Demosthenes Birthday & Fun Facts

Height, Age, Net Worth, Biography & More

Abhijeet Modi
Feb 08, 2024 By Abhijeet Modi
Originally Published on Dec 01, 2023
A head statue beside a stone tablet inscribed with Greek writings on an ancient Greek landscape
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About Demosthenes

Demosthenes, born in 384 BCE in Athens, Greece, emerged as a significant figure in ancient Greek politics and oratory. As an Athenian orator and statesman, he began his career at 20 with a judicial speech. Despite inheriting wealth from his wealthy swordmaker father, his guardians left him with little. Demosthenes pursued justice, undergoing education in legal rhetoric while overcoming a speech impediment by speaking with pebbles in his mouth.

Under Isaeus' mentorship, he honed his skills and pursued a career as a logographer and lawyer. Notable for his speeches against his guardians, Demosthenes entered the political arena advocating reforms and opposing influential figures like Eubulus, an Athenian statesman who supported the Macedonian interests in Athenian politics. He delivered the 'First Philippic', a warning against King Philip of Macedon, advocating Athenian readiness for war. Subsequently, Demosthenes delivered 'The Olynthiacs', urging the Athenians to support Olynthus against King Philip's encroachment.

Continuing his opposition to Macedonian dominance, Demosthenes' 'Second and Third Philippics' targeted both Philip and the new king, Alexander the Great of Macedon. He opposed Alexander's Asian and Persian invasions and got a death sentence but escaped. Demosthenes died in 322 BCE, in Kalaureia, Greece, and was posthumously honored by Athens with a statue. Demosthenes' legacy as a defender of Athenian independence against Macedonian power and oratorical skills endure, symbolizing his pivotal role in shaping ancient Greek politics and resistance against external dominance.

Childhood And Education

Demosthenes was born in 384 BCE, during the transition between the 98th and 99th Olympiads. Demosthenes' father, also named Demosthenes, belonged to a local tribe known as Padionis, and his mother's name was Kleoboule. His father was a wealthy swordmaker who passed away when Demosthenes was seven years old. Demosthenes was put under the guardianship of the trustees of his father, Aphobus, Demophon, and Therippides.

As a child, Demosthenes had a frail physique and could not receive the customary Greek gymnastic education, so he trained himself to be an orator. Having a speech impediment and stuttering when speaking, Demosthenes trained by reciting verses when out of breath and speaking with pebbles in his mouth. He sometimes practiced speaking in front of a large mirror. Demosthenes also studied legal rhetoric.

When Demosthenes came of age, he was only given a little of his rightful inheritance. In 363 BCE, he filed a lawsuit against his guardians but succeeded in retrieving only a fraction of his inheritance.

Family, Romance, And Relationships

Who was Demosthenes' partner?

Demosthenes married the daughter of Heliodorus, who was a prominent Athenian citizen. Demosthenes and his wife had a daughter, but she died at a young age. The names of his wife and daughter are not known, and it is also not known if he fathered any other children.

Career And Professional Highlights

Best Known For…

In 354 BCE, when he was 30 years old, the prominent Athenian statesman and orator Demosthenes emerged onto the political stage. He delivered a speech titled 'On The Navy Boards'. Following his oration, the Athenian Assembly reinforced their naval force discreetly in response to rumored Persian threats. Throughout his career, Demosthenes consistently championed Athens' independence while endorsing temporary alliances in times of imminent danger.

Rapidly, Demosthenes ascended as a leader within the democratic faction, navigating the turbulent waters of Athenian politics. His insight in the Assembly, characterized by a profound understanding of Greek history, constantly reminds the Athenians of their belief in democracy. Demosthenes' speeches were crafted, drawing parallels from history, emphasizing Athenian democratic values and opposing tyranny.

His opposition to the encroaching Macedonian threat, notably the Macedonian King Philip II, became a cornerstone of Demosthenes' career. His 'First Philippic' in 351 BCE marked the onset of his unyielding resistance to Macedonian expansionism. Demosthenes' warnings went unheeded, with Philip's advances triggering conflicts such as the fall of Olynthus despite Demosthenes' efforts to rally Athenian support.

The Peace Of Philocrates in April 346 BCE between Phillip and the Athenians, negotiated by Demosthenes himself, was a temporary ceasefire, allowing him time to prepare for the looming struggle against Philip.

