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Who's Who Ancient Greece: Orators

Demosthenis (384-322 BC)

Rhetorician: one versed in the art of rhetoric: in classical oratory: the art of influencing ones hearers, Rhetorical question is designed to create and effect rather than elicit an answer

DemosthenesThis orator was the most famous of all ancient Greek orators and also an Athenian statesman.

He was born in Athens, his father a manufacturer of upholstery, and also of swords and knives, who died when his son was a child.

Those appointed as his guardians spent all the money his father had acquired, for which he later brought a court action against them, which, though unsuccessful, gave him experience in learning the profession of orator, which he accomplished despite some physical problems (shortness of breath, a speech impediment, a sickly physical appearance).

During his career in Athens, the city was divided between those who believed in uniting under the Macedonian rule of Philip II (which loomed on the horizon), and those who resisted this, seeing it as equivalent to subjugation, Demosthenis of the second persuasion.

He dedicated his immense rhetorical powers to both lifting Athenian spirits, and urging them to resist Philip's expansionist designs, and later, those of Alexander, all this during a period of fifteen years.

Such work embroiled him in political quarrels and led to charges of improper conduct against him, which necessitated his leaving Athens. He was convicted and imprisoned, however, and fled to the temple of Poseidon in Poros (then called Kalavria), where he committed suicide by taking poison, rather than submitting to execution.

61 speeches of Demosthenis have been preserved, in addition to 56 sketches of political speeches, and six epistles. His speeches were both political and forensic.