On the Crown

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Oration on the Crown


The past is with all the world given up; no one even proposes to deliberate about it: the future it is, or the present, which demands the action of a counselor. At the time, as it appeared, there were dangers impending, and dangers at hand. Mark the line of my policy at that crisis; don’t rail at the event. The end of all things is what the Deity pleases: his line of policy it is that shows the judgment of the statesman. Do not then impute it as a crime to me that Philip chanced to conquer in battle. That issue depended not on me, but on God. Prove that I did not adopt all measures that according to human calculation were feasible; that I did not honestly and diligently and with exertions beyond my strength carry them out; or that my enterprises were not honorable and worthy of the state and necessary. Show me this, and accuse me as soon as you like.

But if the hurricane that visited us has been too powerful, not for us only, but for all Greece besides, what is the fair course? As if a merchant, after taking every precaution, and furnishing his vessel with everything that he thought would insure her safety, because subsequently he met with a storm and his tackle was strained or broken to pieces, should be charged with the shipwreck! "Well, but I was not the pilot" — he might say — just as I was not the general. "Fortune was not under my control: all was under hers."

Consider and reflect upon this. If, with the Thebans on our side, we were destined so to fare in the contest, what was to be expected, if we had never had them for allies, but they had joined Philip, as he used every effort of persuasion to make them do? And if, when the battle1 was fought three days’ march from Attica, such peril and alarm surrounded the city, what must we have expected, if the same disaster had happened in some part of our territory? . . .

All this, at such length, have I addressed to you, men of the jury, and to the outer circle of hearers; for, as to this contemptible fellow, a short and plain argument would suffice. If the future was revealed to you, Æschines, alone, when the state was deliberating on these proceedings, you ought to have forewarned us at the time. If you did not foresee it, you are responsible for the same ignorance as the rest. Why then do you accuse me in this behalf, rather than I you? A better citizen have I been than you in respect to the matters of which I am speaking, inasmuch as I gave myself up to what seemed for the general good, not shrinking from any personal danger, or taking thought of any. You, on the contrary, neither suggested better measures (or mine would not have been adopted), nor lent any aid in the prosecuting of mine. Exactly what the basest person and worst enemy of the state would do, are you found to have done after the event. . . . Surely, the man who waited to found his reputation upon the misfortunes of the Greeks deserves rather to perish than to accuse another. . . .

But since he insists so strongly on the event, I will even assert something of a paradox: and I beg and pray of you not to marvel at its boldness, but kindly to consider what I say. If then the results had been foreknown to all, if all had foreseen them . . . not even then should the commonwealth have abandoned her design, if she had any regard for glory, or ancestry, or futurity. . . . For in former times our country has never preferred an ignominious security to the battle for honor. What Greek or what barbarian is ignorant that, by the Thebans, or by the Spartans who were in power before them, or by the Persian king, permission would thankfully and gladly have been given to our commonwealth, to take what she pleased and hold her own, provided she would accept foreign law and let a foreign state command in Greece? But, to the Athenians of that day, such conduct would not have been endurable. None could at any period of time persuade the commonwealth to attach herself in secure subjection to the powerful and unjust. Through every age has she persevered in a perilous struggle for precedency and honor and glory. . . . Never, never can you have done wrong, O Athenians, in undertaking the battle for the freedom and safety of all! I swear it by your forefathers — those that met the peril at Marathon, those that took the field at Platæa, those in the sea fight at Salamis, and those at Artemisium, and many other brave men who repose in the public monuments, all of whom alike, as being worthy of the same honor, the country buried, not only the successful or victorious! Justly! For the duty of brave men has been done by all: their fortune has been such as the Deity assigned to each.

"Had you for Greece been strong, as wise you were, The Macedonian had not conquered her."2

2 Demosthenes, , 192–208.

1 Chæronea.

1 See page 106.

2 An island off the southeastern coast of Argolis.

1 The public hearth and common table established by the city of Athens.

2 Plutarch, Demosthenes, 28–30.

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Chicago: On the Crown in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 136–135. Original Sources, accessed September 29, 2023, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=2IXLAWEULM252Z6.

MLA: . On the Crown, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, pp. 136–135. Original Sources. 29 Sep. 2023. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=2IXLAWEULM252Z6.

Harvard: , On the Crown. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.136–135. Original Sources, retrieved 29 September 2023, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=2IXLAWEULM252Z6.