By Andrew J. Bayliss
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Additional info for After Demosthenes: The Politics of Early Hellenistic Athens
Admired by the Laconophiles (and somewhat grudgingly by Athenophiles), Phocion’s death becomes as a vital tool in the Athens–Sparta debate in the eighteenth century. The horror induced by Phocion’s downfall is a key feature in almost every eighteenth-century account of Greek history from both sides of the Athens–Sparta divide. His execution provides a powerful example with which the Laconophiles can criticize the excesses of Athenian democracy and at the same time provides a clear signal for the Athenophiles that the Athenian polis is no longer worthy of their attention.
The opportunity for the ancient world was then lost, never to return; for neither the Macedonian nor the Roman world, which possessed an adequate material basis, possessed like the Athens of earlier times, an adequate intellectual soul to inform and inspire them. In Macaulay’s eyes the works of Demosthenes represent perfection that cannot be matched by subsequent writers. For Macaulay (1824, p. 297) Demosthenes was ‘one of the greatest men that ever lived’. His speeches are so eloquent, so well written, that ‘it would be impossible to alter a word, without altering it for the worse’.
The archaic period is also inferior to the Classical period, but at least it is a period of growth and improvement that will lead to the Classical. In the life-cycle view of Greek history there can be no recovery from the corruption of the Hellenistic period. The writer Symonds (1893, Chapter 1) divides Greek literature into five periods: superb adolescence, early manhood, magnificent maturity, robust old age, and senility (Jenkyns, 1980, p. 73). 26 After Demosthenes Archaic Greece is equated with adolescence and early manhood, a period of growth; the fifth century is again equated with mature age, the prime of life, while the Hellenistic period is seen as on a par with senility.