Five Quotes by Xenophon of Athens

May 9, 2020
In this article, you'll discover some quotes by Xenophon of Athens. He was a wise Greek philosopher and writer whose teachings are timeless.

Some quotes by Xenophon of Athens transpire wisdom and knowledge. Although this philosopher isn’t as well-known as Plato, Socrates, or Aristotle, you can draw some excellent lessons from his life, work, and experience.

Xenophon of Athens was a Greek philosopher, military man, and historian born in 431 B.C. He had close ties to Sparta and was nicknamed Musa Attica for the Greek dialect he used to write with, using a rather sweet and attractive diction.

The quotes of Xenophon of Athens

A statue of Xenophon of Athens.

You can find extraordinarily beautiful quotes from the many bibliographies from Xenophon that survived to this day. Keep in mind that this man wrote works such as Hellenica, in which he detailed the last years of the Peloponnesian War, The March of the Ten Thousand, Anabasis, and the rather popular Cyropaedia.

Curiously, Xenophon was very attached to the Persian regime, despite the fact that he was Greek and lived in the midst of the Peloponnesian War. Still, he deeply admired Cyrus the Younger and even participated in the military campaign to help him reclaim the throne of Persia from his brother Artaxerxes II.

Xenophon was a student of Socrates. The works Memoirs of Socrates and The Apology of Socrates arose from his authority as a philosopher. In them, he tries to shed light on his teacher’s trial.

The power

“Voluntary obedience is always better than forced obedience.”

Curiously, despite being Athenian, Xenophon was a supporter of oligarchic political systems. Thus, his support and friendship with Spartan kings or Cyrus the Younger aren’t strange.

Why is this? If you read Xenophon’s work, you’ll discover his predilection for the oligarchy but it isn’t superficial. He believed it in a fair, reciprocal system, in which monarchs wisely and fairly exercise power.

In other words, power isn’t exercised from a position of superiority for this author but out of talent and understanding. For this reason, a good leader is wise and knows how to win their people’s loyalty, they don’t do anything by force.

Justice

“It’s difficult to act in such a way that one is free from faults, and even when you’re innocent, it’s hard not to run into inept judges.”

A faithful student of Socrates, Xenophon always admired his teacher. Therefore, it isn’t surprising for him to refer to the difficulty of constantly acting properly and harmoniously in this quote.

Although it’s hard to always be on the right path, sometimes, you’re unfairly judged by people who lack talent and have a limited perspective. The injustice is a lot greater in this case.

Xenophon of Athens on the spirit

“The rich who don’t know how to use their wealth are incurably poor of spirit.”

People who accumulate material wealth but don’t have moral and ethical wealth are the poorest. This is because they’ll never learn to enjoy what they truly treasure.

Birds flying by a lake.

A job well done

“The sweetest of all sounds is praise.”

Praising without reason is a mistake. But not praising someone who did a great job is a bigger mistake. This quote perfectly connects with Xenophon’s philosophy. This is because he believed that oligarchs should know how to win over people through their virtues and talents, not by force. Without a doubt, praising those who do good deeds helps steer them in this direction.

The effort

“Let us strive so that each one of us can consider ourselves architects of victory.”

This wise quote by Xenophon is almost 2,500 years old but it’s as true today as it was back then. In general, those who strive to achieve a goal end up feeling proud of their achievements. When added together, these end up being a greater goal achieved as a team.

Hopefully, the above quotes by Xenophon allowed you to understand his wisdom. The philosophers of ancient Greece were rather wise and the world still learns from them.