Hellenica (Xenophon)/Book 1/Chapter 4

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1Pharnabazus and the ambassadors were passing the winter at Gordium in Phrygia, when they heard of the occurrences at Byzantium.

2Continuing their journey to the king's court in the commencement of spring, they were met by a former embassy, which was now on its return journey. These were the Lacedaemonian ambassadors, Boeotius and his party, with the other envoys; who told them that the Lacedaemonians had obtained from the king all they wanted.

3One of the company was Cyrus, the new governor of all the seaboard districts, who was prepared to co-operate with the Lacedaemonians in war. He was the bearer, moreover, of a letter with the royal seal attached. It was addressed to all the populations of Lower Asia, and contained the following words: "I send down Cyrus as 'Karanos'"[1]--that is to say, supreme lord--"over all those who muster at Castolus."

4The ambassadors of the Athenians, even while listening to this announcement, and indeed after they had seen Cyrus, were still desirous, if possible, to continue their journey to the king, or, failing that, to return home.

5Cyrus, however, urged upon Pharnabazus either to deliver them up to himself, or to defer sending them home at present; his object being to prevent the Athenians learning what was going on.

6Pharnabazus, wishing to escape all blame, for the time being detained them, telling them, at one time, that he would presently escort them up country to the king, and at another time that he would send them safe home.

7But when three years had elapsed, he prayed Cyrus to let them go, declaring that he had taken an oath to bring them back to the sea, in default of escorting them up to the king. Then at last they received safe conduct to Ariobarzanes, with orders for their further transportation. The latter conducted them a stage further, to Cius in Mysia; and from Cius they set sail to join their main armament.

8Alcibiades, whose chief desire was to return home to Athens with the troops, immediately set sail for Samos; and from that island, taking twenty of the ships, he sailed to the Ceramic Gulf of Caria,

9where he collected a hundred talents, and so returned to Samos. Thrasybulus had gone Thrace-wards with thirty ships. In this quarter he reduced various places which had revolted to Lacedaemon, including the island of Thasos, which was in a bad plight, the result of wars, revolutions, and famine.

10Thrasylus, with the rest of the army, sailed back straight to Athens. On his arrival he found that the Athenians had already chosen as their general Alcibiades, who was still in exile, and Thrasybulus, who was also absent, and as a third, from among those at home, Conon.

11Meanwhile Alcibiades, with the moneys lately collected and his fleet of twenty ships, left Samos and visited Paros. From Paros he stood out to sea across to Gytheum,[2] to keep an eye on the thirty ships of war which, as he was informed, the Lacedaemonians were equipping in that arsenal. Gytheum would also be a favourable point of observation from which to gauge the disposition of his fellow-countrymen and the prospects of his recall.

12When at length their good disposition seemed to him established, not only by his election as general, but by the messages of invitation which he received in private from his friends, he sailed home, and entered Piraeus on the very day of the festival of the Plunteria,[3] when the statue of Athena is veiled and screened from public gaze. This was a coincidence, as some thought, of evil omen, and unpropitious alike to himself and the State, for no Athenian would transact serious business on such a day.

13As he sailed into the harbour, two great crowds--one from the Piraeus, the other from the city[4]--flocked to meet the vessels. Wonderment, mixed with a desire to see Alcibiades, was the prevailing sentiment of the multitude. Of him they spoke: some asserting that he was the best of citizens, and that in his sole instance banishment had been ill- deserved. He had been the victim of plots, hatched in the brains of people less able than himself, however much they might excel in pestilent speech; men whose one principle of statecraft was to look to their private gains; whereas this man's policy had ever been to uphold the common weal, as much by his private means as by all the power of the State.

14His own choice, eight years ago, when the charge of impiety in the matter of the mysteries was still fresh, would have been to submit to trial at once. It was his personal foes, who had succeeded in postponing that undeniably just procedure; who waited till his back was turned, and then robbed him of his fatherland.

15Then it was that, being made the very slave of circumstance, he was driven to court the men he hated most; and at a time when his own life was in daily peril, he must see his dearest friends and fellow-citizens, nay, the very State itself, bent on a suicidal course, and yet, in the exclusion of exile, be unable to lend a helping hand.

16"It is not men of this stamp," they averred, "who desire changes in affairs and revolution: had he not already guaranteed to him by the Democracy a position higher than that of his equals in age, and scarcely if at all inferior to his seniors? How different was the position of his enemies. It had been the fortune of these, though they were known to be the same men they had always been, to use their lately acquired power for the destruction in the first instance of the better classes; and then, being alone left surviving, to be accepted by their fellow-citizens in the absence of better men."

17Others, however, insisted that for all their past miseries and misfortunes Alcibiades alone was responsible: "If more trials were still in store for the State, here was the master mischief-maker ready at his post to precipitate them."

18When the vessels came to their moorings, close to the land, Alcibiades, from fear of his enemies, was unwilling to disembark at once. Mounting on the quarterdeck, he scanned the multitude,[5] anxious to make certain of the presence of his friends.

19Presently his eyes lit upon Euryptolemus, the son of Peisianax, who was his cousin, and then on the rest of his relations and other friends. Upon this he landed, and so, in the midst of an escort ready to put down any attempt upon his person, made his way to the city.

20In the Senate and Public Assembly[6] he made speeches, defending himself against the charge of impiety, and asserting that he had been the victim of injustice, with other like topics, which in the present temper of the assembly no one ventured to gainsay. He was then formally declared leader and chief of the State, with irresponsible powers, as being the sole individual capable of recovering the ancient power and prestige of Athens. Armed with this authority, his first act was to institute anew the processional march to Eleusis; for of late years, owing to the war, the Athenians had been forced to conduct the mysteries by sea. Now, at the head of the troops, he caused them to be conducted once again by land.

21This done, his next step was to muster an armament of one thousand five hundred heavy infantry, one hundred and fifty cavalry, and one hundred ships; and lastly, within three months of his return, he set sail for Andros, which had revolted from Athens. The generals chosen to co-operate with him on land were Aristocrates and Adeimantus, the son of Leucophilides.

22He disembarked his troops on the island of Andros at Gaurium, and routed the Andrian citizens who sallied out from the town to resist the invader; forcing them to return and keep close within their walls, though the number who fell was not large. This defeat was shared by some Lacedaemonians who were in the place.

23Alcibiades erected a trophy, and after a few days set sail himself for Samos, which became his base of operations in the future conduct of the war.


  1. {Karanos.} Is this a Greek word, a Doric form, {karanos}, akin to {kara} (cf. {karenon}) = chief? or is it not more likely a Persian or native word, Karanos? and might not the title be akin conceivably to the word {korano}, which occurs on many Indo- Bactrian coins (see A. von Sallet, "Die Nachfolger Alexanders des Grossen," p. 57, etc.)? or is {koiranos} the connecting link? The words translated "that is to say, supreme lord," {to de karanon esti kurion}, look very like a commentator's gloss.
  2. Gytheum, the port and arsenal of Sparta, situated near the head of the Laconian Gulf (now Marathonisi).
  3. {ta Plunteria}, or feast of washings, held on the 25th of the month Thargelion, when the image of the goddess Athena was stripped in order that her clothes might be washed by the Praxiergidae; neither assembly nor court was held on that day, and the Temple was closed.
  4. Or, "collected to meet the vessels from curiosity and a desire to see Alcibiades."
  5. Or, "he looked to see if his friends were there."
  6. Technically the "Boule" ({Boule}) or Senate, and "Ecclesia" or Popular Assembly.