Humanities › History & Culture Profile of Demosthenes, the Greek Orator Share Flipboard Email Print pictore/Getty Images History & Culture Ancient History and Culture Greece Figures & Events Ancient Languages Egypt Asia Rome Mythology & Religion American History African American History African History Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By N.S. Gill Ancient History and Latin Expert M.A., Linguistics, University of Minnesota B.A., Latin, University of Minnesota N.S. Gill is a Latinist, writer, and teacher of ancient history and Latin. She has been featured by NPR and National Geographic for her ancient history expertise. our editorial process N.S. Gill Updated June 03, 2019 Demosthenes, renowned as a great Greek orator and statesman, was born in 384 (or 383) B.C. He died in 322. Demosthenes' father, also Demosthenes, was an Athenian citizen from the deme of Paeania who died when Demosthenes was seven. His mother was named Cleobule. Demosthenes Learns to Speak Publicly The first time Demosthenes made a speech in the public assembly was a disaster. Discouraged, he was fortunate to run into an actor who helped show him what he needed to do to make his speeches compelling. To perfect the technique, he set up a routine, which he followed for months until he had mastered oratory. Plutarch on the Self-Training of Demosthenes Hereupon he built himself a place to study in underground (which was still remaining in our time), and hither he would come constantly every day to form his action and to exercise his voice, and here he would continue, oftentimes without intermission, two or three months together, shaving one half of his head, that so for shame he might not go abroad, though he desired it ever so much. - Plutarch's Demosthenes Demosthenes as Speech Writer Demosthenes was a professional speech writer or logographer. Demosthenes wrote speeches against Athenians he believed guilty of corruption. His first Philippic was in 352 (it is named for the man Demosthenes opposed, Philip of Macedonia.) Aspects of Athenian Political Life Greek men of means were expected to contribute to the polis and so Demosthenes, who became active politically in c. 356 B.C., outfitted a trireme and, as choregus at Athens, he paid for a theatrical performance. Demosthenes also fought as a hoplite at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338. Demosthenes Gains Fame as an Orator Demosthenes became an official Athenian orator. As an official orator, he warned against Philip when the Macedonian king and father of Alexander the Great was beginning his conquest of Greece. Demosthenes' three orations against Philip, known as the Philippics, were so bitter that today a severe speech denouncing someone is called a Philippic. Another writer of Philippics was Cicero, the Roman with whom Plutarch compares Demosthenes in Plutarch's Parallel Lives. There is also a fourth Philippic whose authenticity has been questioned. Death of Demosthenes Demosthenes' troubles with the royal house of Macedon didn't end with Philip's death. When Alexander insisted that the Athenian orators be delivered to him to be punished for treason, Demosthenes fled to a temple of Poseidon for sanctuary. A guard prevailed on him to come out. Realizing he was at the end of his rope, Demosthenes requested permission to write a letter. Permission was granted; the letter was written; then Demosthenes began to walk, quill pen in his mouth, to the door of the temple. He died before he reached it -- of a poison he'd kept in his pen. That's the story. Works Attributed to Demosthenes On the Accession of AlexanderAgainst AndrotionAgainst ApatouriusAgainst AphobusAgainst Aphobus 1Against Aphobus 2Against AristocratesAgainst Aristogiton 1Against Aristogiton 2Against Boeotus 1Against Boeotus 2Against CalliclesAgainst CallippusOn the ChersoneseAgainst CononOn the CrownAgainst DionysodorusErotic EssayAgainst EubulidesAgainst Evergus and MnesibulusExordiaOn the False EmbassyFuneral SpeechOn the HalonnesusAgainst LacritusAgainst LeocharesAgainst LeptinesLettersOn the Liberty of the RhodiansAgainst MacartatusAgainst MidiasAgainst Nausimachus and XenopeithesOn the Navy-BoardsAgainst NeaeraAgainst NicostratusAgainst OlympiodorusOlynthiac 1Olynthiac 2Olynthiac 3Against OntenorAgainst OntenorOn OrganizationAgainst PantaenetusOn the PeaceAgainst PhaenippusPhilip's LetterReply to Philip's LetterPhilippic 1Philippic 2Philippic 3Philippic 4Against PhormioFor PhormioAgainst PolyclesAgainst SpudiasAgainst Stephanus 1Against Stephanus 2Against TheocrinesAgainst TimocratesAgainst TimotheusOn the Trierarchic CrownAgainst ZenothemisFor the Megalopolitans Available through The Internet Library.