Demosthenes
(384-322 BC)

The greatest orator of the ancient world was born near Athens. As a child he was mocked by the other children because he was ugly, sickly and had a speech impediment.
His father, a wealthy weaponmaker, died when Demosthenes was seven, and growing up he almost exclusively studied oraty. At the age of seventeen he came of age, and his first action was too sue the men that had been appointed as trustees of his fathers fortune.
He won the case, but the inheritance was only partly restored. Demosthenes started getting involved with law and politics, but he was not very successful because of his inability to pronounce the letter "r", occasional stutter, weak lungs and spastic shoulder.
Demosthenes overcame most of these problems through various methods: he practiced speech with pebbles in his mouth, hung a spear so that it stung him in his shoulder when it twitched, and ran in stairs and on hills to strengthen his lungs. He is also said to have shaved off half his hair, either to overcome his shyness or to force himself to stay at home and practice.


He wrote many speeches against the Macedonian king Philip II whom he saw as a threat to Athens and the Greek city-states. He was sent to Philip to make a peace treaty for Athens after the Macedonians had destroyed the ally Olynthos. Macedonia later de-feated the whole of Greece, but Demosthenes did not stop orating against the conquerers calling Alexander the Great a stupid boy.

Two years before his death, Demosthenes was convicted of accepting a bribe from a man who had embezzled Alexander the Great and found refuge in Athens. Demosthenes escaped to the island Calauria after the Athenians had warranted a deathsentence on all patriots on the demand of Alexander's succsessor Antipater. There, he hid in a temple of Poseidon, but when his persecutors entered the shrine the orator committed suicide by taking a poison he had carried with him for a long time.

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