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The First Philippic   

THE FIRST PHILIPPIC.

THE ARGUMENT.


Philip, after the defeat of Onomarchus, had marched toward
the pass of Thermopylae, which, however, he found occupied by
the Athenians, who had sent a force for the purpose of
preventing his advance. Being baffled there, he directed his
march into Thrace, and alarmed the Athenians for the safety
of their dominions in the Chersonese. At the same time he sent
a fleet to attack the islands of Lemnos and Imbrus, infested
the commerce of Athens with his cruisers, and even insulted
her coast. In Thrace he became involved in the disputes
between the rival kings Amadocus and Cersobleptes, espousing
the cause of the former; and for some time he was engaged in
the interior of that country, either at war with Cersobleptes,
or extending his own influence over other parts of Thrace,
where he established or expelled the rulers, as it suited him.
It was just at that time that Demosthenes spoke the following
oration, the first in which he called the attention of his
countrymen to the dangerous increase of Philip's power. He had
become convinced by the course of events, and by observing the
restless activity of Philip, that Athens had more to fear from
him than from Thebes, or from any new combination of the
Grecian republics. The orator himself, perhaps, hardly
appreciated the extent of Philip's resources, strengthened as
he was now by the friendship of Thessaly, possessed of a navy
and maritime towns, and relieved from the presence of any
powerful neighbors. What were the precise views of Demosthenes
as to the extent of the impending danger, we can not say. It
was not for him to frighten the Athenians too much, but to
awaken them from their lethargy. This he does in a speech,
which, without idle declamation or useless ornament, is
essentially practical. He alarms, but encourages, his
countrymen; points out both their weakness and their strength;
rouses them to a sense of danger, and shows the way to meet it;
recommends not any extraordinary efforts, for which at the
moment there was no urgent necessity, and to make which would
have exceeded their power, but unfolds a scheme, simple and
feasible, suiting the occasion, and calculated (if Athenians
had not been too degenerate) to lay the foundation of better things.


Had the question for debate been any thing new, Athenians, I should have
waited till most of the usual speakers [Footnote: By an ancient
ordinance of Solon, those who were above fifty years of age were first
called on to deliver their opinion. The law had ceased to be in force;
but, as a decent custom, the older men usually commenced the debate.
There would be frequent occasions for departing from such a custom, and
Demosthenes, who was now thirty-three, assigns his reason for speaking
first.] had been heard; if any of their counsels had been to my liking,
I had remained silent, else proceeded to impart my own. But as the
subjects of discussion is one upon which they have spoken oft before, I
imagine, though I rise the first, I am entitled to indulgence. For if
these men had advised properly in time past, there would be no necessity
for deliberating now.

First I say, you must not despond, Athenians, under your present
circumstances, wretched as they are; for that which is worst in them as
regards the past, is best for the future. What do I mean? That our
affairs are amiss, men of Athens, because you do nothing which is
needful; if, notwithstanding you performed your duties, it were the
same, there would be no hope of amendment.

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