restricted access Fighting Philip with Decrees: Demosthenes and the Syndrome of Symbolic Action

Demosthenes' Philippic cycle conveys a satirical picture of Athenians trapped in a spiral of symbolic activity: to a demos nostalgic for great-power status but loath to energetic intervention, high-sounding resolutions substitute for low-level responses and by their character as official enactments create the illusion of meaningful engagement. This "syndrome" is a rhetorical scare-image subserving a political agenda. At a time when his influence was still limited, Demosthenes found it expedient to exaggerate the cautious approach of the "peace party" into a "knowing-doing gap" in order to move the audience to accept his own hard line on the Macedonian question.