History’s Great Speeches

History’s Great Speeches

Learn the heartbeat of history in the words of the people that lived and moved it. Also available as audiobooks via Bandcamp. Check out my website at charlesfeatherstone.uk for content links.

Episodes

March 25, 2024 13 mins

Thus your minister, Athenians! who hath pronounced sentence of death on himself should he be convicted of receiving anything from Harpalus—this very man hath been clearly convicted of accepting bribes from those whom in former times he affected to oppose with so much zeal. As Stratocles hath spoken largely on this subject; as many articles of accusation have been anticipated; as the council of Areopagus hath made a report on this i...

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The Amphissian War, I say—which brought Philip to Elatea, which caused him to be chosen general of the Amphictyons, which ruined everything in Greece—was this man's contrivance. He is the single author of all our heaviest calamities. I protested at the time, and cried out in the assembly—"You are bringing a war, Æschines, into Attica, an Amphictyonic war"—but his packed party would not let me be heard; the rest wondered, and suppos...

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March 20, 2024 28 mins

I begin, men of Athens, by praying to every god and goddess, that the same good will, which I have ever cherished toward the commonwealth and all of you, may be requited to me on the present trial. I pray likewise—and this specially concerns yourselves, your religion, and your honor—that the gods may put it in your minds, not to take counsel of my opponent touching the manner in which I am to be heard—that would indeed be cruel!—bu...

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Many speeches, men of Athens, are made in almost every assembly about the hostilities of Philip, hostilities which ever since the treaty of peace he has been committing as well against you as against the rest of the Greeks; and all (I am sure) are ready to avow, though they forbear to do so, that our counsels and our measures should be directed to his humiliation and chastisement: nevertheless, so low have our affairs been brought ...

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In all the speeches, men of Athens, about Philip's measures and infringements of the peace, I observe that statements made on our behalf are thought just and generous, and all who accuse Philip are heard with approbation; yet nothing (I may say) that is proper, or for the sake of which the speeches are worth hearing, is done. To this point are the affairs of Athens brought, that the more fully and clearly one convicts Philip of vio...

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March 13, 2024 14 mins

 I see, men of Athens, that our present situation is one of great perplexity and confusion, for not only have many of our interests been sacrificed, so that it is of no use to make eloquent speeches about them; but even as regards what still remains to us, there is no general agreement in any single point as to what is expedient: some hold one view, and some another.

 Perplexing, moreover, and difficult as deliberation naturally is...

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Not the same ideas, men of Athens, are presented to me, when I look at our condition and when at the speeches which are delivered. The speeches, I find, are about punishing Philip; but our condition is come to this, that we must mind we are not first damaged ourselves. Therefore, it seems to me, these orators commit the simple error of not laying before you the true subject of debate. That once we might safely have held our own and...

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On many occasions, men of Athens, one may see the kindness of the gods to this country manifested, but most signally, I think, on the present. That here are men prepared for a war with Philip, possessed of a neighboring territory and some power, and (what is most important) so fixed in their hostility, as to regard any accommodation with him as insecure, and even ruinous to their country; this really appears like an extraordinary a...

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I believe, men of Athens, you would give much to know, what is the true policy to be adopted in the present matter of inquiry. This being the case, you should be willing to hear with attention these who offer you their counsel. Besides that you will have the benefit of all preconsidered advice, I esteem it part of your good fortune, that many fit suggestions will occur to some speakers at the moment, so that from them all you may e...

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 It is, I think, your duty, men of Athens, when you are deliberating upon affairs of such importance, to grant freedom of speech to every one of your advisers. And for my part, I have never yet felt any difficulty in pointing out to you the best course; for I believe that, broadly speaking, you all know from the first what this is. My difficulty is to persuade you to act upon your knowledge. For when a measure is approved and passe...

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Had the question for debate been any thing new, Athenians, I should have waited till most of the usual speakers had been heard; if any of their counsels had been to my liking, I had remained silent, else proceeded to impart my own. But as the subjects of discussion is one upon which they have spoken oft before, I imagine, though I rise the first, I am entitled to indulgence. For if these men had advised properly in time past, there...

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I think, men of Athens, that those who have spoken on the Arcadian side and those who have spoken on the Spartan, are alike making a mistake. For their mutual accusations and their attacks upon one another would suggest that they are not, like yourselves, Athenians, receiving the two embassies, but actually delegates of the two states. Such attacks it was for the two deputations to make. The duty of those who claim to advise you he...

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 Those who praise your forefathers, men of Athens, desire, no doubt, to gratify you by their speeches; and yet I do not think that they are acting in the interests of those whom they praise. For the subject on which they attempt to speak is one to which no words can do justice; and so, although they thus win for themselves the reputation of capable speakers, the impression which they convey to their hearers of the merit of our fore...

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February 23, 2024 6 mins

Demosthenes is generally acknowledged as the greatest orator in history. Born to a sword maker and orphaned at 7, he overcame a stammer and the theft of his inheritance by his legal guardians to become as foundational to oratory as his contemporaries Plato and Aristotle are to philosophy.

Much like a major contemporary political figure, he overcame a stammer on his journey to greatness, with “inarticulate and stammering pronunciati...

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The tribune of the people was borne along in a chariot, lictors crowned with laurels preceded him, among whom, on an open litter, was carried an actress; whom honorable men, citizens of the different municipalities, coming out from their towns under compulsion to meet him, saluted not by the name by which she was well known on the stage, but by that of Volumnia. A car followed full of pimps; then a lot of debauched companions; and ...

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To what destiny of mine, O conscript fathers, shall I say that it is owing, that none for the last twenty years has been an enemy to the republic without at the same time declaring war against me? Nor is there any necessity for naming any particular person; you yourselves recollect instances in proof of my statement. They have all hitherto suffered severer punishments than I could have wished for them; but I marvel that you, O Anto...

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Before, O conscript fathers, I say those things concerning the republic which I think myself bound to say at the present time, I will explain to you briefly the cause of my departure from, and of my return to the city. When I hoped that the republic was at last recalled to a proper respect for your wisdom and for your authority, I thought that it became me to remain in a sort of sentinelship, which was imposed upon me by my positio...

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Of what disposition towards me the praetors were, you were able to form an opinion when Lucius Caecilius, in his private character, laboured to support me from his own resources, and in his public capacity proposed a law respecting my safety, in concert with all his colleagues, and refused the plunderers of my property permission to support their actions by legal proceedings. But Marcus Calidius, the moment he was elected, showed b...

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If, O conscript fathers, I return you thanks in a very inadequate manner for your kindness to me, and to my brother, and to my children, (which shall never be forgotten by us,) I beg and entreat you not to attribute it so much to any coldness of my disposition, as to the magnitude of the service which you have done me. For what fertility of genius, what copiousness of eloquence can be so great, what language can be found of such di...

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If, O conscript fathers, I return you thanks in a very inadequate manner for your kindness to me, and to my brother, and to my children, (which shall never be forgotten by us,) I beg and entreat you not to attribute it so much to any coldness of my disposition, as to the magnitude of the service which you have done me. For what fertility of genius, what copiousness of eloquence can be so great, what language can be found of such di...

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