The Oration on the State of the Chersonesus

Author: Demosthenes  | Date: 341 BC


To the Oration on the State of the Chersonesus

IN the foregoing oration (The Second Philippic) the vehemence of Demosthenes determined the Athenians to oppose the attempts of Philip; and his representations to the Argians and Messenians inspired them with suspicion, and at length detached them from all connections with Macedon. When Philip, therefore, found his practices in Peloponnesus unsuccessful, he began to turn his thoughts to other enterprises; to pursue his conquests in Thrace, and cross the Athenian interest in the Chersonesus. This peninsula had, with some little interruption, been for many years in the hands of the Athenians. Cotis, as king of the country, had lately wrested it from them, and left it in succession to his son Cersobleptes. But he, being unable to support himself against the power of Philip, resigned it again to the Athenians; and they, according to custom, sent in a colony, which the inhabitants received, and freely shared their lands and habitations with their new guests. The people of Cardia, the principal city, however, still asserted their independence; and when Diopithes, the commander of the Athenian colony, would have reduced them by force of arms, had recourse to Philip, who immediately detached a body of forces to their support. Diopithes considered this proceeding as an act of hostility against Athens: without waiting for instructions from his state, raised a considerable force; and, while Philip was engaged in war in the inland parts of Thrace, entered the maritime parts (which were his territories) with fire and sword, and brought off a great booty, which he lodged safe in the Chersonesus. Philip was not at leisure to repel this insult: he therefore contented himself with complaining by letters to the Athenians of this conduct of their general. The pensioners which he had at Athens immediately exerted themselves for their master. They inveighed loudly against Diopithes; accused him of violating the peace which then subsisted between them and Philip; of involving the state in war; of exaction, rapine, and piracy; and pressed for his being recalled.

Demosthenes, judging that at such a juncture the public interest was connected with that of Diopithes, undertakes his defence in the following oration; throws the whole blame of the exactions and piracies he is accused of on the Athenians themselves; turns their attention to Philip and his hostilities; and concludes, that whoever opposes or distresses him in any manner does a service to the state; and that, instead of disavowing what Diopithes had done, or directing him to dismiss his army, they should reinforce him, and show the king of Macedon they know how to protect their territories, and to maintain the dignity of their country as well as their ancestors.

It appears, from the beginning of this oration, that before Demosthenes arose the affair had been violently contested in the assembly. Possibly the heat of opposition added to the natural fire of the orator; for the style of the oration is, in my opinion, remarkably animated; and we find an extraordinary degree of severity and indignation breaking out in every part of it.


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Chicago: Demosthenes, "Introduction," The Oration on the State of the Chersonesus, trans. Thomas Leland, D.D. in Library of the Future ® 4th Edition Ver. 5.0 (Irvine, CA: World Library, Inc., 1996), Original Sources, accessed September 16, 2019,

MLA: Demosthenes. "Introduction." The Oration on the State of the Chersonesus, translted by Thomas Leland, D.D., in Library of the Future ® 4th Edition Ver. 5.0, Irvine, CA, World Library, Inc., 1996, Original Sources. 16 Sep. 2019.

Harvard: Demosthenes, 'Introduction' in The Oration on the State of the Chersonesus, trans. . cited in 1996, Library of the Future ® 4th Edition Ver. 5.0, World Library, Inc., Irvine, CA. Original Sources, retrieved 16 September 2019, from