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Demosthenes (384—322 bc) Athenian orator and statesman

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(389—322 bc)

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(389–322 bc),

Athenian statesman, rated by the ancients second only to Demosthenes (2) amongst the Ten Orators (see attic orators). He studied rhetoric under Isocrates and began his career by writing speeches for others. His political career opened with prosecutions of leading figures, the most notable being his successful prosecution of Philocrates in 343 which heralded his future bitter opposition to Macedon (see philip ii), and after the battle of Chaeronea he assumed a leading role. Immediately after the action, in which 1,000 Athenians had died and 2,000 were captured, he sought to provide replacements by making metics citizens and freeing slaves; he was himself duly indicted for this unconstitutional measure, but it showed his determination to resist, as did his prosecution of Demades and other collaborationists and his vigorous plea to the Athenians not to accede to Alexander (2) the Great's demand in 335 for Demosthenes and others. In 324/3 he led the attack on Demosthenes and others who were accused of appropriating the money deposited by Harpalus. Presumably he wanted it for the coming revolt against Macedon. Indeed Hyperides was the chief supporter of Leosthenes and of Athenian action in the Lamian War. Fittingly he was chosen to deliver the Funeral Oration (see epitaphios) of late 323, a speech of which much survives. With the collapse of Greek resistance, Hyperides had to flee. He was captured and put to death, Antipater, in one version, first ordering the cutting out of the tongue which had so bitterly assailed him and Macedon, a not ignoble end for one of the heroes of Greek libert.


In tone his speeches resembled those of Lysias. He borrowed words and phrases from comedy, thus bringing his language into touch with the speech of everyday life. ‘Longinus’ On the Sublime notes his wit, his suavity and persuasiveness, his tact and good taste. He can be sarcastic and severe without becoming offensive; his reproof often takes the form of humorous banter. He speaks with respect of his adversaries and avoids scurrilous abuse.

Subjects: Classical studies

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