War-Lust, Amnesties, and the Destruction of the State


Mnêsikakein: “to make a reminder of evil deeds”

Μνησικακεῖν: τὸ ὑπομιμνήσκεσθαι τῶν κακῶν.


Aeschines 2.176

“Even though we had it going so well, we waged war against the Spartans again because we were persuaded by the Argives. Eventually, thanks to the war-lust of our politicians, we lost and ended up with a garrison in the city along with the four-hundred and the unholy thirty. We did not make peace, but we were forced by commands. But when we were governed sensibly again and the democracy returned from Phyle—and Arkhinos and Thrasuboulos were leading—they established for us the oath of not holding grudges [to mê mnêsikakein], a thing for which all people judged our city most wise.

From this, the democracy was revived and strong from its foundation. But now people who have been enrolled as citizens against the law and are always attracted to any sickness of the city are pursuing war after war as a political platform. Yet, while they see terrible things in peace and incite our covetous and excessively violent minds, nevertheless they never touch weapons during times of war. No, once they become secretaries and cabinet members—these children of prostitutes, rightfully stripped of their rights for their slander—these men pilot the state into the most extreme dangers. They minister to the name of democracy not with their behavior but with their flattery even as they annihilate peace. Democracy is preserved by peace; they struggle to find wars which bring about democracy’s end.”

καὶ τοσαῦτ᾽ ἔχοντες τἀγαθά, πάλιν πόλεμον πρὸς Λακεδαιμονίους ἐξηνέγκαμεν πεισθέντες ὑπ᾽ Ἀργείων, καὶ τελευτῶντες ἐκ τῆς τῶν ῥητόρων ἁψιμαχίας εἰς φρουρὰν τῆς πόλεως καὶ τοὺς τετρακοσίους καὶ τοὺς ἀσεβεῖς τριάκοντα ἐνεπέσομεν, οὐκ εἰρήνην ποιησάμενοι, ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ προσταγμάτων ἠναγκασμένοι. πάλιν δὲ σωφρόνως πολιτευθέντες, καὶ τοῦ δήμου κατελθόντος ἀπὸ Φυλῆς, Ἀρχίνου καὶ Θρασυβούλου προστάντων τοῦ δήμου, καὶ τὸ μὴ μνησικακεῖν πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἔνορκον ἡμῖν καταστησάντων, ὅθεν σοφωτάτην ἅπαντες τὴν πόλιν ἡγήσαντο εἶναι, κἀνταῦθα ἀναφύντος τοῦ δήμου καὶ πάλιν ἐξ ἀρχῆς ἰσχύσαντος, ἄνθρωποι παρέγγραπτοι γεγενημένοι πολῖται, καὶ τὸ νοσοῦν τῆς πόλεως ἀεὶ προσαγόμενοι, καὶ πόλεμον ἐκ πολέμου πολιτευόμενοι, ἐν μὲν εἰρήνῃ τὰ δεινὰ τῷ λόγῳ προορώμενοι, καὶ τὰς ψυχὰς τὰς φιλοτίμους καὶ λίαν ὀξείας ἐρεθίζοντες, ἐν δὲ τοῖς πολέμοις ὅπλων οὐχ ἁπτόμενοι, ἐξετασταὶ δὲ καὶ ἀποστολεῖς γιγνόμενοι, παιδοποιούμενοι δὲ ἐξ ἑταιρῶν, ἄτιμοι δ᾽ ἐκ συκοφαντίας, εἰς τοὺς ἐσχάτους κινδύνους τὴν πόλιν καθιστᾶσι, τὸ μὲν τῆς δημοκρατίας ὄνομα οὐ τοῖς ἤθεσιν, ἀλλὰ τῇ κολακείᾳ θεραπεύοντες, καταλύοντες δὲ τὴν εἰρήνην, ἐξ ἧς ἡ δημοκρατία σῴζεται, συναγωνιζόμενοι δὲ τοῖς πολέμοις, ἐξ ὧν ὁ δῆμος καταλύεται.

