Demosthenes, Speeches 1-17

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Demosthenes, Speeches 1-17

Translated by Jeremy Trevett

This collection of oratory by or ascribed to the most renowned of the ancient Greek orators presents the Philippic and Olynthiac speeches—deliberative speeches denouncing Philip of Macedon—plus a letter from Philip to the Athenians.

Michael Gagarin, series editor
Volume 14



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5.5 x 8.5 | 352 pp. | 2 maps

ISBN: 978-0-292-72677-2


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5.5 x 8.5 | 352 pp. | 2 maps

ISBN: 978-0-292-72909-4

This is the fourteenth volume in the Oratory of Classical Greece. This series presents all of the surviving speeches from the late fifth and fourth centuries BC in new translations prepared by classical scholars who are at the forefront of the discipline. These translations are especially designed for the needs and interests of today's undergraduates, Greekless scholars in other disciplines, and the general public.

Classical oratory is an invaluable resource for the study of ancient Greek life and culture. The speeches offer evidence on Greek moral views, social and economic conditions, political and social ideology, law and legal procedure, and other aspects of Athenian culture that have recently been attracting particular interest: women and family life, slavery, and religion, to name just a few.

This volume contains translations of all the surviving deliberative speeches of Demosthenes (plus two that are almost certainly not his, although they have been passed down as part of his corpus), as well as the text of a letter from Philip of Macedon to the Athenians. All of the speeches were purportedly written to be delivered to the Athenian assembly and are in fact almost the only examples in Attic oratory of the genre of deliberative oratory. In the Olynthiac and Philippic speeches, Demosthenes identifies the Macedonian king Philip as a major threat to Athens and urges direct action against him. The Philippic speeches later inspired the Roman orator Cicero in his own attacks against Mark Antony, and became one of Demosthenes' claims to fame throughout history.

  • Series Editor's Preface (Michael Gagarin)
  • Translator's Preface (Jeremy Trevett)
  • Series Introduction (Michael Gagarin)
    • Oratory in Classical Athens
    • The Orators
    • The Works of the Orators
    • Government and Law in Classical Athens
    • The Translation of Greek Oratory
    • Abbreviations
    • Note on Currency
    • Bibliography of Works Cited
  • Introduction to Demosthenes (Michael Gagarin)
    • Life
    • Works
    • Style
    • Significance
  • Introduction to This Volume (Jeremy Trevett)
    • Political Life in Fourth-Century Athens
    • Athens in the Middle of the Fourth Century
    • Philip of Macedon
    • Demosthenes' Policies
    • Composition, Delivery and Publication
    • Ancient Commentators on Demosthenes
    • List of Works in This Volume
    • Chronology
  • DEMOSTHENES (Jeremy Trevett)
    • 1. First Olynthiac
    • 2. Second Olynthiac
    • 3. Third Olynthiac
    • 4. First Philippic
    • 5. On the Peace
    • 6. Second Philippic
    • 7. On Halonnesus
    • 8. On the Chersonese
    • 9. Third Philippic
    • 10. Fourth Philippic
    • 11. Response to the Letter of Philip
    • 12. Letter of Philip
    • 13. On Organization
    • 14. On the Symmories
    • 15. On the Freedom of the Rhodians
    • 16. For the Megalopolitans
    • 17. On the Agreement with Alexander
  • Bibliography for This Volume
  • Index

This volume contains translations of all the surviving deliberative speeches of Demosthenes, including several whose authenticity has been questioned (Dem. 7, 10, 11, 13, 17), as well as the text of a letter of Philip of Macedon to the Athenians (Dem. 12). Collectively these form the first seventeen "speeches" of the corpus of Demosthenes' works. All the speeches were, or at least purported to be, written to be delivered to the Athenian assembly and are in fact almost the only examples in Attic oratory of the genre of deliberative oratory.


The sovereign decision-making body of democratic Athens was the assembly (ekklōsia), a public meeting, held approximately forty times a year, that was open to all adult Athenian citizens. Attendance varied, but on occasions over six thousand citizens, perhaps a quarter of the citizen body, will have been present. The agenda was prepared in advance by the Council (boulē), which for each item on the agenda might either make a definite proposal or simply put the matter forward for discussion. When the herald asked "who wishes to speak?" it was open to any Athenian to come forward, ascend the speaker's platform (bōma), and address his fellow-citizens, either speaking for or against the proposal already before the assembly or making a new proposal himself.

