Born the son of a wealthy sword-maker, Demosthenes was orphaned at the age of seven. His father left him well-provided-for, but his legal guardians defrauded him and squandered his inheritance, causing him to seek retribution through the courts when he came of age.
As a boy Demosthenes suffered from a speech impediment and he worked at a series of self-designed exercises to overcome it. A common story tells of his talking around mouthfuls of rocks to improve his diction, but it is unknown whether this is fact or merely a legendary example of his perseverance and determination. Either way, Demosthenes became a prominent political orator (speech-maker), making his living through his ability to write and make speeches. He is best-known for his Phillipic Orations, urging the populace to rise up and defend their country against Philip II of Macedon, who was steadily gaining power and territory for the Macedonian state.
Demosthenes was exiled after a convoluted affair involving money taken by one of the lieutenants of Alexander the Great. He was recalled to Greece after Alexander died, where he attempted once again to rally the Grecian people against Macedonia, but he was unsuccessful and took poison rather than face capture and punishment.