Aristophanes once said, “He was a man of few words, and those mostly profane.” This could not be more true of Xenophon, the great military leader and thinker of ancient Athens.
Though he only wrote around 10 books, all his works are highly esteemed for their insight and wisdom. In this article, we will explore some of Xenophon’s most famous quotes.
About Xenophon of Athens
Xenophon was born around 430 BCE into a wealthy and aristocratic family. His father, Gryllus, owned large estates, and Xenophon was provided with the best education available at the time.
He was a general in one of the largest Achaemenid Empire Greek mercenary armies, the Ten Thousand, which advanced on and nearly captured Babylon in 401 BC.
“The centuries since have devised nothing to compare with the genius of this warrior,” -Theodore Ayrault Dodge (military historian) About “Xenophon”
Xenophon was among the first to describe flanking operations and feints, and he set precedents for many logistical procedures.
Historians refer to Xenophon’s Anabasis, which tells of his exploits with the Ten Thousand while serving under Cyrus the Younger, Cyrus’s unsuccessful bid to reclaim the Persian crown from Artaxerxes II of Persia, and Greek mercenaries returning after Cyrus’s death in the Battle of Cunaxa.
Anabasis is a one-of-a-kind firsthand, modest, and self-reflective description of a military leader’s experiences in the ancient world.
On the subject of campaigns in Asia Minor and Babylon, Cyropaedia was written by Xenophon detailing both military and political techniques used by Cyrus the Great to overthrow the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 BC.
Here are some Famous Xenophon Quotes
Xenophon was a great thinker and philosopher who had some amazing insights into life. Here are some famous Xenophon quotes that will help you live a better life!
1. “He had put on the best-looking uniform that he could, thinking that…victory deserved the best-looking armour.”― Xenophon, The Persian Expedition
In many cultures, military uniforms are seen as a symbol of strength and power. They are often brightly colored and decorated with medals and other insignia, conveying a sense of pride and accomplishment.
For soldiers, wearing a uniform is not just about looking good; it is also about instilling confidence in themselves and their fellow soldiers. In the heat of battle, a uniform can provide a much-needed boost of morale.
It can remind soldiers of who they are fighting for and why they are fighting. It can also give them the courage to face defeat and emerge victorious. In the end, a uniform is more than just a piece of clothing; it is a tool that can be used to achieve victory.
2. “Success always calls for greater generosity—though most people, lost in the darkness of their own egos, treat it as an occasion for greater greed.”― Xenophon, Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War
3. “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.”― Xenophon, Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War
4. “Success Should Never Breed Complacency”― Xenophon, Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War
We’ve all heard the saying, “Success breeds complacency.” And while there’s some truth to that, I believe it’s important to never let success go to your head. Complacency is the enemy of progress.
When you become complacent, you stop pushing yourself to be better. You become content with mediocrity. And that is not the way to achieve true success. True success comes from always striving to be better than you were yesterday.
It comes from never being satisfied with where you’re at and always pushing yourself to reach new heights. So don’t let success breed complacency.
Use it as motivation to keep reaching for your dreams. Because the moment you stop dreaming is the moment, you stop being successful.
5. “And even as you’re working to ensure the health of your army, you must remember to take care of your own.”― Xenophon, Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War
6. “Nothing that is really good and admirable is granted by the gods to men without some effort and application.”― Xenophon, Conversations of Socrates
The gods don’t just hand out rewards for being good and admirable – you have to work for them! This is an inspiring notion, as it means that anyone has the potential to achieve greatness if they’re willing to put in the effort.
It also means that the gods are fair and just, rewarding those who deserve it. This quote is a great motivator for anyone who feels like they’re struggling to achieve their goals.
Whether you’re trying to get better grades, lose weight, or build a successful business, remember that nothing worth having comes easy.
With enough hard work and determination, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Thanks, Greeks, for these motivational words of wisdom!
