s example; the compliments he pays his heroes are attached to parts of them, their feet, their heads, their hair, even their shields or something they have on; and the Gods seem to have had no objection to poets’ basing their praises merely on a distaff, a bow, or the aegis; a limb or a quality must pass still more easily; and as for good actions, it is impossible to give an exhaustive list of them. Demosthenes accordingly will not blame you for confining your eulogy to one of his merits, especially as to celebrate the whole of them worthily would be beyond even his powers.’
When Thersagoras had finished this harangue, I remarked: ‘Your intention is plain; I am to be convinced that you are more than a good poet; so you have constructed your prose Demosthenes as a pendant to your verse Homer.’ ‘No, no,’ he said; ‘what made me run on so long was the idea that, if I could ease your mind by showing how light your task was, I should have secured my listener.’ ‘Then let me tell you that your object has not been furthered, and my case has only been aggravated.’ ‘A fine doctor I seem to be!’ he said. ‘Not knowing where the difficulty lies,’ I continued, ‘you are a doctor who mistakes his patient’s ailment and treats him for another.’ ‘How so?’
‘You have been prescribing for the troubles that would attend a first attempt; unfortunately it is years and years since I got through that stage, and your remedies are quite out of date.’ ‘Why, then,’ he exclaimed, ‘the cure is complete; nobody is nervous about a road of which he knows every inch.’
‘Ah, but then I have set my heart upon reversing the feat that Anniceris of Cyrene exhibited to Plato and his friends. To show what a fine driver he was, he drove round the Academy time after time exactly in his own track, which looked after it as if it had only been traversed once. Now my endeavour is just the opposite, to avoid my old tracks; and it is by no means so easy to keep out of the ruts.’ ‘Pauson’s is the trick for you,’ he said. ‘What is that? I never heard of it.’
‘Pauson the painter was commissioned to do a horse rolling. He painted one galloping in a cloud of dust. As he was at work upon it, his patron came in, and complained that this was not what he had ordered. Pauson just turned the picture upside down and told his man to hold it so for inspection; there was the horse rolling on its back.’ ‘You dear innocent!’ I said; ‘do you suppose I have kept my picture turned the same way all these years? It has been shifted and tilted at every conceivable angle, till I begin to have apprehensions of ending like Proteus.’ ‘And how was that?’ ‘Oh, I mean the issue of his attempts to evade human observation; when he had exhausted all shapes of animals and plants and elements, finding no metamorphosis left him, he had to be Proteus again.’
‘You have more shifts than ever Proteus had,’ he said, ‘to get off hearing my poem.’
‘Oh, do not say that,’ said I; ‘off goes my burden of care, and I am at your service. Perhaps when you have got over your own pains of child-birth you will show more feeling for my delicate state.’
He liked the offer, we settled down on a convenient stone step, and I listened to some excellent poetry. In the middle of reading he was seized with an idea, did up his tablets, and said: ‘You shall have your hearer’s fee, as well deserved as an Athenian’s after a day in court or assembly. Thank me, please.’ ‘I do, before I know what for. But what may it be?’ ‘It was in the Macedonian royal archives that I came across the book;
I was delighted with it at the time, and took considerable trouble to secure it; it has just come into my head that I have it at home. It contains, among details of Antipater’s management of the household, facts about Demosthenes that I think you will find worth your best attention.’ ‘You shall have payment on the spot,’ I said, ‘in the shape of an audience for the rest of your verses; and moreover I shall not part with you till your promise is fulfilled. You have given me a luscious Homer birthday dinner; and it seems you are to be at the charges of the Demosthenes one too.’
He read to the end, we stayed long enough for me to give the poem its meed of praise, and then adjourned to his house, where after some search the book was found. I took it away with me, and on further acquaintance was so much impressed by it that I shall do no editing, but read it you totidem verbis. Asclepius is not less honoured if his worshippers, in default of original compositions, have the hymns of Isodemus or Sophocles performed before him; there is a failure nowadays in the supply of new plays for Dionysus; but those who produce the works of old masters at the proper season have the credit all the same of honouring the God.
