|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 WISHES TO BECOME AN ORATOR
 DEMOSTHENES, the great Athenian orator, was born in 384 B.C. He was
a shy and delicate boy, and often stammered when he
spoke. Some of his companions were cruel enough to
laugh at him and even to imitate his stammer. So he
would often slip away from his playmates, but when they
saw that he did not join in their games, they but
laughed at him the more.
The father of Demosthenes was a rich man. He died when
his little son was seven years old, leaving his fortune
to his child. But the guardians who took charge of
Demosthenes and his wealth were careless and dishonest
men. Some of the boy's money they lost, some they
spent on themselves.
As the child grew older, his guardians found that there
was little money left to use for his education. They
could not afford to get the best teachers, nor did they
pay well those whom they employed. So that Demosthenes
was often taught carelessly or not at all.
Of the boy's mother we are told little, save that she
was kind to her delicate little son and tended him with
care. But she, too, died while he was still young.
Demosthenes did not learn his lessons well or quickly,
but he was interested in all that went on around him,
and he soon began to distrust his guardians. Long
before he was sixteen years old, he knew that they had
lost his money, and even then he hoped that some day he
would be able to punish them.
 The boy loved the beautiful city of Athens in which he
grew up. Never did he tire of gazing at the wonderful
temples, the noble statues which made her renowned
There were in these as in other days famous orators in
Athens, to whom the citizens were ever eager to listen.
For they were well pleased to be reminded of the
glorious days of Thermopylæ, and of Marathon, though
now they were not anxious to win glory on the
battlefield. They had grown rich and indolent, and
were content to stay at home, content to go to games
and to theatres.
Demosthenes often heard his teachers talk of the great
orators of Athens, and he wished that he might listen
to their eloquent speeches.
One day Callistratus, a famous orator, was to speak at
a great trial that was taking place in the city.
The boy begged to be allowed to go, and his tutor at
length agreed to find a corner in the hall where the
boy might sit to see and to hear all that went on.
Demosthenes could imagine no greater treat than to be
there, hidden away in the midst of the crowd, to listen
The speech was a great one, and when it was over the
Athenians crowded round the orator, eager to applaud,
while many followed him to his home. Demosthenes came
away with his ambition roused. He said to himself, "I
too will be an orator and make the people do as I wish.
They shall applaud me, even as they have applauded
But another reason that made him wish to speak in
public was that he might expose the dishonesty of his
guardians in the law courts. For he could not be
content until they were punished.
When the boy had made up his mind to be an orator he
lost no time in beginning to study. He knew that he
must work hard if he would succeed.
 For two years he read history, wrote speeches, and when
it was possible, went to hear famous orators. When he
was eighteen he thought that he was ready to speak in
public. So he went to the law courts and accused his
guardians of theft.
At first little notice was taken of what the lad said,
but he pleaded his cause again and again, until at
length he won his suit, and his guardians were
punished. But it was too late to recover the money,
which was now nearly all lost.
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