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THE LIVES AND OPINIONS OF EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS

BY DIOGENES LAERTIUS, TRANSLATED BY C.D. YONGE

LIFE OF XENOPHON



I. XENOPHON, the son of Gryllus, a citizen of Athens, was of the borough of Erchia; and he was a man of great modesty, and as handsome as can be imagined.

II. They say that Socrates met him in a narrow lane, and put his stick across it and prevented him from passing by, asking him where all kinds of necessary things were sold. And when he had answered him, he asked him again where men where made good and virtuous. And as he did not know, he said, "Follow me, then, and learn." And from this time forth, Xenophon became a follower of Socrates.

III. And he was the first person who took down conversations as they occurred, and published them among men, calling them memorabilia. He was also the first man who wrote a history of philosophers.

IV. And Aristippus, in the fourth book of his treatise on Ancient Luxury, says that he loved Clinias; and that he said to him, "Now I look upon Clinias with more pleasure than upon all the other beautiful things which are to be seen among men; and I would rather be blind as to all the rest of the world, than as to Clinias. And I am annoyed even with night and with sleep, because then I do not see him; but I am very grateful to the sun and to daylight, because they show Clinias to me."

V. He became a friend of Cyrus in this manner. He had an acquaintance by name Proxenus, a Boeotian by birth, a pupil of Gorgias of Leontini, and a friend of Cyrus. He being in Sardis, staying at the court of Cyrus, wrote a letter to Athens to Xenophon, inviting him to come and be a friend of Cyrus. And Xenophon showed the letter to Socrates, and asked his advice. And Socrates bade him go to Delphi, and ask counsel of the God. And Xenophon did so, and went to the God; but the question he put was, not whether it was good for him to go to Cyrus or not, but how he should go; for which Socrates blamed him, but still advised him to go. Accordingly he went to Cyrus, and became no less dear to him than Proxenus. And all the circumstances of the expedition and the retreat, he himself has sufficiently related to us.

VI. But he was at enmity with Meno the Pharsalian who was the commander of the foreign troops at the time of the expedition; and amongst other reproaches, he says that he was much addicted to the worst kind of debauchery. And he reproaches a man of the name of Apollonides with having his ears bored.

VII. But after the expedition, and the disasters which took place in Pontus, and the violations of the truce by Seuthes, the king of the Odrysae, he came into Asia to Agesilaus, the king of Lacedaemon, bringing with him the soldiers of Cyrus, to serve for pay; and he became a very great friend of Agesilaus. And about the same time he was condemned to banishment by the Athenians, on the charge of being a favourer of the Lacedaemonians. And being in Ephesus, and having a sum of money in gold, he gave half of it to Megabyzus, the priest of Diana, to keep for him till his return; and if he never returned, then he was to expend it upon a statue, and dedicate that to the Goddess; and with the other half he sent offerings to Delphi. From thence he went with Agesilaus into Greece, as Agesilaus was summoned to take part in the war against the Thebans. And the Lacedaemonians made him a friend of their city.

VIII. After this he left Agesilaus and went to Scillus, which is a strong place in the district of Elis, at no great distance from the city. And a woman followed him, whose name was Philesia, as Demetrius the Magnesian relates; and his sons, Gryllus and Diodorus, as Dinarchus states in the action against Xenophon;1 and they were also called Dioscuri. And when Megabyzus came into the country, on the occasion of some public assembly, he took back the money and bought a piece of ground, and consecrated it to the Goddess; and a river named Selinus, which is the same name as that of the river at Ephesus, flows through the land. And there he continued hunting, and entertaining his friends, and writing histories. But Dinarchus says that the Lacedaemonians gave him a house and land. They say also that Philopides,the Spartan, sent him there, as a present, some slaves, who had been taken prisoners of war, natives of Dardanus, and that he located them as he pleased. And that the Eleans, having made an expedition against Scillus, took the place, as the Lacedaemonians dawdled in coming to its assistance.

IX. But then his sons escaped privily to Lepreum, with a few servants; and Xenophon himself fled to Elis before the place fell; and from thence he went to Lepreum to his children, and from thence he escaped in safety to Corinth, and settled in that city.

