858. Oration against Demosthenes. Trexler Library | Muhlenberg College

These fragments preserve an oration against Demosthenes, the Athenian politican of the 4th century BC, but written six or seven centuries later, possibly as an educational exercise.  Rhetoric teachers sometimes set upper-class students such assignments as a way of teaching the art of public speaking, which in the ancient world was a primary way to exercise political power.

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“Yet when he exhorted them to come to Thebes, he did not dispatch the rest and himself remain at home, but . . . he was the first to go out to fight.  Let the same man be both orator and general, and let Demosthenes harangue with a shield in his hands as well as a decree.  If Themistocles is the orator I will embark; let Pericles lead an expedition to Samos and I will sail; I will follow Tomides across the Peloponnese, if he marches through it; but how can I listen to Demosthenes, who has no breastplate, no spear, no sword, not even one inherited from his father?  ‘Elatea has been captured,’ he said, ‘the prytaneis have broken off their meal; the owner of tents have left the market-place; some one is fetching the trumpeter.’  That was what we heard him say.  Although Demosthenes had never yet heard the sound of a trumpet he was nevertheless terrifying you by these words and his description.  The demos was seated on the hill, the boule had not yet deliberated about the crisis, and although the boule had not yet decided that Demosthenes should speak, when the herald made the proclamation and no one came forward he nevertheless (in violation of?) the laws said: ‘Do you not think that a loyal and a careful follower of events (is needed)?’”

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