This speech was probably delivered soon after that On the Chersonese in the early summer of 341. Philip is still engaged in his Thracian expedition and is threatening the Chersonese and Byzantium. The proposed recall of Diopithes has been rejected, and the Assembly is discussing a fresh appeal from him for reinforcements. Demosthenes’ speech in support of this appeal is such a consummate work of art, from its stately opening periods to the telling simplicity of its close, that it is worth while to give a brief summary to show its structure.
He begins with a protest against the speakers who habitually flatter their audience, and promises to give the citizens salutary, if unwelcome, advice. He refuses to discuss the question of peace or war; Philip himself has settled that by acts of hostility committed, as was his custom, without preliminary warning. He rapidly describes Philip’s widespread activities, extending from the Chersonese to Elis, to show that he is a menace to all the Greek states, rendered helpless as they are by their disunion and by the prevalent corruption. Philip’s improved methods of warfare have made him too formidable for Athens single-handed. The Athenians must at all costs keep him employed at a distance, while they first silence his agents, who have made so much mischief in many cities, and then persuade all the other states to sink their differences and make
common cause with Athens, the hereditary champion of Greek liberty.
The speech was immediately successful. Euboea was purged of tyrants, and Byzantium drawn into the Athenian alliance. In 340 many of the states of central Greece joined Athens in a league against Philip, the peace of Philocrates was denounced, and Demosthenes, now controller of the navy, carried out his important reforms in the working of the trierarchy. In 339 Philip was foiled in his attack on Byzantium, and undertook the fresh “Sacred War” against the Locrians of Amphissa. After the dramatic seizure of Elatea, Demosthenes enjoyed his greatest diplomatic triumph in attaching Thebes to the Athenian league. The next year saw the tragedy of Chaeronea.
The text presents a curious problem. The Vulgate contains some thirteen passages, varying from three words to a couple of paragraphs, which are omitted in the best mss., S and L, though added in their margin. Sometimes these passages seem to contain an alternative version of the context, sometimes a superfluous expansion. Which is the authentic tradition, the fuller or the more condensed?a An editor trying to condense would certainly have made more cuts; an expander would sooner or later have betrayed himself by his style, and there is nothing un-Demosthenic in the additions. Perhaps Demosthenes, for some unknown reason, published two slightly different versions, and our Vulgate is a conflation of these. The additions, with the translation, are here given between brackets in smaller type.