X. In the meantime, as the Athenians had passed a vote to go to the assistance of the Lacedaemonians, he sent his sons to Athens, to join in the expedition in aid of the Lacedaemonians; for they had been educated in Sparta, as Diocles relates in his Lives of the Philosophers. Diodorus returned safe back again, without having at all distinguished himself in the battle. And he had a son who bore the same name as his brother Gryllus. But Gryllus, serving in the cavalry, (and the battle took place at Mantinea,) fought very gallantly, and was slain, as Ephorus tells us, in his twenty-fifth book; Cephisodorus being the Captain of the cavalry, and Hegesides the commander-in-chief. Epaminondas also fell in this battle. And after the battle, they say that Xenophon offered sacrifice, wearing a crown on his head; but when the news of the death of his son arrived, he took off the crown; but after that, hearing that he had fallen gloriously, he put the crown on again. And some say that he did not even shed a tear, but said, "I knew that I was the father of a mortal man." And Aristotle says, that innumerable writers wrote panegyrics and epitaphs upon Gryllus, partly out of a wish to gratify his father. And Hermippus, in his Treatise on Theophrastus, says that Isocrates also composed a panegyric on Gryllus. But Timon ridicules him in these words:

A silly couplet, or e'en triplet of speeches,
Or longer series still, just such as Xenophon
Might write, or Meagre Aeschines.

Such, then, was the life of Xenophon.

XI. And he flourished about the fourth year of the ninety fourth Olympiad; and he took part in the expedition of Cyrus, in the archonship of Xenaenetus, the year before the death of Socrates. And he died, as Stesiclides the Athenian states in his List of Archons and Conquerors at Olympia, in the first year of the hundred and fifth Olympiad, in the archonship of Callidemides; in which year, Philip the son of Amyntas began to reign over the Macedonians. And he died at Corinth, as Demetrius the Magnesian says, being of a very advanced age.

XII. And he was a man of great distinction in all points, and very fond of horses and of dogs, and a great tactician, as is manifest from his writings. And he was a pious man, fond of sacrificing to the Gods, and a great authority as to what was due to them, and a very ardent admirer and imitator of Socrates.

XIII. He also wrote near forty books; though different critics divide them differently. He wrote an account of the expedition of Cyrus, to each book of which work he prefixed a summary, though he gave none of the whole history. He also wrote the Cyropaedia, and a history of Greece, and Memorabilia of Socrates, and a treatise called the Banquet, and an essay on (Oeconomy, and one on Horsemanship, and one on Breaking Dogs, and one on Managing Horses, and a Defence of Socrates, and a Treatise on Revenues, and one called Hiero, or the Tyrant, and one called Agesilaus; one on the Constitution of the Athenians and Lacedaemonians, which, however, Demetrius the Magnesian says is not the work of Xenophon. It is said, also, that he secretly got possession of the books of Thucydides, which were previously unknown, and himself published them.

XIV. He was also called the Attic Muse, because of the sweetness of his diction, in respect of which he and Plato felt a spirit of rivalry towards one another, as we shall relate further in our life of Plato. And we ourselves have composed an epigram on him, which runs thus:

Not only up to Babylon for Cyrus
      Did Xenophon go, but now he's mounted up
The path which leads to Jove's eternal realms-
      For he, recounting the great deeds of Greece,
Displays his noble genius, and he shows
      The depth of wisdom of his master Socrates.

And another which ends thus:

O Xenophon, if th' ungrateful countrymen
      Of Cranon and Cecrops, banished you,
Jealous of Cyrus' favour which he show'd you,
      Still hospitable Corinth, with glad heart,
Received you, and you lived there happily,
      And so resolved to stay in that fair city.

XV. But I have found it stated in some places that he flourished about the eighty-ninth Olympiad, at the same time as the rest of the disciples of Socrates. And Ister says, that he was banished by a decree of Eubulus, and that he was recalled by another decree proposed by the same person.

XVI. But there were seven people of the name of Xenophon. First of all, this philosopher of ours; secondly, an Athenian, a brother of Pythostratus, who wrote the poem called the Theseid, and who wrote other works too, especially the lives of Epaminondas and Pelopidas ; the third was a physician of Cos; the fourth, a man who wrote a history of Alcibiades; the fifth, was a writer who composed a book full of fabulous prodigies; the sixth, a citizen of Paros, a sculptor; the seventh, a poet of the Old Comedy.

1. The Greek is, en tô pros Xenophônta apostasiu-"apostasiou dikê, an action against a freedman for having forsaken or slighted his prostatês." L. & S.










Scanned and edited for Peithô's Web from The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, by Diogenes Laertius, Literally translated by C.D. Yonge. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853. Footnotes have been converted to endnotes. Some, but not all, of Yonge's spellings of ancient names have been updated.

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