First Philippic

The First Philippic was delivered by the Athenian statesman and orator Demosthenes between 351 BC-350 BC. It constitutes the first speech of the prominent politician against Philip II of Macedon.

Historical framework

Since 357 BC, when Philip seized Amphipolis, after agreeing in part to trade it for Pydna, Athens was formally in a state of war against the King of Macedon. In 352 BC, Demosthenes characterised Philip as the very worst enemy of his city,[1] and a year later he criticized fiercely those dismissing Philip as a person of no account and warned them that he is as dangerous as the King of Persia.[2] In 352 BC, the Athenian troops opposed Philip successfully at Thermopylae,[3] but the same year the Macedonian army campaigned in Thrace and won a decisive victory over the Phocians in Thessaly, an event that shook the orator. At the same period that the King of Macedon launched his first attack against the federation of the Chalcidice and seized Stageira.

Content of the oration

The theme of the First Philippic was preparedness. In his rousing call for resistance, Demosthenes urged the Athenians to be ready for war and called for a great outpouring of effort. He even proposed a reform of the theoric fund ("theorika"), a mainstay of Eubulus' policy.[4] "Theorika" were allowances paid by the state to poor Athenians to enable them to watch dramatic festivals. Eubulus passed a law making it difficult to divert public funds, including "theorika", for minor military operations. Demosthenes encouraged his countrymen, trying to convince them that the defeats they suffered were due to their mistakes and to Philip's competence. The orator opposed the use of mercenaries in the Athenian army and proposed the creation of a flexible military force, which would remain in Macedon and harass Philip's army. Despite the passionate style of the orator, it seems that ecclesia did not espouse his views and insisted in the ensuing military preparations, obliging Demosthenes to repeat the same argumentation in the Olynthiacs.[5]

See also


  1. Demosthenes, Against Aristocrates, 121.
  2. Demosthenes, For the Liberty of the Rhodians, 24.
  3. Demosthenes, On the False Embassy, 319.
  4. J. De Romilly, A Short History of Greek Literature, 116-117.
  5. The Helios.
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