On the Crown (Greek: Υπὲρ Κτησιφῶντος περὶ τοῦ Στεφάνου) is the most famous judicial oration of the prominent Athenian stateman and orator Demosthenes, delivered in 330 BC

Historical background

Despite the unsuccessful ventures against Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great, the Athenian people still respected and admired Demosthenes, maybe even more than the pro-Macedonian politicians, especially Demades and Phocion, who ruled the city during this period. In 336 BC the orator Ctesiphon proposed that Athens honor Demosthenes for his services to the city by presenting him, according to custom, with a golden crown. This proposal became a political issue and in 330 BC on legal irregularities Aeschines prosecuted Ctesiphon for having violated the law in three points:

Content of the speech

In his most brilliant speech On the Crown, one of the most splendid political pleas ever written,[1] Demosthenes not only defended Ctesiphon but also attacked vehemently those who would have preferred peace with Macedon. In this trial, Demosthenes' entire political career was at issue, but the orator repudiated nothing of what he has done. He begins with a general view of the condition of Greece, when he entered politics and describes the phases of his struggle against Philip. He then deals with the Peace of Philocrates and accuses Aeschines of his role during the negotiations and the ratification of the treaty. He also launches a personal attack against Aeschines, whom he holds up to ridicule as born of low and infamous parents. To this he adds charges of corruption and treason, and attributes the disaster of Chaeronea to the conduct of his political opponent, when representing Athens in the council of the Amphictyonic League. He underscores that he alone stood up to promote a coalition with Thebes. The orator asserts that, although Athens was defeated, it was better to be defeated in a glorious struggle for independence, than to surrender the heritage of liberty.

Demosthenes finally defeated Aescines by an overwhelming majority of votes, although his enemy legally was probably in the right on his main objections to the crowning.[2] As a result, Ctesiphon was acquitted and Aeschines fined and forced into exile.


On the Crown has been termed "the greatest speech of the greatest orator in the world".[3] Jebb analysing the oratorical contest between Demosthenes and Aeschines in 330 BC underscores that this fierce debate illustrates the last great picture of political life at Athens. Noteworthy, the combat of eloquence attracted to Athens an immense concourse of spectators. "The theory of Greek eloquence had its final and its most splendid illustration in that trial which brought forth the two speeches On the Crown: nor could this part of our discussion conclude more fittingly than with an endeavour to call up some faint image of Demosthenes as in that great cause he stood opposed to Aeschines."[4]

TEXT On the Crown


Introduction to the oration On the Crown by Thomas Leland

Thomas Leland's comments and translation of the oration On the Crown

Introduction to the orations On the Crown and On the Dishonest Embassy by Harvey Yunis


  1. ^ K. Tsatsos, Demosthenes, 301 and The Helios.
  2. ^ A. Duncan, Performance and Identity in the Classical World, 70.
  3. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica.
  4. ^ R. C. Jebb, The Attic Orators from Antiphon to Isaeos.

Further reading

Murphy, James Jerome (1983). Demosthenes' On the Crown: A Critical Case Study of a Masterpiece of Ancient Oratory. Hermagoras Press. ISBN 0-9611800-1-3.

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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