Friday, February 25, 2011

Becoming a Writer: Demosthenes (384 - 322 BC C)

Démosthène s'exerçant à la paroleImage via Wikipedia

The Greek orator and Athenian statesman Demosthenes became famous not only for his mastery of the art of public speaking, but for being a political animal with strong political instincts.

His father had been an arms dealer who when he died left the family fortune to his six or seven year old son. His guardians, however, stole part of the fortune. Given to stuttering and incapable of being understood, the legend goes that he would put pebbles in his mouth, and practice speaking for hours.

To become a good writer and speaker
The first time Demosthenes made a speech in the public assembly was a disaster. Humiliated but not beaten, he sought the advice of an actor who coached him to act his delivery. To perfect the technique, he set up a routine, which he followed for months until he had mastered his oratory. Plutarch narrates that Demosthenes to become a good writer and speaker he would hide away two or three months at a time; to inhibit himself from leaving his hideout, he would deform his looks by shaving half of his head.

Wealthy Greek men were expected to contribute to the polis and so Demosthenes outfitted a trireme in 357 B.C. In addition, he sponsored theatrical performances. As a warrior hoplite, he distinguished himself at the Battle of Chaeronea 338.
Demosthenes foresaw the danger to Greece with the rise of Macedonia under King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. Delivering fiery speeches which he wrote with great care— known as Philippics and Olynthiacs— Demosthenes alerted the Athenian people to prepare, but to no avail, for Philip started his conquest of Greece in 339 BC . To stop the advance of the enemy forces, Demosthenes formed an alliance of Athenians and Thebans, but these forces proved to be too weak, and were defeated in the battle of Chaeronea.

The details of Demosthenes' life from the time he delivered this speech to the death of Alexander in 323 BC C. are vague, but when Alexander died, the hope of freedom was revived and Demosthenes came into prominence again.
When he sponsored a failed rebellion against the Macedonian general Antipater, rather than be taken alive by the enemy, he took poison that he had hidden in a quill; he died in 322 BC C.

To become a writer I write essays every day. Since English is my second language, in writing essays I consult Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers. When I write fiction --or fiction writing of novels and short stories-- I consult Toolbox for Writers.

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