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The Works of Lucian of Samosata. Translated by Fowler, H W and F G. Oxford: The Clarendon Press. 1905.
This Dialogue is introduced in a very singular manner, by a speech which we must suppose made by Lucian before some popular Assembly: it is frequently interrupted by a kind of narrative, and changes towards the end into a discourse of a very different nature from the first. There are, to say the truth, some suspicious circumstances throughout, that seem to render it doubtful whether it was written by Lucian or not; as it is, however, upon the whole, both curious and entertaining.
- Based on Francklin
A LITTLE before noon on the sixteenth, I was walking in the Porch--it was on the left-hand side as you go out--, whenThersagoras appeared; I dare say he is known to some of you--short, hook-nosed, fair-complexioned, and virile. He drewnearer, 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 onHomer'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 knowthe one on the right of the Ptolemies' shrine, with the hair hanging loose); 'I came to greet him, and to pray for a goodflow of verse.' 'Ah,' I sighed, 'if prayers would do it! in that case I should have given Demosthenes a worryingfor assistance against his birthday. If prayers availed, I would join my wishes to yours; for the boons we desireare the same.' 'Well, I put down to Homer,' he replied, 'my facility of this night and morning; ardours divine and mystichave possessed me. But you shall judge. Here are my tablets, which I have brought with designs upon any idle friend I mightlight 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 thewrestling was next on the programme; but the wrestler asked him whether he had felt like cracking stories when he toed theline just now. You have won your poetic three miles, and want me to minister to your amusement just as I am shivering at thethought 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 onHomer; and is Demosthenes a light matter to me?' 'A trumped up charge,' he exclaimed; 'I am not going to sowdissension 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 amsure you think poetry the only real treatment; you feel about mere rhetoric what the cavalryman feels as he gallops past theinfantry.' 'I hope I am not so mad as that,' he said, 'though a considerable touch of madness is required of him who wouldpass the gates of poetry.' 'If you come to that, prose cannot do without some divine inspiration either, if it is not to beflat and common.' He admitted that at once: 'I often delight myself with comparing passages from Demosthenes and other prosewriters with Homer in point of vehemence, pungency, fire. "Flown with wine" I pair off against the revellings and dancingsand debauchery of Philip; "One presage that ne’er fails 1" findsits 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 laiddown their lives for glory and freedom--"; "fluent Python" reminds me of Odysseus's "snow-flake speech"; "If ’twere our lotneither to age nor die," I illustrate by "For every man's life must end in death, though he shut himself up in a narrowchamber 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 resumptionsafter 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 speechrebukes Athenian slackness with a dignity that is lacking in the "Greekesses" used by Homer of the Greeks; and again hemaintains the tragic intensity proper to the great Hellenic drama more consistently than the poet who inserts speeches atthe 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 notmy beloved poetry; for Homer too abounds in contrast and parallel, in figures startling or simple. It is a provision ofnature, I suppose, that each faculty should have its proper equipment attached to it. How should I scorn your Muse? I knowher powers too well.
