Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Occasionally in history, genius and a crisis in human affairs unite to produce a person whose name rings down through the ages long after the particular events have faded into the dimness of antiquity. Such a person was Demosthenes. Almost every educated person has heard of him and knows that he was a famous Greek orator. The events and the crisis in ancient Greece that helped make him famous, however, are unknown except to students of ancient history.
As an Athenian lawyer and orator, Demosthenes might have won little fame had it not been for Philip of Macedon, whose ambition was to conquer and rule as much of the world as he could. When the danger to Athens became great, Demosthenes did all he could to arouse his fellow Athenians to the defense of their city-state. Such crises have recurred in various forms throughout history. On one hand was Philip of Macedon, a tyrant who sought control of many lands and peoples; on the other was Demosthenes, a believer in democracy and local sovereignty who did all that one person could to arouse his contemporaries to fight against Philip and, later, Philip’s son, Alexander the Great. In this conflict between democracy and tyranny there is no doubt of Demosthenes’ sincerity; it rings out from his orations almost as clearly today as it must have more than two thousand years ago.
By common consent of his contemporaries and later generations, Demosthenes was the greatest of the Greek orators, in a...
(The entire section is 1324 words.)
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