(Αἰσχίνης). (1) A great Athenian orator, born in B.C. 389, the son of Atrometus, a schoolmaster, and Leucothea. The statements of Demosthenes in regard to the disreputable character of his parents are probably groundless. After some experience as a soldier he entered upon the profession of a public clerk, which, however, he soon left to become an actor of indifferent success. But his real talents, aided by his experience of public life gained as a clerk, soon made him prominent when he turned his attention to a political career. In B.C. 348, after the fall of Olynthus, he attracted attention by advocating a general council of the Greek States to concert measures [p. 35]
against King Philip. But the failure of the embassy to Arcadia, which he undertook in pursuance of this plan, seems to have so discouraged him that he immediately changed sides, and was thenceforth an adherent of the peace party. In this capacity he played a conspicuous part as a member of the famous embassy to Philip in b. c. 346, preliminary to the peace of Philocrates. The complicated details of these negotiations need not be given here. (See Demosthenes; Philip II.) It is sufficient to say that Aeschines was won over by Philip's flattery (there is no proof that he was actually bribed, beyond the partisan statement of Demosthenes), and became convinced that a close alliance with the Macedonian king was the safest [figure in text: Aeschines the Orator. (National Museum, Naples.)] course for Athens. Almost immediately after the conclusion of the peace, he was indicted by Timarchus, an adherent of Demosthenes, for treasonablc conduct, but was triumphantly acquitted. A second accusation, brought by Demosthenes himself in b. c. 343, was more nearly successful, and Aeschines narrowly escaped conviction, after an able defence, in which he was aided by the intercession of Eubulus and Phocion. Aeschines next appears as one of the representatives of Athens at the Amphictyonic Council at Delphi in b. c. 339. Here, as he tells us, he was so enraged by an unjust complaint which the delegates from Amphissa brought against Athens, that he in turn made a vehement counter-attack on the Amphissians for their occupation of the sacred plain of Cirrha. So infuriated were the Amphictyons by his invective that, after burning the buildings of the offending Amphissian settlers, they voted to hold a special meeting of the council to consider what further punishment should be inflicted. Athens and Thebes refused to send delegates to this assembly, and thus became involved in war with Philip and the rest of the Amphictyonsa war which resulted in the fatal battle of Chaeronea and the downfall of Athenian independence.
In stirring up this new conflict, Aeschines certainly played into the hands of Philip, who was awaiting an opportunity for armed interference in the affairs of Central Greece; but here, too, the charge of bribery rests on the unsupported testimony of his bitterest enemy. After the battle of Chaeronea, the party of Aeschines naturally fell into disfavour. He does not figure prominently in public affairs again till B.C. 330, when he made a final effort to defeat his hated rival. An obscure politician named Ctesiphon had in b. c. 336 brought in a bill proposing to confer a golden crown upon Demosthenes for his services to the State. Aeschines raised objection to this on the score of illegality. The case did not come to trial till six years had elapsed, and then each of the orators exhausted every effort to crush his opponent. But Aeschines was the weaker, both in genius and in merit, and, not receiving the fifth part of the votes of the court, he was fined one thousand drachmas, and lost the right of appearing before the people in a similar capacity again. He left Athens and went first to Ephesus and afterwards to Rhodes, where he is said to have opened a school of oratory. He outlived his great opponent and died at Samos at the age of seventy-five.
Only three orations of Aeschines have been preserved, and all of these bear, directly or indirectly, on his quarrel with Demosthenes. Their titles are: (a) Against Timarchus, (b) On the Dishonest Embassy, (c) Against Ctesiphon. The occasion and subject of each have been noticed above. The second of them is generally considered to be the best. In natural gifts of oratory Aeschines was inferior to Demosthenes alone among his contemporaries. He excelled particularly in brilliant narrative, and was also one of the first to win a reputation for extemporaneous speech. He was less careful in his composition than Demosthenes, and was inferior to him in vigour and moral earnestness.
The editions of Schultz (Leipzig, 1865) and Weidner (Berlin, 1872) are among the most important. Richardson's edition of Weidner's Against Ctesiphon may be recommended to American readers.
(2) A philosopher of Athens, a pupil of Socrates, after whose death he became a perfumer, but, meeting with little success, went to Sicily and stayed at the court of the tyrant Dionysius until that ruler was expelled. Returning to Athens, he taught philosophy in private for a fee. Besides orations and epistles, he wrote Socratic dialogues on temperance and the other virtues. None of these dialogues remains. Three others that exist and that are ascribed to Aeschines are spurious. They treat (a) of Virtue, (b) of Riches, (c) of Death. Aeschines pretended to have received his dialogues from Xanthipp, the wife of Socrates.