The statements as to his parentage and early life are conflicting; but it seems probable that his parents, though poor, were respectable. After assisting his father in his school, he tried his hand at acting with indifferent success, served with distinction in the army, and held several clerkships, amongst them the office of clerk to the Boule. The fall of Olynthus (348) brought Aeschines into the political arena, and he was sent on an embassy to rouse the Peloponnesus against Philip of Macedon.
In 347 he was a member of the peace embassy to Philip, who seems to have won him over entirely to his side. His dilatoriness during the second embassy (346) sent to ratify the terms of peace led to his accusation by Demosthenes and Timarchus on a charge of high treason, but he was acquitted as the result of a powerful speech, in which he showed that his accuser Timarchus had, by his immoral conduct, forfeited the right to speak before the people.
In 343 the attack was renewed by Demosthenes in his speech On the False Embassy, Aeschines replied in a speech with the same title and was again acquitted. In 339, as one of the Athenian deputies (pylagorae) in the Amphictyonic Council, he made a speech which brought about the Sacred War.
By way of revenge, Aeschines endeavoured to fix the blame for these disasters upon Demosthenes. In 336, when Ctesiphon proposed that his friend Demosthenes should be rewarded with a golden crown for his distinguished services to the state, he was accused by Aeschines of having violated the law in bringing forward the motion. The matter remained in abeyance till 330, when the two rivals delivered their speeches Against Ctesiphon and On the Crown. The result was a complete victory for Demosthenes.
Aeschines went into voluntary exile at Rhodes, where he opened a school of rhetoric. He afterwards removed to Samos, where he died in the seventy-fifth year of his age. His three speeches, called by the ancients "the Three Graces," rank next to those of Demosthenes. Photius knew of nine letters by him which he called the Nine Muses; the twelve published under his name (Hercher, Epistolographi Graeci) are not genuine.
Demosthenes, De Corona and De Falsa Legatione; Aeschines, De Falsa Legations and In Ctesiphentem; Lives by Plutarch, Philostratus and Libanius; the Exegesis of Apollonius.
Benseler (1855-1860) (trans. and notes), Weidner (1872), Blass (1896); Against Ctesiphon, Weidner (1872), (1878), GA and WH Simcox (1866), Drake (1872), Richardson (1889), G Watkin and Shuckburgh (1890).
See also Stechow, Aeschinis Oratoris vita (1841); Marchand, Charakteristik des Redners Aschines (1876); Castets, Eschine, l'Orateur (1875); for the political problems see histories of Greece, esp. A Holm, vol. iii. (Eng. trans., 1896); A Schafer, Demosth. und seine Zeit (Leipzig, 1856-1858).
Aeschines Naples Museum
Athenian statesmen | Ancient Greece
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Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire