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The Life And Death Of Demosthenes

1806 words - 7 pages

IntroductionDemosthenes (384-320 BC) was one of the greatest orators in ancient Greece and the modern Plato and Socrates of his time. He was motivated to overcome a speaking handicap and learn to write logical and moving speeches. His skill in being able to deliver his speeches with conviction allowed him to become a political power in Athens. But his political work also led to his downfall. Demosthenes was born in Athens, Greece in 384 B.C. to a wealthy family. At the age of seven, his father died and he was put under the care of guardians. When he turned 20, Demosthenes realized that his large inheritance had been squandered by his guardians. He was now without a means a support. Angry at being cheated and put in a difficult position, Demosthenes sought to sue his guardians in the courts. During this time in democratic Athens, every citizen who wished to prosecute a lawsuit or to defend himself against accusation had to do the speaking himself in court. Demosthenes character during these hardships illustrates his persistence and with that strength of character his passion to speak out against what he believes is immoral for his country. In fact in one particular duel with King Phillip he described that Demosthenes' eloquence had "such power and persistence that Philip himself is reported to have said that it was Demosthenes and not the Athenians with whom he was fighting."Motivated to speak correctlyHis strong desire to sue the people who had brought him to ruin led him to study legal rhetoric and train himself as a professional orator. However, the one and awkward problem that prevented him to begin was that Demosthenes had a speech defect. In particular he was inarticulate and could not pronounce words without stammering. According to Plutarch in his biography on Demosthenes, The Life of Demosthenes, he fervently sought to overcome this unfortunate handicap by practicing his speeches with small rocks in his mouth. Doing this easy exercise forced him to clearly pronounce his words, instead of rushing them and end up stammering. Demosthenes also practiced reciting popular speeches when running along the beach or when out of breath. Again, he proved that he was able to control his speaking, as well as his breathing. Another thing he did was to practice speaking before a large mirror. Back in the days before the invention of microphones and amplifiers, the speaker had to have a strong voice and use dramatic gestures for effect. However, despite his complete devotion to rectifying his handicap and his self-improvement program, Demosthenes' first speaking efforts in public were a disaster, and he was laughed at by his audiences. He saw that besides being able to present himself perfectly before an audience, he also needed to learn to write rational, significant speeches. This was especially important to win his historical court case."Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises."- Demosthenes, Second Philippic.Even though he was...

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