This prospect must have been daunting for many Athenians, and in practice the speakers tended to come from a relatively small number of citizens, who are referred to variously as "the speakers" (hoi rhētores) or "those who engage in politics" (hoi politeuomenoi). These "politicians," as it is convenient to describe them, were generally wealthy enough to be able to devote much of their time to political activity without the need to work for a living. In addition to speaking in the assembly and proposing decrees, they are also found serving on embassies and engaging in politically motivated litigation. Some, but by no means all, also put themselves forward for election to hold the military post of general (stratēgos), although this was less common in the fourth century than in the fifth.

Classical Athens wholly lacked the political parties of modern parliamentary democracies. In theory its political leaders needed no organization behind them, and Demosthenes often gives the impression that he is quite alone in addressing the Athenian assembly. In practice, however, politicians did cooperate with each other, either on the basis of personal ties or because they agreed on matters of policy, although such alliances were often impermanent and ad hoc. Demosthenes indeed complains that the Athenians conduct their politics "by symmories," that is, by means of "parties," each dominated by a politician and a general (2.29). In one passage, he refers to the proposal that "we" have devised (4.30), offering a fleeting glimpse of those others who shared his views and collaborated with him. Political associates might cooperate in other areas, for example, on embassies (see 9.72) or in court. Moreover, it is in the 340s that we find a clear polarization on the issue of relations with Macedon, with Demosthenes the leading figure in what may fairly be called an anti-Macedonian party, together with men such as Hyperides and Hegesippus. Demosthenes often alleges that rival politicians are conspiring together to advance Philip's interests. These men are almost never named in his speeches to the assembly (cf. 10.70–74), but the identity of several of them, such as Eubulus and Aeschines, is known.


Although Athens was the richest and most powerful city of mainland Greece, its prospects at the time when Demosthenes delivered his first deliberative speech (Dem. 14 of 354/3) were uncertain. The central issues with which Demosthenes was concerned were foreign policy and public finance. Athens' external interests and commitments were many and complex. First, it had hegemonic ambitions in the Aegean and was the leader of an (originally anti-Spartan) league known by modern historians as the Second Athenian Confederacy, which consisted of many Greek cities of the Aegean and beyond. But the Athenians had recently suffered a humiliating reverse in the Social War (357–355) at the hands of several leading members of the league, who had become disenchanted with Athenian leadership and had forcibly seceded from it.

Second, Athens had long-standing strategic interests in the north Aegean, with a particular wish to regain Amphipolis and control the Chersonese. Amphipolis, a city on the river Strymon in Thrace, was founded by Athens in the fifth century but had been lost during the Peloponnesian War; its recovery became an idée fixe. The Chersonese (modern Gallipoli peninsula) controls the Hellespont, the straits connecting the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean Sea, and it was vital for Athens' ability to import from the Black Sea region the wheat on which it depended to feed its population.

Third, Athens had strained relations with the Persian Empire, in part because of the involvement of the satrap (i.e., Persian provincial governor) Mausolus in the Social War against Athens (see Dem. 15) and in part because of the recent assistance provided by the Athenian general Chares to the rebel satrap Artabazus. Fourth, Athens had interests in mainland Greece. There the long-standing rivalry between the three leading states—Athens, Sparta and Thebes—had been upset first by Sparta's rapid decline after its defeat by Thebes at the battle of Leuctra in 371, and then by Thebes' involvement in a draining war with its northern neighbor Phocis in the Third Sacred War of 356–346. As a result, there developed a power vacuum in Greece.