'None the less, I consider my task of a Homeric encomium twice as difficult as your praise of Demosthenes; not because itmust be in verse, but from the nature of the material; I cannot lay down a foundation of fact to build the edificeof 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 EgyptianThebes, or half a hundred other places; his father may be Macon the Lydian, or he may be a river; his mother is nowMelanope, and now in default of satisfactory human descent a dryad; his time is the Heroic Age, or else perhaps it is theIonic. There is no knowing for certain whether he was before or after Hesiod, even; and no wonder, considering that someobject to his very name, and will have him Melesigenes instead. So too with his poverty, and his blindness. However, allthese questions are best left alone. So you see the arena open to my panegyric is extremely limited; my theme is a poet andnot 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 ofDemosthenes; it is all known; his country was Athens, the splendid, the famous, the bulwark of Hellas. Now if Icould have laid hands on Athens, I might have used the poet's right to introduce the loves and judgements and sojourns thereof the Gods, the gifts they lavished on it, the tale of Eleusis. As for its laws and courts and festivals, its Piraeus andits colonies, the memorials set up in it of victory by land and sea, Demosthenes himself is the authority for sayingthat no words could do justice to them. My material would have been inexhaustible; and I could not have been accused ofhanging up my true theme; the formula of panegyric includes the arraying of the man in the splendours of his country. So tooIsocrates ekes out his Helen by introducing Theseus. It is true that poets have their privileges; and perhapsyou have to be more careful about your proportions; there must not be too much sack to the proverbialhalfpennyworth 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. Andthough he died while Demosthenes was quite a child, we are not to count his orphan state a disaster; it led to thedistinction 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 intohis works, and can find nothing to talk about in his breeding and training and pupilage; he has not even the resource ofthat Hesiodic sprig of bay which could make a facile poet out of a shepherd. But think of your abundance in thisbranch 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 thesusceptible time, a neglected ward could have lived as irregular a life as he chose, and yet the objects that Demosthenesset up for himself were philosophy and patriotism, and the doors they took him to not Phryne's, but those of Aristotle andTheophrastus, 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 desirethat is like the sea, outrageous, fierce, stormily rocking the soul; it is a true sea wave, which the earthly Aphrodite setsrolling with the tempestuous passions of youth; but the other is the steady drawing of a golden cord from heaven; it doesnot scorch and pierce and leave festering wounds; it impels towards the pure and unsullied ideal of absolute beauty, and isa 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, adiscouraging mirror and punitive sword, a disciplining of the tongue, a belated apprenticeship to the actor's art, astraining 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 ofhim? his speech packed with thought and terse of language, himself convincing in his knowledge of human nature, as splendidin the elevation as mighty in the force of his sentiments, the master and not the slave of his words and his ideas, everfresh with the graces of his art. He is the one orator whose speech has, in the bold phrase of Leosthenes, at once thebreath 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. WithDemosthenes it was otherwise; he composed not on wine but on water; whence the witticism of Demades, that most men's tonguesare regulated by water 2, but Demosthenes's pen was subject to thesame influence. And Pytheas detected the smell of the midnight oil in the very perfection of the speeches. Well, there ismuch in common between your subject and mine, so far as this branch of them is concerned; on Homer's poems I was noworse off than you are.
'But when you come to your hero's acts of humanity, his pecuniary sacrifices, his grand political achievements ' (and hewas going on in full swing to the rest of the catalogue, when I interrupted, with a laugh: 'Must I be dowsed with theremainder 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, theprisoners he ransomed, the girls he portioned, his admirable policy, the embassies he served on, the laws he got passed, themighty issues he was concerned in--why, then I cannot but laugh to see your contracted brows; as if a recital of theexploits 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; Ishould 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 thedazzling glory of Demosthenes? Well, I was rather like that about Homer at first. Indeed, I came very near turning mineaway, thinking I could not possibly face my subject. However, I got over it somehow or other; became gradually inured, as itwere, 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; fromwhich 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 toattempt dealing with the whole Demosthenes all at once, would never know what to say; you would waver and not be able to setyour thoughts to work. You would be like the gourmand at a Sicilian banquet, or the aesthete who has a thousanddelightful sights and sounds presented to him at once; they do not know which way to turn for their conflicting desires. Isuspect that you too are distracted and find concentration impossible; all round you are the varied attractions--hismagnanimity, his fire, his orderly life, his oratorical force and practical courage, the endless opportunities of gain thathe scorned, his justice, humanity, honour, spirit, sagacity, and each of all his great services tohis 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, butwhich?
The maze is quite easy to escape from, though; you have only to take hold of one single clue, no matter which--hisoratory, if you will, so that it is taken by itself--, and stick to that one throughout your present discourse. You willhave ample material; his oratory is not of the Periclean type. Pericles could lighten and thunder, and he could hit theright nail on the head; so much tradition tells us; but we have nothing to judge for ourselves by, no doubt because, beyondthe momentary impression produced, there was in his performances no element of permanence, nothing that could stand thesearching test of time. But with Demosthenes's work--well, that it will be your province to deal with, if your choice goesthat way.
