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three pairs of lovers with space



Xenophon (ca. 430-354 BC) was an Athenian commander, philosopher and historian. In 401, he left Athens to join the expedition, including ten thousand other Greeks, of the Persian satrap Cyrus to overthrow his elder brother, the Great King. After the defeat of Cyrus, Xenophon was one of those chosen to lead the Greeks from the gates of Babylon back to the coast through inhospitable lands. His Anabasis, sometimes known as The March of the Ten Thousand in English was his vivid witness account of this, written in about 370.

The translation of the first four passages here is by Carleton L. Brownson in the Loeb Classical Library volume XC (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1922). The translation of the last passage from Book 7 is by Thomas Hubbard in his Homosexuality in Greece and Rome (University of California Press, 2003),  p. 66. Latinised Greek names in both translations have been replaced with Romanised Greek. 

The battle of Cunaxa, September 401 BC, in which Cyrus the younger was defeated and killed


II 6 xxviii-xxix

This chapter of the Anabasis is made up of incisive character sketches of the five Greek generals who were treacherously seized in Assyria in 401 and then killed by the Persian satrap Tissaphernes, soon after Cyrus’s defeat.  Four of the generals are described in generally positive terms, but not so the fifth: Menon the Thessalian.  His greed, unscrupulousness, deceit and contempt for anyone decent are described at length. “Affection he clearly felt for nobody.” Finally, Xenophon says of him:

To be sure, in matters that are doubtful one may be mistaken about him, but the facts which everybody knows are the following. From Aristippos he secured, while still in the bloom of youth, an appointment as general of his mercenaries; with Ariaios, who was a barbarian, he became extremely intimate while still young for the reason that Ariaios was fond of beautiful youths; and, lastly, he himself, while still beardless, had a bearded favorite named Tharypas.[1]

Now when his fellow generals were put to death for joining Cyrus in his expedition against the King, he, who had done the same thing, was not so treated, but it was after the execution of the others that the King visited the punishment of death upon him; and he was not, like Clearchos and the rest of the generals, beheaded—a manner of death which is counted speediest—but, report says, was tortured alive for a year and so met the death of a scoundrel.

[28] Καὶ τὰ μὲν δὴ ἀφανῆ ἔξεστι περὶ αὐτοῦ ψεύδεσθαι, ἃ δὲ πάντες ἴσασι τάδ᾿ ἐστί. παρὰ Ἀριστίππου μὲν ἔτι ὡραῖος ὢν στρατηγεῖν διεπράξατο τῶν ξένων, Ἀριαίῳ δὲ βαρβάρῳ ὄντι, ὅτι μειρακίοις καλοῖς ἥδετο, οἰκειότατος ἔτι ὡραῖος ὢν ἐγένετο, αὐτὸς δὲ παιδικὰ εἶχε Θαρύπαν ἀγένειος ὢν γενειῶντα.

[29] ἀποθνῃσκόντων δὲ τῶν συστρατήγων ὅτι ἐστράτευσαν ἐπὶ βασιλέα σὺν Κύρῳ, ταὐτὰ πεποιηκὼς οὐκ ἀπέθανε, μετὰ δὲ τὸν τῶν ἄλλων θάνατον τιμωρηθεὶς ὑπὸ βασιλέως ἀπέθανεν, οὐχ ὥσπερ Κλέαρχος καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι στρατηγοὶ ἀποτμηθέντες τὰς κεφαλάς, ὅσπερ τάχιστος θάνατος δοκεῖ εἶναι, ἀλλὰ ζῶν αἰκισθεὶς ἐνιαυτὸν ὡς πονηρὸς λέγεται τῆς τελευτῆς τυχεῖν.

Thessalian horsemen


IV 1 xii-xiv

Now in the winter of 401-400 BC, the Greeks under newly chosen commanders were passing through the mountainous territory of the independent Kardouchians, whom they found disappointingly hostile.

At daybreak the generals and captains of the Greeks came together and resolved to keep with them on the march only the indispensable and most powerful baggage animals and to leave the rest behind; likewise, to let go all the newly-taken captives that were in the army, to the last man.

For the baggage animals and the captives, numerous as they were, made the march slow, and the large number of men who had charge of them were thus taken out of the fighting line; besides, with so many people to feed it was necessary to procure and to carry twice the amount of provisions. This decision once reached, they published the order to carry it into effect.

When they had breakfasted and were setting out upon the march, the generals, quietly stationed in the defile, proceeded to take away from the troops such of the things specified as had not been given up if they found any; and the soldiers submitted, except in cases where a man had smuggled something in, either a handsome boy or woman, for example, that he had set his heart upon. So they went on for that day, now fighting a little and now resting.

