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On the Peace ( Greek: Περὶ τῆς εἰρήνης) is one of the most famous political orations of the prominent Athenian statesman and orator Demosthenes. It was delivered in 346 BC and constitutes a political intervention of Demosthenes in favor of the Peace of Philocrates.

Historical Background

Just after the conclusion of the Peace, Philip II of Macedon passed Thermopylae, and subdued Phocis,[1] which was not helped by Athens.[2] Supported by Thebes and Thessaly,[3] Macedon took control of Phocis' votes in the Amphictyonic League.

The Athenians had not been present at Philip's election into this council. Philip thought it proper however, to send circular letters to the absent states, inviting them to assemble at Delphos, and to ratify his election. Athens, among others, received the invitation. The proposal raised a ferment in the assembly, which seems to have breathed nothing but indignation and opposition. Despite some loose reactions,[4] Athens finally legitimated Philip's entrance into the Council of the League. Demosthenes was among those who recommended this stance in his oration On the Peace.


The speech

The real subject of the oration is not peace, but the legitimation of Philip's participation in the Amphictyonic League.[5] Ecclesia convened in order to take the final decision and Demosthenes was among those who expressed their opinion. He first argues that the current situation is unpleasant for the Athenians because of their own negligence (par. 1-3). He then refers to previous misjudgments of his countrymen (4-12) and asserts that Athens must avoid a war that would unify against it all the Greek cities (13-14) He argues that, if they do not recognize the new status quo in the Council of the League, they will cause a rift with the other members of the League (18-19). In order to convince ecclesia, he reminds his countrymen of the fact that in the past Philip had efficiently exploited Thebes' and Thessaly's interests, in order to use them for his own purposes. He is thus capable of repeating such a plot (20-23). Finally, the orator enumerates Athens' sacrifices for the sake of peace and argues that it would be unintelligent to break the peace because of the incident in Delphi. Nonetheless, he underscores that they must not accept any further concession to Philip (24-25).

According to A. W.Pickard, the Assembly were persuaded to give way. To have refused would have brought the united forces of the Amphictyonic States against Athens: and these she could not have resisted. It was therefore prudent to keep the Peace, though Demosthenes evidently regarded it only as an armistice. A. Galinos regards Demosthenes' oration as model of the art of diplomacy and emphasizes on the pain and the psychological pressure Demosthenes must have suffered, arguing in favor of Philip's demands.[6]


Text On the Peace

Notes

  1. ^ Demosthenes,On the Crown, 36.
  2. ^ Demosthenes, On the Peace, 10.
  3. ^ Demosthenes, On the Crown, 43.
  4. ^ Demosthenes, On the False Embassy, 111-113.
  5. ^ A. Galinos, Comments on Demosthenes, 327 etc.
  6. ^ A. Galinos, Comments on Demosthenes, 330.

Demosthenes' orations

Political orations Olynthiacs 1-2-3 | First Philippic | On the Peace | Second Philippic | On the Halonnesus | On the Chersonese | Third Philippic | Fourth Philippic | Reply to Philip | Philip | On Organisation | On the Navy | For the Megalopolitans | On the Liberty of the Rhodians | On the Accession of Alexander

Judicial orations On the Crown | On the False Embassy | Against Leptines | Against Meidias | Against Androtion | Against Aristocrates | Against Timocrates | Against Aristogiton 1-2 | Against Aphobus 1-2-3 | Against Ontenor 1-2 | Against Zenothemis | Against Apatourius | Against Phormio | Against Lacritus | For Phormio | Against Pantaenetus | Against Nausimachus and Xenopeithes | Against Boeotus 1-2 | Against Spudias | Against Phaenippus | Against Macartatus | Against Leochares | Against Stephanus 1-2 | Against Evergus and Mnesibulus | Against Olympiodorus | Against Timotheus | Against Polycles | On the Trierarcic Crown | Against Callipus | Against Nicostratus | Against Conon | Against Callicles | Against Dionysodorus | Against Eubulides | Against Theocrines | Against Naeara

Epideictic orations Funeral Oration | Erotic Essay

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