This book, then (the part of the state records that concerns us is the conversation I shall give you)— the book informs us that Archias’s name was announced to Antipater. In case any of my younger hearers should not know the fact already, this Archias had been charged with the arrest of all exiles. In particular, he was to get Demosthenes from Calauria into Antipater’s presence, but rather by persuasion than by force. Antipater was excited about it, hoping that Demosthenes might arrive any day. So, hearing that Archias was come from Calauria, he gave orders for his instant admittance.
When he entered — but you shall have the conversation as it stands.
Ar. Is it well with you, Antipater?
Ant. It is well, if you have brought Demosthenes.
Ar. I have brought him as I might. I have the urn that holds his remains
Ant. Ha? my hopes are dashed. What avail ashes and urns, if I have not Demosthenes?
Ar. The soul, O King, may not be prisoned in a man’s own despite.
Ant. Why took you him not alive?
Ar. We took him.
Ant. And he has died on the way?
Ar. He died where he was, in Calauria.
Ant. Your neglect is to blame; you took not due care of him.
Ar. Nay, it lies not at our door.
Ant. What mean you? These are riddles, Archias; you took him alive, and you have him not?
Ar. Was it not your charge that we should use no force at first? Yet indeed we should have fared no better if we had; we did intend it.
Ant. You did not well, even in the intention; it may be your violence killed him.
Ar. No, we killed him not; but if we could not persuade him, there was nothing for it but force. But, O King, how had you been the better off, if he had come alive? you could have done no more than kill him.
Ant. Peace, Archias! methinks you comprehend neither the nature of Demosthenes, nor my mind. You think there is no more in the finding of Demosthenes than in the hunting down such scoundrels as Himeraeus or Aristonicus or Eucrates; these are like swollen torrents — mean fellows in themselves, to whom a passing storm gives brief importance; they make a brave show while the disturbance lasts; but they are as sure to vanish soon as the wind to fall at evening. The recreant Hyperides is another — a selfish demagogue, who took no shame to curry favour with the mob by libelling Demosthenes, and make himself its instrument for ends that his dupes soon wished they had never attained; for the libels had not long borne their fruit before the libelled was reinstated with more honour than Alcibiades himself. But what reeked Hyperides? he scrupled not to use against what had once been dearest to him the tongue that he deserved, even by that iniquity, to lose.
Ar. How.? was Demosthenes not our enemy of enemies?
Ant. Not in the eyes of one who cares for an honourable nature, and loves a sincere consistent character. The noble is noble, though it be in an enemy; and virtue has no country. Am I meaner than Xerxes? he could admire Bulis and Sperchis the Spartans, and release them when they were in his power. No man that ever lived do I admire more than Demosthenes; twice I was in his company at Athens (in hurried times, it is true), and I have heard much from others, and there is his work to judge by. And what moves me is not his skill in speech. You might well suppose so; Python was nothing, matched with him, and the Attic orators but babes in comparison with his finish and intensity, the music of his words, the clearness of his thoughts, his chains of proof, his cumulative blows. We found our mistake when we listened to Python and his promises; we had gathered the Greeks to Athens to see the Athenians confuted; it was Demosthenes who confuted us. But no words of mine can describe the power of his eloquence.
Yet to that I give but a secondary place, as a tool the man used. It was the man himself I marvelled at, his spirit and his wisdom, and the steadiness of soul that steered a straight course through all the tempests of fortune with never a craven impulse. And Philip was of my mind about him; when a speech of his before the Athenian assembly against Philip was reported, Parmenio was angry, and made some bitter jest upon him. But Philip said: Ah, Parmenio, he has a right to say what he pleases; he is the only popular orator in all Greece whose name is missing in my secret service accounts, though I would far rather have put myself in his hands than in those of clerks and third-rate
actors. All the tribe of them are down for gold, timber, rents, cattle, land, in Boeotia if not in Macedonia 1; but the walls of Byzantium are not more proof against the battering-ram than Demosthenes against gold.
