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The Olynthiacs and the Phillippics of Demosthenes Literally translated with notes   By: (384 BC - 322 BC)

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Literally Translated, with Notes






Olynthus was a city in Macedonia, at the head of the Toronaic gulf, and north of the peninsula of Pallene. It was colonized by a people from Chalcis in Euboea, and commanded a large district called Chalcidice, in which there were thirty two cities. Over all this tract the sway of Olynthus was considerable, and she had waged wars anciently with Athens and Sparta, and been formidable to Philip's predecessors on the throne of Macedon. Soon after Philip's accession, the Olynthians had disputes with him, which were at first accommodated, and he gratified them by the cession of Anthemus. They then joined him in a war against Athens, and he gave up to them Potidaea, which had yielded to their united arms. After the lapse of some years, during which Philip had greatly increased his power, and acquired considerable influence in Thessaly and Thrace, the Olynthians became alarmed, and began to think him too dangerous a neighbor. The immediate cause of rupture was an attack which he made on one of the Chalcidian towns. An embassy was instantly sent to Athens, to negotiate an alliance. Philip, considering this as an infraction of their treaty with him, declared war against them, and invaded their territory. A second embassy was sent to Athens, pressing for assistance. The question was debated in the popular assembly. Demades, an orator of considerable ability, but profligate character, opposed the alliance. Many speakers were heard; and at length Demosthenes rose to support the prayer of the embassy, delivering one of those clear and forcible speeches, which seldom failed to make a strong impression on his audience. The alliance was accepted, and succors voted.

The orator here delicately touches on the law of Eubulus, which had made it capital to propose that the Theoric fund should be applied to military service. This fund was in fact the surplus revenue of the civil administration, which by the ancient law was appropriated to the defense of the commonwealth; but it had by various means been diverted from that purpose, and expended in largesses to the people, to enable them to attend the theatre, and other public shows and amusements. The law of Eubulus perpetuated this abuse. (See my article Theorica in the Archaeological Dictionary.) Demosthenes, seeing the necessity of a war supply, hints that this absurd law ought to be abolished, but does not openly propose it.

There has been much difference of opinion among the learned as to the order of the three Olynthiac orations; nor is it certain, whether they were spoken on the occasion of one embassy, or several embassies. The curious may consult Bishop Thirlwall's Appendix to the fifth volume of his Grecian History, and Jacobs' Introduction to his translation. I have followed the common order, as adopted by Bekker, whose edition of Demosthenes is the text of this translation; and indeed my opinion is, on the whole, in favor of preserving the common order, though the plan of this work prevents my entering into controversy on the question. To enable the reader more fully to understand the following orations, I have in an Appendix to this volume given a brief account of Olynthus, showing its position with reference to Macedonia, and the importance of its acquisition to Philip. The historical abstract prefixed to this volume is intended chiefly to assist the reader in reference to dates. Such occurrences only are noticed as may be useful to illustrate Demosthenes.

I believe, men of Athens, you would give much to know, what is the true policy to be adopted in the present matter of inquiry. This being the case, you should be willing to hear with attention these who offer you their counsel... Continue reading book >>

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