Demosthenes, by universal consensus of opinion the greatest
orator the world has known, was born at Athens 385 B.C. and
died 322 B.C. His birth took place just nineteen years after
the conclusion of the Peloponnesian War. Losing his father when
he was yet a child, his wealth was frittered away by three
faithless guardians, whom he prosecuted when he came of age.
This dispute, and some other struggles, led him into public
life, and by indomitable perseverance he overcame the difficulty
constituted by certain physical disqualifications. Identifying
himself for life entirely with the interests of Athens, he became
the foremost administrator in the state, as well as its most
eloquent orator. His stainless character, his matchless powers
of advocacy, his fervent patriotism, and his fine diplomacy,
render him altogether one of the noblest figures of antiquity.
His fame rests mainly on "The Philippics"; those magnificent
orations delivered during a series of several years against the
aggressions of Philip of Macedon; though the three "Olynthiacs,"
and the oration "De Coronâ," and several other speeches are
monumental of the genius of Demosthenes, more especially the "De
Coronâ." He continued to resist the Macedonian domination during
the career of Alexander the Great, and was exiled, dying, it is
supposed, by poison administered by himself, at Calauria. (Cf.
also p. 273 of this volume.) This epitome has been prepared from
the original Greek.