A major constraint on Athens' foreign policy in this period was the weakness of its public finances. Athens in the fourth century was no longer buoyed by tribute from its empire, as it had been in the fifth, and it was chronically short of money. Demosthenes' claim (made in 341) that in the recent past Athens' total annual revenues had amounted to no more than 130 talents (10.37) probably refers to the 350s. Money was in short supply for naval campaigning, and Athenian generals were often forced to scrounge resources where they could: hence their harassment of Athens' allies for money, which was a precipitating cause of the Social War, and Chares' taking service with Artabazus (see above). As a result, the cost of waging war fell more directly on the rich: in addition to their role in financing Athens' navy through the system of trierarchies and symmories (see Dem. 14), they were also liable to pay the wealth tax (eisphora), which was levied on the assets of richer Athenians. Demosthenes complains that this led many rich men to conceal the extent of their wealth. A particular source of contention was the theoric ("festival") fund. This fund had been established earlier in the century to allow poorer citizens to attend performances of plays staged as part of religious festivals. By the 350s the theoric fund was being used for other nonmilitary expenditure as well, and was fenced around by laws that made it difficult, and dangerous, to propose that the money be used for other purposes. Although the total amount of money handled by the theoric fund may not have been large in absolute terms, the use of that money for civilian expenditure came to be a matter of dispute, with Demosthenes and his supporters seeking to have it used to pay for military activity against Philip of Macedon.


The majority of Demosthenes' deliberative speeches are concerned with Athens' relations with Philip of Macedon, the ruler of a large kingdom to the north of Greece, which had previously played only a peripheral role in Greek history.

Although populous and agriculturally rich, Macedonia suffered from chronic dynastic and internal instability and was also regularly under threat from its non-Greek tribal neighbors to the west, north and east (Illyrians, Paeonians, and Thracians respectively). Moreover, it had long been subject to intervention on the part of the Greeks, and in particular the Athenians, who were drawn above all by access to the ship-building timber of which the region had an abundant supply. In addition to the numerous Greek cities of the Chalcidic peninsula to its east, there were also Greek settlements on the coast of Macedonia itself. Greek writers of the time generally describe the Macedonians as non-Greek, though often such statements are marked by anti-Macedonian prejudice, and the "Greekness" of the Macedonians remains an open question. What is clear is that both politically and culturally Macedonia was unlike Greek cities such as Athens. At the same time the Macedonian court was strongly Hellenized: Greek artists and writers were patronized, and Philip himself was well versed in Greek (see Dem. 12).

Philip succeeded to the throne of Macedonia in 359, after the death of the previous king in a disastrous military defeat at the hands of the Illyrians. The early years of his reign were largely devoted to securing his kingdom, both internally and against its non-Greek neighbors. He also started to annex nearby Greek cities: Amphipolis and Pydna in 357; Potideia in 356; and Methone probably in 354. The seizure of Amphipolis, which was originally an Athenian possession (see above), impelled the Athenians to declare war, but, distracted by the Social War and apparently deceived by Philip, they were unable to prevent his seizure of cities that they had recently controlled or that they claimed for themselves.

In the same period, Philip extended his influence eastwards into Thrace and southwards into northern Greece, where he intervened on behalf of his Thessalian allies against the Phocians. Defeated by the Phocian army in 353, he secured a crushing revenge at the battle of the Crocus Field in 352 and marched towards the strategically vital pass of Thermopylae, which controlled the passage to southern Greece. Here, however, he was thwarted by the dispatch of an Athenian expeditionary force, which blocked the pass against him. Philip followed this with continued campaigning in Thrace (see the Introduction to Dem. 4). In the late 350s his relations with the neighboring Greek cities of the Chalcidic League, headed by Olynthus, started to deteriorate, even though they were allied to him (see the Introduction to Dem. 1–3), and in 349 he invaded its territory. The Olynthians appealed to Athens for help, and the Athenians eventually sent three separate relief forces. But the effort was in vain: Philip captured Olynthus in 348, razed the city to the ground, and acquired a substantial number of Athenian prisoners in the process.

After the fall of Olynthus, the Athenians, unable to persuade any of the other Greeks to join them in further resistance to Philip, had little choice but to accept his offer to negotiate peace terms. The resulting peace, known as the Peace of Philocrates after its chief Athenian negotiator, was concluded in summer 346, on the basis of each side keeping what it possessed. The members of Athens' league were included, but the Phocians and the independent Thracian king Cersobleptes were (despite Athenian protests) excluded. Over the same summer, Philip marched south, took control of Thermopylae, and brought an end to the Sacred War in favor of his ally Thebes, by destroying the cities of the Phocians. Demosthenes, who participated in the Athenian embassies to Philip to negotiate the peace, claimed that Philip tricked the Athenians into believing that Phocis would be saved and (less plausibly) that he thereby prevented them occupying Thermopylae as they had done in 352.