[12] Ἅμα δὲ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ συνελθοῦσι τοῖς στρατηγοῖς καὶ λοχαγοῖς τῶν Ἑλλήνων ἔδοξε τῶν τε ὑποζυγίων τὰ ἀναγκαῖα καὶ δυνατώτατα ἔχοντας πορεύεσθαι, καταλιπόντας τἆλλα, καὶ ὅσα ἦν νεωστὶ αἰχμάλωτα ἀνδράποδα ἐν τῇ στρατιᾷ πάντα ἀφεῖναι.

[13] σχολαίαν γὰρ ἐποίουν τὴν πορείαν πολλὰ ὄντα τὰ ὑποζύγια καὶ τὰ αἰχμάλωτα, πολλοὶ δὲ οἱ ἐπὶ τούτοις ὄντες ἀπόμαχοι ἦσαν, διπλάσιά τε τὰ ἐπιτήδεια ἔδει πορίζεσθαι καὶ φέρεσθαι πολλῶν τῶν ἀνθρώπων ὄντων. δόξαν δὲ ταῦτα ἐκήρυξαν οὕτω ποιεῖν.

[14] Ἐπειδὴ δὲ ἀριστήσαντες ἐπορεύοντο, ὑποστάντες ἐν στενῷ οἱ στρατηγοί, εἴ τι εὑρίσκοιεν τῶν εἰρημένων μὴ ἀφειμένον, ἀφῃροῦντο, οἱ δ᾿ ἐπείθοντο, πλὴν εἴ τίς τι ἔκλεψεν, οἷον ἢ παιδὸς ἐπιθυμήσας ἢ γυναικὸς τῶν εὐπρεπῶν. καὶ ταύτην μὲν τὴν ἡμέραν οὕτως ἐπορεύθησαν, τὰ μέν τι μαχόμενοι τὰ δέ τι ἀναπαυόμενοι.



IV 6 i-iii

After seven days amongst the Kardouchians, the “Ten Thousand” marched through Armenia. Xenophon, now one of the commanders took along with him a captured village chief who was proving co-operative. Cheirosophos was the Spartan in overall command.

When seven days had passed, Xenophon gave over the village chief to Cheirisophos to act as guide, leaving his family behind with the exception of his son, who was just coming into the prime of youth; this son he gave into the keeping of Episthenes of Amphipolis, in order that the father, if he should serve them well as guide, might take him also back with him. Then, after putting into his house as large a quantity of supplies as they could, they broke camp and set out upon the march.

The village chief, who was not bound, guided their way through the snow; but by the time they were on the third stage Cheirisophos got angry with him for not leading them to villages. He replied that there were none in this region.

Then Cheirisophos struck him, but neglected to bind him. The result was that he stole away during the night, leaving his son behind. And this was the only cause of difference between Cheirisophos and Xenophon during the course of the march, this ill-treatment of the guide and carelessness in not guarding him. Episthenes, however, fell in love with the boy, took him home with him, and found him absolutely faithful.

[1] Ἐπεὶ δ᾿ ἡμέρα ἦν ὀγδόη, τὸν μὲν ἡγεμόνα παραδίδωσι Χειρισόφῳ, τοὺς δὲ οἰκέτας καταλείπει πλὴν τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἄρτι ἡβάσκοντος. τοῦτον δὲ Ἐπισθένει Ἀμφιπολίτῃ παραδίδωσι φυλάττειν, ὅπως εἰ καλῶς ἡγήσοιτο, ἔχων καὶ τοῦτον ἀπίοι. καὶ εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν αὐτοῦ εἰσεφόρησαν ὡς ἐδύναντο πλεῖστα, καὶ ἀναζεύξαντες ἐπορεύοντο.

[2] ἡγεῖτο δ᾿ αὐτοῖς ὁ κωμάρχης λελυμένος διὰ χιόνος· καὶ ἤδη τε ἦν ἐν τῷ τρίτῳ σταθμῷ, καὶ Χειρίσοφος αὐτῷ ἐχαλεπάνθη ὅτι οὐκ εἰς κώμας ἤγαγεν. ὁ δ᾿ ἔλεγεν ὅτι οὐκ εἶεν ἐν τῷ τόπῳ τούτῳ.

[3] ὁ δὲ Χειρίσοφος αὐτὸν ἔπαισεν μέν, ἔδησε δ᾿ οὔ. ἐκ δὲ τούτου ἐκεῖνος τῆς νυκτὸς ἀποδρὰς ᾤχετο καταλιπὼν τὸν υἱόν. τοῦτό γε δὴ Χειρισόφῳ καὶ Ξενοφῶντι μόνον διάφορον ἐν τῇ πορείᾳ ἐγένετο, ἡ τοῦ ἡγεμόνος κάκωσις καὶ ἀμέλεια. Ἐπισθένης δὲ ἠράσθη τοῦ παιδὸς καὶ οἴκαδε κομίσας πιστοτάτῳ ἐχρῆτο.

