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Opposing Viewpoints: Demosthenes And Isocrates Address Philip Of Macedonia

917 words - 4 pages

Demosthenes and Isocrates came to prominence in fourth century B.C.E. Athens as public speakers and as politicians. Isocrates was a teacher of rhetoric, or the art of public speaking, while Demosthenes was a professional litigator, writing speeches for clients arguing in the courts of law, and occasionally presenting arguments himself. Both men were highly respected citizens and opinion makers throughout the sphere of influence maintained by Athens, though they held opposing views regarding the proper course for Athenian government, warfare between the Greek city-states, and the prospect of invasion from the Persian Empire to the east. While the Greek city-states engaged in fratricidal warfare, Philip of Macedon began consolidation of his political power by essentially offering up his highly trained professional Macedonian army as mercenary soldiers to the various city-states requesting assistance or protection and demanding control as hegemon or monarch of the city-state in return for military aid. Following a declaration of truce, Philip would impose his rule upon the vanquished as well.

Demosthenes began his series of orations, known to history as The Philippics, against Philip following the conquest by Philip of the Illyrians to the west of Macedonia and the Thracians to the north and east of Macedonia. The continued agitation of Demosthenes and the speed with which Philip was acquiring his empire spurred Athens, finally, into a disastrous alliance with Thebes in an uprising against Philip in 338 B.C.E., the result of which was the destruction of Thebes by Philip as example of consequence to all who would potentially rise against him. Athens, however, receiving treatment as ally and friend, was spared the consequence of destruction, continuing to conduct internal affairs as an autonomous city-state while Philip consolidated his power following conquest of the allied Greek city-states.

In his Third Philippic, delivered around 341 B.C.E., Demosthenes exhorts his fellow Athenians to stand against Philip to protect their precious democratic rights as Athenian citizens and to protect the physical and civic integrity of their city-state of Athens, referring to Philip and his fellow Macedonians as barbarians. Demosthenes specifically targets Philip as being unworthy of the trust afforded him, depicting Philip as deceitful, ruthless and treacherous. Demosthenes exhibits cultural bigotry by stating that, as a Macedonian, Philip was not a Greek and therefore had no valid claim to represent Athens or the Greeks in foreign or domestic affairs of state. Demosthenes takes this insult an additional step by stating that the Macedonians were not suitable even to be slaves. Demosthenes implores his constituents to deny Philip the power to do as he pleases, implying that to allow Philip to conduct the affairs of the city-state of Athens will corrupt the cultural and political heritage of the people of the city-state of Athens. Such devastating...

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