Author: Xenophon


After this, whilst waiting, they lived partly on supplies from the 1 market, partly on the fruit of raids into Paphlagonia. The Paphlagonians, on their side, showed much skill in kidnapping stragglers, wherever they could lay hands on them, and in the night time tried to do mischief to those whose quarters were at a distance from the camp. The result was that their relations to one another were exceedingly hostile, so much so that Corylas, who was the chief of Paphlagonia at that date, sent ambassadors to the Hellenes, bearing horses and fine apparel, and charged with a proposal on the part of Corylas to make terms with the Hellenes on the principle of mutual forbearance from injuries. The generals replied that they would consult with the army about the matter. Meanwhile they gave them a hospitable reception, to which they invited certain members of the army whose claims were obvious. They sacrificed some of the captive cattle and other sacrificial beasts, and with these they furnished forth a sufficiently festal entertainment, and reclining on their truckle beds, fell to eating and drinking out of beakers made of horn which they happened to find in the country.

But as soon as the libation was ended and they had sung the hymn, up got first some Thracians, who performed a dance under arms to the sound of a pipe, leaping high into the air with much nimbleness, and brandishing their swords, till at last one man struck his fellow, and every one thought he was really wounded, so skilfully and artistically 6 did he fall, and the Paphlagonians screamed out. Then he that gave the blow stripped the other of his arms, and marched off chanting the "Sitalcas[1]," whilst others of the Thracians bore off the other, who lay as if dead, though he had not received even a scratch.

[1] I.e. the national Thracian hymn; for Sitalcas the king, a national
hero, see Thuc. ii. 29.

After this some Aenianians[2] and Magnesians got up and fell to dancing the Carpaea, as it is called, under arms. This was the manner of the dance: one man lays aside his arms and proceeds to drive a yoke of oxen, and while he drives he sows, turning him about frequently, as though he were afraid of something; up comes a cattle-lifter, and no sooner does the ploughman catch sight of him afar, than he snatches up his arms and confronts him. They fight in front of his team, and all in rhythm to the sound of the pipe. At last the robber binds the countryman and drives off the team. Or sometimes the cattle-driver binds the robber, and then he puts him under the yoke beside the oxen, with his two hands tied behind his back, and off he drives.

[2] The Aenianians, an Aeolian people inhabiting the upper valley of
the Sperchius (the ancient Phthia); their capital was Hypata.
These men belonged to the army collected by Menon, the Thessalian.
So, doubtless, did the Magnesians, another Aeolian tribe occupying
the mountainous coast district on the east of Thessaly. See
Kiepert’s "Man. Anct. Geog." (Macmillan’s tr.), chap. vi.. 161,

After this a Mysian came in with a light shield in either hand and danced, at one time going through a pantomime, as if he were dealing with two assailants at once; at another plying his shields as if to face a single foe, and then again he would whirl about and throw somersaults, keeping the shields in his hands, so that it was a beautiful spectacle. Last of all he danced the Persian dance, clashing the shields together, crouching down on one knee and springing up again from earth; and all this he did in measured time to the sound of the flute. After him the Mantineans stepped upon the stage, and some other Arcadians also stood up; they had accoutred themselves in all their warlike finery. They marched with measured tread, pipes playing, to the tune of the ’warrior’s march[3]’; the notes of the paean rose, 11 lightly their limbs moved in dance, as in solemn procession to the holy gods. The Paphlagonians looked upon it as something truly strange that all these dances should be under arms; and the Mysians, seeing their astonishment persuaded one of the Arcadians who had got a dancing girl to let him introduce her, which he did after dressing her up magnificently and giving her a light shield. When, lithe of limb, she danced the Pyrrhic[4], loud clapping followed; and the Paphlagonians asked, "If these women fought by their side in battle?" to which they answered, "To be sure, it was the women who routed the great King, and drove him out of camp." So ended the night.

[3] See Plato, "Rep." 400 B, for this "war measure"; also Aristoph.
"Clouds," 653.

[4] For this famous dance, supposed to be of Doric (Cretan or Spartan)
origin, see Smith’s "Dict. of Antiquities," "Saltatio"; also Guhl
and Koner, "The Life of the Greeks and Romans," Eng. tr.

But next day the generals introduced the embassy to the army, and the soldiers passed a resolution in the sense proposed: between themselves and the Paphlagonians there was to be a mutual abstinence from injuries. After this the ambassadors went on their way, and the Hellenes, as soon as it was thought that sufficient vessels had arrived, went on board ship, and voyaged a day and a night with a fair breeze, keeping Paphlagonia on their left. And on the following day, arriving at Sinope, they came to moorings in the harbour of Harmene, near Sinope[5]. The Sinopeans, though inhabitants of Paphlagonia, are really colonists of the Milesians. They sent gifts of hospitality to the Hellenes, three thousand measures of barley with fifteen hundred jars of wine. At this place Cheirisophus rejoined them with a man-of-war. The soldiers certainly expected that, having come, he would have brought them something, but he brought them nothing, except complimentary phrases, on the part of Anaxibius, the high admiral, and the rest, who sent them their congratulations, coupled with a promise on the part of Anaxibius that, as soon as they were outside the Euxine, pay would be forthcoming.

[5] Harmene, a port of Sinope, between four and five miles (fifty
stades) west of that important city, itself a port town. See
Smith, "Dict. Geog.," "Sinope"; and Kiepert, op. cit. chap. iv.

At Harmene the army halted five days; and now that they seemed to be 17 so close to Hellas, the question how they were to reach home not empty-handed presented itself more forcibly to their minds than heretofore. The conclusion they came to was to appoint a single general, since one man would be better able to handle the troops, by night or by day, than was possible while the generalship was divided. If secrecy were desirable, it would be easier to keep matters dark, or if again expedition were an object, there would be less risk of arriving a day too late, since mutual explanations would be avoided, and whatever approved itself to the single judgement would at once be carried into effect, whereas previously the generals had done everything in obedience to the opinion of the majority.