The following years saw Philip extend his influence over Greece. Demosthenes alleges that there was (usually indirect) Macedonian intervention in the Peloponnese in support of anti-Spartan states such as Elis, Argos, and Messenia and in central Greece at Megara and on the island of Euboea. Moreover, from 342 Philip resumed campaigning against Cersobleptes in eastern Thrace. None of this activity directly involved Athens, but all of it could be—and was—construed by anti-Macedonian politicians as threatening its interests: Sparta was Athens' ally; Megara and Euboea were its neighbors; and Philip's Thracian campaign brought his army close to both Byzantium and the Chersonese—the two places that controlled Athens' economic lifeline to the Black Sea. Public opinion at Athens became polarized between those who thought that the city had no realistic choice but to keep the peace and try to maintain good relations with Philip, and those who argued that Philip was plotting Athens' ruin under cover of the peace and that the Athenians needed to take action against him. Philip offered to renegotiate the peace in 344/3, but his offer was rebuffed (see Dem. 6 and 7), and in 341 fighting broke out between Athenian forces in the Chersonese and the neighboring Greek city of Cardia, which was allied to Philip (see Dem. 8). As the threat of war loomed, Athens tried to build support in Greece (see Dem. 9). The events that precipitated war were Philip's siege first of the Greek city of Perinthus, on the Sea of Marmara, and then of Byzantium itself (see Dem. 10). Assistance was sent to Byzantium both by Athens and by the Persians, who feared that Philip's territorial ambitions now extended to the Persian Empire itself. Philip retaliated by seizing a fleet of grain ships bound for Athens. The Athenians interpreted these actions as acts of war and renounced the peace.

Although Athens succeeded in detaching Thebes from its alliance with Philip, the resulting coalition was no match for the Macedonians, and in 338 Philip won a decisive victory over the Greeks at the battle of Chaeronea in Boeotia. As a result, all of Greece fell under Macedonian rule, and Greek independence was at an end.


Demosthenes' deliberative speeches fall into two groups: those delivered before he identified Philip as an overriding threat to Athens (Dem. 13–16) and those that are concerned with Philip (what ancient critics called the "Philippics": Dem. 1–11). The earlier speeches lack focus, at least by comparison, as Demosthenes addresses a number of topical issues. The first, On the Symmories (Dem. 14), uses perhaps exaggerated rumors of a planned Persian campaign against Athens to propose a number of reforms to the Athenian system for funding the operation of the navy. An interest in institutional reform appears also in the speech On Organization (Dem. 13), in which Demosthenes advocates a system whereby Athenian citizens will be paid for undertaking public services of various kinds and will no longer receive money for doing nothing (an early swipe at theoric payments: see below). In the speech On the Freedom of the Rhodians (Dem. 15), he argues that the Athenians should accept a request from exiled democrats from the island of Rhodes to support the restoration of democracy there. Demosthenes asserts that it is in Athens' interest to support democracy everywhere in Greece, but in seeking to persuade the Athenians to help the Rhodians, he faced an uphill task, since Rhodes had recently participated in the Social War against Athens. Moreover, his attempt to explain how such an intervention would not antagonize the satrap of Caria, who supported the oligarchs on Rhodes, or the Persian King, who was campaigning nearby against Egypt, seem unconvincing. The remaining early speech, For the Megalopolitans (Dem. 16), argues in favor of accepting a request from the central Peloponnesian city of Megalopolis for an alliance, in the face of the threat of Spartan attack. In this speech Demosthenes shows a keen awareness of the principle of the balance of power, and he uses complex arguments to argue that Athens' paramount strategic goal was to prevent the resurgence of Spartan power in the Peloponnese. The speech is contrarian, since Athens and Sparta were firm allies at this time, and it is not surprising that it, like the other early speeches, failed to persuade its audience.

