Demosthenes was a politician, and Athenian speaker considered the best speaker of ancient Greece. Coming from a family of wealthy businessmen, he lost his father when he was seven years old, and his tutors Áfobo, Demofonte, and Terípides abused their patrimony, so, as they approached the age of majority, they had to take long legal proceedings to preserve some of their his fortune.
According to the biography written by Plutarco, his admiration and interest in oratory would have been awakened when his pedagogue clandestinely introduced him to the Assembly, where he witnessed brilliant self-defense by the statesman Calístrato. A disciple of Iseo, he read the works of Isocrates and practiced in his first youth the profession of logographer. He overcame his difficulties for oratory through declamatory exercises.
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The ancient tradition has given us details of his life, some of which have something of a legend, such as Demosthenes’ intended stammering, which he would have corrected by working on speaking with a small pebble put into his mouth. The truth is that Demosthenes, by force of will manage to overcome the physical defects that afflicted him.
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The fame of Demosthenes even surpasses the fact that he was the loser of the contest of his life: the one he maintained in favor of freedom against Philip II of Macedonia.
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Demosthenes life developed during the fourth century BC, where the so-called “crisis of the polis” is located: the ruin of numerous communities, the sterile wars, the armies of mercenaries, the exiles, the pirates, the conflicts between social classes, the forgetting the traditional gods with the consequent assault and ruin of their temples, etc.
Only the world born after the conquests of Alexander the Great was able to find new frameworks that achieved its universality for the Greek civilization.
Demosthenes Work and History
Demosthenes decided to study rhetoric. He reviewed with great zeal the work of Thucydides, where he forged his main political ideas (democracy and greatness of Athens), and although some tradition considers him a disciple of Isocrates (it is true that some isocratic influence appears in his first speeches, but they may well have been born of the reading of his works), went to the school of Iseo de Calcis, who had specialized in cases of inheritance.
After lengthy proceedings against the artful Áfobo and his brother-in-law Onétor, Demosthenes managed to recover a substantial part of his assets, which allowed him to lead a comfortable life. As if that were not enough, his limited success was accompanied by the fame that enabled him to start a career as a logógrafo. Forensic speeches for their clients have conserved more than forty fragments (although the apocryphal exceeds a dozen).
Rhetoric of Social and Political Values
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In order to refresh the memory and to make understand something of that time, we could compare the policy of Athens on the other Greeks to which England maintained on the European continent during the past centuries. Moreover, because it appeared as a guarantee of freedom, Athens helped but did not dominate but, having saved it from disaster, returned the city to its own government.
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The term Demosthenes, when searched in Oxford Classical Dictionary, it provided with some similar meanings. For instance, “Demosthenes, an Athenian general, who had no political ambitions, and wanted to break the military salemate,” this meaning is provided by dictionary.