Demosthenes' First Philippic


1. I would love to set aside just an absolute ton of time for all of us to discuss Philip of Macedon! And you know, if today were the first-ever day of democracy, and Solon had called us all to the brand-new Athenian Assembly, we could argue about Philip for hours, just for the fun of hearing ourselves talk.

2. But I feel fairly confident that the year is something like 351, and not 594! Which is, frankly, good news, because it means that as fucked up as things are at present, it’s because you’ve all been fucking up so often — if you’d been doing your job these last two-hundred-some-odd years and we were still facing this problem, things would be so much worse. So cheer up!

3. I want to ask you all a question! Is that okay? Is it okay if I take a minute to pose a question to the citizen-lords of Athens, and ask them to think for a few minutes, and maybe even vote with a show of hands afterwards? It will involve counting, you know, so let me know if you’re feeling up to it. We’ll start with an easy one: Do you remember the Lacedaemonians? I’ll give you a hint. Sometimes they are referred to as Spartans. They are perhaps best-known for living, laughing, loving, and working in Sparta, which is another one of the major cities in Greece. Some of you have been there, even! Do you remember what a big deal Sparta was, and yet how the Corinthian War worked out pretty well for us, when we all put on our big-boy pants and did our job? We even got Lemnos back. So by the transitive property, maybe we could think about doing our jobs again.

4. “But what if it’s hard to defeat him?” Great question. Probably it will be. 5. Do you think Philip is worried about that? 6. Do you want Pydna and Potidaea back or not? 6. I’m sorry, I don’t know what to tell you, but yes, the man who is currently snapping up Mediterranean islands like grapes is a hard worker. 7. Maybe if we work hard for a little bit we can make him go away. Which brings me to my next point:

8. Philip is a human man. Much as you or I! So if we make his job really hard, and fight him a lot, he will eventually become tired and hungry, and maybe even fall asleep for a few hours. And when someone is asleep, you can take things away from them, and they won’t notice. 9. Also you should hear the shit he says about you!

10. Maybe you could just let me know when you were planning on acting as men of Athens, and I can update my calendar accordingly. Were you going to wait until someone makes you? And what would you call this, if not making you? Or maybe you just like wandering around asking each other whether there’s any news. 11. Maybe he’ll just get tired on his own! Or sick, even. Good thing we’re not creating a power vacuum or anything, where another Philip could just as easily rise up to take his place and go on harassing the peninsula. 12. I’m sorry, I’ve just received word from a messenger – we are creating a power vacuum, which means the problem really isn’t Philip of Macedon so much as the giant Philip-of-Macedon-shaped hole in our fortifications.

13. I’m sure you don’t need me to encourage you any further! I can really feel how ready everyone in this room is to do his duty, and I love this energy. 14. So just let me know what you think when you’re ready to think, yeah? 15. I can keep going, if you need me to. I know it’s been a while, so I just want to offer up a quick reminder that wars do cost money, and mean you have to spend time with your enemies, which I realize no one wants to do.

16. So I think we should start with 50 warships, and more to the point, I do think it’s important that we prepare to sail them. Ourselves, to the war. 17. Yes, you can go home and get your stuff first. That’s fine, we’ll wait. 18. Obviously you should feel free to tweak this plan, it’s just a general outline, but I do think that when you arrive to wherever Philip is, you should attack him. 19. And you should probably all agree, or at least whoever’s getting on the boats should probably agree, on that point. And probably they should be ready to attack him for a little while, not just once before giving up and going home. And also those people will need food, and so on, so be sure to send lunch with them. 20. Yes, I wrote down what else I think they’ll need. 21. Yes, of course that includes horses. Yes, and food for the horses too, I didn’t forget that part. 22. I’m getting to that.

Okay! Okay. Let’s try to save our questions for the end, okay? I’m going to stop using numbers because I feel like we’re getting ahead of ourselves, and you can just assume that if I suggest you send a ship that that ship will need to have soldiers on it, and that the presence of soldiers automatically denotes the presence of food, of horses, and then separately of horse food, and I haven’t forgotten how much horses eat. And I think maybe some of you should go along, instead of just sending hired goons, because sometimes the hired goons get hired by someone else with more money, so you can keep an eye on the goons. I think an Athenian war can only be improved by the presence of Athenian soldiers! You can even pick the soldiers. I’m happy to go myself, by the way. I even did some math about how much it will cost to send everything we’ll need, and you can see the accounting on the handouts — there should be some thetes passing them down the rows right now – yes, thank you, thetes — and as you can see, it’s pretty straightforward, and once we get there we can just start looting, so it’s only going to get cheaper as time goes on.

So I guess just to sum up, I think Philip II of Macedon is a lot likelier to give us our stuff back if we go try to stab him and everyone he knows, instead of sending more letters. I’m not sure he’s a reader. And it’s not that I don’t value literature, it’s just that I think it’s going to be really hard to maintain a robust literary scene if Philip takes away all of our grazing-pastures, our shipyards, our farmland, our citizens, our galleys and our warhorses and our granaries and so on.

I just hope you spend as much time and attention picking out a war cabinet as you do setting up the Dionysian festivals! Have you ever noticed how the Dionysian festivals happen the same time every year, and no one’s feast accidentally arrives three days late? And you know how the gymnastics teacher never forgets his job and accidentally tries to lead the choir? Just apply that same kind of specificity and commitment to accuracy to being at war with Philip of Macedon, and you’ll do great. If you’re worried you’re going to forget something, like who is captaining which ship, maybe just write it down. That way you can just refer to the place you wrote it down instead of trying to remember.

Okay, yes, I can hear that there are a lot of questions. Be patient; I’ll get to you. Okay, great question: “What if Philip doesn’t stay put in one place, and by the time we get to wherever he’s supposed to be, like say Bithynia, he’s actually in Thermopylae?” Great question, because that happens a lot of the time in war. In that case, you would go to Thermopylae. Yes, I see your hand up, but before I call on you, can I ask if your question was going to be “What do we do if we get to Thermopylae and he’s not there anymore either?” It was? Okay, great, same answer, you just go to wherever he is next.

Yes, again, I really don’t think he’s going to stop waging war against us and our allies and our colonies unless somebody stops him. No, I don’t think “waiting until Philip II of Macedon gets tired of conquering” is a sound strategy.

No, I don’t think we should just send the ships over without any soldiers inside, on the off chance he just sees the ships and gets scared and goes home without waiting to see what gets off the ships. For starters, who would even sail the ships if there was no one in it?

Yes, I realize that’s “kind of the opposite of Troy.” I don’t see how that makes a difference.

Okay, let’s move on. Thanks again for hearing me out, I realize this was a lot to go through at one sitting. Yes, you can keep your handouts, that’s why I had everything written out, so you wouldn’t have to remember everything I said. Again, I just really want to stress, I think it will benefit you, and all of Athens, if you stop letting Philip take pieces of Athens whenever he feels like it. And just, in conclusion, I really think Philip of Macedon should be destroyed. Hopefully this is the last time we have to get into it. Thanks for listening.

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