Demosthenes and the formation of the Panhellenic Alliance against Philip of Macedon

Creating a Panhellenic alliance against Philip, despite the deep divisions and hostilities among the Greek people, seemed as arduous as Sisyphus’ labor. Thebes, a more significant ally than Sparta, was compelled to align with Philip due to the support of her opponents by Sparta and Athens, with the Phocians being even closer to her than her own interests demanded.

Demosthenes later expresses his belief that it was unwise to support the Phocians solely based on a personal aversion for Thebes. The Phocian war presented Philip with the chance to involve himself in the political affairs of central Greece. The Phocians were decisively defeated, resulting in a prolonged period during which Athens was unable to restore its alliance with Thebes.

Despite the passage of time and considerable exertion, Demosthenes ultimately achieved his goal. The remarkable development of his rise to become the defender of Greek freedom is particularly astonishing considering that the Panhellenic concept, even after being expressed in persuasive language, seemed implausible. The individual responsible for executing this action was none other than Demosthenes, who, in his initial discourse on international relations, established the principle that “the well-being of Athens serves as the fundamental criterion for all foreign policy decisions.”

He was a politician who followed the ideology of the intelligent and determined imperialist Callistratus. Upon delivering the third Philippic, he had transformed into a Panhellenic politician. He believed that Athens’ most important objective was to assume leadership over the Greeks in opposition to Philip, while being aware of the significant historical precedent set by her earlier policies. The accomplishment of unifying the majority of the Greek people under his leadership was regarded by classical historians as an exceptional display of statesmanship.

In the speeches “On the Chersonese” and the third Philippic, which were given shortly before the war started, Demosthenes confronts and overcomes feelings of uncertainty and hopelessness, reaffirming his position as a beloved leader. This is reminiscent of his previous Philippics, which were delivered prior to the peace agreement of 346. However, the entire situation has now undergone a transformation. He was a lone warrior, battling just for his own benefit.

Currently, he is the prominent driving force behind a widespread movement that is rapidly spreading throughout Greece. Subsequently, he endeavored to stimulate the Athenians. He is currently urging all Greeks to overcome their apathy and actively defend their life. Philip’s influence expands rapidly, while others remain idle, resembling individuals observing a storm or natural disaster without taking any action.

They feel completely powerless and can only hope that the impending calamity will affect their neighbors’ homes rather than their own. The genuine leader’s duty is to liberate the people’s volition from this debilitating state of inaction and protect it from its malevolent advisors, who willingly betray it to the adversary and just serve Philip’s interests. The public like their music due to its non-exigent nature.

Demosthenes enumerates the cities that Philip’s fifth column has already surrendered to him. Olynthus, Eretria, and Oreus now acknowledge, ‘Had we possessed this knowledge beforehand, we would not have succumbed.’ At this point, it is already past the appropriate time. The ship must be preserved in its current state of structural integrity. Once the waters have overwhelmed it, any attempt becomes futile.

The Athenians themselves are required to take action. Regardless of others yielding, they must strive for the attainment of independence. In order to support the other Greeks, they are required to contribute funds, vessels, and personnel, demonstrating their selflessness. The insatiable avarice of the general public and the venality of the professional politicians must and will be replaced by the valiant ethos of Greece, which previously vanquished the Persian intruder.

Long ago, Demosthenes had posed the question, which this comparison reinforces, of whether the contemporary Athenians were a diminished and unworthy lineage, not deserving to be mentioned among their illustrious forefathers. However, he did not possess the expertise of a historian or an ethnologist, as his only focus did not lie in factual information. In this location, as in other places, he naturally and inevitably assumed the role of a teacher, well aware of the educational responsibility he had to fulfill.