It’s unlikely that you’ve heard this name before, but perhaps you can vaguely recall that this guy was important for some reason. Who was he? A Brazilian soccer player in the 60s? An obscure art-house film director? A leader of a rebel group who fought against the Ottoman Empire in WWI? Wrong, wrong and wrong… Actually, you’re more likely thinking “I’m already reading the darn email, tell me why I should care about this guy!”
And that I shall, O Examiner of Life.
Demosthenes was actually an ancient orator of the legendary city of Athens; birthplace of Democracy, home of sculptures which have yet to be surpassed in beauty and craftsmanship1, the place that pioneered naval warfare strategy, home of the Parthenon as well as a baffling amount of erotic pottery!
|Truly a haven of civilization was ancient Athens.|
And in that haven, there were two occupations that would make you famous.
One was warfare.
The other was oration. This was basically public speaking, and, although most politicians were expected to have established eminence in both warfare and oration, if you were exceedingly good at one, the public would overlook your lack of proficiency in the other.
Demosthenes was one such case.
|In the mid-3rd Century BCE, he grew to prominence as the Greek world sat under the looming and ever-growing threat of the Macedonian empire.|
Though the Macedonians considered themselves Greeks, they were not a friendly, cuddly family.
The king of Macedon, Phillip II (father of Alexander the Great) sought to conquer the entire known world, and that included his Greek cousins. In fact, Alexander the Great’s ancestor, Alexandros, sided with the Persians during their invasion of Greece in 480 BCE!
Demosthenes knew someone had to stand up to the Macedonian King, and he went to war not with weapons, but with words.
He wrote several orations which denounced Phillip’s actions and sought to stir up the resolve of the Athenians and other Greeks to stand up to the army of Phillip.
Read his words dear Examiner, and understand their power for yourself.
|But if he treats us collectively in this outrageous fashion, what do you think he will do when he has become master of each of us separately? What then is the cause of these things? For as it was not without reason and just cause that the Hellenes (Greeks) in old days were so prompt for freedom, so it is not without reason or cause that they are now so prompt to be slaves. There was a spirit, men of Athens, a spirit in the minds of the people in those days, which is absent today, the spirit which vanquished the wealth of Persia, which led Hellas (Greece) in the path of freedom, and never gave way in face of battle by sea or by land; a spirit whose extinction to-day has brought universal ruin and turned Hellas upside down. What was this spirit? It was nothing subtle nor clever.|
It meant that men who took money from those who aimed at dominion or at the ruin of Hellas were reviled by all…that the punishment for the guilty man was the heaviest that could be inflicted; that for him there could be no plea for mercy, nor hope of pardon.
|Finally, Demosthenes ends his oration with these words:|
it is better to die ten thousand deaths than to do anything out of servility towards Philip.
The words of Demosthenes are just as relevant now as they were then. He called the Greeks to once again scorn the rule of tyrants (as they had done in Thermopylae many years before) and to fight for their freedom above all else.
And that they did…
Think about ‘the Macedonians’ in your own life… what threatens to rule over you…
Is it a person? A drug? A concept? Ego? Friend? Family? Foe? It could even be you yourself…
Whatever it is, rise against it like the mighty ancient Greeks and remember these words:
It is better to die ten thousand deaths than to be the slave of any ruler.
|Good day, Examiner,|
Fight for your freedom
The Golden Scribe
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” -Socrates
1 Michelangelo himself said that he would always be a student to the ancient masters, referring to the sculptors of Athens!