These speeches, which have tended to be criticized as opportunistic and immature, certainly make blithe assumptions about the likely behavior of others (e.g., the Spartans in Dem. 16, Artemisia in Dem. 15), but they also show Demosthenes to be a serious student of foreign policy, capable of independent thought, and seeking in a sense to redeem Athens as an active and principled participant in the affairs of Greece after the fiasco of the Social War. Even at this early stage we see his concern for institutional reform and still more for a change of attitude on the part of the Athenians towards public service.

The First Philippic (Dem. 4) marks a turning point in Demosthenes' political career. In this speech, delivered only a year or so later than those discussed above, he focuses exclusively on the threat that Philip poses to Athens. Philip's decisive victory at the battle of the Crocus Field in 352, his march south on Thermopylae, and his subsequent campaigning in eastern Thrace all convinced Demosthenes that Athens' strategic situation had changed, radically and for the worse. To deal with the threat posed by Philip, Demosthenes makes specific military proposals: for the creation of a rapid-response force based in Athens and a permanent raiding force to be stationed in the north Aegean. He also encourages the Athenians not to despair, while criticizing them for their laxness and demanding that they show greater willingness to serve in person. The three Olynthiacs, Dem. 1–3, were delivered during Philip's campaign against the cities of the Chalcidic League. In them Demosthenes advocates that Athens send help to the beleaguered city of Olynthus. He argues that Philip's unprovoked attack on the league is a heaven-sent opportunity for Athens (Dem. 1), and he belittles Philip as being much weaker than he appears (Dem. 2). By the time of the last speech of the series (Dem. 3), Olynthus' military situation seems to have deteriorated, and Demosthenes' tone is less optimistic. In this speech too he states bluntly what he had only alluded to earlier: that the Athenians should divert money from the theoric fund to pay for the war.

The remaining deliberative speeches all belong to the period between the making of the Peace of Philocrates in 346 and the outbreak of war between Athens and Philip in 340. On the Peace (Dem. 5) was delivered shortly after the peace was ratified, and it reverts to the cautious attitude of Demosthenes 14. Demosthenes argues that, although the peace is a bad deal for Athens, it would be foolish to oppose Philip in his desire to participate in the Delphic Amphictyony, a religious organization based at Delphi, and thereby risk his organizing a broadly based coalition against Athens. By the time of the Second Philippic (Dem. 6) of 344/3, Demosthenes' approach is more aggressive. This speech was apparently delivered in response to an overture from Philip to the Athenians to renegotiate those terms of the Peace of Philocrates with which they were dissatisfied. Demosthenes largely passes over this offer and uses the speech to denounce both Philip and his Greek allies. Philip, he claims, has violated the terms of the peace and is plotting against Athens. At the same time, he sharply attacks unnamed Athenian politicians who, he alleges, have been bribed by Philip to advance his interests.

The remaining three major speeches belong closely together in time, when the likelihood of war had sharply increased. In the first of them, On the Chersonese (Dem. 8), Demosthenes argues that the Athenians need to support Diopeithes, their general in the Chersonese, who is conducting an aggressive policy against Philip's interests in the region. The Third Philippic (Dem. 9) addresses the state of Greece as a whole. In it Demosthenes criticizes Philip for a series of interventions in various cities of southern and central Greece, and the rest of the Greeks for their abandonment of the love of liberty that had characterized Greece in the fifth century. Demosthenes argues that the Greeks should unite against Philip, whom he vilifies as a wretched foreigner. In the Fourth Philippic (Dem. 10) he addresses many of the same themes—there is considerable recycling of material from Dem. 8 in particular—but also addresses the possibility of Persia joining Athens against Philip. Prompted in part by the prospect of Persian financial aid, Demosthenes withdraws his opposition to the use of the theoric fund for nonmilitary expenditure and asks rich and poor Athenians to stop squabbling over public finances.

