Demosthenes and His Time: A Study in Defeat

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Professor Sealey studies the political history of Greece, especially Athens, from 386 to 322 BC. Although Demosthenes figures largely in the middle and later chapters, the book is not intended to be purely biographical, and a good deal of attention is paid to social and international factors bearing on Athenian political activity during this period. The story is one of two-fold failure: by launching a league of a novel type in 378 the Athenians tried to bring a new order into Greek affairs, but were eventually overcome by Macedon; Demosthenes discovered his mission as a statesman and failed because of Macedonian power. The narrative begins in 387/6 BC, when the Spartans and their allies secured financial help from Persia, gained control of the Hellespont and cut the Athenians off from one of their main sources of grain. Sealey describes the events of the turbulent years which followed, the threat to Athens posed by Philip II and the rise of Demosthenes to power in Athens. The book concludes with an analysis of the defeat of Athens and its allies in 322, and ends with the suicide of Demosthenes.