Greek Oath Breakers?

The Arrest of the Generals in Xenophon’s Anabasis Reexamined

in Mnemosyne
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A Journal of Classical Studies


AndersonJ.K. Xenophon 1974 London

BassettS. Innocent Victims or Perjurers Betrayed? The Arrest of the Generals in Xenophon’s Anabasis CQ 2002 52 2 447 461

BuryJ.G. A History of Greece 1902 II London

CawkwellG. WarnerR. Introduction Xenophon—The Persian Expedition 1972 London 9 48

CawkwellG. The Greek Wars: The Failure of Persia 2005 Oxford

DalbyA. Greeks Abroad: Social Organization and Food Among the Ten Thousand JHS 1992 112 16 30

DelebecqueE. Essai sur la vie de Xénophon 1957 Paris

DescatR. BriantP. Marché et tribut: l’approvisionnement des Dix-Mille Dans les pas des Dix-Mille: Peuples et pays du Proche-Orient vus par un Grec, Pallas 1995 43 104 105

DanzigG. TuplinC. Xenophon’s Wicked Persian or What’s Wrong with Tissaphernes Persian Responses: Political and Cultural Interaction With(in) the Achaemenid Empire 2007 Swansea 27 50

DilleryJ. Xenophon and The History of His Times 1995 London/New York

DilleryJ. Xenophon and the History of his Times 2005 London

FoxR.L. FoxR.L. Introduction The Long March 2004 New Haven 1 46

GeraD. Xenophon’s Cyropaedia: Style, Genre, and Literary Technique 1993 Oxford

GroteG. A History of Greece 1869 VIII London

HigginsW.E. Xenophon the Athenian 1977 Albany

HirschW. The Friendship of the Barbarians 1985 London/Hanover

HunterV. Thucydides the Artful Reporter 1973 Toronto

HylandJ. Tissaphernes and the Achaemenid Empire 2005 (diss., University of Chicago)

LewisD.M. Sparta and Persia 1977 Leiden

NadonC. Xenophon’s Prince 2001 Berkeley

PownallF. Condemnation of the Impious in Xenophon’s “Hellenica” HThR 1998 91 3 251 277

PritchettW.K. The State at War 1974 Berkeley

PritchettW.K. The State at War 1991 Berkeley

RoodT. WaterfieldR. Introduction Xenophon—The Expedition of Cyrus 2005 Oxford vii xxxiv

SmythH.W. Greek Grammar 1956 Boston

StraussL. Xenophon’s Anabasis Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy 1983 Chicago

StylianouP.J. FoxR.L. One Anabasis or Two? The Long March 2004 New Haven 68 96

TatumJ. Xenophon’s Imperial Fiction: On the Education of Cyrus 1989 Princeton

TuplinC. FoxR.L. The Persian Empire The Long March 2004 New Haven 154 183

WaterfieldR. Xenophon’s Retreat 2006 Cambridge, MA


Bassett 2002, 447-61.


Ibid., 451-2.


Ibid., 459-61.


Rood 2005, 206, n. 49 and Waterfield 2006, 120; cf. Hyland 2005, 170-1.


Bassett 2002, 459. A recent trend in Xenophontine scholarship, although the approach has been around for over a quarter century, is to expose the historian as an ‘artful reporter’, that is, someone who conveniently omits or spins evidence that may contradict his interpretation of an event or call into question his larger historiographic aims (see, e.g., Hunter 1973). Fox 2004, 5 advises the following way of reading Xenophon’s Anabasis: “How do we best expose the artfulness of an artful reporter? One way is to try to expose him from the evidence of his own text, as if he has not consistently covered his own tracks . . . Another way is to set other evidence against his own” (cf. Cawkwell 1972, 26). Bassett’s article evidences well this approach.


Bassett 2002, 460, n. 44 and Stylianou (2004, 95) dismiss rightly the suggestion of Cawkwell 1972, 25 that ὡς should be construed to mean ‘as though to buy provisions,’ which would otherwise indicate hostile intent on the part of the Greeks as they went to Tissaphernes’ tent.


Ibid., 460.


So Bassett 2002, 460: “Cheirisophus is unlikely to have been the only Greek engaged in foraging, and this is unlikely to have been the only occasion on which it occurred” (emphasis mine). If such was the case, surely Tissaphernes would have mentioned it to Clearchus during their confab right before the arrest (2.5.3-26). It is also noteworthy that those in the Persian camp who were trying to spread false charges against Clearchus and the Greeks (2.5.24-5) never impute foraging to the Greeks.


For Xenophon’s views, see Dillery 1995, 179-94; Pownall 1998, 251-77; and Hyland 2005, 164-71.


See Cawkwell 2005, 198-9, who questions Xenophon’s thesis of Persian moral decline in the fourth century. The view of Hirsch 1985, 26 and 159, n. 44 that besides Tissaphernes and Artaxerxes II (cf. 3.2.4), “Xenophon does not express disdain for other Persians” in the Anabasis cannot be maintained upon closer scrutiny. Xenophon, for instance, imputes the crime of perjury not to Tissaphernes specifically but to the Persians generally, saying, ‘they broke the treaty’ (ἐκεῖνοι ἔλυσαν τὰς σπονδάς) (3.1.21; cf. 3.2.10 and 3.5.5). The Persian Ariaeus, one of the ‘the most faithful’ (πιστότατοι) to Cyrus, along with Mithradates and Artaozus (2.5.35), was the only one of his philoi and table mates who abandoned him and did not fight and die over his corpse (1.9.31). The integrity and faithfulness of the Persian noble Orontas is also thoroughly questioned by Xenophon, who discusses at length his past treachery to Cyrus and his deceitful, treasonous actions on the march (1.6; 1.9.29). The recent attempt of Danzig (2007) to rehabilitate the character of Tissaphernes by citing the command of Cyrus’ father to be ‘designing and cunning, wily and deceitful, a thief and a robber, overreaching the enemy at every point’ (Cyr.1.6.27-8) is thought provoking but not completely convincing. Even if we grant that Xenophon shared the view of Cyrus’ father (a problematic proposition to say the least), these words are not an endorsement of perjury, a fact to which Danzig rightly admits but distorts when he argues that perjury is condemnable in Xenophon’s moral universe only if it becomes public knowledge: “Tissaphernes’ greatest mistake may have been getting caught” (43). Such a view is simply not supported by the evidence in the Anabasis.


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