In 359 BCE Philip II had become ruler of Macedon; within a few years, having eliminated possible rivals to his position, he had secured the borders of Macedon from foreign invaders, created a cohesive and well-trained army of infantry and cavalry, and began to expand the borders of his territory; his primary goals were to secure resources (timber, of which Macedon had an abundance at that time anyway, and metals) and to gain access to the sea so that he could build and operate a navy. After campaigning in bordering territories (the Chalcidice and Thrace), he came into conflict with Athens in 357. Athens had lost Amphipolis to Sparta during the first part of the Peloponnesian war and, despite several attempts, had never been able to regain the place, which remained an independent polis. Under attack by Philip, Amphipolis applied to Athens for help but the response was plagued by mismanagement and worse. Philip gained not only Amphipolis but Potidaea, Pydna, and Methone, and thus control of the entire Thermaic gulf (or "the Thraceward region"). Philip then turned to the southwest and began to operate in central Greece, while at the same time continuing his efforts to consolidate gains in the northeastern part of the Greek world, toward the Hellespont. Demosthenes delivered this address in 351 in an attempt to shake the Athenians out of their lethargy regarding foreign affairs; in the words of Robert Connor, "The Athenians, convinced alternately that Philip was as invincible as a god and as weak as a dying invalid, did not adopt his suggestions." Eventually, however, under pressure of many more rousing orations from Demosthenes and Philip's military successes, the Athenians, allied with the Thebans, came into direct conflict with Philip and the Macedonians.


1. Had the question for debate been any thing new, Athenians, I should have waited till most of the usual speakers had been heard; if any of their advice had been to my liking, I would have remained silent, or else proceeded to give my own. But as the subject of discussion is one upon which they have spoken often before, I believe that though I am first to speak, I will be forgiven. For if these men had advised properly in time past, there would be no necessity for deliberating now.

2. First I say, you must not despair, Athenians, under your present circumstances, wretched as they are; for that which is worst in them as regards the past, is best for the future. What do I mean? That our affairs are a shambles, men of Athens, because you do nothing that you ought; but if you had done your duty and things were still the same, there would be no hope of improvement.

3. Consider next, what you know by report, and men of experience remember: how vast a power the Lacedaemonians had not long ago, yet how nobly and well you consulted the dignity of Athens, and undertook the war against them for the rights of Greece. Why do I mention this? To demonstrate and prove to you, Athenians, that nothing, if you take precaution, is to be feared, and nothing, if you are negligent, goes as you desire. Take for examples the strength of the Lacedaemonians then, which you overcame by attention to your duties, and the insolence of this man now, by which through neglect of our interests we are confounded.

4. But if any among you, Athenians, think Philip hard to defeat, looking at the magnitude of his existing power, and the loss by us of all our strongholds, they reason rightly, but they should remember that once we held Pydna and Potidaea and Methone and all the region round about as our own, and many of the nations now leagued with him were independent and free, and preferred our friendship to his. 5. Had Philip then taken it into his head that it was difficult to contend with Athens, when she had so many fortresses to infest his country, and he was destitute of allies, nothing that he has accomplished would he have undertaken, and never would he have acquired so large a dominion. But he saw well, Athenians, that all these places are the open prizes of war, that the possessions of the absent naturally belong to the people on the spot, those of the remiss to them that will work hard and take risks. 6. Acting on such principles, he has won everything and keeps it, either by way of conquest or by friendly alliance; for all men will side with and respect those whom they see prepared and willing to make proper exertion. 7. If you, Athenians, will adopt this principle now, though you did not before, and every man, where he can and ought to give his service to the state, be ready to give it without excuse, the wealthy to contribute, the able-bodied to enlist; in a word, if you will become your own masters, and cease each expecting to do nothing himself, while his neighbor does everything for him, you shall then with the gods' permission recover your own, and get back what has been frittered away, and punish Philip.

8. Do not imagine that his empire is everlastingly secured to him as a god. There are who hate and fear and envy him, Athenians, even among those that seem most friendly; and all feelings that are in other men belong, we may assume, to his friends and allies. But now they are all cowed, having no refuge because of your slowness and indolence, which I say you must abandon right now. 9. For you see the situation, Athenians, how arrogant the man has become, who leaves you not even the choice of action or inaction, but threatens and uses (they say) outrageous language, and, unable to rest in possession of his conquests, continually widens their circle, and, while we wait and delay, throws his net all around us.