Aeschines 3.208

“Indeed, whenever he says these sorts of things against arguments for specific factions, propose this in return: “Demosthenes, if the people who restored the democracy in exile from Phyle were similar to you, the democracy would never have been re-established. But now they saved the city from great calamities and uttered that finest speech of a cultured mind: “Don’t hold a grudge” [mnêsikakein]” But you rip open wounds: today’s speech matters more to you than the safety of the state.”

But when an oathbreaker takes flight in the faith you put in oaths, mention this to him, that when someone frequently breaks an oath but is always thinking it necessary to procure trust with oaths, one of two options remain to him. Either, he swears by new gods or he finds audiences that are different.”

ὅταν δὴ τὰ τοιαῦτα λέγῃ, πρὸς μὲν τοὺς στασιαστικοὺς λόγους ἐκεῖνο αὐτῷ ὑποβάλλετε: ‘ὦ Δημόσθενες, εἰ ὅμοιοι ἦσαν σοὶ οἱ ἀπὸ Φυλῆς φεύγοντα τὸν δῆμον καταγαγόντες, οὐκ ἄν ποθ᾽ ἡ δημοκρατία κατέστη. νῦν δὲ ἐκεῖνοι μὲν μεγάλων κακῶν συμβάντων ἔσωσαν τὴν πόλιν τὸ κάλλιστον ἐκ παιδείας ῥῆμα φθεγξάμενοι, ‘μὴ μνησικακεῖν’: σὺ δὲ ἑλκοποιεῖς, καὶ μᾶλλόν σοι μέλει τῶν αὐθημερὸν λόγων, ἢ τῆς σωτηρίας τῆς πόλεως.’

ὅταν δ᾽ ἐπίορκος ὢν εἰς τὴν τῶν ὅρκων πίστιν καταφυγγάνῃ, ἐκεῖνο ἀπομνημονεύσατε αὐτῷ, ὅτι τῷ πολλάκις μὲν ἐπιορκοῦντι, ἀεὶ δὲ  μεθ᾽ ὅρκων ἀξιοῦντι πιστεύεσθαι, δυοῖν θάτερον ὑπάρξαι δεῖ,  ἢ τοὺς θεοὺς καινούς, ἢ τοὺς ἀκροατὰς μὴ τοὺς αὐτούς.


Related image
Amazonomachy Frieze from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

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

Demosthenes Drank Water; Aeschines Drank Wine (Philostratus, Livesof the Sophists 507-8)

“The conflict between Aeschines and Demosthenes began in part because of the fact that the one acted on behalf of the King and the other acted for another—as it seems to me. But there was also a difference of character: and hatred always seems to develop from characters that are strongly opposed to one another without any other cause. And the two were opposed for these reasons. Aeschines was a man who liked to drink, but he was sweet and had kind manners and he had the general charm of Dionysus; indeed, when he was in his youth he played parts for the tragic actors. But Demosthenes had a downcast face, a heavy brow, and he drank water: and for this reason he was assumed a ill-tempered and bad-mannered man….”

διαφορᾶς δ’ ἦρξεν Αἰσχίνῃ καὶ Δημοσθένει καὶ αὐτὸ μὲν τὸ ἄλλον ἄλλῳ βασιλεῖ πολιτεύειν, ὡς δ’ ἐμοὶ φαίνεται, τὸ ἐναντίως ἔχειν καὶ τῶν ἠθῶν, ἐξ ἠθῶν γὰρ ἀλλήλοις ἀντιξόων φύεται μῖσος αἰτίαν οὐκ ἔχον. ἀντιξόω δ’ ἤστην καὶ διὰ τάδε• ὁ μὲν Αἰσχίνης φιλοπότης τε ἐδόκει καὶ ἡδὺς καὶ ἀνειμένος καὶ πᾶν τὸ ἐπίχαρι ἐκ Διονύσου ᾑρηκώς, καὶ γὰρ δὴ καὶ τοῖς βαρυστόνοις ὑποκριταῖς τὸν ἐν μειρακίῳ χρόνον ὑπετραγῴδησεν, ὁ δ’ αὖ συννενοφώς τε ἐφαίνετο καὶ βαρὺς τὴν ὀφρὺν καὶ ὕδωρ πίνων, ὅθεν [ἐν] δυσκόλοις τε καὶ δυστρόποις ἐνεγράφετο…