By Demosthenes
Read by David Rintoul
7 hours 45 minutes

 David Rintoul

Demosthenes (384-322 BCE) is regarded as one of the greatest orators of Classical times. This view has persisted through the centuries even though his rousing speeches warning of the dangers of Macedonian expansion – firstly guided by Philip II and then Alexander the Great – failed to stem the course of continued military success. A contemporary of Plato and Aristotle, it is said that Demosthenes undertook arduous measures to cure himself of a stammer by speaking with pebbles in his mouth and perfecting breath control. Starting as a speech writer, he made his mark at an unusually young age (for the time), delivering his first major public speech at the age of 30, advising Athens to build its naval fleet as a defence against the Persians. In fact, it was the ambition of Philip of Macedon that would prove the principal threat. This was recognised by Demosthenes, as shown by the main speeches included in this collection. In the Three Olynthiac Orations, Demosthenes outlined the tactics of Philip’s aggression towards Olynthus, an ally of Athens. He urged support for the smaller state, but his words went unheeded until it was too late. Demosthenes’ increasingly unrestrained language – at one point he calls Philip ‘a barbarian’ – did not endear him to the Macedonian regime. The Olynthiac Orations are followed by the Three Philippics, which chart further military activity by the aforementioned Philip. In between the Second and Third Philippics comes ‘On the Peace’: a speech given during a short diplomatic space engineered by Philip, but which Demosthenes clearly highlighted as an armistice rather than anything permanent. This ‘Philip’ section ends with ‘The Oration On The Letter.” Philip sent a letter to Athens, which implied that war, again, was imminent.  Demosthenes responded with characteristic boldness. The final speech on this recording is ‘On The Crown,’ addressing a very different matter. The Athenian statesman Ctesiphon proposed that Demosthenes should be honoured with the ‘golden crown’ for his service to the city. This was opposed by Aeschines, a long-standing enemy of Demosthenes in Athenian politics. In the court case that followed (330 BCE), Demosthenes successfully defended Ctesiphon in a speech later described as ‘the greatest speech of the greatest orator in the world.’ Each of the Orations in this collection is preceded with an introduction setting the scene, and outlining the context in which they were delivered. This also gives a concise picture of Athens at this difficult point in its history. Eight years later, when in danger of being captured and imprisoned by the young Alexander who was angered by decades of eloquent and unrestrained opposition, Demosthenes committed suicide. All the speeches are prefaced by the historical setting. Translations by Arthur Wallace Pickard and Charles Rann Kennedy.


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