10. When then, Athenians, when will you act as becomes you? When what happens? When you are forced to, I guess. And how should we regard the events happening now? To free men the strongest necessity is the disgrace of their condition. Or tell me, do you like walking about and asking one another: "Is there any news?" Why, could there be greater news than a man of Macedonia subduing Athenians, and directing the affairs of Greece? 11. "Is Philip dead?" "No, but he is ill." And what difference does it make to you? If anything happens to him, you will soon create another Philip, if this is how you manage your affairs. For even he has been exalted not so much by his own strength as by our negligence. 12. And again: should anything happen to him, should Fortune, which still takes better care of us than we of ourselves, be good enough to accomplish this, observe that, being on the spot, you would step in while things were in confusion, and manage them as you pleased. But as you now are, even if occasion offered Amphipolis, you would not be in a position to accept it, with neither forces nor plans at hand.

13. However, as to the importance of a general enthusiasm in the discharge of duty, believing you are convinced and satisfied, I say no more.

As to the kind of force which I think may extricate you from your difficulties, the amount, the supplies of money, the best and speediest method (in my judgment) of providing all the necessities, I shall try to inform you now, making only one request, men of Athens. 14. Give your verdict on my proposal when you have heard all of it, do not prejudge it before I have finished. And let no one think I delay our operations, because I recommend an entirely new force. It is not those that cry, "quickly!" "today!" who speak most to the purpose, for what has already happened we shall not be able to prevent by an expedition now. 15. It is rather he who can show the nature, the magnitude, and the financial possibility of a force which when provided will be able to continue in existence either until we are persuaded to break off the war, or until we have overcome the enemy, for only thus can we escape further calamity for the future. This I think I am able to show, without offense to any other man who has a plan to offer. My promise indeed is large; it shall be tested by the performance; and you shall be my judges.

16. First, then, Athenians, I say we must provide fifty warships, and hold ourselves prepared, in case of emergency, to embark and sail in person. I require also an equipment of transports for half the cavalry and sufficient boats. 17. This we must have ready against his sudden marches from his own country to Thermopylae, the Chersonese, Olynthus, and anywhere he likes. For he should start to believe that possibly you may rouse from this excessive apathy, and start off, as you did to Euboea, and formerly (they say) to Haliartus, and very lately to Thermopylae. 18. And although you should not pursue just the course I would advise, it is no slight matter that Philip, knowing you to be in readiness - know it he will for certain; there are too many among our own people who report everything to him - may either keep quiet from apprehension, or, not heeding your arrangements, be taken off his guard, there being nothing to prevent your sailing, if he gives you a chance, to attack his territories. 19. Such an armament, I say, ought instantly to be agreed upon and provided. But besides, men of Athens, you should keep in hand some force that will incessantly make war and annoy him: none of your ten or twenty thousand mercenaries, not your forces on paper, but one that shall belong to the state, and, whether you appoint one or more generals, or this or that man or any other, shall obey and follow him. Subsistence too I require for it. 20. What the force shall be, how large, from what source maintained, how rendered efficient, I will show you, stating every particular. Mercenaries I recommend - and beware of doing what has often been injurious - thinking all measures below the occasion, adopting the most extreme measures in your decrees, you fail to accomplish the least - rather, I say, perform and procure a little, and add to it afterward if it proves insufficient. 21. I advise then two thousand soldiers in all, five hundred to be Athenians, of whatever age you think right, serving a limited time, not long, but such time as you think right, so as to relieve one another; the rest should be mercenaries. And with them two hundred horse, fifty at least Athenians, like the foot, on the same terms of service, and transports for them. 22. Well; what besides? Ten swift galleys: for, as Philip has a navy, we must have swift galleys also, to convoy our power. How shall subsistence for these troops be provided? I will state and explain; but first let me tell you why I consider a force of this amount sufficient, and why I wish the men to be citizens.

23. The size of the force, Athenians, is determined by the fact that it is impossible for us now to raise an army capable of meeting him in the field: we must make plundering forays and adopt such kind of warfare at first: our force, therefore, must not be too large, for there is not pay or subsistence, nor altogether insignificant. 24. I want citizens to attend and go on board, because I hear that formerly the state maintained mercenary troops at Corinth, [394 BCE] commanded by Polystratus and Iphicrates and Chabrias and some others, and that you served with them yourselves; and I am told, that these mercenaries fighting by your side and you by theirs defeated the Lacedaemonians. But ever since your mercenaries have gone to war alone, they have been vanquishing your friends and allies, while your enemies have become unduly great. After a casual glance at the war to which Athens has sent them, they go off to Artabazus or anywhere rather, and the general follows, naturally; for it is impossible to command without giving pay. 25. What therefore do I ask? To remove the excuses both of general and soldiers, by supplying pay, and attaching citizen soldiers, as inspectors of the general's conduct. The way we manage things now is a mockery. For if you were asked: "Are you at peace, Athenians?" "No, indeed," you would say, "we are at war with Philip." 26. Did you not choose from yourselves ten captains and generals, and also cavalry-officers and two generals of the horse? How are they employed? Except one man, whom you commission on service abroad, the rest conduct your processions with the sacrificers. Like puppet-makers, you elect your infantry and cavalry officers for the market-place, not for war. 27. Consider, Athenians, should there not be captains, from among yourselves an Athenian general of horse, your own commanders, that the force might really be the state's? Or should your general of horse sail to Lemnos, while Menelaus commands the cavalry fighting for your possessions? I speak not as objecting to the man, but he ought to be elected by you, whoever the person be.

