Demosthenes is held as the greatest of all Greek orators by many, not least of all the Greeks. His main credit to this title is a set of orations against Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. These orations, which gave birth to the word "philippics", roused the Greek populace against the outsider. Unfortunately for them, (not to mention for Demosthenes) Philip Was Not Amused and proceeded to thoroughly defeat the insurgents.

Not being an idiot, Alexander had Demosthenes exiled as soon as possible on the basis of a rather obscure charge. When Alexander died, however, Demosthenes was free to come back. Apparently, being exiled for a year hadn't taught him anything- he attempted to instigate another rebellion, which failed miserably. He fled again, eventually killing himself to avoid capture.

Demosthenes was also the name of an Athenian general during the second Peloponnesian War.

Demosthenes was nowhere near as involved in the Athenian political arena as some of his fellow generals. This means the biggest source for him is Thucydides, this is unfortunate since Thucydides seems to have disliked Demosthenes and attributed much of his success to luck.

In 426B.C. he led an unsuccessful invasion of Aetolia, following this he succeeded in winning two brillant victories against a combined Ambraciot and Peloponnesian army.

His greatest achievement was the victory at Pylos in 425B.C., where he was not even a general. He went along with a fleet sailing to Corcyra, with the aim of taking and holding a key port in Spartan territory. He succeeded and he was left there with a small force, he mobilised the force to fortify the position. Outnumbered he organised his troops and called for the fleet to return and reinforce his position. He succeeded in holding the harbour against the larger Spartan force until the Athenian fleet returned. The most significant event of the Pylos campaign was the capture of 300 Spartans including 120 officers on the island of Sphacteria. This is traditionally attributed to Cleon, but the original work of surrounding the Spartans was done by Demosthenes. It is suggested by Aristophanes in his play Knights that Demosthenes resented Cleon taking the glory. The capture of the Spartans provided the Athenians with their most valuable bargaining chip from the Archidamian War.

The next year he succeeded in surprising Nisaea, however he failed to take Megara and in an attack on Boeotia he failed to land his men at Siphae, because the enemy had been warned. This failure meant he was not trusted with another major command for 11 years.

Demosthenes died at the end of the Sicilian Expedition in 413B.C., he was sent out to aid Nicias at the head of a relief force, however Nicias had already made too many critical errors by that time. After an attack on Epipolae failed, Demosthenes advised returning to Athens, however there was a lunar eclipse and Nicias being superstitious consulted a soothsayer who advised waiting for another month. This led to the disastrous battle in the harbour where many Athenians died and both Nicias and Demosthenes were captured. Gylippus the Spartan general and the man in charge of the Peloponnesian forces did not want them killed, however his Corinthian subordinate Gongalus and the Syracusans executed them anyway.

Demosthenes was an inventive general who tried to break the stalemate caused by the Periclean strategy, he was a skilled tactician and an inspired leader of men, his only failing was that his plans tended to be too involved and elaborate.

Demosthenes (the orator) was born in Paeania, in Attica, around 384 BC. His father died when Demosthenes was seven years old. Demosthenes was left in the care of guardians, who squandered his estate. At the age of 20 Demosthenes prosecuted one of his guardians. His success in this contributed to his decision to enter into public life.

But Demosthenes had to overcome many disadvantages to become a great orator. Famously, he is said to have practised speaking with pebbles in his mouth, to overcome his stammer. Also, he is said to have recited verse as he ran uphill, to strengthen his voice, and to declaim on the sea-shore, to accustom himself to a noisy environment. He was given instruction by the actor Satyrus.

Demosthenes soon began to acquire reputation and influence. He used his position to appeal to his countrymen to unite against Philip of Macedon, in the powerful orations known as the "Philippics". His warnings, however, went unheeded. The final victory of the Macedonians over the Greeks was the battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC.

At this time Aeschines accused Ctesiphon (though the true target was Demosthenes). The trial was delayed until 330. At this trial, Demosthenes delivered the oration "On the Crown", considered his greatest (if not the greatest). Aeschines was defeated and left Athens, never to return.

In 324 Demosthenes was imprisoned on a trumped-up charge. He escaped, and lived in exile until the death of Alexander the Great in 323. Demosthenes returned and the Greek states rose against Macedonia, but were crushed. Demosthenes fled, but was pursued by the emissaries of Antipater. He took poison to avoid capture. He died in 322 BC.

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