Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The other side of Demosthenes

The friends of my friends are my friends, the saying goes. This implies that the enemies of my friends are my enemies, and for me, this automatically applies to Demosthenes since he definitely was not a friend of Alexander’s and consequently not a friend of mine (see: Philip vs. Demosthenes, an ongoing business). Yet I keep encountering Demosthenes in many museums, even in the most unexpected corners. From Athens and Rome, Naples and Florence, to Tirana, Copenhagen, Harvard, Malibu, and New-York; from Antalya, Cyrene, Cologne to the Louvre; from the British Museum to the Hermitage, and many more that do not immediately spring to mind.

Demosthenes is known in history as being a prominent statesman and orator of ancient Athens. Born in 384 BC, he delivered his first judicial plea at the age of twenty to secure his inheritance and by the time he was thirty he made his first public political speech. In those days, the power of Athens was waning and Demosthenes was most determined to restore the city’s supremacy. Athens was still a democracy where people had the final say in all matters through the Assembly which would address the issues and vote by a show of hands. Another important component was the Boule or Council that would set the agenda of the Assembly and serve as its advisor by meeting on a daily basis. A number of men took advantage of their rhetorical skills to address the people, among which we find Demosthenes. His greatest adversary, however, was to become king Philip of Macedonia, Alexander’s father.

During the Third Sacred War that lasted from 356 till 346 BC (see: End of the Third Sacred War and Peace with Athens), the Greeks had allowed Philip to raise a vast number of soldiers, including forces from Thessaly or other allies. His enemies definitely had underestimated his power and by the time this war was over they had no way of stopping him anymore.

Frictions started as early as 351 BC at least when Demosthenes warned the Athenians about the threat posed by Philip’s expansion policy in the north. Demosthenes wrote his first open letter to the Macedonian king, the first of his so-called  Philippics – a word that has become proverbial since it still today applies to any fiery speech aimed to condemn the person in question (in this case, Philip).

Demosthenes became highly influential in Athens’ decision to support Olynthus, their ally, against Philip as he wrote an extensive speech for each individual call for help, known as the three Olynthiacs. These were all delivered in 349 BC, the first one calling the Athenians to organize an expedition and send it on its way, the second one complaining that Athens did not budge, and the third one being aimed to Philip, calling him a barbarian and warning his fellow-citizens that the Macedonian king would quickly seize more and more of their colonies. Demosthenes in his last Olynthiac pled for a military intervention to rescue the Olynthians and called for a large naval and military force to destroy Philip’s territory. The orator didn’t manage to convince his public until it was much too late.

It is important to note that Demosthenes (and probably most Athenians) did not realize that the days of Athens’ polis system were counted. It was clear that Philip could make his decisions and act upon them immediately while the Athenian system was slow, meaning that by the time they reached a decision the entire context had changed. Philip really wanted a treaty of peace and an alliance in which he and the Athenians were equals, something that did not sink in with the Athenians. In any case, in early April 346 BC, an embassy of ten men was sent to Pella to discuss ‘peace and the common interests of Athens and Philip (cf. Demosthenes). This would be the first of four embassies.

This is a story that is very well told by Mary Renault in her book Fire from Heaven, featuring young Alexander. Ten envoys travelled to Pella when Alexander was about ten years old. Among them were great men like Philocrates, Nausicles, Demosthenes, and Aeschines. Each had prepared his speech on the proposed alliance and peace, and they had decided to speak in order of age, the youngest last and this happened to be Demosthenes after Aeschines who tells us that he began “in a voice dead with fright, and after a brief narration of earlier events suddenly fell silent and was at a loss for words, … Seeing the state he was in, Philip encouraged him to take heart and not to suppose that he had suffered a complete catastrophe. … But Demosthenes … was now unable to recover; he tried once more to speak, and the same thing happened.” What an appearance for such an orator! Having listened graciously to every ambassador, Philip summarized his idea, that of a bilateral agreement between him and his allies on one side and Athens and their allies on the other.

My personal opinion is that Demosthenes was terribly frustrated by his flop at the Macedonian court, making a fool of himself in the presence of both Philip and Alexander. This frustration soon turned to anger and even hatred towards his first audience during such an important mission! He must have resented both kings simply because they had witnessed how helpless he had been!

As soon as the embassy left, Philip sent Antipater, Parmenion and Eurylochus to Athens to repeat his terms of peace and receive Athens’ consent in return. The news was buzzing in Athens’ Assembly, which at first was inclined to accept Philip’s proposal but Demosthenes had to give his own twist to the story as usual and persuaded the Assembly to go for a Common Peace in which every state was free to join. Of course, this was refused by Antipater when he was called in the next day for those were not his king’s terms. In the end, the Athenians and their allies swore their oaths to the peace and alliance to Macedonia – not a happy day for Demosthenes.

Yet Demosthenes was stubborn – or should we say determined? In 345 BC he did all he could to sabotage the treaty with Philip, while Aeschines, on the other hand, tried by all means to keep it alive. As was to be expected, Demosthenes had done his utmost to convince the Athenians that the peace treaty with Philip was worthless, using every trick in the book to manipulate his audience and distort Philip’s words. As a result, by 342/341 BC the famous peace treaty collapsed entirely.