28. Perhaps you admit the justice of these statements, but wish principally to hear about the supplies, what they must be and whence procured. I will satisfy you. Supplies, then, for maintenance, mere rations for these troops, come to ninety talents and a little more: for ten swift galleys forty talents, twenty minas a month to every ship; for two thousand soldiers forty more, that each soldier may receive for rations ten drachmas a month; and for two hundred horsemen, each receiving thirty drachmas a month, twelve talents. 29. Should anyone think rations for the men a small provision, he judges erroneously. Furnish that, and I am sure the army itself will, without injuring any Greek or ally, procure everything else from the war, so as to make out their full pay. I am ready to join the fleet as a volunteer, and submit to anything, if this be not so. Now for the ways and means of the supply, which I demand from you.

[A statement of ways and means is read.]

30. This, Athenians, is what we have been able to devise. When you vote upon the resolutions, pass what you approve, that you may oppose Philip, not only by decrees and letters, but by action also.

31. I think it will assist your deliberations about the war and the whole arrangements, to regard the position, Athenians, of the hostile country, and consider that Philip by the winds and seasons of the year gets the start in most of his operations, watching for the trade-winds or the winter to commence them, when we are unable (he thinks) to reach the spot. 32. On this account, we must carry on the war not with hasty levies (or we shall be too late for everything) but with a permanent force and power. You may use as winter quarters for your troops Lemnos, and Thasos, and Sciathos, and the islands in that neighborhood, which have harbors and grain and all necessities for an army. In the season of the year when it is easy to put ashore and there is no danger from the winds they will easily station themselves off the coast itself and at the entrances of the seaports.

33. How and when to employ the troops, the commander appointed by you will determine as occasion requires. What you must find is stated in my bill. If, men of Athens, you will furnish the supplies which I mention, and then, after completing your preparations of soldiers, ships, cavalry, will oblige the entire force by law to remain in the service, and, while you become your own paymasters and commissaries, demand from your general an account of his conduct, you will cease to be always discussing the same questions without ending in anything but discussion. 34. Besides, Athenians, not only will you cut off his greatest revenue - What is this? He maintains war against you through the resources of your allies, by his piracies on their navigation - But what next? You will be out of the reach of injury yourselves: he will not do as in time past, when falling upon Lemnos and Imbros he carried off your citizens captive, seizing the vessels at Geraestus he levied an incalculable sum, and lastly, made a descent at Marathon and carried off the sacred galley [the Paralus] from our coast, and you could neither prevent these things nor send help by the appointed time.

35. But how is it, do you think, Athenians, that the Panathenaic and Dionysian festivals take place always at the appointed time, whether expert or unqualified persons be chosen to conduct either of them, festivals on which you expend larger sums than upon any armament, and which are more numerously attended and magnificent than almost anything in the world; while all your armaments arrive too late, as that to Methone, to Pagasai, to Potidaia? 36. Because in the former case everything is ordered by law, and each of you knows long beforehand, who is the choir-master of his tribe, who the gymnastic master, when, from whom, and what he is to receive, and what to do. Nothing there is left unascertained or undefined: whereas in the business of war and its preparations all is irregular, unsettled, indefinite. Therefore, no sooner have we heard anything, than we appoint ship-captains, dispute with them on the exchanges of property, and consider about ways and means; then it is resolved that resident aliens and householders [freedmen] shall embark, then to put yourselves on board instead: 37 but during these days the objects of our expedition are lost; for the time of action we waste in preparation, and favorable moments do not wait for our evasions and delays. The forces that we imagine we possess in the meantime are found, when the crisis comes, utterly insufficient. And Philip has become so arrogant as to send the following letter to the Euboeans:

[The letter is read.]

