| Famous Men of Greece|
|by John H. Haaren|
|Attractive biographical sketches of thirty-five of the most prominent characters in the history of ancient Greece, from legendary times to its fall in 146 B.C. Each story is told in a clear, simple manner, and is well calculated to awaken and stimulate the youthful imagination. Ages 9-12 |
 IN the city of Athens about twenty-five years after the
Peloponnesian War there lived a delicate boy named
Demosthenes. His father was a manufacturer of swords and
made a great deal of money. But when Demosthenes was only
seven years old his father died. Guardians had charge of
his property for ten years. They robbed the boy of part of
his fortune and managed the rest so badly that Demosthenes
could not go to school to the best teachers in Athens
because he had not money enough to pay them.
One day, when he was sixteen years old, a great trial was
going on at Athens and he strolled into the court. There
were fifteen hundred and one dicasts or, as we call them,
jurymen in their seats, and the court was crowded with
citizens who, like Demosthenes, had gone in from curiosity.
A lawyer named
Callistratus was speaking. He did not finish his speech
for nearly four hours. But no
 one left the court until he ceased to speak. Then hundreds
of people went out and hurried home. Demosthenes waited to
see the end. When each of the jurymen had thrown a voting
pebble into a basket the clerk of the court counted the
pebbles and told the result. Callistratus had won the case.
Demosthenes went home determined to become a lawyer and
public speaker. In one year from that time he brought suit
against his guardians, delivered four orations against them
and won his case. He recovered a large part of the property
which his father had left to his mother and himself.
After this he entered public life, but the first time he
made a speech in the public assembly it was a complete
failure. He stammered and could not speak loud enough, and
in trying to do so he made odd faces.
People laughed at him, and even his friends told him that he
never could be a speaker, so he went home greatly cast
Then an actor who was a great friend of his
 family went to see him and encouraged him. He asked
Demosthenes to read to him some passages of poetry. Then
the actor recited the same passages. The verses now seemed
to have new meaning and beauty. The actor pronounced the
words as if he felt them. The tones of his voice were clear
and pleasant and his gestures were graceful. Demosthenes
"You can learn to speak just as well as I do," said the
actor, "if you are willing to work patiently. Do not be
discouraged, but conquer your difficulties."
"I will," said Demosthenes. And he did.
It is said that to improve his voice he spoke with stones in
his mouth, and to become accustomed to the noise and
confusion of the public assembly he went to the seashore and
recited there amid the roar of the waves. To overcome his
habit of lifting one shoulder above the other he suspended a
sword so that the point would prick his shoulder as he
He built an underground room in which he could study without
interruption and practice speaking without disturbing any
one. He had one side of his head shaved so that he would be
ashamed to leave this retreat. Then he remained there for
months at a time engaged in study. One thing that he did
while there was to copy eight times the speeches in
 the famous history of Thucydides. This was to teach him to
use the most fitting language. Besides all this he took
lessons of an excellent speaker named Isæus who
taught declamation. In this way the awkward boy who had
been laughed out of the assembly became in time the greatest
orator of Athens.
IN ANCIENT GREECE
Not only was Demosthenes a graceful orator, but he was wise
and patriotic. He soon acquired great influence in Athens
and became one of the ten official orators.
At this time Philip of Macedon had organized a strong army
and was beginning those conquests which in the end made him
master of Greece. Demosthenes from the first regarded him
suspi-  cion, but said nothing until convinced that Philip was threatening
the liberty of Athens and of all Greece. Then he urged the
Athenians to fight against Philip as their forefathers had
fought against the Persians at Marathon, at Salamis and at
Platæa. "Philip," he said, "is weak because he is
selfish and unjust. He is strong only because he is
energetic. Let us be equally energetic, and being unselfish
and just, we shall triumph."
Philip's victory at Chæronea completely disheartened
the Athenians, and Demosthenes had to use all the power of
his eloquence to rouse them. In his speeches he showed how
the success of Philip and the failure of Athens were not due
to the advisers of the people or to the generals who led
their army, but to the Athenians themselves. "You idle away
your time," said he, "going into barbers' shops and asking
what news to-day, while Philip is gathering forces with
which to crush you and the rest of Greece with you."