The "Philippic" speeches of Demosthenes were delivered over the course of an eleven-year period, and each responds to the circumstances of the time. Thus, in On the Peace (Dem. 5) he seeks to defuse pressure to go to war with Philip, and in the Fourth Philippic (Dem. 10) he changes his earlier views about the theoric fund. Nevertheless there is considerable thematic unity over the speeches as a whole—a unity that is reinforced by the frequent repetition of material from one speech to another. Demosthenes argues strongly that Philip is an inveterate enemy to Athens: his actions are all ultimately directed against the city, and his protestations of goodwill are deceitful. The Athenians should not fear him too much, but they must recognize the danger, be prepared to raise taxes, and undertake military service in person. Demosthenes also alleges that many politicians (i.e., those who disagree with him) have been bribed by Philip. He consistently represents himself as the one speaker who discerns the danger posed by Philip and advocates the correct policies to deal with him. In polarizing the issues in such a way, and in attacking the moral failures of the Athenians and their leaders, he avoids seriously addressing the views of his opponents, who presumably disagreed (with equal sincerity) with his analysis of Philip's intentions and over the policies that Athens should adopt towards him.

Whether Demosthenes was right to pursue such strongly anti-Macedonian policies is much debated. Against older views that accepted his allegations, both about Philip and about some of his fellow political leaders, at face value and that saw him as fighting a lone patriotic hand against Athens' deadly enemy, it has more recently been argued that his repeated allegations of bribery are unfounded; that some of his complaints of Macedonian interference in the affairs of Greek cities are tendentious at best, mendacious at worst; and that his entire strategy was based on a false view of Philip as ill disposed towards Athens. The result, it is argued, was to provoke a war that Athens had no chance of winning. There is some plausibility in this view, but the reaction against previous adulation of Demosthenes has gone too far. Philip's motives were inherently unclear, but the fact of his growing domination of Greece was undeniable. Even if Demosthenes' political opponents at Athens were not bribed by Philip, they might well be regarded as his dupes.

Demosthenes clearly does exaggerate at times, but it would be naïve to brand him a liar (and there were surely limits to how far any politician could safely misrepresent current events to the assembly); rather, such exaggeration was a rhetorical strategy in the service of his overriding goal, which was to persuade the Athenians of the reality of the danger that Philip posed. If different policies had been followed, Athens might indeed have avoided war. But in a Greece dominated by Macedonia, it would inevitably have been reduced to the level of a vassal state, its security wholly in Philip's hands. For the majority of Athenians, as eventually for the Thebans too, such a prospect was intolerable.


The set of deliberative speeches attributed to Demosthenes in the manuscripts (Dem. 1–17) is a somewhat miscellaneous collection, since it contains one work that is obviously neither a speech nor by Demosthenes (Dem. 12, the Letter of Philip) and two speeches (Dem. 7 and 17) that were rightly judged in antiquity to be dissimilar in style to the genuine speeches of Demosthenes. Of the other speeches, doubts have been raised about the authenticity of Dem. 10, 11, and 13. It has also been proposed that Dem. 17 is not a genuine speech of Alexander's reign but a later composition. Many of the doubts that have been raised about these speeches are the product of a hypercritical attitude prevalent in nineteenth-century scholarship, and it is now generally, though not universally, agreed that Dem. 10 and 13 are genuine; even Dem. 11 may be by Demosthenes, it has recently been suggested. In addition, there is no reason to deny that Dem. 12 is a genuine letter of Philip (whether or not he wrote it himself), and the view is taken in this volume that Dem. 17, although not written by Demosthenes, is the work of a contemporary anti-Macedonian politician.

How, when, and by whom these works were collected is unclear. It presumably happened after Demosthenes' lifetime, and a likely candidate is his nephew Demochares, in the early third century. It seems plausible that he, or whoever the compiler was, bundled in with the genuine speeches some works—perhaps found among Demosthenes' papers—that related to the speeches (i.e., Dem. 12) or that were written by his supporters and were taken to reflect his views (Dem. 7 and 17). Also included were a set of Prologues (prooimia in Greek) to deliberative speeches: several of these correspond to the prologues of surviving speeches, and they are best regarded as written by Demosthenes to form the basis for largely improvised speeches.