The route of the Ten Thousand


V 8 iii-v

A few months later, when the survivors of the Ten Thousand had reached Kotyora on the Euxine (Black Sea), dissension broke out, the generals were judged on their conduct hitherto and Xenophon himself was accused of beating men “out of arrogance”. Early in a long speech mocking his accuser and easily vindicating himself, he said:

Nevertheless, do tell us,” he said, “for what reason you were struck.

Did I ask you for something, and then strike you because you would not give it to me? Did I demand something back? Was it in a fight over a boy? Was it an act of drunken violence?”

When the man replied that it was none of these things, Xenophon asked him if …

[3] ὅμως δὲ καὶ λέξον, ἔφη, ἐκ τίνος ἐπλήγης.

[4] πότερον ᾔτουν τί σε καὶ ἐπεί μοι οὐκ ἐδίδους ἔπαιον; ἀλλ᾿ ἀπῄτουν, ἀλλὰ περὶ παιδικῶν μαχόμενος, ἀλλὰ μεθύων παρῷνησα;

[5] ἐπεὶ δὲ τούτων οὐδὲν ἔφησεν, ἐπήρετο αὐτὸν ...


 VII 4 vii-xi

In early 399 BC, Xenophon with the remaining mercenaries all now under his command, unable yet to sail home due to its being winter, were engaged by the Odrysian prince Seuthes in subduing the peoples of coastal Thrace.  One day they mounted a surprise attack on the villages of a tribe called the Thynoi and Seuthes “shot down unsparingly” all who did not escape to the nearby mountain …

There was a certain Episthenes from Olynthos[2], a boy-lover, who, seeing a beautiful boy, just at the beginning of adolescence, holding a light Thracian shield and about to be put to death, ran up to Xenophon and appealed to him to come to the rescue of a beautiful boy.

So Xenophon went to Seuthes and pleaded with him not to kill the boy; he also told him about Episthenes' ways, how once he had put together a company thinking of nothing but whether they were beautiful, and how, fighting with them, he had shown himself a brave man.

But Seuthes replied by asking, "Episthenes, would you be willing to die in place of this boy?" So Episthenes stretched out his neck and said, "Strike, if the boy wishes and will be grateful to me."

Seuthes then asked the boy if he should strike Episthenes instead of him. The boy would not allow it but pleaded with him to kill neither of them. Then Episthenes, throwing his arms around the boy, said, "The time has come, Seuthes, for you to fight for the boy with me; for I won't give him up to you."

But Seuthes laughed the matter off.

Thracian peltast (light infantry) around 400 BC

[7] Ἐπισθένης δ᾿ ἦν τις Ὀλύνθιος παιδεραστής, ὃς ἰδὼν παῖδα καλὸν ἡβάσκοντα ἄρτι πέλτην ἔχοντα μέλλοντα ἀποθνῄσκειν, προσδραμὼν Ξενοφῶντα ἱκέτευε βοηθῆσαι παιδὶ καλῷ.

[8] καὶ ὃς προσελθὼν τῷ Σεύθῃ δεῖται μὴ ἀποκτεῖναι τὸν παῖδα, καὶ τοῦ Ἐπισθένους διηγεῖται τὸν τρόπον, καὶ ὅτι λόχον ποτὲ συνελέξατο σκοπῶν οὐδὲν ἄλλο ἢ εἴ τινες εἶεν καλοί, καὶ μετὰ τούτων ἦν ἀνὴρ ἀγαθός.

[9] ὁ δὲ Σεύθης ἤρετο· Ἦ καὶ ἐθέλοις ἄν, ὦ Ἐπίσθενες, ὑπὲρ τούτου ἀποθανεῖν; ὁ δ᾿ ἐπανατείνας τὸν τράχηλον, Παῖε, ἔφη, εἰ κελεύει ὁ παῖς καὶ μέλλει χάριν εἰδέναι.

[10] ἐπήρετο ὁ Σεύθης τὸν παῖδα εἰ παίσειεν αὐτὸν ἀντ᾿ ἐκείνου. οὐκ εἴα ὁ παῖς, ἀλλ᾿ ἱκέτευε μηδέτερον κατακαίνειν. ἐνταῦθα ὁ Ἐπισθένης περιλαβὼν τὸν παῖδα εἶπεν· Ὥρα σοι, ὦ Σεύθη, περὶ τοῦδέ μοι διαμάχεσθαι· οὐ γὰρ μεθήσω τὸν παῖδα.

[11] ὁ δὲ Σεύθης γελῶν ταῦτα μὲν εἴα·


[1] [Note by Brownson:] The reverse of what was expected, and hence shocking: see K. Dover, Greek Homosexuality (London and Cambridge Mass., 1978) 87.

[2] As Episthenes was a rare name and Olynthos was only fifty English miles from Amphipolis, it is likely that there has been some confusion and that this is the same Episthenes mentioned earlier as having fallen in love with an Armenian boy.




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