7. “In the Face of Danger, Be Eager, Not Intimidated ”― Xenophon, Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War
8. “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!”― Xenophon, The Persian Expedition
9. “there was something in me that would not rest until I fulfilled a grand destiny. Thus I created an empire in my thoughts long before I began to win an empire in reality. When”― Xenophon, Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War
“There was something in me that would not rest until I fulfilled a grand destiny. Thus I created an empire in my thoughts long before I began to win an empire in reality.
When others said it couldn’t be done, I saw only opportunity. When they said it would be too difficult, I saw only challenge. And when they said it was impossible, I saw only potential.
In my mind’s eye, I saw a great empire rising from the ashes of a failed state. I saw a nation that would be respected and feared by its enemies and loved and admired by its allies.
I saw a people that would be proud to call themselves citizens of this empire, and I knew that I had to make it a reality.
So I set out to do what others said was impossible. And against all odds, I succeeded. Today, my empire is stronger than ever, and its future is bright. Thanks for joining me on this journey.”
10. “When soldiers are sick or wounded, doctors can fix them up, but you’ve got to save them from falling ill in the first place.”― Xenophon, Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War
11. “Let No One Fall Idle ”― Xenophon, Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War
12. “Brevity is the soul of command.”― Xenophon, Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War
The ancients said that “brevity is the soul of command.” In other words, a leader should be able to give clear and concise instructions that can be easily understood and followed.
This is especially important in a military setting, where lives may be at stake. But it is also relevant in any type of organization, from a small business to a large corporation.
After all, if the boss can’t communicate effectively, how can he or she expect the employees to do their jobs properly?
The bottom line is that a good leader needs to be able to say what he or she wants clearly and concisely. Otherwise, there will be confusion and chaos.
13. “I will choose to die rather than to remain alive without freedom and beg, as an alternative to death, a vastly inferior life.”― Xenophon, Conversations of Socrates
14. “If you consider what are called the virtues in mankind, you will find their growth is assisted by education and cultivation.”― Xenophon
15. “Let Your Tools Be Equal to the Task”― Xenophon, Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War
No matter what you do in life, it is important to have the right tools for the job. This is true whether you are a doctor, a mechanic, or a stay-at-home parent. Having the right tools can make all the difference in the world.
It can mean the difference between a difficult task and an easy one. It can mean the difference between success and failure. So if you want to be successful in whatever you do, be sure to find the tools that are equal to the task. With the right tools, anything is possible.
16. “It is better said Socrates, to change an Opinion, than to persist in a wrong one.”― Xenophon, The Memorable Things of Socrates
Socrates was a Greek philosopher who had many radical ideas that differed from the norm. One of these ideas is that it is better to change an opinion than to persist in a wrong one.
To Socrates, an opinion is simply a belief or judgment that someone holds to be true. He believed that if someone persists in holding a wrong opinion, they will never be able to see the truth.
However, if they are willing to change their opinion, they may be open to new evidence and finally see the truth. This idea is still relevant today, as there are many people who stubbornly hold on to their opinions even when presented with evidence to the contrary.
In our rapidly changing world, it is essential to be open-minded and willing to change our opinions when presented with new information. Otherwise, we may miss out on important opportunities for growth and understanding.
17. “if I die innocent, the shame will fall on those who are the cause of my death since all sort of iniquity is attended with shame.”― Xenophon, The Memorable Thoughts of Socrates
18. “If an army is to win through to victory, it has to spend all its time helping itself or hurting its foe. Therefore, an army should never be idle.”― Xenophon, Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War
The best way to understand the importance of this quote is to imagine an army that is idle. What would happen? The enemy would take advantage of this lull in activity to launch an attack, and the idle army would be quickly defeated.
However, if an army is continually moving, either helping itself or hurting its foe, it will be much more difficult for the enemy to mount a successful attack.
This is because the enemy will never know when or where the army will strike next, making it impossible to prepare adequately.