38. Of that which has been read, Athenians, most is true, unhappily true; perhaps not agreeable to hear. And if what one passes over in speaking, to avoid offense, one could pass over in reality, it is right to humor the audience; but if graciousness of speech, where it is out of place, does harm in action, it is shameful, Athenians, to delude ourselves, and by putting off everything unpleasant to miss the time for all operations, 39 and be unable even to understand that skillful makers of war should not follow circumstances, but be in advance of them; that just as a general may be expected to lead his armies, so are men of prudent counsel to guide circumstances, in order that their resolutions may be accomplished, not their motions determined by the event. 40. Yet you, Athenians, with larger means than any people - ships, infantry, cavalry, and revenue - have never up to this day made proper use of any of them; and your war with Philip differs in no respect from the boxing of barbarians. For among them the party struck feels always for the blow; strike him somewhere else, there go his hands again; to be on guard or look his opponent in the face he cannot nor will. It is the same with you. 41. If you hear of Philip in the Chersonese, vote to send relief there; if at Thermopylae, the same; if anywhere else, you run after his heels up and down, and are commanded by him; no plan have you devised for the war, no circumstance do you see beforehand, only when you learn that something is done, or about to be done. Formerly perhaps this was allowable: now it is come to a crisis, to be tolerable no longer. 42. And it seems, men of Athens, as if some god, ashamed for us at our proceedings, has put this activity into Philip. For had he been willing to remain quiet in possession of his conquests and prizes, and attempted nothing further, some of you, I think, would be satisfied with a state of things which brands our nation with the shame of cowardice and the foulest disgrace. But by continually encroaching and grasping after more, he may possibly rouse you, if you have not altogether despaired. 43. I marvel, indeed, that none of you, Athenians, notices with concern and anger that the beginning of this war was to chastise Philip but the end is to protect ourselves against his attacks. One thing is clear: he will not stop unless some one opposes him. And shall we wait for this? And if you dispatch empty galleys and hopes from this or that person, do you think all is well? 44. Shall we not embark? Shall we not sail with at least a part of our national forces, now if not before? Shall we not make a descent upon his coast? Where, then, shall we land? some one asks. The war itself, men of Athens, will discover the rotten parts of his empire, if we make a trial; but if we sit at home, hearing the orators accuse and malign one another, no good can ever be achieved. I think, where a portion of our citizens, though not all, are commissioned with the rest, the gods are favorable, and Fortune aids the struggle: but where you send out a general and an empty decree and hopes, nothing that you desire is done; your enemies laugh at you, and your allies die for fear of such an armament. 46. For it is impossible, utterly impossible, for one man to execute all your wishes: to promise, and assert, and accuse this or that person, is possible; but so your affairs are ruined. For when the general is at the head of wretched, unpaid mercenaries, and when there are those in Athens who lie to you light-heartedly about all that he does, and, on the strength of the tales that you hear, you pass decrees at random, what must you expect?

47. How is this to cease, Athenians? When you make the same persons both soldiers and witnesses of the generals' conduct, and judges when they return home at his audit, so that you may not only hear of your own affairs, but be present to see them. So disgraceful is our condition now, that every general is put on trial two or three times before you for his life, though none dares even once to hazard his life against the enemy: they prefer the death of kidnappers and thieves to that which becomes them; for it is a felon's part to die by sentence of the law, a general's to die in battle. 48. Among ourselves, some go about and say that Philip is plotting with the Lacedaemonians the destruction of Thebes and the dissolution of free states; some, that he has sent envoys to the King [of Persia]; others, that he is fortifying cities in Illyria. 49. So we all go about inventing stories. For my part, Athenians, by the gods I believe that Philip is intoxicated with the magnitude of his exploits, and has many such dreams in his imagination, seeing the absence of opponents, and elated by success; but most certainly he has no such plan of action as to let the silliest people among us know what his intentions are; for the silliest are these newsmongers. 50. Let us dismiss such talk, and remember only that Philip is an enemy who robs us of our own and has long insulted us; that wherever we have expected aid from any quarter, it has been found hostile, and that the future depends on ourselves, and unless we are willing to fight him there, we shall perhaps be compelled to fight here. This let us remember, and then we shall have determined wisely, and have done with idle conjectures. You need not pry into the future, but assure yourselves it will be disastrous, unless you attend to your duty, and are willing to act as becomes you.

51. As for me, never before have I courted favor by speaking what I am not convinced is for your good, and now I have spoken my whole mind frankly and unreservedly. I could have wished, knowing the advantage of good counsel to you, I were equally certain of its advantage to the counselor: so should I have spoken with more satisfaction. Now, with an uncertainty of the consequence to myself, but with a conviction that you will benefit by adopting it, I offer my advice. I trust only that what is most for the common benefit will prevail.