Moralia: Life of Demosthenes the Orator

Bust of Demosthenes @ Louvre, Paris

They say that when he was still a young man he withdrew into a cave and studied there, shaving half of his head to keep himself from going out; also that he slept on a narrow bed in order to get up quickly, and that since he could not pronounce the sound of R he learned to do so by hard work, and since in declaiming for practice he made an awkward movement with his shoulder, he put an end to the habit by fastening a spit or, as some say, a dagger from the ceiling to make him through fear keep his shoulder motionless. They say, too, that as he progressed in his ability to speak he had a mirror made as large as himself and kept his eyes on it while practising, that he might correct his faults ; and that he used to go down to the shore at Phalervun and address his remarks to the roar of the waves, that he might not be disconcerted if the people should ever make a disturbance; and that because he was short of breath he paid Neoptolemus the actor ten thousand drachmas to teach him to speak whole paragraphs without taking breath.

Once he was hissed out of the assembly and was walking home feeling discouraged; but Eunomus of the deme Thria, who was already an old man, happened to meet him and encouraged him, and more than anyone else the actor Andronicus, by telling him that his words were excellent but that his delivery was deficient, and then Andronicus declaimed from memory the speech which Demosthenes had delivered in the assembly ; whereupon Demosthenes was convinced and put himself in the hands of Andronicus. Therefore when someone asked him what was the first thing in oratory, he replied “Delivery,” and what the second, “Delivery,” and the third, “Delivery.”


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