Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. — John Adams

Story of the Greeks - Helene Guerber

Death of Demosthenes

When Alexander left for the East, the orator Demosthenes began to urge the Greeks to rise up against him, and win back their freedom. All his eloquence, however, was not enough to persuade them to make war as long as Alexander lived.

But when the conqueror's death was made known, Demosthenes again tried to arouse them, and this time with success. Phocion, a cautious Athenian, vainly begged the people to wait at least until the news was confirmed, saying, "If Alexander is dead to-day, he will still be dead to-morrow and on the next day, so that we may take counsel at our leisure."


This wise caution, however, did not suit the Athenians, who were joined in their revolt by most of the little states and principal towns of Greece, except Sparta. The united Greeks soon raised an army, which marched northward, and met the Macedonian governor's troops near Thermopylæ.

The Greeks were successful here, and, after shutting up the enemy in the fortress of Lamia, closely besieged them. But after a time the Greek general was killed; and, when the Macedonians were reënforced, they gained a decisive victory. This really ended the war; for the Macedonian general, Antipater, broke up the union, and made separate terms of peace for each city.

In his anger, Antipater said he would punish all those who had encouraged the Greeks to revolt. He soon learned that Demosthenes had been one of the principal men to advise the uprising, so he sent his soldiers to make him prisoner.

Demosthenes, warned of his danger, immediately fled, but had only time to take refuge in the Temple of Neptune. There, in spite of the holiness of the place, Antipater's guards came to get him.

Seeing that it would be useless to resist, the orator asked for a few moments' respite, that he might write a letter to his friends. The men consented; and Demosthenes, closely watched, took up his tablet and the reed with which he generally wrote.

The soldiers saw him trace a few lines, then stop and bite the top of his reed, as if thinking about what he would say next. But, instead of going on to his letter, the orator soon covered his head with his cloak and staid quite still.

After a few moments' waiting, one of the men went to him, and, receiving no answer to his question, drew aside the folds of the cloak. He started back in terror, for the orator's face was very pale, and he was evidently about to die.

The men quickly carried him out of the temple, so that it should not be defiled by death, and then they found that the reed with which he wrote was hollow, and had contained a deadly drug. Demosthenes had taken the poison, thinking that death would be better than prison.

The Athenians now saw that it would have been wiser to listen to the cautious Phocion: so they set him at the head of their affairs, and promised to obey him. Although honest, Phocion was not very clever, and his caution little by little became cowardice.

In his fear of the Macedonians, he allowed them to have more and more power; and Greece a few years later was entirely under the rule of Antipater, the Macedonian governor.


Front Matter

Early Inhabitants of Greece
The Deluge of Ogyges
Founding of Important Cities
Story of Deucalion
Daedalus and Icarus
The Adventures of Jason
Theseus Visits the Labyrinth
The Terrible Prophecy
The Sphinx's Riddle
Death of Oedipus
The Brothers' Quarrel
The Taking of Thebes
The Childhood of Paris
Muster of the Troops
Sacrifice of Iphigenia
The Wrath of Achilles
Death of Hector and Achilles
The Burning of Troy
Heroic Death of Codrus
The Blind Poet
The Rise of Sparta
The Spartan Training
The Brave Spartan Boy
Public Tables in Sparta
Laws of Lycurgus
The Messenian War
The Music of Tyrtaeus
Aristomenes' Escape
The Olympic Games
Milo of Croton
The Jealous Athlete
The Girls' Games
The Bloody Laws of Draco
The Laws of Solon
The First Plays
The Tyrant Pisistratus
The Tyrant's Insult
Death of the Conspirators
Hippias Driven out of Athens
The Great King
Hippias Visits Darius
Destruction of the Persian Host
Advance of the Second Host
The Battle of Marathon
Miltiades' Disgrace
Aristides the Just
Two Noble Spartan Youths
The Great Army
Preparations for Defense
Leonidas at Thermopylae
Death of Leonidas
The Burning of Athens
Battles of Salamis and Plataea
The Rebuilding of Athens
Death of Pausanias
Cimon Improves Athens
The Earthquake
The Age of Pericles
Teachings of Anaxagoras
Peloponnesian War Begins
Death of Pericles
The Philosopher Socrates
Socrates' Favorite Pupil
Youth of Alcibiades
Greek Colonies in Italy
Alcibiades in Disgrace
Death of Alcibiades
Overthrow of Thirty Tyrants
Accusation of Socrates
Death of Socrates
The Defeat of Cyrus
Retreat of the Ten Thousand
Agesilaus in Asia
A Strange Interview
The Peace of Antalcidas
The Theban Friends
Thebes Free Once More
The Battle of Leuctra
Death of Pelopidas
The Battle of Mantinea
The Tyrant of Syracuse
Damon and Pythias
The Sword of Damocles
Dion and Dionysius
Civil War in Syracuse
Death of Dion
Philip of Macedon
Philip Begins His Conquests
The Orator Demosthenes
Philip Masters Greece
Birth of Alexander
The Steed Bucephalus
Alexander as King
Alexander and Diogenes
Alexander's Beginning
The Gordian Knot
Alexander's Royal Captives
Alexander at Jerusalem
The African Desert
Death of Darius
Defeat of Porus
Return to Babylon
Death of Alexander
Division of the Realm
Death of Demosthenes
Last of the Athenians
The Colossus of Rhodes
The Battle of Ipsus
Demetrius and the Athenians
The Achaean League
Division in Sparta
Death of Agis
War of the Two Leagues
The Last of the Greeks
Greece a Roman Province