Quotes about Demosthenes
20 Sourced Quotes
A society in whose culture the Ancient Greeks played such an important part was bound to have a view about the Modern Greeks. The inhabitants of that famous land, whose language was still recognizably the same as that of Demosthenes, could not be regarded as just another remote tribe of natives or savages. Western Europe could not escape being concerned with the nature of the relationship between the Ancient and the Modem Greeks. The question has teased, perplexed, and confused generations of Greeks and Europeans and it still stirs passions to an extent difficult for the rational to condone.
The Life of Johnson is assuredly a great, a very great work. Homer is not more decidedly the first of heroic poets. Shakespeare is not more decidedly the first of dramatists, Demosthenes is not more decidedly the first of orators, than Boswell is the first of biographers. He has no second.
If only I was as eloquent as Demosthenes, I would have to do no more than repeat a single word three times. Reason is language — Logos; I gnaw on this marrowbone and will gnaw myself to death over it. It is still always dark over these depths for me: I am still always awaiting an apocalyptic angel with a key to this abyss.
Eloquence, when at its highest pitch, leaves little room for reason or reflection; but addressing itself entirely to the fancy or the affections, captivates the willing hearers, and subdues their understanding. Happily, this pitch it seldom attains. But what a Tully or a Demosthenes could scarcely effect over a Roman or Athenian audience, every Capuchin, every itinerant or stationary teacher can perform over the generality of mankind, and in a higher degree, by touching such gross and vulgar passions.
That night Demosthenes published a scathing denunciation of the population limitation laws. People should be allowed to have as many children as they like, and the surplus population should be sent to other worlds, to spread mankind so far across the galaxy that no disaster, no invasion could ever threaten the human race with annihilation. "The most noble title any child can have," Demosthenes wrote, "is Third.
With the dead there is no rivalry. In the dead there is no change. Plato is never sullen. Cervantes is never petulant. Demosthenes never comes unseasonably. Dante never stays too long. No difference of political opinion can alienate Cicero. No heresy can excite the horror of Bossuet.
Only recently have we begun to clarify these muddy waters by revealing the Demosthenean corpus for what it is: oratory designed to sway public opinion and thereby to formulate public policy. That elusive creature, Truth, is everywhere subordinate to Rhetoric; Demosthenes' pronouncements are no more the true history of the period than are the public statements of politicians in any age.
There were two great orators of antiquity. One was Cicero, and the other Demosthenes. When Cicero was done speaking, people always gave him a standing ovation and cheered, "What a great speech!" When Demosthenes was done, people said, "Let us march," and they did. That's the difference between presentation and persuasion. I hope to be classified in the latter category.