Or if you prefer his character, or his policy, it will be well to isolate some particular detail--if you are greedy youmay pick out two or three--which will give you quite enough to go upon; so great was he at every point. And for suchspecializing we have Homer's example; the compliments he pays his heroes are attached to parts ofthem, their feet, their heads, their hair, even their shields or something they have on; and the Gods seem to have had noobjection to poets' basing their praises merely on a distaff, a bow, or the aegis; a limb or a quality must pass still moreeasily; and as for good actions, it is impossible to give an exhaustive list of them. Demosthenes accordingly will not blameyou for confining your eulogy to one of his merits, especially as to celebrate the whole of them worthily would bebeyond even his powers.'
When Thersagoras had finished this harangue, I remarked: 'Your intention is plain; I am to be convinced that you are morethan a good poet; so you have constructed your prose Demosthenes as a pendant to your verse Homer.' 'No, no,' he said; 'whatmade me run on so long was the idea that, if I could ease your mind by showing how light your task was, I should havesecured my listener.' 'Then let me tell you that your object has not been furthered, and my case has only beenaggravated.' 'A fine doctor I seem to be!' he said. 'Not knowing where the difficulty lies,' I continued, 'you are a doctorwho 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 sinceI got through that stage, and your remedies are quite out of date.' 'Why, then,' he exclaimed, 'the cure is complete; nobodyis 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. Toshow what a fine driver he was, he drove round the Academy time after time exactly in his own track, which looked after itas if it had only been traversed once. Now my endeavour is just the opposite, to avoid my old tracks; and it is byno 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 atwork upon it, his patron came in, and complained that this was not what he had ordered. Pauson just turned the pictureupside down and told his man to hold it so for inspection; there was the horse rolling on its back.' 'You dear innocent!' Isaid; 'do you suppose I have kept my picture turned the same way all these years? It has been shifted and tilted at everyconceivable angle, till I begin to have apprehensions of ending like Proteus.' 'And how was that?' 'Oh, I mean the issue ofhis attempts to evade human observation; when he had exhausted all shapes of animals and plants and elements, finding nometamorphosis 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 yourown 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 ofreading he was seized with an idea, did up his tablets, and said: 'You shall have your hearer's fee, as well deserved as anAthenian's after a day in court or assembly. Thank me, please.' 'I do, before I know what for. But what may it be?' 'It wasin 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 Ihave it at home. It contains, among details of Antipater's management of the household, facts about Demosthenes that I thinkyou will find worth your best attention.' 'You shall have payment on the spot,' I said, 'in theshape of an audience for the rest of your verses; and moreover I shall not part with you till your promise is fulfilled. Youhave 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 itthat I shall do no editing, but read it you totidem verbis. Asclepius is not less honoured if his worshippers, indefault of original compositions, have the hymns of Isodemus or Sophocles performed before him; there is a failure nowadaysin the supply of new plays for Dionysus; but those who produce the works of old masters at the proper season have the creditall 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 informsus that Archias's name was announced to Antipater. In case any of my younger hearers should not know the fact already, thisArchias had been charged with the arrest of all exiles. In particular, he was to get Demosthenes from Calauria intoAntipater's presence, but rather by persuasion than by force. Antipater was excited about it, hoping that Demosthenes mightarrive 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 wehad; 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 isno 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 abrave show while the disturbance lasts; but they are as sure to vanish soon as the wind to fall at evening. The recreantHyperides is another--a selfish demagogue, who took no shame to curry favour with the mob by libelling Demosthenes, and makehimself 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 reekedHyperides? he scrupled not to use against what had once been dearest to him the tongue that he deserved, even by thatiniquity, 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. Thenoble is noble, though it be in an enemy; and virtue has no country. Am I meaner than Xerxes? he could admire Bulis andSperchis the Spartans, and release them when they were in his power. No man that ever lived do I admire more thanDemosthenes; twice I was in his company at Athens (in