Demosthenes: Statesman and Patriot

Stephen Usher looks back at the life of a leading Athenian orator and Idealist during the city’s long war with Macedonia and its Greek allies.

After the victory of Sparta and her allies in the Peloponnesian War in 404 B.C., the course of Greek history for the next generation was determined by four main factors: the insecurity of the Spartan power-base, the success of Persian diplomacy, the mixed fortunes of the Second Athenian Confederacy, and the rise of Theban military power.

Less than ten years after their victory over Athens, Sparta’s erstwhile allies fought against her at Nemea and Coronea (394); and although she was able to affirm her military superiority in pitched battles, she could not prevent Athens from rebuilding her Long Walls and her navy with Persian aid (391).

The Great King and his satraps pursued with even greater success than before their policy of equalizing the resources of the major Greek cities by constantly switching financial support from the stronger to the weaker.

The revival of Athenian naval ambitions tipped the scales of their support back to Sparta; and the King’s Peace, signed in 386 by all the major Greek states, with Sparta as guarantor, effectively re-established her hegemony in Greece at the expense of the autonomy of the Greek cities of Asia Minor.

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