Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Xenophon, aka Xenophon of Athens NULL

Greek Historian, Soldier, Mercenary and Student of Socrates

"Enemies are wealth to anyone who can derive profit from them."

"To want nothing is godlike; and the less we want the nearer we approach the divine."

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

"Agriculture for an honorable and high-minded man, is the best of all occupations or arts by which men procure the means of living."

"All mankind look forward with pleasure to festival days, except kings; for their tables, being always supplied with abundance, admit of no addition on festive occasions; so that, first of all, in the pleasure derived from anticipation they are decidedly inferior to private individuals."

"A horse is a thing of beauty... none will tire of looking at him as long as he displays himself in his splendor."

"A man's praises have very musical and charming accents in the mouth of another, but sound very flat and untunable in his own."

"A man may hate cruelty and lies, but if he?s never given an opportunity to show what he?s made of, no one will remember him when he dies."

"Again, if there is prospect of danger on the march, a prudent general can hardly show his wisdom better than by sending out advanced patrols in front of the ordinary exploring parties to reconnoitre every inch of ground"

"At this point Alexander was visited by envoys from Syrmus, the King of the Triballians, and from the various other independent tribes along the Danube. The Celts from the Adriatic Sea also sent representatives - men of haughty demeanor and tall in proportion. All professed a desire for Alexander's friendship, and mutual pledges were given and received. Alexander asked the Celtic envoys what they were most afraid of in this world, hoping that the power of his own name had got as far as their country, or even further, and that they would answer, 'You, my lord.' However, he was disappointed; for the Celts, who lived a long way off in country not easy to penetrate, and could see that Alexander's expedition was directed elsewhere, replied that their worst fear was that the sky might fall on their heads. None the less, he concluded an alliance of friendship with them and sent them home, merely remarking under his breath that the Celts thought too much of themselves."

"Battles are decided more by the morale of the troops than by their bodily strength."

"But if any other course, in any one's opinion, be better than this, let him, even though he be a private soldier, boldly give us his sentiments; for the safety, which we all seek, is a general concern."

"Death is the end of those who have done nothing to cause their names to live after them."

"As for those ... who can obtain by lawful means whatever they need, how can we consider them poor?"

"As a person, therefore, would have no enjoyment of drinking, if he had not previously known thirst, so he who is unacquainted with the longings of love has no experience of the most ravishing pleasures."

"Anything forced is not beautiful."

"As to what happened next, 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."

"Fire burns only when we are near it, but a beautiful face burns and inflames, though at a distance."

"For as they who use no bodily exercises are awkward and unwieldy in the actions of the body, so they who exercise not their minds are incapable of the noble actions of the mind, and have not courage enough to undertake anything worthy of praise, nor command enough over themselves to abstain from things that are forbid."

"For drink, there was beer which was very strong when not mingled with water, but was agreeable to those who were used to it. They drank this with a reed, out of the vessel that held the beer, upon which they saw the barley swim."

"For what the horse does under compulsion, as Simon also observes, is done without understanding; and there is no beauty in it either, any more than if one should whip and spur a dancer."

"From one who returns our affection, glances of the eye, for instance, are pleasing, questions are pleasing, answers are pleasing, and little contentions and resentments are the most pleasing and fascinating of all."

"He is a wise man who knows what is wise."

"He neglected not his own body, and praised not those that neglected theirs. In like manner, he blamed the custom of some who eat too much, and afterwards use violent exercises; but he approved of eating till nature be satisfied, and of a moderate exercise after it, believing that method to be an advantage to health, and proper to unbend and divert the mind."

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

"Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything."

"Every one of you is the leader."

"He who has a weak constitution becomes stronger by manual exercise than a robust man without it."

"He who pretends to carry his point by force hath need of many associates."

"Honor appears to me to be an object of great importance, since men submit to every kind of labor, and undergo every sort of danger, with the desire of attaining it."

"How can you say that princes have the greatest power of subduing their enemies, when they are sensible that all are their enemies, who are subject to their rule?"

"I am sure that there are young men who can be filled with enthusiasm for serving in the cavalry if one describes the splendor of a cavalryman?s life."

"I made my people understand the crucial difference between modesty and self-control. The modest person, I told them, will do nothing blameworthy in the light of day, but a true paragon of self-control?which we all should strive to be?avoids unworthy actions even in the deepest secrecy of his private life."

"If the campaign is in summer the general must show himself greedy for his share of the sun and the heat, and in winter for the cold and the frost, and in all labors for toil and fatigue. This will help to make him beloved of his followers."

"If you consider what are called the virtues in mankind, you will find their growth is assisted by education and cultivation."

"If... it would be a gain to any man to hang himself, I certainly think that it would be of the very greatest advantage to a tyrant to do so; for he alone is profited neither by retaining his troubles nor by laying them aside."

"In heaven's name, let us not wait for other people to come to us and call upon us to do great deeds. Let us instead be the first to summon the rest to a path of honor."

"In hunting on cultivated grounds, the huntsman must abstain from injuring the fruits of the season, and must leave springs and streams undisturbed; for to interfere with these is contrary to propriety and morality."

"In my experience, men who respond to good fortune with modesty and kindness are harder to find than those who face adversity with courage. For in the very nature of things, success tends to create pride and blindness in the hearts of men, while suffering teaches them to be patient and strong."

"In whom the love of honor and praise is innate, are those who are elevated most above the brutes, and who are justly named men, and not merely human beings."

"It appears to me that not only what is done by honorable and virtuous men in the serious transactions of life is worthy of record, but also what they do in their hours of amusement."

"It is common opinion among us in regard to beauty and wisdom that there is an honorable 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 honor. So is it with wisdom. Those who offer it to all comers for money are known as sophists, prostitutors of wisdom."

"It is not numbers or strength that bring the victories in war. No, it is when one side goes against the enemy with the gods' gift of a stronger morale that their adversaries, as a rule, cannot withstand them."

"It is only for those to employ force who possess strength without judgment; but the well advised will have recourse to other means. Besides, he who pretends to carry his point by force hath need of many associates; but the man who can persuade knows that he is himself sufficient for the purpose; neither can such a one be supposed forward to shed blood; for, who is there would choose to destroy a fellow citizen rather than make a friend of him by mildness and persuasion?"

"It will be well for the huntsman, in general, to give the dogs their food himself; for though, when they are in want, they do not know who is the cause of it, they conceive an affection for him, who, when they are eager to receive it, gives it them."

"Kings, be well assured, experience much less pleasure than persons living in a middle rank of life, and have also more numerous and considerable sources of trouble."

"Men unite against none so readily as against those whom they see attempting to rule over them."

"Men who think that their officer recognizes them are keener to be seen doing something honorable and more desirous of avoiding disgrace."

"Men, the enemy troops you can see are all that stands between us and the place we have for so long been determined to reach. We must find a way to eat them alive!"

"Misleaders are slow to work hard but quick to act on greed. They convince their men that dishonest behavior leads to great wealth."