This is the way I look at it, Parmenio. An Athenian who speaking in Athens prefers me to his country shall have of my money, but not of my friendship; as for one who hates me for his country’s sake, I will assault him as I would a citadel, a wall, a dock, a trench, but I have only admiration for his virtue, and congratulations for the State that possesses him. The other kind I should like to crush as soon as they have served my purpose; but him I would sooner have here with us than the Illyrian and Triballian horse and all my mercenaries; arguments that carry conviction, weight of intellect, I do not put below force of arms.
That was to Parmenio; and he said much the same to me. At the time of the Athenian expedition under Diopithes, I was very anxious, but Philip laughed at me heartily, and said: Are you afraid of these town-bred generals and their men? Their fleet, their Piraeus, their docks, I snap my fingers at them. What is to be looked for from people whose worship is of Dionysus, whose life is in feasting and dancing? If Demosthenes, and not a man besides, had been subtracted from Athens, we should have had it with less trouble than Thebes or Thessaly; deceit and force, energy and corruption, would soon have done the thing. But he is ever awake; he misses no occasion; he makes move for move and counters every stroke. Not a trick of ours, not an attempt begun or only thought of, but he has intelligence of it; in a word he is the obstacle that stands between us and the swift attainment of our ends. It was little fault of his that we took Amphipolis, that we won Olynthus, Phocis, Thermopylae, that we are masters of the Hellespont.
He rouses his reluctant countrymen out of their opiate sleep, applies to their indolence the knife and cautery of frank statement, and little he cares whether they like it or not. He transfers the revenues from state theatre to state armament, re-creates with his navy bill a fleet disorganized to the verge of extinction, restores patriotism to the place from which it had long been ousted by the passion for legal fees, uplifts the eyes of a degenerate race to the deeds of their fathers and emulation of Marathon and Salamis, and fits them for Hellenic leagues and combinations. You cannot escape his vigilance, he is not to be wheedled, you can no more buy him than the Persian King could buy the great Aristides.
This is the direction your fears should take, Antipater; never mind all the war-ships and all the fleets. What Themistocles and Pericles were to the Athens of old, that is Demosthenes to Athens to-day, as shrewd as Themistocles, as high of soul as Pericles. He it was that gained them the control of Euboea and Megara, the Hellespont and Boeotia. It is well indeed that they give the command to such as Chores or Diopithes or Proxenus, and keep Demosthenes to the platform at home. If they had given into his hands their arms and ships and troops, their strategy and their money, I doubt he would have put me on my mettle to keep Macedonia; even now that he has no weapon but his decrees, he is with us at every turn, his hand is upon us; the ways and means are of his finding, the force of his gathering; it is he that sends armadas afar, he that joins power to power, he that meets our every change of plan.
This was his tone about Demosthenes on many other occasions too; he put it down as one of his debts to fortune that armies were never led by the man whose mere words were so many battering-rams and catapults worked from Athens to the shattering and confounding of his plans. As to Chaeronea, even the victory made no difference; he continued to impress upon us how precarious a position this one man had contrived for us. Things went unexpectedly well; their generals were cowards and their troops undisciplined, and the caprice of fortune, which has so often served us well, brought us out victorious; but he had reduced me to hazarding my kingdom and my life on that single throw; he had brought the most powerful cities into line, he had united Greece, he had forced Athens and Thebes and all Boeotia, Corinth, Euboea, Megara — the might of Greece, in short — to play the game out to its end, and had arrested me before I reached Attic soil.
He never ceased to speak thus about Demosthenes. If any one told him the Athenian democracy was a formidable rival, ‘Demosthenes,’ he would say, ‘is my only rival; Athens without him is no better than Aenianes or Thessalians.’ Whenever Philip sent embassies to the various states, if Athens had sent any one else to argue against his men, he always gained his point with ease; but when it was Demosthenes, he would tell us the embassy had come to naught: there was not much setting up of trophies over speeches of Demosthenes.