hurried times, it is true), and I have heard much from others, andthere 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, theclearness of his thoughts, his chains of proof, his cumulative blows. We found our mistake when we listened to Python andhis promises; we had gathered the Greeks to Athens to see the Athenians confuted; it was Demosthenes who confuted us. But nowords 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 andhis wisdom, and the steadiness of soul that steered a straight course through all the tempests of fortune with never acraven impulse. And Philip was of my mind about him; when a speech of his before the Athenian assembly against Philip wasreported, Parmenio was angry, and made some bitter jest upon him. But Philip said: Ah, Parmenio, he has a right to saywhat he pleases; he is the only popular orator in all Greece whose name is missing in my secret service accounts, though Iwould 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 inMacedonia 1; but the walls of Byzantium are not moreproof 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 shallhave 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 acitadel, a wall, a dock, a trench, but I have only admiration for his virtue, and congratulations for the State thatpossesses him. The other kind I should like to crush as soon as they have served my purpose; but him I would sooner havehere with us than the Illyrian and Triballian horse and all my mercenaries; arguments that carry conviction, weight ofintellect, 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 veryanxious, but Philip laughed at me heartily, and said: Are you afraid of these town-bred generals and their men? Theirfleet, their Piraeus, their docks, I snap my fingers at them. What is to be looked for from people whose worship is ofDionysus, whose life is in feasting and dancing? If Demosthenes, and not a man besides, had been subtracted from Athens, weshould have had it with less trouble than Thebes or Thessaly; deceit and force, energy and corruption, would soon have donethe thing. But he is ever awake; he misses no occasion; he makes move for move and counters every stroke. Not a trick ofours, not an attempt begun or only thought of, but he has intelligence of it; in a word he is the obstacle that standsbetween 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 offrank statement, and little he cares whether they like it or not. He transfers the revenues from state theatre to statearmament, re-creates with his navy bill a fleet disorganized to the verge of extinction, restores patriotism to the placefrom which it had long been ousted by the passion for legal fees, uplifts the eyes of a degenerate race to the deeds oftheir fathers and emulation of Marathon and Salamis, and fits them for Hellenic leagues and combinations. You cannot escapehis vigilance, he is not to be wheedled, you can no more buy him than the Persian King could buy the greatAristides.
This is the direction your fears should take, Antipater; never mind all the war-ships and all the fleets. WhatThemistocles and Pericles were to the Athens of old, that is Demosthenes to Athens to-day, as shrewd as Themistocles, ashigh of soul as Pericles. He it was that gained them the control of Euboea and Megara, the Hellespont and Boeotia. It iswell indeed that they give the command to such as Chores or Diopithes or Proxenus, and keep Demosthenes to the platform athome. If they had given into his hands their arms and ships and troops, their strategy and their money, I doubt he wouldhave 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, hishand is upon us; the ways and means are of his finding, the force of his gathering; it is he that sends armadas afar, hethat 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 thatarmies were never led by the man whose mere words were so many battering-rams and catapults worked from Athens to theshattering and confounding of his plans. As to Chaeronea, even the victory made no difference; he continued to impress uponus 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 broughtthe 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 Atticsoil.
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.' WheneverPhilip sent embassies to the various states, if Athens had sent any one else to argue against his men, he always gained hispoint with ease; but when it was Demosthenes, he would tell us the embassy had come to naught: there was not much setting upof 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 manlike Demosthenes, I should have found nothing better to do with him than sending him like an ox to the slaughter? or shouldI have made him my right-hand man in the management of Greece and of the empire? I was instinctively attracted long ago byhis public record--an attraction heightened by the witness of Aristotle. He constantly assured both Alexander and myselfthat among all the vast number of his pupils he had found none comparable to Demosthenes in natural genius and perseveringself-development, none whose intellect was at once so weighty and so agile, none who spoke his opinions so freely ormaintained them so courageously.