In late 346 BCE, Demosthenes delivered his speech 'On The Peace', criticizing the terms of the treaty of Philocrates but urging its adherence. Demosthenes' 'Second Philippic' in 344 BCE condemned the Peace Of Philocrates, alleging that Aeschines and some other people deceived Athenians, leading to a public trial in the autumn of 343 BCE. During the trial, Demosthenes accused Aeschines of false reports and corruption in his speech 'The False Legation', but Aeschines was acquitted by the court.

In the face of threats, Demosthenes persisted in his opposition, delivering his iconic speech, 'Third Philippic'. Despite notable successes, including his appointment as controller of the navy and forging alliances against Philip, the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BCE ended disastrously for Athens and its allies.

Following King Philip's death in 336 BCE, his son Alexander the Great ascended, initially raising hopes for restored freedom. However, within a year, Alexander conquered Thebes (335 BCE) and demanded Athens to surrender Demosthenes and others who opposed him. Subsequently, Alexander's Asian conquests, reaching India, relieved Athens of direct military threat. In 330 BCE, Aeschines revived accusations against Ctesiphon for proposing a Gold Crown award for Demosthenes, leading to a huge oratorical clash.

Demosthenes' oration 'On The Crown', in 330 BCE, was a response to accusations from his rival Aeschines. The oratory encapsulated two decades of Greek struggles against Philip and Alexander the Great, underscoring Demosthenes' unwavering patriotism and contrasting it with Aeschines' disloyalty.

Six years later, despite having much support and a resounding victory in various trials, including those against Aeschines, Demosthenes was convicted of a crime. Accused of receiving 20 talents from Harpalus, Alexander's exile, Demosthenes was convicted, fined 50 talents, and imprisoned. He later escaped from prison but could not return to Athens.

The following year, Alexander died, and the Athenians recalled Demosthenes. However, when Antipater, Alexander's successor, approached the city, Demosthenes fled along with some other orators. On 12 October 322 BCE, while fleeing Antipater's soldiers, Demosthenes killed himself by taking poison.

Throughout his political career, Demosthenes fought passionately for the preservation of Athenian democracy and independence against external threats, primarily the expansionist ambitions of Philip II of Macedon and his son, Alexander the Great. Years after his death, the Athenians commemorated him by erecting a statue in his honor and passed a decree mandating that his descendants receive state-provided meals at the Prytaneum.

What awards did Demosthenes win?

Demosthenes, the renowned Greek orator, was awarded the Gold Crown by the Athenian Assembly for his services to the state. This honor was bestowed upon him in recognition of his efforts, particularly his relentless opposition to Philip II of Macedon and his persuasive oratory in rallying Athenians against the Macedonian army.

Other Interesting Demosthenes Facts And Trivia

  • His name means 'the strength of the people'.
  • When King Philip was killed in 336 BCE, it is said that Demosthenes made a public show of celebration in the streets of Athens.
  • From 355-551 BCE, he trained in law and created speeches in opposition to people who wanted to abolish tax exceptions. This lined the way for his entry into politics.
  • His other famous speeches include 'For The Megalopolitans' (352 BCE) and 'On The Liberty Of The Rhodians' (351 BCE).
  • In 349 BCE, he presented the famous speech 'Olynthiacs'. It was essentially a series of three speeches wherein he asked the Athenians to offer the required assistance to Olynthus.
  • The Greek historian of rhetorics and teacher Dionysius of Halicarnassus suggested that the last piece of the development of Attic prose was likely Demosthenes. The use of plain elegance and the archetypes of the archaic features he implemented in his works were considered his best features.
  • After his death, texts of Demosthenes' speeches survived in Athens and are also in the Library of Alexandria.
  • Demosthenes was 62 years old when he died.

Demosthenes Birthday & Fun Facts Facts

Nationality

Greek

Place of Birth

Athens

Occupation

Orator, Logographer, Lawyer

Parents

Demosthenes
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Sources

penelope.uchicago.eduwww.newworldencyclopedia.orgwww.behindthename.com

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Written by Abhijeet Modi

Master of Computer Science

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Abhijeet ModiMaster of Computer Science

An experienced and innovative entrepreneur and creative writer, Abhijeet holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Computer Application from Birla Institute of Technology, Jaipur. He co-founded an e-commerce website while developing his skills in content writing, making him an expert in creating blog posts, website content, product descriptions, landing pages, and editing articles. Passionate about pushing his limits, Abhijeet brings both technical expertise and creative flair to his work.

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