Athens forced to establish peace with Philip of Macedon, Demosthenes, Olynthian alliance

Athens was forced to establish peace with Philip of Macedon due to the collapse of Olynthus and the devastation of the prosperous towns on the Chalcidic peninsula, which were part of the Olynthian alliance. The pact was concluded in 346, and Demosthenes fervently endorsed the desire for peace. However, he objected to the acceptance of Philip’s conditions as they would leave central Greece vulnerable to the enemy and further isolate Athens. Nevertheless, he was unable to hinder the signing of peace on these conditions.

During his speech “On the Peace,” he forcefully urged the Athenians not to engage in violent opposition once Philip had taken control of Phocis and Thermopylae, crucial strategic locations for dominating central Greece. Similar to his initial speeches prior to dedicating himself to the battle against Philip, this speech demonstrates his pragmatic nature as a politician. He did not pursue unattainable goals and fearlessly challenged the dominance of emotional emotions in politics.

One does not assail their adversary at the adversary’s most formidable position. These talks, which are very pragmatic, demonstrate a crucial characteristic of Demosthenes that is necessary for accurately assessing his value. In this context, as well as in other contexts, he primarily assumes the role of an educator. His intention is not merely to persuade the masses and dominate them by eloquence. He urges them to go to a more elevated level and, by guiding them progressively, to independently evaluate the facts.

An excellent illustration of this is the speech titled “For the Megalopolitans,” which includes a thorough examination of the balance of power policy as it relates to the specific case being discussed. The speeches titled “On the Symmories” and “For the Liberty of the Rhodians” are prime examples of his progressively growing skill in suppressing and controlling boisterous and nationalistic sentiments.

The texts provide a clear demonstration of Demosthenes’ view of politics as an entirely objective kind of art. Furthermore, his speech following the unfavorable peace agreement of 346 indicates that his conflict with Philip had no impact on his perspective. The initial Philippics and the trio of speeches on Olynthus, replete with sagacious advice, validate the perception that he had transformed into a visionary statesman.

He possessed the ability to anticipate future events and strategize accordingly, recognizing the importance of resolutely adhering to a chosen course of action. Furthermore, he understood the significant impact that fortuitous circumstances can have in a world governed by chance (tyche). The individual’s behavior consistently demonstrates an understanding of the significant role played by luck or random events. This is the reason behind his notable restraint following the peace agreement in 346.

Both his critics and his more impassioned admirers have failed to comprehend this. Both individuals perceive that when his purely logical reasoning leads him to alter his attitude to accommodate circumstances, they interpret it as a sign of indecisiveness and lack of strength of character. However, even throughout Demosthenes’ delivery of his speech titled “On the Peace,” he possessed a clear understanding of his objectives. He focused his gaze on the target.

He was skeptical about the lasting nature of the peace, viewing it merely as a means for Athens to be controlled. He decided to let politicians, such as Aeschines who turned a blind eye to the truth due to their weakened resistance, or Isocrates who embraced the inevitable and hailed Philip as the leader of all Greece, defend the practical benefits it brought to Philip.

To fully comprehend Isocrates’ unique stance in the spiritual conflict against the looming dominance of Macedonia, it is essential to recall his gradual ascent as the primary advocate for Greek political cohesion. Greece lacked the ability to achieve unity by merging the autonomous city-states into a singular nation-state, even if the individual republics were as feeble as they were at that time. The attainment of Greek unity was contingent upon external intervention.

The Hellenes could only be united as a nation via their collective struggle against a shared adversary. Isocrates believed that the Persians, who had attacked Greece a century and a half ago and caused the Greeks to unite against them, were still considered the enemy. However, he failed to recognize that the real immediate threat was from Macedonia. The sole underlying cause is the force of inertia. Isocrates lacked a continuous stream of innovative concepts, and he had been advocating for the campaign against Persia for a considerable number of years.

However, his strategy to avoid the threat posed by Macedonia by appointing Philip, who was known for suppressing the freedom of Athens and Greece, as the predetermined leader in the fight against Persia, was an egregious political mistake. She relinquished Greece to her adversary while being restrained.

Philip eagerly embraced the opportunity to attain a higher position, as it would eliminate any moral concerns that some of the Greeks would have towards his intentions of exerting control over them. At this elevation, Isocrates had the ability to vehemently criticize anyone who hesitated to acknowledge the advances of Macedonian dominance, while those in favor of Macedonia found it effortless to exploit Isocrates’ Panhellenic catchphrase for their own propaganda purposes. The significant role of political warfare in laying the groundwork for Philip’s military assaults on the Greeks should never be forgotten.

Naturally, his approach consistently involved concealing it under the pretense of self-preservation. The military decision was intended to be executed swiftly and decisively, bringing an abrupt end to the situation. The democracies, without preparation for war, had little opportunity to hastily assemble a more robust arsenal. Consequently, the systematic and well-coordinated effort to weaken their power and morale through agitation was extensive and effective.

Philip possessed keen perception to recognize that a nation such as the Greeks may potentially be subjugated. This is because the pursuit of culture and liberty often leads to disagreements on crucial matters, resulting in disintegration. The majority lacked foresight to anticipate the accurate solution. Demosthenes extensively discusses the proMacedonian unrest in several Greek cities. The methodical dissemination of propaganda was a very innovative and nuanced aspect of Philip’s war strategy. The typical result was that one of the disputing parties would request Philip’s intervention to achieve reconciliation.

Upon observing the meticulousness with which Demosthenes selects his target in his speeches, it becomes evident that his primary challenge is in countering the propaganda tactics employed by his opponent in Athens. These tactics are cunningly and vigorously executed, resulting in the distortion of facts and the obfuscation of key matters. Demosthenes’ objective was to persuade a large group of people who were indifferent and misinformed.

These people were being manipulated by deceitful leaders who were attempting to numb them into a state of indifference by falsely claiming that their freedom and survival depended solely on their peaceful intentions. Demosthenes was not the type of individual to shy away from this fresh conflict within his own ranks. He now courageously opposed the advocates of pacifism and renewed his previous endeavors to dismantle the isolationism of Athens.

Philip had assumed a false identity as the man who would bring together and unite Greece. Demosthenes was on a mission to unite the Greeks against Philip and rally them to protect their national sovereignty. The speeches he delivered during the peace period represent a sequence of pressing endeavors to establish his own Panhellenism in contrast to that of Isocrates, and to structure it as a tangible political influence. Following the conflict over the essence of Athens, he commenced the struggle for the essence of Hellas.

“To avoid being surrounded,” he exclaimed, “Athens must divert Philip’s Greek allies and assume leadership over all the Greek states.” Demosthenes’ ideal is nothing less than that. In his second Philippic, he personally recounts his endeavors to disengage the Peloponnesian states from Philip. Initially, he encountered failure. They may have been persuaded to support the Athenians when they approached and requested an alliance.

That occurred prior to the intensification of the conflict with Philip: Demosthenes openly advocated for the strategy of seeking allies whenever feasible, and advised the populace against alienating all the other Peloponnesian states in order to preserve the nearly valueless alliance with Sparta, which was the sole justification for such a course of action.