Cute Story from Ancient Greece

  • bro4bro

    Posts: 2176

    Mar 14, 2014 7:10 PM GMT
    Just thought I'd share this. It's from Anabasis, written by the Athenian general Xenophon about an ill-fated expedition in 401 BC.

    To set the stage, Xenophon and the army of 10,000 mercenaries have retreated across hundreds of miles of enemy territory after the failed attempt of Cyrus to overthrow his brother and take the throne of Persia. Finally reaching the safety of Thrace but out of food and money and unable to hire ships to take them home, they are befriended by King Seuthes, who asks for their help in attacking some hostile neighbors. The Greeks easily defeat Seuthes's enemies, and anyone who refuses to lay down their arms and surrender is put to death.

    Book VII, Chapter 4:
    Xenophon had with him an Olynthian named Episthenes, who was very fond of boys. On this occasion he saw a good-looking boy, just at the most beautiful age, with a shield in his hand, at the point of being put to death; so he ran up to Xenophon and begged him to do what he could for the beautiful boy. Xenophon went up to Seuthes and asked him not to kill the boy, telling him at the same time what sort of person Episthenes was, and that in the past he had raised a company and fought very gallantly with them, and that the only qualification he had looked for in his company had been physical beauty. Seuthes then said: "And would you, Episthenes, be willing to die for the boy?"

    Episthenes stretched out his neck and said: "Strike the blow if the boy tells you to and if he will feel grateful to me afterwards."

    Seuthes then asked the boy if he should kill Episthenes instead of him, but the boy said "No" and begged him not to kill either of them. At this Episthenes put his arms round the boy and said: "Now, Seuthes, you will have to fight me for him. I shall never give the boy up."

    Seuthes laughed, and did nothing more about it.

    To put this in context, the "boy" would have been 16 or 17 (the "most beautiful age", to ancient Greek eyes).

    So, Episthenes recruited an entire company of soldiers based solely on their looks. And they fought "gallantly". Sounds like he could have been the casting director for 300!
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    Mar 14, 2014 7:25 PM GMT
    Elsewhere, Xenophon mentions that among the hardest parts of the march up country was the lack of olive oil, and of boys.
  • MikeW

    Posts: 6082

    Mar 14, 2014 7:26 PM GMT
    Ah, the good old days of valiant heroes.

  • bro4bro

    Posts: 2176

    Mar 14, 2014 9:23 PM GMT
    tazzari saidElsewhere, Xenophon mentions that among the hardest parts of the march up country was the lack of olive oil, and of boys.

    Hmm... if you don't have any boys, what good's the olive oil? ;)