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Aeschines on Alexander


Detail of the Alexander mosaic, found in Pompeii. National Archaeological Museum, Naples (Italy). In the summer of 330, the Athenian politician Aeschines attacked his rival Demosthenes for the failure of the latter's anti-Macedonian policy. His speech is known as Against Ctesiphon.

M.M. Austin has translated the sections 132-134.

What strange and unexpected event has not occurred in our time? The life we have lived is no ordinary human one, but we were born to be an object of wonder to posterity. The Persian king, who dug a canal through Mount Athos [1], who cast a yoke on the Hellespont, who demanded earth and water [2] from the Greeks, who had the arrogance to write in his letters that he was the lord of all men from the rising to the setting sun, surely he is now fighting for his own safety rather than for domination over others?

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Aeschines. Bust at the British museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins.
Aeschines (British Museum)

And do we not see that the men who are thought worthy of this glory and of the command against the Persians, are precisely those who freed the sanctuary at Delphi? And Thebes -Thebes the neighboring city- has been erased in one day from the center of Greece [more]. A just punishment perhaps, for their misguided policies and for the blindness and folly that afflicted them, divinely inspired rather than human. And the unfortunate Spartans, who were only involved with these events at the beginning when the temple at Delphi was captured, and who at one time claimed to be the leaders of the Greeks, are now about to be sent to Alexander as hostages to parade their misfortune.

Whatever he decides, they and their country shall have to endure, the verdict depending on the moderation of the victor whom they offended. And our own city, the common refuge of the Greeks, which formerly embassies from all over Greece would visit, each city seeking its safety from us, is now no longer fighting for the leadership of Greece, but to defend the land of its fathers. And all this has happened from the moment Demosthenes took over control of affairs.

Note 1:
Aeschines refers to the preparations of Xerxes' invasion of Greece in 480 (more...).

Note 2:
Tokens of submission.

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