Deliberative oratory seems not to have lent itself to written composition, and it is striking that these speeches are almost the only examples of the genre from classical Athens. Moreover, literary scholars of antiquity mention almost no other (now lost) written deliberative speeches, and so their small number is not an accident of survival. Most speeches to the assembly will have been made extemporaneously; almost by definition politicians had to be capable public speakers, who could participate in a debate without being tied to a prepared text. Demosthenes may have been unusual if not unique in writing his speeches out in advance. In this regard it is significant that the biographical tradition about him, especially as transmitted by Plutarch in his Life of Demosthenes, emphasizes his use of writing: Demosthenes' speeches, his opponents sneered, "smelled of the lamp" (Plut. Demosthenes 8). It seems likely therefore that the texts we have were written, at least in the first instance, as drafts of the speeches that Demosthenes intended to make to the assembly.

Given our ignorance of what Demosthenes said on any occasion, the precise relationship between the texts we have and the speeches that he delivered is largely unknowable. In Dem. 15 he refers (6) to his having previously delivered a speech that is presumably identical, or very similar, to Dem. 14. If he wrote out his speeches in advance (see above), we cannot know whether he delivered any individual speech as written (or indeed whether he delivered it at all). Presumably at a minimum there was a certain amount of extemporizing, for example, to respond to points made by other speakers. On the whole, however, it is probably safe to suppose that the surviving speeches represent more or less what Demosthenes intended to say on a particular occasion, although dating them is a difficult matter.

Whether Demosthenes published the texts of his deliberative speeches, and whether he revised them before doing so, are two separate though related questions, since he is likely to have revised a speech after its delivery only if he intended to publish it, that is, to make copies to be circulated among his friends and supporters, either in Athens or elsewhere. Earlier scholars were overly inclined to find evidence of revision in Demosthenes' speeches, on the assumption that (like the Roman orator Cicero) he carefully revised his speeches before publishing them. An example is the reference to Philip's raid on the territory of Olynthus in Dem. 4, delivered in 351, which was once wrongly believed to be an interpolated reference to the war of 349/8, rather than a contemporary reference to an earlier incursion. In fact, the evidence for revision is very limited. It has been argued that Dem. 8 is a revised speech that includes material originally written for the later Dem. 10, although this is uncertain. Revision has also been proposed to explain why some medieval manuscripts of Demosthenes' speeches contain a slightly longer version of Dem. 9 and others, a shorter one. If the material found only in the longer text is genuine, as it seems to be, then it is possible that the speech was edited by Demosthenes himself, to distribute it outside Athens. In my view, however, a different explanation is more likely.

Whether or not the surviving deliberative speeches show signs of revision, it is commonly believed that Demosthenes himself published them. His purpose in doing so is unlikely to have been to influence public policy at Athens, since as an active politician he could achieve that end much more effectively by addressing the assembly. It is conceivable that he published some of his speeches to influence opinion elsewhere in Greece, though it can be objected that this aim would have been better served by speeches, whether circulated in writing or delivered in person, that were composed for the purpose and that addressed their intended audience directly. It seems most likely, therefore, that if he published his speeches, he did so to vindicate himself, in the eyes both of his contemporaries and of posterity, and in the face of heated criticism from his political rivals, as a farsighted and honest adviser of the people, and a significant political thinker. It is not certain, however, that Demosthenes did publish his speeches at all. An alternative, and in my view more likely, explanation is that the texts of his speeches are simply drafts of what he intended to say to the assembly, were for the most part filed away once they had served their purpose, and remained substantially unpublished until after his death.


The speeches of Demosthenes were much read, studied, and written about in antiquity, and since the ancient commentators are important sources of information about their date, content, and authorship, and are frequently referred to in this volume, it may be useful to make some general remarks about them. The manuscripts of Dem. 1–17 contain introductions (hypotheseis in Greek) to each of the speeches written by the fourth-century AD scholar Libanius of Antioch, as well as anonymous commentaries on them (scholia in Greek, referred to as ancient commentary or commentator in this volume). These commentaries deal mostly with rhetorical matters, but they also contain discussion of historical questions.

