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Xenophon Quotes

  • Mini Bio
  • Name: Xenophon
  • Born: 431 BC, Erchia, Ancient Greece
  • Died: 355 BC, Athens, Ancient Greece
  • Occupation: Soldier, philosopher and historian
  • Major works: The Anabasis which consists of seven books is the story of the Greek mercenaries who aided Cyrus in his attempt to seize the Persian throne
  • Other important works: Agesilaus, Cyropaedia, Hellenica, Memorabilia and Polity of the Lacedaemonians
  • Legacy: A large body of his work has survived making him a key historical figure of learning for his era
  • Moniker: Xenophon Of Athens and The Attic Muse

"It is only for those to employ force who possess strength without judgment; But the well advised will have recourse to other means"


"It is common opinion among us in regard to beauty and wisdom that there is an honourable and a shameful way of bestowing them"


"For to offer one’s beauty for money to all comers is called prostitution; but we think it virtuous to become friendly with a lover who is known to be a man of honour"


"So is it with wisdom. Those who offer it to all comers for money are known as sophists, prostitutors of wisdom"


"The thing is to get them to turn their thoughts to what they mean to do, instead of to what they are likely to suffer"


"On making prisoners of our generals, they expected that we should perish from want of direction and order"


"It is possible to maintain that the hand of heaven was involved, and also possible to say that when men are desperate no one can stand up to them"


"Socrates gave a lifetime to the outpouring of his substance in the shape of the greatest benefits bestowed on all who cared to receive them"


"When the interests of mankind are at stake, they will obey with joy the man whom they believe to be wiser than themselves"


"Yet is it more honourable, and just, and upright, and pleasing, to treasure in the memory good acts than bad"


"Excess of grief for the dead is madness; For it is an injury to the living and the dead know it not"


"Where the teacher is not pleasing to the pupil, there is no education"


"He who eats with most pleasure is he who least requires sauce"


"The most delightful of all music, that of your own praises"


"Every one of you is the leader"

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Xenophon Biography

Little did Xenophon The Athenian know what his influence on history would be when he was recording his greatest works that the likes of Alexander The Great would use Anabasis to draw inspiration for his incursions into Asia.

Indeed, the Alexander The Great biographer Robin Lane Fox was quoted as saying this of him; "No Macedonian had ever seen so far into Asia and only one Greek general had described it; Xenophon The Athenian, who led the ten thousand Greeks through Mesopotamia".

Anabasis was the story of Cyrus the Persian who recruited 10,000 Greek mercenaries to fight for the Persian throne only to see the campaign fizzle out after the battle of Cunaxa in Babylon (401 BC). Although they won the battle, Cyrus was killed in the process thus rendering the military expedition rudderless in its ultimate goal.

Xenophon was elected a general and he led the army through a series of battles back to the safety of Ancient Greece. Although Anabasis is considered his most famous work, there were many others like Cyropaedia that influenced the highly successful Roman general Scipio Aemilianus.

Even into the 21st century his works are highly appraised for their historical significance picturing a window in time to his era in Ancient Greece. Everything the modern world now knows about Sparta can be traced back to the pen of this ancient Greek scribe and of a few other outsiders of Sparta whose writing about them has been preserved.

The historical importance of the writing of Xenophan is often downplayed. Aside from Plato, he is the next major source of information on the dialogues of Socrates.

It wasn't just his writing that was inspirational as he was good for a one liner also, so this is my compilation of 10 of the best Xenophon quotes

Quotes About Xenophon

The Greek sophist and historian Eunapius shared this brief assessment: "Alexander the Great would not have become great if there had been no Xenophon"

The historian Theodore Ayrault Dodge was impressed to say: "the centuries since have devised nothing to surpass the genius of this warrior"

Theodore Ayrault went on to say: "Xenophon is the father of the system of retreat, the originator of all that appertains to the science of rear-guard fighting. He reduced its management to a perfect method. More originality in tactics has come from the Anabasis than from any dozen other books. Every system of war looks to this as to the fountain-head when it comes to rearward movements, as it looks to Alexander for a pattern of resistless and intelligent advance. Necessity to Xenophon was truly the mother of invention, but the centuries since have devised nothing to surpass the genius of this warrior. No general ever possessed a grander moral ascendant over his men. None ever worked for the safety of his soldiers with greater ardor or to better effect"

The author Steven Hirsch made this observation: "Xenophon's attention to Persia was in part a response to contemporary Greek curiosity on the subject: he saw himself as a Persian expert"

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