classical Athenian statesman and orator (384–322 BC)

Demosthenes (Δημοσθένης) (384 BC322 BC) was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens, generally considered the greatest of the Greek orators.

Every advantage in the past is judged in the light of the final issue.
To strengthen his voice, he spoke on the seashore over the roar of the waves.


  • ὥσπερ γὰρ οἰκίας, οἶμαι, καὶ πλοίου καὶ τῶν ἄλλων τῶν τοιούτων τὰ κάτωθεν ἰσχυρότατ᾽ εἶναι δεῖ, οὕτω καὶ τῶν πράξεων τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς ὑποθέσεις ἀληθεῖς καὶ δικαίας εἶναι προσήκει
    • For a house, I take it, or a ship or anything of that sort must have its chief strength in its substructure; and so too in affairs of state the principles and the foundations must be truth and justice.
      • Olytnhiac II, 10 [1]
  • The easiest thing in the world is self-deceit; for every man believes what he wishes, though the reality is often different.
    • Third Olynthiac, section 19 (349 BC), as translated by Charles Rann Kennedy (1852)
    • Variants:
    • A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true.
      • As quoted in The Routledge Dictionary of Quotations (1987) by Robert Andrews, p. 255
    • There is nothing easier than self-delusion. Since what man desires, is the first thing he believes.
  • Delivery, delivery, delivery.
    • Response when asked to name the three most important components of rhetoric, as quoted in Institutio Oratoria (c. 95) by Quintilian; also in Unspoken : A Rhetoric of Silence (2004) by Cheryl Glenn, p. 150
  • The readiest and surest way to get rid of censure, is to correct ourselves.
    • As quoted in The World's Laconics: Or, The Best Thoughts of the Best Authors (1853) by Everard Berkeley, p. 34
  • It is not possible to found a lasting power upon injustice, perjury, and treachery.
    • Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 455.
  • No man can tell what the future may bring forth, and small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.
    • Ad Leptinem 162, as quoted in Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1897) by Thomas Benfield Harbottle, p. 511[2]
  • The man who has received a benefit ought always to remember it, but he who has granted it ought to forget the fact at once.
    • As quoted in Dictionary of foreign phrases and classical quotations (1908) by Hugh Percy Jones, p. 140
  • Every advantage in the past is judged in the light of the final issue.
    • Olynthiacs; Philippics (1930) as translated by James Herbert Vince, p. 11
  • Whatever shall be to the advantage of all, may that prevail!
    • Speech against Philip II of Macedon (351 BC), in Olynthiacs; Philippics (1930) as translated by James Herbert Vince, p. 99
  • You cannot have a proud and chivalrous spirit if your conduct is mean and paltry; for whatever a man's actions are, such must be his spirit.
    • As quoted in Journal of the History of Ideas Vol. 1‎ (1940), p. 472

Quotes about Demosthenes

  • Of orators, if I must choose you any, it shall be Demosthenes, both for the argument he handles, and for that his eloquence is more proper to a statesman than Cicero's.
    • Francis Bacon, Advice to Fulke Greville on his studies, quoted in The Oxford Authors: Francis Bacon, ed. Brian Vickers (1996), p. 105
  • Do you remember that in classical times when Cicero had finished speaking, the people said, "How well he spoke" but when Demosthenes had finished speaking, they said, "Let us march."
    • Adlai Stevenson, introducing John F. Kennedy in 1960, as quoted in Adlai Stevenson and The World: The Life of Adlai E. Stevenson‎ (1977) by John Bartlow Martin, p. 549
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