Philip tried to bribe Demosthenes, but the orator was
absolutely incorruptible, and to the end of his life he
raised his voice and used his influence for the cause of
freedom against both Philip and Alexander. He delivered
twelve orations on this subject. Three of these orations
were specially directed against Philip and are known as the
"Philippics."  They are so bitter in their denunciation of Philip that
to-day any speech which is very bitter and severe against a
man or a party is called a "Philippic."
The most famous speech that Demosthenes ever made was in
defence of himself and is known as the speech "On the
Crown." He had advised the Athenians to unite with the
Thebans against Philip. His advice was followed, and a
victory was won. The Athenians were so much pleased that it
was proposed to crown Demosthenes with a golden wreath at
one of the great festivals. Now this proposal had to be
voted on by the people, and some of Demosthenes' enemies
objected. If the people refused to vote the crown it would
have meant disgrace for Demosthenes and so he was obliged to
go before the assembly to speak in defence of himself and to
show that his advice to his countrymen had been correct. It
was true that the Athenians had not been able to destroy
Philip's power, or free the states of Greece from his
control; but, said Demosthenes, "I insist that even if it
had been known beforehand to all the world that Philip would
succeed and that we should fail, not even then ought Athens
to have taken any other course if she had any regard for her
own glory or for her past or for the ages to come." By this
 that it was the duty of her people to fight for what they
believed to be right even if in the very beginning they had
known that they could not succeed.
Grander words than these never fell from human lips, and
when the vote was taken the people decided that he should
receive the crown.
WHEN news reached Athens of the murder of Philip, Demosthenes
rejoiced and placed a wreath upon his head, as if he were at
a feast. He even persuaded the Athenians to make a
thank-offering to their gods.
Alexander soon placed the Greek cities at his mercy. Then
he demanded that Demosthenes and eight other Athenian
orators should be delivered up to be punished for treason.
Demosthenes told the people of Athens the story of the wolf
and the sheep.
"Once on a time," he said, "the shepherds agreed with the
wolf that henceforth they should be friends. The wolf
promised faithfully never again to attack the sheep. But he
said he thought it would be only fair that the shepherds
should cease to keep dogs. The shepherds agreed and gave up
their dogs. Then the wolf ate up the sheep."
 The Athenians knew what Demosthenes meant, and heeded the
lesson. They kept their watchdogs, Demosthenes and the
other orators, safely at home.
Alexander at length withdrew his demand and treated the
Athenians with kindness. However, this did not win the
favor of Demosthenes, who continued to oppose the
Macedonians at every step.
After some years one of Alexander's satraps stole a large
treasure, fled to Athens and begged for protection.
Demosthenes was unjustly accused of helping him and was
condemned to pay a fine. He could not pay it and so went
When Alexander died the orator returned to Athens. The
Athenians sent a man-of war to bring him to the
Piræus. The magistrates, the priests and all the
citizens marched out to welcome him and escort him to the
Demosthenes now made a last effort to free Athens. But
Macedonia was still strong, and Athens and those who loved
her were weak. In a short time the demand was again made
that the orators be given up to be punished and Demosthenes
again had to flee for his life. He sought refuge in a temple
of Poseidon on an island near the coast of Greece.
THE TEMPLE WHERE DEMOSTHENES DIED
 The sacredness of the temple ought to have protected him,
but he was not allowed to escape. The captain of the
soldiers who were sent to kill him told him that if he would
come out of the temple he should be pardoned. Demosthenes
knew well that this promise would be broken. He asked to be
allowed a few moments in which to write a letter, and his
request was granted. He wrote, and then placed the end of
his writing-quill in his mouth. Those who were watching saw
him grow pale. He tried to reach the door, but fell dead
 near the altar. He had taken poison which he had long
carried in the end of his writing-quill, for he feared that
if he ever fell into the hands of the Macedonians, he would
die in prison, or by torture.
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