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Aeschines, the Orator, born at Athens B.C. 389, in a low station. As a youth, he assisted his father in keeping an elementary school, then acted as clerk to several inferior magistrates, was for a time an actor in third-rate parts, till an accident removed him from the stage, when he became secretary to the esteemed orators and statesmen Aristophon and Eubulus, at whose recommendation he was twice elected to a government clerkship. Having thus acquired a sound knowledge of the laws and of legal proceedings, and being gifted with considerable talent, fine elocution and a dignified manner, to which his experience on the stage had contributed, he now came forward as a public speaker, and soon became an important personage. As a member of the embassy sent to Philip of Macedon for the conclusion of peace, B.C. 347, he was won over by the king to second the plans which proved so fatal to Athens, and was therefore accused of high treason by Timarchus and Demosthenes in B.C. 345; but he managed to clear himself by a triumphant attack on the private life of Timarchus. In B.C. 342 Demosthenes, who hated him, the head of the Macedonian party, as bitterly as he was hated by him, renewed the charge in his oration On the False Embassy. Aeschines, however, met it successfully by an equally brilliant speech bearing the same title. His unpatriotic conduct occasioned the war with Philip, which led to the overthrow of the Athenians and Thebans at Chaeronea, 338, and set the seal to the Macedonian supremacy over Greece. His own fall at last was brought on by his hatred of Demosthenes. Aeschines had previously brought a charge of illegality against Ctesiphon for proposing the distinction of a golden crown for Demosthenes. The charge was repeated B.C. 330, in a brilliant oration nominally directed Against Ctesiphon, but really aimed at his old rival. He was completely crushed by Demosthenes' great speech On the Crown, and being condemned to pay a fine of 1,000 drachmas, went into voluntary exile at Rhodes, where he is said to have opened a school of oratory. Thence he removed to Samos, and died B.C. 314. Beside the three orations named (Against Timarchus, On the False Embassy, Against Ctesiphon), we have under his name a collection of twelve letters professing to be written from Rhodes, but really forged by a later hand. Among the orators of his time Aeschines ranks next to Demosthenes. His orations are elaborated with the utmost care and reflexion,they have fulness, force, smoothness, and grace; but lack the terseness, the rhythm, and the moral inspiration of those of Demosthenes. They were spoken of in antiquity as the Three Graces.

Pictures and Media
AeSCHINES THE ORATOR. (Naples, National Museum.)
Type: Standard
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