Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication

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Context for the Evidence: Dem. 18

Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of April 8, 2003

· Dem. 18 ·

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Aeschines (Aeschin. 3).
Demosthenes (Dem. 18).
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Theater of Dionysus.

(Demosthenes, On the Crown, see also Oratory). This is a speech that Demosthenes composed and delivered in a trial before a jury. Philip of Macedon defeated Athens at the battle of Chaeronea in 338 BCE (source for date: OCD3). Afterwards, the city worked to improve its fortifications, fearing further trouble with Macedonia. The orator Demosthenes was entrusted with managing the fortifications of the Piraeus, Athens’ main port, and he even contributed his own money to the project. Because of this, his friend Ctesiphon made a motion in the Assembly that Demosthenes be awarded a crown, which was to be given him in the Theater of Dionysus. Aeschines, a long-time political rival of Demosthenes, brought charges against Ctesiphon, arguing that this motion was illegal (see Assembly for discussion of the legal issues). The trial came before a jury in 330 BCE (source: OCD3). This speech is Aeschines prosecution of Ctesiphon for moving an illegal motion, but the real issue in the speech is whether Demosthenes had served Athens well in previous years, or had led Athens to defeat at the hands of Philip. Demosthenes wrote this speech, which has come to be known by the name On the Crown, in defense of Ctesiphon (and in the process attacked Aeschines’ own service to Athens). Demosthenes won the case, and this speech has become one of the most famous examples of Greek Oratory (source: C.D. Adams, The Speeches of Aeschines [Harvard: Loeb Classical Library] 306-307). (See also, Aeschin. 3). A final note: Dem. 18 contains several documents in its text, including the alleged text of a letter that Philip of Macedon sent to Athens in 340 BCE (see Dem. 18.77); most scholars think that these documents are not authentic, but forgeries added to the text of Demosthenes’ speech much later, to fill in the gaps (source: J.H. Vince, Demosthenes I [Cambridge, Mass.; Loeb Classical Library; 1930] 316).