Aeschines, c.390?–314? B.C.

Aeschines was an Athenian orator, influential in politics because of his abilities as a speaker. He and fellow orator Demosthenes both served as part of the embassy to Philip II of Macedonia in 348 B.C. However, they returned from the embassy bitter opponents, as Aeschines supported peace with Macedonia and Demosthenes opposed such peace.

Upon returning to Athens, Aeschines was charged with accepting bribes from Macedonia. Timarchus, a politician and supporter of Demosthenes, would have prosecuted Aeschines for misconduct, but Aeschines first brought charges against Timarchus that would make the latter ineligible to address the Athenian assembly ("Against Timarchus," 345 B.C.). Aeschines alleged that Timarchus had prostituted himself as a young man, misused his inheritance, and mistreated his elderly uncle. Aeschines was victorious in his prosecution, and Timarchus was barred from office. Three years later, in 342 B.C., Demosthenes brought charges against Aeschines, accusing him of accepting bribes and giving false reports, in a speech entitled "On the False Legation." Aeschines responded with his own speech entitled "On the False Legation," and was acquitted.

In 330 B.C., the orator Ctesiphon (a supporter of Demosthenes) called upon the Senate to put together a decree that would name Demosthenes a citizen of merit. With this honor, Demosthenes would also receive a gold crown, and would have it awarded to him during the Festival of Bacchus; Greeks from all over the country gathered at this festival, and Demosthenes would gain national recognition. Not one to allow such a thing to happen to his avowed rival, Aeschines initiated a suit against Ctesiphon. In "Against Ctesiphon," Aeschines charged the following:

  • A crown could only be awarded in the assembly, not in the theater of Bacchus;
  • Demosthenes’ conduct hadn’t been thoroughly scrutinized, and;
  • The senate's decree stated that Demosthenes had acted with excellence and honor, despite laws against decrees containing falsehoods**.
Demosthenes responded with "On the Crown". Aeschines’ oratory luck had run out , and he was fined by the assembly. After his defeat, he relocated to Asia Minor, where he founded a school of oratory and lived out the rest of his life as a Sophist.

** I think this is genius. "This decree is illegal. We have laws against decrees with lies in them. The decree says that this guy is honorable, and I KNOW he's not, so the decree contains lies. Ergo, the decree is illegal." Who knew orators could be so bitchy?

Thanks to the Columbia Encyclopedia at bartleby.com for date information

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