But you (said Aristotle) confuse him with an Eubulus, a Phrynon, a Philocrates, and think toconvert 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 onewho has long ago resolved to set his life upon his country's doubtful fortunes; if he arraigns your proceedings, you trydenunciation; why, the nearer terrors of the Assembly find him unmoved. You do not realize that the mainspring of his policyis 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 thestate of things, and be able at any time of need, abandoning the flatterers who infest us, to hear the plain words of anindependent mind and profit by sincere advice. And I might fairly have drawn his attention to the ungrateful nature of thoseAthenians 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 ofAthens 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 startledand as unbelieving yet as when we saw it. He must long ago have determined how to die; his preparation shows it. He wasseated 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 notthen, 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 manin the last moments of his life, whether he gave way and played the coward, or kept his course unfaltering even to theend.
Ar. Ah, in him was no bending to the storm; how far from it! With a smiling allusion to my former life, he toldme 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 Demosthenesthe weapon that had won them Amphipolis, and Olynthus, and Oropus. And much more of the like; I had writers there, that hiswords might be preserved for you. Archias (he said), the prospect of death or torture would be enough to keepme out of Antipater's presence. And if you tell me true, I must be on my guard against the worse danger of receiving lifeitself as a present at his hands, and deserting, to serve Macedonia, that post which I have sworn to hold forGreece.
Life were a thing to be desired, Archias, were it purchased for me by the power of Piraeus (a war-ship, mygift, has floated there), by the wall and trench of which I bore the cost, by the tribe Pandionis whose festival charges Itook upon me, by the spirit of Solon and Draco, by unmuzzled statesmen and a free people, by martial levies and navalorganization, by the virtues and the victories of our fathers, by the affection of fellow citizens who have crowned me manya time, and by the might of a Greece whose guardian I have never ceased to be. Or again, if life is to be owed tocompassion, though it be mean enough, yet compassion I might endure among the kindred of the captives I have ransomed, thefathers 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 whosesanctuary I stand. And if Posidon's power avails not to keep his temple inviolate, if he scorns not to surrender Demosthenesto Archias, then welcome death; I will not transfer my worship to Antipater. I might have had Macedonia more at my devotionthan Athens, might be now a partaker in your fortunes, if I would have ranged myself with Callimedon, and Pytheas, andDemades. When things were far gone, I might yet have made a shift, if I had not had respect to the daughters of Erechtheusand to Codrus. Fortune might desert, I would not follow her; for death is a haven of safety, which he who reaches will do nobaseness 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 Xenocratesand Plato have said of immortality? And then he was stirred to some bitter speech upon men puffed up by fortune. Whatremains 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, wallsand camps. He scorns that equipment of mine which is proof against Illyrians and Triballi
and Macedonians, surer than that wooden wall 1 ofold, which the God averred none should prevail against. Secure in this I ever took a fearless course; fearless I braved themight of Macedonia; little I cared for Euctemon or Aristogiton, for Pytheas and Callimedon, for Philip in the old days, forArchias 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 wasbut 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 givehim liberty by parting soul from body. He had not yet passed the holy threshold, when he fixed his eye on me and said: 'Takethis to Antipater; Demosthenes you shall not take, no, by------' And methought he would have added, by the men thatfell 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 thecare, that would never be parted from their warrant of freedom! Enough; the man has gone his way, to live the life they tellof in the Isles of the heroic Blest, or to walk the paths that, if tales be true, the heaven-bound spirits tread; he shallattend, surely, on none but that Zeus who is named of Freedom. For his body, we will send it to Athens, a nobler offering tothat 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 thewater-clock or clepsydra, generally called simply 'the water,' 'my water,' 'his water,' &c.
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 theTrito-born goddess | Sole to remain unwasted.' G. C. Macaulay. Variously interpreted of the thorn hedge of theAcropolis, and of the Athenian fleet.