Chapter 6. XENOPHON (426?-354 B.C.)
Xenophon, the son of Gryllus, was a citizen of
Athens and belonged to the deme Erchia; he was
a man of rare modesty and extremely handsome.
The story goes that Socrates met him in a narrow
passage, and that he stretched out his stick to bar
the way, while he inquired where every kind of
food was sold. Upon receiving a reply, he put
another question, "And where do men become good
and honourable?" Xenophon was fairly puzzled;
"Then follow me," said Socrates, "and learn." From
that time onward he was a pupil of Socrates. He
was the first to take notes of, and to give to the
world, the conversation of Socrates, under the title
Moreover, he was the first to
a history of philosophers.
Aristippus, in the fourth book of his work
Luxury of the Ancients
, declares that he was enamoured
and said in reference to him, "It is
sweeter for me to gaze on Clinias than on all the fair
sights in the world. I would be content to be blind
to everything else if I could but gaze on him alone.
I am vexed with the night and with sleep because
I cannot see Clinias, and most grateful to the day
and the sun for showing him to me."
He gained the friendship of Cyrus in the following
way. He had an intimate friend named Proxenus,
a Boeotian, a pupil of Gorgias of Leontini and a
friend of Cyrus. Proxenus, while living in Sardis at
the court of Cyrus, wrote a letter to Xenophon at
Athens, inviting him to come and seek the friendship
Xenophon showed this letter to Socrates
and asked his advice, which was that he should go
to Delphi and consult the oracle. Xenophon complied and came into the presence of the god. He
he should go and seek
with Cyrus, but
in what way
he should do so.
this Socrates blamed him, yet at the same time he
advised him to go. On his arrival at the court
of Cyrus he became as warmly attached to him as
Proxenus himself. We have his own sufficient narrative of all that happened on the expedition and on
the return home. He was, however, at enmity with
Meno of Pharsalus, the mercenary general, throughout the expedition, and, by way of abuse, charges
him with having a favourite older than himself.
Again, he reproaches one Apollonides with having
had his ears bored.1
After the expedition and the misfortunes which
overtook it in Pontus and the treacheries of Seuthes,
the king of the Odrysians, he returned to Asia,
having enlisted the troops of Cyrus as mercenaries
in the service of Agesilaus, the Spartan king, to
whom he was devoted beyond measure. About this
time he was banished by the Athenians for siding
with Sparta. When he was in Ephesus and had a
sum of money, he entrusted one half of it to
Megabyzus, the priest of Artemis, to keep until his
return, or if he should never return, to apply to the
erection of a statue in honour of the goddess. But
the other half he sent in votive offerings to Delphi.
Next he came to Greece with Agesilaus, who had
been recalled to carry on the war against Thebes.
And the Lacedaemonians conferred on him a privileged position.
He then left Agesilaus and made his way to Scillus,
a place in the territory of Elis not far from the city.
According to Demetrius of Magnesia he was accompanied by his wife Philesia, and, in a speech written
for the freedman whom Xenophon prosecuted for
neglect of duty, Dinarchus mentions that his two
sons Gryllus and Diodorus, the Dioscuri as they
were called, also went with him. Megabyzus having
arrived to attend the festival, Xenophon received
from him the deposit of money and bought and
dedicated to the goddess an estate with a river
running through, which bears the same name
Selinus as the river at Ephesus. And from that
time onward he hunted, entertained his friends,
and worked at his histories without interruption.
Dinarchus, however, asserts that it was the
Lacedaemonians who gave him a house and
At the same time we are told that Phylopidas the
Spartan sent to him at Scillus a present of captive
slaves from Dardanus, and that he disposed of them
as he thought fit, and that the Elians marched against
Scillus, and owing to the slowness of the Spartans
captured the place, whereupon his sons retired to
Lepreum with a few of the servants, while Xenophon
himself, who had previously gone to Elis, went next
to Lepreum to join his sons, and then made his
escape with them from Lepreum to Corinth and
took up his abode there. Meanwhile the Athenians
passed a decree to assist Sparta, and Xenophon sent
his sons to Athens to serve in the army in defence
According to Diocles in his
Lives of the
, they had been trained in Sparta itself.
Diodorus came safe out of the battle without
performing any distinguished service, and he had a
son of the same name (Gryllus) as his brother.
Gryllus was posted with the cavalry and, in the battle
which took place about Mantinea, fought stoutly and
fell, as Ephorus relates in his twenty-fifth book,
Cephisodorus being in command of the cavalry
and Hegesilaus commander-in-chief. In this battle
Epaminondas also fell. On this occasion Xenophon
is said to have been sacrificing, with a chaplet on his
head, which he removed when his son's death was
announced. But afterwards, upon learning that he
had fallen gloriously, he replaced the chaplet on his
Some say that he did not even shed tears, but
exclaimed, "I knew my son was mortal." Aristotle
mentions that there were innumerable authors of
epitaphs and eulogies upon Gryllus, who wrote, in
part at least, to gratify his father. Hermippus too,
Life of Theophrastus
, affirms that even
Isocrates wrote an encomium on Gryllus. Timon,
however, jeers at Xenophon in the lines2
A feeble pair or triad of works, or even a greater number,
such as would come from Xenophon or the might of
Aeschines, that not unpersuasive writer.
Such was his life. He flourished in the fourth
year of the 94th Olympiad,3
and he took
part in the
expedition of Cyrus in the archonship of Xenaenetus
in the year before the death of Socrates.
He died, according to Ctesiclides4
of Athens in
his list of archons and Olympic victors, in the first
year of the 105th Olympiad, in the archonship of
the year in which Philip,
the son of
Amyntas, came to the throne of Macedon. He died
at Corinth, as is stated by Demetrius of Magnesia,
obviously at an advanced age. He was a worthy
man in general, particularly fond of horses and
hunting, an able tactician as is clear from his writings,
pious, fond of sacrificing, and an expert in augury
from the victims; and he made Socrates his exact
He wrote some forty books in all, though the
division into books is not always the same, namely:
The Anabasis, with a preface to each separate
book but not one to the whole work.
On the Duty of a Cavalry General.
A Defence of Socrates.
Hieron or Of Tyranny.
The Constitutions of Athens and Sparta.
Demetrius of Magnesia denies that the last of
these works is by Xenophon. There is a tradition
that he made Thucydides famous by publishing his
history, which was unknown, and which he might
have appropriated to his own use. By the sweetness
of his narrative he earned the name of the Attic
Muse. Hence he and Plato were jealous of each
other, as will be stated in the chapter on Plato.
There is an epigram of mine on him also6
Up the steep path to fame toiled Xenophon
In that long march of glorious memories;
In deeds of Greece, how bright his lesson shone!
How fair was wisdom seen in Socrates!7
There is another on the circumstances of his death8
Albeit the countrymen of Cranaus and Cecrops condemned
thee, Xenophon, to exile on account of thy friendship for
Cyrus, yet hospitable Corinth welcomed thee, so well content with the delights of that city wast thou, and there didst
resolve to take up thy rest.
In other authorities I find the statement that he
flourished, along with the other Socratics, in the
and Istrus affirms that he was
banished by a decree of Eubulus and recalled by a
decree of the same man.
There have been seven Xenophons: the first our
subject himself; the second an Athenian, brother
of Pythostratus, who wrote the
the author, amongst other works, of a biography of
Epaminondas and Pelopidas; the third a physician of
Cos; the fourth the author of a history of Hannibal;
the fifth an authority on legendary marvels; the
sixth a sculptor, of Paros; the seventh a poet of the