402–318 BC

Phocion, Athenian statesman and general, was born about 402 B.C., the son of a small manufacturer. He became a pupil of Plato and in later life was a close friend of Xenocrates. This academic training left its mark upon him, but it was as a soldier rather than as a philosopher that he first came into notice. Under Chabrias he distinguished himself in the great sea-fight of Naxos (376), and in the subsequent campaigns loyally supported his chief. He won the confidence of the allies by his justice and integrity. In 351-349 B.C. he entered the Persian service and helped to subdue a rebellion in Cyprus. Hence forward he always held a prominent position in Athens, and although he never canvassed he was elected general forty-five times in all. In politics he is known chiefly as the consistent opponent of the anti-Macedonian firebrands, headed by Demosthenes, Lycurgus and Hypereides, whose fervent eloquence he endeavoured to damp by recounting the plain facts of Athens's military and financial weakness and her need of peace, even when the arms of Athens seemed to prosper most. But although he won the respect of his audience, his advice was frequently discarded. Yet his influence was felt at the trial of Aeschines in 343 B.C., whom he helped to defend, and after the disaster of Chaeronea (338), when he secured very lenient terms from Philip. He also rendered good service in the field: in 348 B.C. he saved the force operating against the philo-Macedonian tyrants in Euboea by the brilliant victory of Tamynae. Under the Macedonian predominance his reputation steadily increased.

Phocion's character and policy were throughout inspired by his philosophic training, which best explains his remarkable purity of character and his prudent councils. To the same influence we may ascribe his reserve and his reluctance to co-operate heartily either with the people or with the Macedonian conquerors who put their trust in him: a greater spirit of energy and enterprise might have made him the saviour of his country. Phocion remained famous in antiquity for the pithy sayings with which he used to parry the eloquence of his opponents. Demosthenes called him "the chopper of my periods."

—Excerpted from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Key events during the life of Phocion:

  Student of Plato, at the Academy.
376 BC
Fought at Naxos, under Chabrias.
  Served under Chabrias in the Boeotian Wars.
357 BC
Served in the Athenian Social War.
355 BC
Helped put down revolts of Athenian allies during the Sacred War.
351 BC
Helped Persia subdue a rebellion on Cyprus.
348 BC
Led Athens to victory over pro-Macedonian tyrants at Euboea.
343 BC
Testified in support of Aeschines at his trial for treason.
338 BC
Fought for Athens at Chaeronea. Afterward secured lenient terms from Macedonia.
  Important statesman in Athens while under Macedonian rule.
318 BC

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Servant of the City  in  Tales of the Greeks: The Children's Plutarch  by  F. J. Gould
Death of Demosthenes  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Last of the Athenians  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Phocion  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie Kaufman
Sacred War  in  The Story of Greece  by  Mary Macgregor
The Man Who Was Called "The Good"  in  Stories of the Ancient Greeks  by  Charles D. Shaw

Image Links

 in Tales of the Greeks: The Children's Plutarch

 in The Story of the Greeks

Short Biography
Plato Writer of moral philosophy. Well known for 'Dialogues'. Student of Socrates.
Demosthenes One of Greece's greatest orators. Spoke against Philip and the Macedonians.
Philip of Macedonia Used statesmanship as well as military force to bring Greece under sway of Macedonia.
Chabrias Important Athenian General during the Boeotian Wars, and at Naxos. He died during the Athenian Social War.
Xenocrates Follower of Plato, and teacher at the Academy.
Aeschines Macedonian sympathizer who was an enemy of Demosthenes.