Lehmann, Hilary J. C. 2023. “Lessons from Home: Remembering the Arkhē in Fourth Century Oratory.” In “The Athenian Empire Anew: Acting Hegemonically, Reacting Locally in the Athenian Arkhē,” ed. Aaron Hershkowitz and Michael McGlin, special issue, Classics@ 23. https://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HLNC.ESSAY:103490528.
The Ancestral Inheritance
The phrase he uses to describe these lessons is oikeia paradeigmata, which Trevett translates as “examples from home.”  The definitions of the adjective oikeios include both “pertaining to the home” and “one’s own.”  In this context, both definitions apply: the examples are their own because they derive from the collective household, the oikos, of the Athenians. This passage and the analogy about the size of houses that appears soon afterward together contribute to Demosthenes’ strategy of emphasizing the interfamilial continuity of Athenian identity from the past to the present. The Athenians can use lessons from home because their ancestors, who bestowed the inheritance upon them, belong to the same kinship circle; this domestic collectivity transcends the private aggrandizements that threaten the unity of the people.
Demosthenes summons the period of the arkhē with specific details (albeit exaggerated about the status of the Macedonian king) and indicates, as an illustration and incentive, the constant reminder of the ancestors’ accomplishments: the monuments visible upon the Acropolis. In this passage, Demosthenes distills the complex history of the arkhē into an appealing, patriotic package, beguilingly articulating the material benefits promised via the inheritance.  The details are not necessary: as Rosalind Thomas notes, when the orators refer to the time of the arkhē, “the picture of the Athenian empire is patriotic, nostalgic and exceedingly simple.”  Instead, the passage summons a vague sense of a time when things were better, and the promise that, on the basis of their shared kinship and guaranteed inheritance, the Athenians could once again obtain supremacy.
The Embassy Trial
In his defense speech, Aeschines counters Demosthenes’ accusations and displays his own interpretation of the ideal relationship between oikos and polis, his own “lessons from home.”  As Demosthenes’ criticism indicated, Aeschines’ words during the debate over the peace centered on the action of the Athenians during the time of the arkhē and gave reasons why Athenians of the present day should not imitate everything that their ancestors had done. During the debate over the Peace, Aeschines, speaking in support, had offered an ambivalent portrayal of the past that contrasted strikingly with the propagandistic rhetoric of the opponents to the Peace. A long passage in his Embassy speech summarizes what he said during the debate, laying out his nuanced understanding of the relationship between the present and historical exempla.  He first criticizes the opponents to the Peace, who used patriotic nostalgia to sway the Assembly (2.74):
Just like Demosthenes in the Third Olynthiac, these anti-Peace speakers used the Propylaea, the extravagant entrance onto the Periclean Acropolis, as metonym linking the Athenian victories against the Persians to the wealth that Athens accumulated under Pericles.  These speakers summoned the glory of the arkhē, manifest in the architectural achievements of the previous century, and the bravery of the ancestors who defeated the Persians at Salamis, ushering in the age of empire. According to Aeschines, they had dissolved various symbols of the previous 150 years—the Propylaea, Salamis, graves and trophies—into a single, timeless, patriotic amalgam rather than giving useful guidance for the present day. Collapsing a century of Athenian policy into a single rhetorical flourish may have made the listeners feel the warm glow of nostalgia, but, as Aeschines asserts, provided no real solutions to the present situation.
The moderation that characterizes Aeschines’ relationship with the past is closely tied to his interpretation of the role of the oikos in political thought. Aware of the controversial nature of his historical exempla, Aeschines claims that his narration of the past is legitimate, in fact preferable to the glorified version of Demosthenes and the anti-Peace politicians, because his information comes not from a stranger but from his most intimate relative—his father (§§77–78):
Aeschines’ historical knowledge is legitimate and home-sourced, thus irreproachable (I return to the snide remark about Demosthenes’ ancestry later in this section). As Rosalind Thomas describes it, Aeschines “defends this remarkable harangue [at §§74–77] by the fact that the misfortunes of Athens were in his blood … The oral family testimony is his bulwark for dangerous criticism of the Athenians’ previous actions.”  Aeschines’ repetition of forms of the adjective oikeios in this passage—describing his father with the superlative oikeiotatou and the city’s misfortunes as oikeia—recalls Demosthenes’ references to oikeia paradeigmata. Unlike Demosthenes’ appeal to the “lessons from home” inherited from a generic collective ancestry, Aeschines’ interpretation of the ideal relationship between Athenian civic identity and the household emphasizes the closeness and loyalty of the immediate family. According to this model, the excellence of a citizen can be better determined by his personal relationships than by patriotic appeals to the distant ancestors. The most meaningful lessons from home come not from the distant past, the longed-for glory days, but from right now, from the family. Aeschines implicitly invites his fellow citizens, if they are able, to learn similar lessons from their own households.
