Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Demosthenes
Pages of The Fourth Philippic

Previous | Next

The Fourth Philippic   

where the difficulty? When they see certain persons transferring the
usage established for the public revenue to private property, and the
orator becoming immediately powerful with you, yea, (so far as privilege
can make him,) immortal, and your secret vote contradicting your public
clamor. [Footnote: Having admonished the higher classes to pay their
property-tax and perform their public services cheerfully, and without
seeking to be relieved at the expense of the public revenue, he proceeds
to remind the lower classes of their duty. He warns them, that, while
they receive a benefit from the funds of the state, they must not
endeavor to increase those funds unduly by an invasion of the rights of
property. His language is not open, but would easily be understood by
his audience. The Athenians ought not to promote lawsuits to increase
court-fees; not to encourage prosecutions against wealthy citizens, in
order to obtain fines and confiscations. He insinuates that there was
too much cause for complaint already. [Greek: _Ton legonta_] is,
not as Schaefer contends, the rich man pleading his cause before the
people, but, as Wolf explains it, the popular orator or informer, who
speedily rose to favor and influence, of which it was not easy to
deprive him. His opponent, speaking in a just cause, might be applauded
at the time, but the votes showed what was the real bias of the people.
In courts of justice at Athens the voting was usually by a secret
ballot; (see my article _Psephus_ in the Archaeological
Dictionary;) and there being a large number of jurors, it would be
difficult to discover by whose votes the verdict was obtained. It is
impossible to read the frequent appeals made by Athenian speakers to the
passions and prejudices of the jury, without seeing that there was some
ground for the insinuations of the orator in this passage.] Hence arises
mistrust, hence indignation. We ought, O ye men of Athens, to have a
just communion of political rights; the opulent holding themselves
secure in their fortunes, and without fear of losing them, yet in time
of danger imparting their substance freely for the defense of their
country; while the rest consider the public revenue as public, and
receive their share, but look on private property as belonging to the
individual owner. Thus it is that a small commonwealth becomes great,
and a great one is preserved. To speak generally then, such are the
obligations of each class; to insure their performance according to law,
some regulation should be made.

The causes of our present troubles and embarrassment are many and of
ancient date: if you are willing to hear, I will declare them. You have
quitted, O Athenians, the position in which your ancestors left you; you
have been persuaded by these politicians, that to stand foremost of the
Greeks, to keep a permanent force and redress injured nations, is all
vanity and idle expense; you imagine that to live in quiet, to perform
no duty, to abandon one thing after another and let strangers seize on
all, brings with it marvelous welfare and abundant security. By such
means a stranger has advanced to the post which you ought to have
occupied, has become prosperous and great, and made large conquest;
naturally enough. A prize there was, noble, great, and glorious, one for
which the mightiest states were contending all along; but as the
Lacedaemonians were humbled, the Thebans had their hands full through
the Phocian war, and we took no regard, he carried it off without
competition. The result has been, to others terror, to him a vast
alliance and extended power; while difficulties so many and so
distressing surround the Greeks, that even advice is not easy to be

Yet, perilous as I conceive the present crisis to be for all, no people
are in such danger as you, men of Athens; not only because Philip's
designs are especially aimed at you, but because of all people you are
the most remiss. If, seeing the abundance of commodities and cheapness
in your market, you are beguiled into a belief that the state is in no
danger, your judgment is neither becoming nor correct. A market or a
fair one may, from such appearances, judge to be well or ill supplied:

Previous | Next
Site Search