Meanwhile, as Philip was called to intervene in the Chersonese’s conflict with neighboring Cardia, he wrote many letters of complaint to Athens as they had violated their mutual peace treaty by attacking his allies and pirating the Macedonian merchant ships. Demosthenes, of course, took it personally and his speeches ‘On the Chersonese’ and his next Philippic was wildly applauded and very successful in Athens. The Athenians even went so far as to request support from the Persian King, who gave the ambassadors large sums of money, some of which eventually found its way to Demosthenes’ pocket. Philip was no fool and seized the Athenian corn fleet. In spite of his failure to secure the shipping route, Demosthenes was crowned for his services at the Theatre of Dionysus during the festival of 340 BC. The world of politics was as strange in antiquity as it is today!

Thebes was a constant headache, siding with Athens or with Philip as they saw fit at the moment. Early 339 BC, they seized Nicaea at the entrance of the Pass of Thermopylae. By so doing they blocked Philip’s access road to central Greece, not for long though for Philip immediately marched around Thermopylae, scarring the hell out of the Thebans and the Athenians. The situation escalated and eventually led to the Battle of Chaeronea in August 338 BC. Demosthenes came into action once again and managed to convince the Athenians to join him in an alliance against Philip. It was one of his greatest diplomatic triumphs, although it came at a great cost for there were a number of demands that Thebes required in exchange.

Demosthenes participated in the Battle of Chaeronea alongside his fellow-Athenians, but as we know, they were defeated by Philip (with young Alexander in his left wing against the Theban Band!). Once the fight was over, Demosthenes barely escaped and his glamorous orator career was over.

Next time Demosthenes comes to the foreground again is evidently after Philip’s death when he is said to have celebrated the king’s assassination. Aeschines tells us that at that time Demosthenes was in the middle of a mourning ceremony for the death of his daughter. When he heard the news of Philip’s murder, he interrupted his mourning and instead put a garland on his head to make thank-offerings to the gods – certainly not the proper thing to do!

In spite of such disrespectful behavior, the Athenians still admired Demosthenes and the orator Ctesiphon even suggested honoring his colleague for his services by presenting him with a golden crown! Lengthy debates followed and seemed to have dragged on for at least six years since we know that in 330 BC Aeschines prosecuted this same Ctesiphon for legal irregularities implying Demosthenes. The latter wrote his own defense, which is known to be his most brilliant speech ‘On the Crown’ that inspired every statesman ever since. He was successful in effectively defending Ctesiphon and exploiting the ruling feelings of frustrated patriotism, arguing that all he ever had done was for the honor of Athens and to prove his own loyalty to his city.

While Alexander was taking care of the Thracian and Illyrian uprisings that erupted after his father’s death, Demosthenes spread the news that the young king and his army had been slaughtered. Thebes and Athens took their chances and with money provided by the Persian King Darius a new rebellion was financed (Demosthenes apparently received about 300 talents!). As soon as the news reached Alexander, he force-marched his army south and razed Thebes to the ground. He did not attack Athens but demanded that all the politicians who were openly against Macedonia be exiled with Demosthenes on top of his list.  This never materialized, mostly because Alexander treated Athens with a privileged reverence.

But this is still not the end of Demosthenes’ grudge for in 324 BC he was only too happy to give refuge to the defecting Harpalos, one of Alexander’s companions who was in charge of the king’s treasury. The Athenian Assembly, following Demosthenes advice, had decided not to allow him to enter the city mostly out of fear of Alexander’s possible reprisal since Harpalos clearly was an insurgent. Harpalos was taken in custody and his treasure (well over 700 talents) was confiscated and entrusted to a special committee presided over by Demosthenes. Once the money was counted, the committee found only half the sum as declared by Harpalos. They decided not to make this fact public for the time being. However, when Harpalus escaped, they discovered that Demosthenes had mishandled twenty talents. During the trial that ensued, it transpired that there was a much larger deficit than these twenty talents and that Demosthenes had been bribed by Harpalos. Yet it remains unclear how much money Demosthenes had manipulated and to what purpose it was used. In the end, he was fined but refused to pay. For this reason, he was sent to prison but escaped in a manner, not unlike Harpalos. From then onward, he lived in exile, first at Troezen and later at Aegina.

Even after Alexander’s death in 323 BC, Demosthenes could not refrain himself from urging the Athenians to get rid of the Macedonian supremacy. He returned to Athens and mingled in the Lamian War, from which Antipater (still regent at Pella) appeared victorious. Finally, Antipater had had enough and demanded Demosthenes to be surrendered to him. The Athenian Assembly, in fact, condemned the city’s anti-Macedonian agitators to death, and that included Demosthenes. The orator escaped and found refuge at a sanctuary on the island of Poros, where Antipater eventually tracked him down. Feeling totally cornered, Demosthenes took his own life using poison. He was 62 years old.

Years later and for reasons beyond logical comprehension, Athens erected a statue in honor of their able orator, a tradition that has apparently been perpetrated over many centuries – hence the many statues of Demosthenes we still find in the many museums today.

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