430–357 BC

Xenophon, Greek historian and philosophical essayist. Early in life he came under the influence of Socrates, but an active life had more attraction for him. In 401 B.C., being invited by his friend Proxenus to join the expedition of the younger Cyrus against his brother, Artaxerxes II. of Persia, he at once accepted the offer. It held out the prospect of riches and honour, while he was little likely to find favour in democratic Athens, where the knights were regarded with suspicion as having supported the Thirty. Of the expedition itself he has given a full and detailed account in his Anabasis, or the "Up-Country March."

After the Battle of Cunaxa, in which Cyrus lost his life, the officers in command of the Greeks were treacherously murdered by the Persian satrap Tissaphernes, with whom they were negotiating an armistice with a view to a safe return. The army was now in the heart of an unknown country, more than a thousand miles from home and in the presence of a troublesome enemy. It was decided to march northwards up the Tigris valley and make for the shores of the Euxine (Black Sea), on which there were several Greek colonies. Xenophon became the leading spirit of the army; he was elected an officer, and he it was who mainly directed the retreat. Part of the way lay through the wilds of Kurdistan, where they had to encounter the harassing guerrilla attacks of savage mountain tribes, and part through the highlands of Armenia and Georgia. After a five months' march they reached the Black Sea. After a brief period of service under a Thracian chief, Seuthes, they were finally incorporated in a Lacedaemonian army which had crossed over into Asia to wage war against the Persian satraps Tissaphernes and Pharnabazus. Xenophon, who accompanied them, captured a wealthy Persian nobleman, with his family, near Pergamum, and the ransom paid for his recovery secured Xenophon a competency for life.

On his return to Greece Xenophon served under Agesilaus, king of Sparta, at that time the chief power in the Greek world. With his native Athens and its general policy and institutions he was not in sympathy. At Coroneia (394) he fought with the Spartans against the Athenians and Thebans, for which his fellow-citizens decreed his banishment. The Spartans provided a home for him at Scillus in Elis, about two miles from Olympia; there he settled down to indulge his tastes for sport and literature. After Sparta's crushing defeat at Leuctra (371), Xenophon was driven from his home by the people of Elis, and eventually made his home in Corinth, where he died some time after 355 B.C.

Xenophon is one of the most important historians of Greece. His best known work, The Anabasis tells the story of the Battle of Cunaxa, and the ensuing retreat of the ten thousand. However, he is also one of the most important historians of his age. His works Hellenica and Agesilaus takes up the history of Greece during the later years of the Peloponnesian War and covers the period 411 to 362 B.C. Another major work, Cyropaedia tells the legendary story of the life of Cyrus the Great. In addition to these works, he wrote several books about Socrates, including Symposium and Apology. He also wrote various tracks on horses, hunting, cavalry, and the Spartan government.

—Adapted from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Key events during the life of xenophon:

  Student of Socrates.
406 BC
Fought for Athens at Battle of Arginusae.
401 BC
Battle of Cunaxa.
400 BC
Led the 10,000 missionaries on the retreat to the Black Sea.
  Served as a mercenary for a Thracian chief who was battling Tissaphernes.
394 BC
Fought for Sparta at the Battle of Coronea. Exiled from Athens.
379 BC
Settled done at Scillus (near Elis) to write histories.
  Completed his master work, The Anabasis.
371 BC
Battle of Leuctra crushed Sparta's power.
  Died in Corinth.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Herodotus and Xenophon  in  Cyrus the Great  by  Jacob Abbott
Cyrus the Younger in  Callias—The Fall of Athens  by  Alfred J. Church
The Diary in  Callias—The Fall of Athens  by  Alfred J. Church
Defeat of Cyrus  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Xenophon  in  Famous Men of Greece  by  John H. Haaren and A. B. Poland
March of the Ten Thousand  in  The Story of Greece  by  Mary Macgregor
Retreat of the Ten Thousand  in  Historical Tales: Greek  by  Charles Morris
The Retreat of the Ten Thousand  in  Stories of the Ancient Greeks  by  Charles D. Shaw
Retreat of the Ten Thousand  in  On the Shores of the Great Sea  by  M. B. Synge
When Sparta Ruled  in  The Story of the Greek People  by  Eva March Tappan
Xenophon  in  The Retreat of the Ten Thousand  by  Frances Younghusband

Image Links

The Greeks after Cunaxa
 in Greatest Nations - Greece

Xenophon and the Ten Thousand Hail the Sea
 in Greatest Nations - Greece

The Sea! The Sea!'
 in Stories of the Ancient Greeks

Short Biography
Socrates First moral philosopher, immortalized by Plato.
Cyrus the Younger Plotted to kill his brother Artaxerxes, and assume the Persian throne.
Clearchus Spartan mercenary who commanded the 'Ten Thousand' Greeks at Cunaxa. Treacherously killed by Tissaphernes.
Tissaphernes Persian Satrap of Asia Minor during Peloponnesian War. Allied with Sparta.
Agesilaus Leader of Sparta after the Peloponnesian War. Campaigned in Asia Minor and warred with Thebes.