Such was Philip’s opinion. Now I am no Philip at the best, and do you suppose, Archias, that if I could have got a man like Demosthenes, I should have found nothing better to do with him than sending him like an ox to the slaughter? or should I have made him my right-hand man in the management of Greece and of the empire? I was instinctively attracted long ago by his public record — an attraction heightened by the witness of Aristotle. He constantly assured both Alexander and myself that among all the vast number of his pupils he had found none comparable to Demosthenes in natural genius and persevering self-development, none whose intellect was at once so weighty and so agile, none who spoke his opinions so freely or maintained them so courageously.
But you (said Aristotle) confuse him with an Eubulus, a Phrynon, a Philocrates, and think to convert with gifts a man who has actually
lavished his inheritance half on needy Athenians and half on Athens; you vainly imagine that you can intimidate one who has long ago resolved to set his life upon his country’s doubtful fortunes; if he arraigns your proceedings, you try denunciation; why, the nearer terrors of the Assembly find him unmoved. You do not realize that the mainspring of his policy is patriotism, and that the only personal advantage he expects from it is the improvement of his own nature.
All this it was, Archias, that made me long to have him with me, to hear from his own lips what he thought about the state of things, and be able at any time of need, abandoning the flatterers who infest us, to hear the plain words of an independent mind and profit by sincere advice. And I might fairly have drawn his attention to the ungrateful nature of those Athenians for whom he had risked all when he might have had firmer and less unconscionable friends.
Ar. O King, your other ends you might have gained, but that you would have told him to no purpose; his love of Athens was a madness beyond cure.
Ant. It was so indeed; ’twere vain to deny it. But how died he?
Ar. O King, there is further wonder in store for you. We who have had the scene before our eyes are as startled and as unbelieving yet as when we saw it. He must long ago have determined how to die; his preparation shows it. He was seated within the temple, and our arguments of the days before had been spent on him in vain.
Ant. Ay? and what were they?
Ar. Long and kindly I urged him, with promises on your part, not that I looked to see them kept (for I knew not then, and took you to be wroth with him), but in hopes they might prevail.
Ant. And what hearing did he give them? Keep nothing back; I would I were there now, hearing him with my own ears; failing which, do you hide nothing from me. ’Tis worth much to learn the bearing of a true man in the last moments of his life, whether he gave way and played the coward, or kept his course unfaltering even to the end.
Ar. Ah, in him was no bending to the storm; how far from it! With a smiling allusion to my former life, he told me I was not actor enough to make your lies convincing.
Ant. Ha? he left life for want of belief in my promises?
Ar. Not so; hear to the end, and you will see his distrust was not all for you. Since you bid me speak, O King, he told me there was no oath that could bind a Macedonian; it was nothing strange that they should use against Demosthenes the weapon that had won them Amphipolis, and Olynthus, and Oropus. And much more of the like; I had writers there, that his words might be preserved for you. Archias (he said), the prospect of death or torture would be enough to keep me out of Antipater’s presence. And if you tell me true, I must be on my guard against the worse danger of receiving life itself as a present at his hands, and deserting, to serve Macedonia, that post which I have sworn to hold for Greece.
Life were a thing to be desired, Archias, were it purchased for me by the power of Piraeus (a war-ship, my gift, has floated there), by the wall and trench of which I bore the cost, by the tribe Pandionis whose festival charges I took upon me, by the spirit of Solon and Draco, by unmuzzled statesmen and a free people, by martial levies and naval organization, by the virtues and the victories of our fathers, by the affection of fellow citizens who have crowned me many a time, and by the might of a Greece whose guardian I have never ceased to be. Or again, if life is to be owed to compassion, though it be mean enough, yet compassion I might endure among the kindred of the captives I have ransomed, the fathers whose daughters I have helped to portion, and the men whose debts I have joined in paying.