With these ideas working in their minds, they turned to Xenophon, and the officers came to him and told him that this was how the soldiers viewed matters; and each of them, displaying a warmth of kindly feeling, pressed him to accept the office. Xenophon partly would have liked to do so, in the belief that by so doing he would win to himself a higher repute in the esteem of his friends, and that his name would be reported to the city written large; and by some stroke of fortune he might even be the discoverer of some blessing to the army collectively.

These and the like considerations elated him; he had a strong desire to hold the supreme command. But then again, as he turned the matter over, the conviction deepened in his mind that the issue of the future is to every man uncertain; and hence there was the risk of perhaps losing such reputation has he had already acquired. He was in sore straights, and, not knowing how to decide, it seemed best to him to lay the matter before heaven. Accordingly, he led two victims to the altar and made sacrifice to Zeus the King, for it was he and no other who had been named by the oracle at Delphi, and his belief was that the vision which he had beheld when he first essayed to undertake the joint administration of the army was sent to him by that god. He also recalled to mind a circumstance which befell him still earlier, when 23 setting out from Ephesus to associate himself with Cyrus[6];—how an eagle screamed on his right hand from the east, and still remained perched, and the soothsayer who was escorting him said that it was a great and royal omen[7]; indicating glory and yet suffering; for the punier race of birds only attack the eagle when seated. "Yet," added he, "it bodes not gain in money; for the eagle seizes his food, not when seated, but on the wing."

[6] Cf. "Cyrop." II. i. 1; an eagle appears to Cyrus on the frontiers
of Persia, when about to join his uncle Cyaxares, king of Media,
on his expedition against the Assyrian.

[7] It is important to note that the Greek word {oionos}, a solitary
or lone-flying bird, also means an omen. "It was a mighty bird and
a mighty omen."

Thus Xenophon sacrificed, and the god as plainly as might be gave him a sign, neither to demand the generalship, nor, if chosen, to accept the office. And that was how the matter stood when the army met, and the proposal to elect a single leader was unanimous. After this resolution was passed, they proposed Xenophon for election, and when it seemed quite evident that they would elect him, if he put the question to the vote, he got up and spoke as follows:—

"Sirs, I am but mortal, and must needs be happy to be honoured by you. I thank you, and am grateful, and my prayer is that the gods may grant me to be an instrument of blessing to you. Still, when I consider it closer, thus, in the presence of a Lacedaemonian, to be preferred by you as general, seems to me but ill conducive either to your interests or to mine, since you will the less readily obtain from them hereafter anything you may need, while for myself I look upon acceptance as even somewhat dangerous. Do I not see and know with what persistence these Lacedaemonians prosecuted the war till finally they forced our State to acknowledge the leadership of Lacedaemon? This confession once extorted from their antagonists, they ceased warring at once, and the seige of the city was at an end. If, with these facts before my eyes, I seem to be doing all I can to neutralise their high self-esteem, I cannot escape the reflection that personally I may be taught wisdom by a painful process. But with your own idea that under a single general there will be less factiousness than when there were many, be assured 29 that in choosing some other than me you will not find me factious. I hold that whosoever sets up factious opposition to his leader factiously opposes his own safety. While if you determine to choose me, I should not be surprised were that choice to entail upon you and me the resentment of other people."

After those remarks on Xenophon’s part, many more got up, one after another, insisting on the propriety of his undertaking the command. One of them, Agasias the Stymphalian, said: It was really ridiculous, if things had come to this pass that the Lacedeamonians are to fly into a rage because a number of friends have met together to dinner, and omitted to choose a Lacedaemonian to sit at the head of the table. "Really, if that is how matters stand," said he, "I do not see what right we have to be officers even, we who are only Arcadians." That sally brought down the plaudits of the assembly; and Xenophon, seeing that something more was needed, stepped forward again and spoke, "Pardon, sirs," he said, "let me make a clean breast of it. I swear to you by all the gods and goddesses; verily and indeed, I no sooner perceived your purpose, than I consulted the victims, whether it was better for you to entrust this leadership to me, and for me to undertake it, or the reverse. And the gods vouchsafed a sign to me so plain that even a common man might understand it, and perceive that from such sovereignty I must needs hold myself aloof."

Under these circumstances they chose Cheirisophus, who, after his election, stepped forward and said: "Nay, sirs, be well assured of this, that had you chosen some one else, I for my part should not have set up factious opposition. As to Xenophon, I believe you have done him a good turn by not appointing him; for even now Dexippus has gone some way in traducing him to Anaxibius, as far as it lay in his power to do so, and that, in spite of my attempts to silence him. What he said was that he believed Xenophon would rather share the command of Clearchus’s army with Timasion, a Dardanian, than with himself, a Laconian. But," continued Cheirisophus, "since your choice has fallen 33 upon me, I will make it my endeavour to do you all the good in my power; so make your preparations to weigh anchor to-morrow; wind and weather permitting, we will voyage to Heraclea; every one must endeavour, therefore, to put in at that port; and for the rest we will consult, when we are come thither."


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Chicago: Xenophon, "I," Anabasis, ed. Firth, John B. and trans. Dakyns, H. G. (Henry Graham) in Anabasis Original Sources, accessed May 26, 2024,

MLA: Xenophon. "I." Anabasis, edited by Firth, John B., and translated by Dakyns, H. G. (Henry Graham), in Anabasis, Original Sources. 26 May. 2024.

Harvard: Xenophon, 'I' in Anabasis, ed. and trans. . cited in , Anabasis. Original Sources, retrieved 26 May 2024, from