|The Story of Greece|
|by Mary Macgregor|
| Stories from the history of ancient Greece beginning with mythical and legendary stories of gods and heroes and ending with the conquests of Alexander the Great. Gives short accounts of battles and sieges, and of the men who made Greece a great nation. Ages 10-14 |
DEMOSTHENES THE GREATEST ORATOR OF ATHENS
 DEMOSTHENES had spoken in the law courts, but he was
not content. His great ambition now was to speak in
the assembly of Athens. He wished to remind the
Athenians of their glorious past, he wished to
encourage them to fight against the enemies of their
His first attempt was a failure. His voice was weak,
his sentences long, and before he had finished what he
wished to say, the people were laughing and jeering, so
that he was forced to sit down.
As he left the assembly he was so unhappy that he
thought he would never speak to the people again. He
walked along the streets, scarcely knowing, in his
distress, where he went.
Suddenly he felt some one touch his arm, and looking up
he saw a very old man who had been in the assembly, and
had heard him speak. He had seen how disappointed
Demosthenes was as he left the hall, and he had
determined to encourage him. So first he praised the
crestfallen orator, saying that his speech had reminded
him of the great orator Pericles, and then he upbraided
the young man for being so easily discouraged by the
laughter of the people.
Demosthenes allowed himself to be comforted and made up
his mind to try again, thinking that perhaps after all
he would be able to make the people listen to him. But
in spite of all his efforts he could not hold their
attention, and he left the assembly, hiding his face in
his cloak that none might see his sorrow.
He left the assembly, hiding his face in his cloak
 An actor, named Satyrus, who knew him well, followed
him home, for he guessed that Demosthenes would be in
despair. The orator did not hide his trouble from his
friend. "The citizens will listen to any one, even to
those who have not studied, rather than to me," he said
in bitter anger. "A sailor with a foolish story will
make them applaud, while if I tell them tales of the
glorious deeds of their own countrymen they pay no
"You say true, Demosthenes," answered Satyrus, "but I
will soon tell you how this is if you will recite to me
some lines from one of our great poets."
Demosthenes did as his friend asked. But although he
said the words correctly, his voice was dull and his
attitude was stiff and awkward.
Satyrus said nothing when his friend ended, but himself
began to repeat the same lines. Yet you would scarcely
have known that they were the same, for the eyes of the
actor flashed, his voice rang clear, then sank to a
whisper, his body swayed now this way, now that, as he
sought to make the meaning of the poem plain.
Then Demosthenes understood as he had never done before
how it was that his carefully studied speeches did not
interest the Athenians. He must not only read or
recite them, he must act them, so that the things of
which he spoke might become real to those who listened.
From that day Demosthenes began to work in a different
way. He made one of the cellars of his house into a
study, that there, undisturbed, he might practise his
voice and gestures. He stayed in this strange study
for two or three months at a time, and lest he should
be tempted to go to theatres or games, he shaved one
side of his head, "that so for shame he might not go
abroad, though he desired it ever so much."
At other times to strengthen his voice he would go to
the seashore while a storm was raging, and putting
pebbles in his mouth he would try to make his words
 the roar of the waves. He also recited speeches while
he was out of breath from running up some steep hill,
and at home he would stand before a large mirror to
watch his gestures and the expression of his face.
And his hard work and perseverance were rewarded, for
Demosthenes became what he most desired to be, the
greatest orator of Athens. His enemies learned to fear
his speeches, his friends to count upon them to aid
Demosthenes was thirty-three years of age when he made
his first speech against Philip of Macedon, who now, in
356 B.C., invaded Greece.
The king would gladly have made an alliance with the
Athenians and gained their goodwill. But they, wishing
to recover Amphipolis, which he had taken from them,
refused to make peace.
Demosthenes lost no opportunity to speak against
Philip. He reminded his countrymen that the king was
"not the man to rest content with that he has subdued,
but is always adding to his conquests, and casts his
snare around us while we sit at home postponing." In
another speech he told the Athenians that they chose
their captains, "not to fight, but to be displayed like
dolls in the market-place."
These and other speeches against the king of Macedon
were called "The Philippics" of Demosthenes, and still
to-day, if some one makes a speech against a special
person, although his name is not Philip, we call the
speech a "Philippic."
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