But if the island empire and the sea may not save me, I ask my safety from the Posidon at whose altar and under whose sanctuary I stand. And if Posidon’s power avails not to keep his temple inviolate, if he scorns not to surrender Demosthenes to Archias, then welcome death; I will not transfer my worship to Antipater. I might have had Macedonia more at my devotion than Athens, might be now a partaker in your fortunes, if I would have ranged myself with Callimedon, and Pytheas, and Demades. When things were far gone, I might yet have made a shift, if I had not had respect to the daughters of Erechtheus and to Codrus. Fortune might desert, I would not follow her; for death is a haven of safety, which he who reaches will do no baseness more. Archias, I will not be at this late day a stain upon the name of Athens; I will not make choice of slavery; be my winding-sheet the white one of liberty.
Sir actor, let me recall to you a fine passage from one of your tragedies 1:
But even at the point of death
She forethought took to fall in seemly wise.
She was but a girl; and shall Demosthenes choose an unseemly life before a seemly death, and forget what Xenocrates and Plato have said of immortality? And then he was stirred to some bitter speech upon men puffed up by fortune. What remains to tell? At last, as I now besought and now threatened, mingling the stern and mild, ‘Had I been Archias,’ he said, ‘I had yielded; but seeing that I am Demosthenes, your pardon, good sir, if my nature recoils from baseness.’
Then I was minded to hale him off by force. Which when he observed, I saw him smile and glance at the God. Archias (he said) believes that there is no might, no refuge for the human soul, but arms and war-ships, walls and camps. He scorns that equipment of mine which is proof against Illyrians and Triballi
and Macedonians, surer than that wooden wall 1 of old, which the God averred none should prevail against. Secure in this I ever took a fearless course; fearless I braved the might of Macedonia; little I cared for Euctemon or Aristogiton, for Pytheas and Callimedon, for Philip in the old days, for Archias to-day.
And then, Lay no hand upon me. Be it not mine to bring outrage upon the temple; I will but greet the God, and follow of my free will. And for me, I put reliance upon this, and when he lifted his hand to his mouth, I thought it was but to do obeisance.
Ant. And it was indeed —?
Ar. We put his servant to the question later, and learned from her that he had long had poison by him, to give him liberty by parting soul from body. He had not yet passed the holy threshold, when he fixed his eye on me and said: ‘Take this to Antipater; Demosthenes you shall not take, no, by ———’ And methought he would have added, by the men that fell at Marathon.
And with that farewell he parted. So ends, O King, the siege of Demosthenes.
Ant. Archias, that was Demosthenes. Hail to that unconquerable soul! how lofty the spirit, how republican the care, that would never be parted from their warrant of freedom! Enough; the man has gone his way, to live the life they tell of in the Isles of the heroic Blest, or to walk the paths that, if tales be true, the heaven-bound spirits tread; he shall attend, surely, on none but that Zeus who is named of Freedom. For his body, we will send it to Athens, a nobler offering to that land than the men that died at Marathon. H.
146:1 Homer, Il. xii. 243. ‘One omen is best — to fight for our own country.’
150:1 See Demosthenes in Notes.
150:2 Speeches in the law courts had a time limit appointed, which was measured by the water-clock or clepsydra, generally called simply ‘the water,’ ‘my water,’ ‘his water,’ &c.
158:1 To get a meaning, I translate as though the Greek, instead of οὐ Βοιωτίας οὐδ᾽ ἔνθα τι μή, were ὁ μὲν Βοιωτίας, ὁ δ᾽ ἔνθα.
163:1 Euripides, Hecuba. See Polyxena in Notes.
164:1 Oracle in Herodotus vii. 141: ‘A bulwark of wood at the last Zeus grants to the Trito-born goddess | Sole to remain unwasted.’ G. C. Macaulay. Variously interpreted of the thorn hedge of the Acropolis, and of the Athenian fleet.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:52