People Enjoy Hearing Slander, But Not Praise

Demosthenes, On the Crown 2

“I am at a disadvantage in this struggle against Aeschines in many ways, but two of them, Athenian men, are especially bad. First, I do not compete for equal stakes.  For it is not the same for me now to lose your goodwill and for him not to win the charge. But for me—I do not wish to say anything harsh at the beginning of the speech, but he prosecutes me from a position of strength.* My second problem, which is shared by all men by nature, is that it is sweet to hear people slandering and accusing but annoying to hear praise. Hence, the one of those things which brings pleasure is his, and the annoying one is mine. Even if I were use that well–and speak about the things I have done–I would not seem to be able to evade the accusations, not even for those things for which I think I should be honored.  If I proceed to the acts I performed politically, I will be compelled to speak about myself often; Therefore, I will try to do this in as limited a fashion as possible. Whatever this matter forces me to do, this man is rightfully to blame for it, since he initiated this kind of a case.”


Πολλὰ μὲν οὖν ἔγωγ’ ἐλαττοῦμαι κατὰ τουτονὶ τὸν ἀγῶν’ Αἰσχίνου, δύο δ’, ὦ ἄνδρες ᾿Αθηναῖοι, καὶ μεγάλα, ἓν μὲν ὅτι οὐ περὶ τῶν ἴσων ἀγωνίζομαι· οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἴσον νῦν ἐμοὶ τῆς παρ’ ὑμῶν εὐνοίας διαμαρτεῖν καὶ τούτῳ μὴ ἑλεῖν τὴν γραφήν, ἀλλ’ ἐμοὶ μὲν—οὐ βούλομαι δυσχερὲς εἰπεῖν οὐδὲν ἀρχόμενος τοῦ λόγου, οὗτος δ’ ἐκ περιουσίας μου κατηγορεῖ. ἕτερον δ’, ὃ φύσει πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις ὑπάρχει, τῶν μὲν λοιδοριῶν καὶ τῶν κατηγοριῶν ἀκούειν ἡδέως, τοῖς ἐπαινοῦσι δ’ αὑτοὺς ἄχθεσθαι· τούτων τοίνυν ὃ μέν ἐστι πρὸς ἡδονήν, τούτῳ δέδοται, ὃ δὲ πᾶσιν ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν ἐνοχλεῖ, λοιπὸν ἐμοί. κἂν μὲν εὐλαβούμενος τοῦτο μὴ  λέγω τὰ πεπραγμέν’ ἐμαυτῷ, οὐκ ἔχειν ἀπολύσασθαι τὰ κατηγορημένα δόξω, οὐδ’ ἐφ’ οἷς ἀξιῶ τιμᾶσθαι δεικνύναι· ἐὰν δ’ ἐφ’ ἃ καὶ πεποίηκα καὶ πεπολίτευμαι βαδίζω, πολλάκις λέγειν ἀναγκασθήσομαι περὶ ἐμαυτοῦ. πειράσομαι μὲν οὖν ὡς μετριώτατα τοῦτο ποιεῖν· ὅ τι δ’ ἂν τὸ πρᾶγμα αὔτ’ ἀναγκάζῃ, τούτου τὴν αἰτίαν οὗτός ἐστι δίκαιος ἔχειν ὁ τοιοῦτον ἀγῶν’ ἐνστησάμενος.

Aeschines’ speech is available on Perseus

Demosthenes, Greek orator. Marble head, Roman copy of a bronze statue by Polyeuctes (1st half 3 rd BCE). 

*The Scholion to this passage offers several other interpretations to Aeschines’ advantage beyond Demosthenes’ own:

“This man accuses me from a position of strength”: Either he means that he has great wealth because Philip and Alexander gave it to him and he is not at all afraid about losing, since he is well-able to pay the considerable penalty. Or he means that it is not the same for someone accusing from a position of strength to not win (since he could have stayed out of the conflict) as it is for him to defend himself by necessity. For “it is not possible for me to be silent.” Some have interpreted “ek periousias” as simply “ek perritou”[superfluously]. So, he means “it is excessive to charge and accuse me in vain.”

οὗτος δ’ ἐκ περιουσίας μου κατηγορεῖ] ἢ ὅτι πλοῦτον ἔχει πολύν, τοῦ Φιλίππου δόντος καὶ ᾿Αλεξάνδρου, καὶ οὐ πάνυ φοβεῖται κἂν ἡττηθῇ·εὐπορεῖ γὰρ ὥστε δοῦναι τὰς χιλίας. ἢ ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ἴσον τοῦτον μὲν ἐκ περιουσίας κατηγοροῦντα μὴ νικῆσαι (ἐξῆν γὰρ αὐτῷ τὴν ἡσυχίαν ἄγειν), κἀμὲ κατ’ ἀνάγκην ἀπολογεῖσθαι· οὐ γὰρ ἔξεστί μοι σιωπᾶν. τινὲς γὰρ τὸ <‘ἐκ περιουσίας’> ἐκ περιττοῦ ἁπλῶς ἡρμήνευσαν· περιττὸν γάρ, φησίν, ἐμοῦ μάτην καθάπτεσθαι καὶ κατηγορεῖν. gTBcFj

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