To emphasize the importance of the love and loyalty that derives from the household unit, Aeschines refers to his own family repeatedly throughout his speech, detailing the heroic actions of his father, uncle, and brother, and even bringing his family onto the platform with him. As he displays his piteous family, Aeschines asks the judges if they really believe he could be capable of betraying the city (§152):
The source of Aeschines’ patriotism is not the acquisitions of the ancient Athenians; rather his loyalty to his country derives from his love for his own private household, his friends, and his immediate ancestors. The language Aeschines uses here acknowledges the ideology of autochthony—the word patris evokes, through its genealogical etymology, the notion that the Athenians were born from the earth itself—but places his loyalty to the patris as integrally intertwined with, and in fact dependent upon his love for his family.  For Aeschines, the lessons from home are the things that come from the intimacy of the family living in their private house rather than from a celebration of the acquisition of trophies and hegemonic sway.
The Crown Trial
Aeschines argues that the ability to lead the city well comes from one’s own private household. As evidence of Demosthenes’ inability to be a good leader, he draws vivid attention to his poor behavior as a family man. Aeschines relates that when King Philip died in 336, Demosthenes appeared in public wearing a crown, dressed in white, and conducted celebratory sacrifices, even though his only child, a daughter, had died just a week earlier. Aeschines savages Demosthenes for neglecting his daughter’s funeral rituals (3.78):
Demosthenes failed to show an appropriate degree of mourning for his daughter, but instead ostentatiously and publicly celebrated the death of Philip. The adjective oikeios, appearing in its superlative form here, means “one’s own,” or “connected to the home”—in this instance, it refers to the daughter as someone who should be closer to him than anyone else because of her most intimate familial connection to him. The adjective oikeios appeared in significant locations in the speeches discussed above, each time evoking each orator’s distinct understanding of the oikos–polis relationship: for Demosthenes, in connection with his ideal of the citywide oikos and the continuity of kinship through time, the phrase oikeia paradeigmata referred to the lessons of the ancestors, while Aeschines, who identifies the individual household as a source of civic patriotism, used the superlative oikeiotatos to describe his father, from whom he learned the positive and negative lessons about the past, and the positive oikeia to characterize these lessons as “from home.” In Against Ctesiphon, Aeschines uses the superlative adjective to reveal that Demosthenes lacks the basic emotional capacity that a good leader requires—the sense of love and loyalty that comes from the individual home. Aeschines firmly places the blame for the loss at Chaeronea on Demosthenes’ character, identifying a lack of feeling at the concentric heart of his private household that radiated outward.
As these negative examples about Demosthenes’ private household, and positive references to Aeschines’ own, demonstrate, Aeschines’ speech insists that now, more than ever, the source of Athenian excellence must be the individual household, not a dream of ancestral inheritance. He urges the Athenians not to give in to Demosthenes’ soothing fiction that the Athenians continued to be poised, eternally, on the brink of regaining their empire. Giving in to this fiction and granting the crown to Demosthenes, argues Aeschines, would mean setting up a trophy memorializing their defeat in the theater of Dionysus (3.156). Aeschines calls on them to acknowledge the reality of their situation (3.134):
The days when Athens came to the aid of its neighbors as a grounds or pretext to build its empire are irrevocably gone. Now, the crisis is over the land itself, the soil of the patris. The glories of the ancestors have no place in this debate, except to look on in judgment (§§257–259): Aeschines does not talk of inheritance from the past, but of the urgent now.
It was in this context that Demosthenes brings the concept of the polis as a household to bear on the defense of his crown and his career. He asserts that the ancestors believed themselves to be children of the patris, a term that, by its genealogical etymology, emphasizes the idea of the homeland as a family, heirs to the reputation of the ancestors, poised eternally on the brink of excellence (18.205):
By claiming that the Athenian ancestors considered themselves to be children of the land itself, Demosthenes evokes the idea of civic inheritance, connecting the ancestors genealogically with both the earth and the present day, justifying and even mandating the deaths at Chaeronea. Even in the face of reality—a thousand Athenians died at Chaeronea—Demosthenes admits to no difference in the city’s status. He sees the dead at Chaeronea as no different from the heroes of Marathon, Salamis, or Artemisium: what matters is not winning or losing, but that they accomplished what was necessary for the greater good of the polis.
Demosthenes’ only mention of the suffering caused by those who died in the battle comes when he is explaining why he was chosen to deliver the funeral oration, in a context where he rhetorically displaces the individual family with the, to him, superior civic family. He claims that the people chose him not only to deliver the funeral address after Chaeronea but also to host the funeral meal, rather than a father or brother of one of the deceased, because of his civic kinship with those who died in the battle (18.288):
Demosthenes asserts that he was chosen to deliver the funeral oration because he was considered oikeiotatos to those who died in the battle, closer kin than their actual relatives. Because it was his policy that led to their deaths, his grief is greater than any individual relative, and, therefore, he is more closely related to all the deceased. Rather than any of the actual kin of the deceased, the Athenians chose Demosthenes. This assertion of the citywide oikos, inheritors not only of the greatness but also of the sometimes tragic obligation bequeathed by the ancestors, is a manifestation of the assertion that all Athenians are born from the land itself, a genealogy as important, if not more, than their individual families.