In addition, an army that is always on the move will be better able to respond to changes in the enemy’s tactics. As a result, it is essential for an army to spend all its time helping itself or hurting its foe in order to achieve victory.
19. “Misleaders are slow to work hard but quick to act on greed. They convince their men that dishonest behavior leads to great wealth.”― Xenophon, Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War
20. “The man who doesn’t know his own ability is ignorant of himself.”― Xenophon, Conversations of Socrates
Ignorance is defined as a lack of knowledge or information. However, there is a certain type of ignorance that can be even more damaging than simply not knowing something.
This is the ignorance that comes from not knowing your own ability. When you are unaware of your own talents and abilities, you miss out on opportunities to grow and improve.
You also become less likely to take risks, which can lead to a life that is stagnant and unfulfilling. Instead of living in ignorant bliss, it is better to take the time to get to know yourself and discover your hidden potential.
Once you have done this, you can start working on making your dreams a reality. Armed with self-knowledge, you will be able to achieve anything you set your mind to.
So don’t be afraid to get to know yourself – it just might be the best decision you ever make.
21. “Self-confidence should always ride side by side with a strong sense of humility.”― Xenophon, Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War
22. “We’re all going to die, but does that mean we have to be buried alive?”― Xenophon
23. “Anything forced is not beautiful”― Xenophon, The Art of Horsemanship
There’s something about forced beauty that just doesn’t sit right. Maybe it’s because we know that the person behind it is just trying too hard.
Or maybe it’s because we can see the cracks and flaws that have been hidden away. Forced beauty is like a vase: impressive at first glance, but upon closer inspection, you can see all the imperfections.
True beauty, on the other hand, is like a wildflower. It’s unruly, and it doesn’t conform to any standards. It’s natural and effortless, and that’s what makes it so special.
When we see someone who is truly beautiful, we can’t help but be drawn to them. They don’t need any gimmicks or fancy clothes to make them shine.
They’re simply beautiful, inside and out. So next time you’re feeling down about your appearance, remember that anything forced is not beautiful. Embrace your flaws and let your true self shine through.
24. “Obedience Should Not Be the Result of Compulsion ”― Xenophon, Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War
25. “Most people, when they are set upon looking into other people’s affairs, never turn to examine themselves.”― Xenophon, Conversations of Socrates
26. “Battles are decided more by the morale of the troops than by their bodily strength.”― Xenophon, Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War
The history of warfare is full of examples of battles in which one army was outnumbered or outgunned by the enemy but still emerged victorious. In many cases, the deciding factor was the morale of the troops.
An army that is confident in its ability to win is more likely to fight with determination and discipline, even in the face of adversity.
On the other hand, an army that is fearful or demoralized is more likely to break and flee in the face of an enemy attack. Therefore, it is clear that battles are more often won through morale than through brute force.
27. “People often say what is right and do what is wrong, but nobody can be in the wrong if he is doing what is right.”― Xenophon, Conversations of Socrates
It’s an interesting paradox, isn’t it? People are constantly telling each other to do the right thing but often end up doing the opposite themselves.
Of course, there are a lot of gray areas when it comes to morality, and what one person considers “right” may not be seen that way by others.
But I think the quote is still valid in general terms. People have a tendency to judge others more harshly than they do themselves. We are quick to point out someone else’s mistakes but are much more forgiving when we make them ourselves.
Why is that? Perhaps it’s because we are more aware of our own motivations and intentions than we are of others. Or maybe we just want to believe that we are good people, deep down.
Whatever the reason, it’s something we all need to work on. If we can learn to be as accepting of others as we are of ourselves, the world will be a much kinder place.
Let’s Wind Up…
We hope you enjoyed reading our compilation of famous Xenophon quotes. If so, please let us know which one is your favorite in the comments below.
And if you felt inspired by any of these words of wisdom, tell us about it! We’d love to hear how Xenophon has influenced your life and work. As always, thanks for reading.