One very important commentary, partially preserved on papyrus, was discovered in Egypt at the end of the nineteenth century. It is the work of Didymus, a scholar of the first century nicknamed "brass guts" because of his prodigious industriousness. It covers Dem. 9 (the end only), 10, 12 and the beginning of 13: presumably the complete work dealt with all the deliberative speeches. Didymus is particularly important because he argues for his views and cites excerpts from the (otherwise lost) works of fourth- and third-century historians that covered the period. Of these, the two most important are Theopompus of Chios, whose substantial contemporary Philippic History covered Greek history during the years of Philip's reign (359–336), and Philochorus of Athens, who wrote an annalistic Atthis (i.e., a year-by-year history of Athens) that covered the same period in great detail. Last, the first-century rhetorician Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in the course of a work (the First Letter to Ammaeus) in which he seeks to prove that Aristotle's Rhetoric was a later work than any of Demosthenes' deliberative speeches, provides dates for all the speeches (except Dem. 13). It seems likely that Dionysius took over these dates from another source, and it is a matter of debate how much confidence should be put in them.



(For discussion of questions of date and authorship, see the introductions to the individual speeches.)


1. First Olynthiac. 349/8.

2. Second Olynthiac. 349/8.

3. Third Olynthiac. 349/8.

4. First Philippic. 351.

5. On the Peace. 346.

6. Second Philippic. 344/3.

7. On Halonnesus. 343/2 (by Hegesippus, not Demosthenes).

8. On the Chersonese. 341.

9. Third Philippic. 341.

10. Fourth Philippic. 341.

11. Response to the Letter of Philip. 340 (perhaps spurious).

12. Letter of Philip. 340 (probably a genuine letter from Philip).

13. On Organization. Late 350s.

14. On the Symmories. 354/3.

15. On the Freedom of the Rhodians. Late 350s.

16. For the Megalopolitans. 353/2.

17. On the Agreement with Alexander. 331? (not by Demosthenes).


35 Accession of Philip as king of Macedonia.

357 Philip captures Amphipolis and Pydna. Athens declares war on Philip.

357–355 Social War between Athens and several of its disaffected allies.

356–346 Third Sacred War between Thebes and Phocis.

356 Philip captures Potidaea.

354 Philip captures Methone.

354/3 On the Symmories (Dem. 14).

353/2 For the Megalopolitans (Dem. 16).

352 Philip defeats Phocian army at the battle of Crocus Field in Thessaly. Athenian army occupies the pass of Thermopylae.

352–350 Philip campaigns in Thrace; On the Freedom of the Rhodians (Dem. 15); On Organization (Dem. 13).

351 First Philippic (Dem. 4).

349/8 Philip attacks Chalcidic League and besieges Olynthus. Athens sends relief forces to Olynthus. First, Second, Third Olynthiacs (Dem. 1–3).

348 Fall of Olynthus.

346 Peace of Philocrates between Philip and Athens. End of the Third Sacred War and defeat of Phocis. Philip gains control of Thermopylae. On the Peace (Dem. 5).

344/3 Persian embassy to Athens. Philip offers to revise the Peace of Philocrates. Second Philippic (Dem. 6).

343 On the Dishonest Embassy (Dem. 19).

343/2 On Halonnesus (Dem. 7).

342–340 Philip campaigns in Thrace and defeats Cersobleptes.

341 Hostilities between the Athenian force in the Chersonese and Philip's ally Cardia. On the Chersonese (Dem. 8); Third Philippic (Dem. 9); Fourth Philippic (Dem. 10).

340 Philip besieges Perinthus and Byzantium. Outbreak of war between Philip and Athens. Letter of Philip (Dem. 12); Response to the Letter of Philip (Dem. 11).

339 Alliance between Thebes and Athens.

338 Philip defeats the Greek army at the battle of Chaeronea.

337 Establishment of the League of Corinth.

336 Murder of Philip; accession of Alexander as king of Macedonia. Initial Macedonian invasion of Asia Minor.

335 Revolt and sack of Thebes.

334 Launch of the major Macedonian invasion of the Persian Empire.

331 Spartan revolt against Macedonian rule led by King Agis. Possible date of On the Agreement with Alexander (Dem. 17).

330 On the Crown (Dem. 18).

Translated by Jeremy Trevett

Jeremy Trevett is Associate Professor of History at York University. He is the author of Apollodoros the Son of Pasion.